As the last litter pickers weave their weary way homeward from Worthy Farm, it’s time to take a long view on the talked about highlights.
Nowadays, particularly in the media, cultural phenomena are often judged far more on its perceived moral worth than on its superficial entertainment value. Once upon a time, art was simply judged on its merit, but that’s changed – and whilst Stormzy’s brilliant set at Glastonbury shows that he knows that, Glastonbury are still playing catchup. Folk were thrilled Adele said on Instagram: “I’m so proud of him, Stormzy just monumentally headlined Glastonbury in his own right with one album! The first Grime artist ever to do so, you respected everyone that opened the door for you whilst opening a huge one yourself.”
Stormzy’s set was about more than just his music. He told of the struggle of black ballerinas unable to find pumps to match their skin tone in Britain, and played David Lammy, MP, talking about the injustice of young black men being criminalised in a biased and disproportionate justice system.
On the biggest stage of his life, Stormzy took his place as a British cultural icon, and seized the mantle of the working class hero (it’s something to be). One tweet summed up the impact “While we’ve seen many “powerful” men practically drunk on power and the thought of power lately… look at the power of Stormzy right now. And so humble. That’s the kind of power we must nurture and protect”
Striking as his set was, there was quite a strange contradiction in the crowd. Black Britain in all its glory on stage was watched by a stereotypical Glasto audience. The BBC cameras failed to capture a picture perfect multiracial fanzone.
The truth is this: Stormzy comes from a place where young men and women can’t afford the train to Glastonbury – let alone the massive ticket price. A smart record label might have thought this historic moment might be celebrated by fans who were unable to contemplate the trek. Someone should have thought about the power of giving away, say, 100 comp tickets, or found the senior school he graduated from and given that year comps or some similar gesture.
Where is the music industry’s purposeful creative chutzpah? This was a brilliant opportunity to provide access, an opportunity to pop the bubble of the perceived middle-class mecca, and to give the thousands (if not millions) of viewers the impression that Glastonbury isn’t only populated by people whose parents listen to the Archers. As we bask in the genius of the Banksy stab vest moment which adorned the opening moments, think about a bigger picture.
Harsh commentary perhaps. But despite the enormity of the cultural moment, perhaps one of Glastonbury’s most extraordinary, nobody was there to see it.