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EDITIONS
Friday, 28 June, 2002, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Access all areas at Glastonbury
Q Signing Tent
Fans have been queuing to secure autographs

"I want to get backstage soooooo much.

"If I flash for you, will you let us backstage?" the girl asked an embarrassed security guard at the Q Magazine Signing Tent.

"Oh go on, you could always say it was your first day and you didn't know the rules."

I have some bad news for anybody who thinks the area beyond the forbidden gates is an incredibly exciting utopia of cocaine and groupies.

Glastonbury
The weather has so far held up for festival fans

Backstage is boring.

At Glastonbury, the backstage area is a slightly more restrained version of what is in the rest of the festival - but without the life-affirming experiences.

There may be the odd rock star or television personality wandering about, but mostly it has the feeling of organised mayhem, with tour buses, photographers and very focused-looking crew members zooming in and out.

The best things about backstage is that there is a slightly less busy bar and slightly more bearable toilets.

Those are hardly the best reasons to expose yourself to a buck-toothed security guard.

Inner sanctum

The only rock star I have seen wandering around this year is Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, with a suitably beautiful woman on his arm.

But I have discovered a slightly more interesting inner sanctum, where all the other celebs must hang out.

Escorted into the artists' area to interview Nelly Furtado, I realised that all the acts have their own trailers (Nelly had two) with their names on the doors.

Rock group Ash were going into theirs as I walked through, but unfortunately Nelly was late and cancelled our rendezvous.

Glastonbury
Everyone wants to be a rock star
I was swiftly escorted back out of the VVIP sanctuary and back to the bog-standard backstage area.

Apart from the stars, those who stay backstage have to camp just like everyone else - and the campsites are just as crowded as on the outside.

Drumming team

But there is the chance that the neighbours might be slightly more interesting.

After I pitched my tent, somebody pointed out a sign at the entrance to another area of the field a few metres away.

"Section reserved for Abdul Jamal and his 20-strong African drumming team," it read.

It is a well-known fact that a good night's sleep at Glastonbury is out of the question - even for the backstage luvvies - but a squad of all-night bongo virtuosos is another story.

While the first night did not pass entirely peacefully, it did pass with a lack of African drumming, and the rumour is that the sign was put up by former Clash star Joe Strummer, a Glastonbury regular, to dissuade people from camping near him.

The backstage area might be a bit more cushy than the rest of the festival site, but not much - although there are probably people who never leave it all weekend.

But a few hours wandering around the carnival-like delights of the rest of the festival make it clear that backstage is not where the fun is.

You cannot watch any of the bands from backstage for a start, and the crowd for Scottish indie favourites Idlewild in the Friday afternoon sun was a reminder about the best of Glastonbury.

With 200 arms waving in the air, inhibitions had gone out of the window and the crowd was tuning into the same wavelength while forgetting all their woes.

Stone dancing

Not quite a spiritual experience - that is what the ancient stone circle, at the highest point of the site, is for.

Glastonbury
Cider at Glastonbury is a tradition
In the darkness of the night before the main bands started a drumming group (probably not Abdul Jamal and his crew) had taken over the centre of the circle, and several hundred bodies around them were becoming entranced by their rhythms.

Some were dancing on the stones, and several people were doing incredible tricks with lit ropes that they were swirling around their heads.

With the bonfires of the rest of the site glimmering below, it felt almost primeval and ritualistic, like it could have been happening at any time over the last 5,000 years.

You certainly do not get that feeling in the backstage bar.

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The BBC's David Sillito
"The security seems to be working"


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