In June of 1971 a spontaneous gathering of freaks, musicians, poets, thinkers, heads, fairies, goblins, elves with masses of fuzzy hair and other eccentrics pitched their tents on green fields amongst buttercups and daisies to celebrate the summer solstice at the Glastonbury Festival.
The fayre — referred to as the English Woodstock — was a free festival in a spiritual valley, traditionally the site of the Isle of Avalon (Celtic for Place of Blessed Souls) at the feet of the Glastonbury Tor. It embraced a medieval tradition of music, dance, poetry and theatre.
The stage, built on a site above the Glastonbury-Stonehenge lei line, was a large pyramid constructed out of scaffolding and expanded metal covered with plastic sheeting which at night shone like a silver spaceship reflecting itself twice over like a hologram in the sky. From its astral platform roared a delirium of music — David Bowie, Melanie, Traffic, Hawkwind, Arthur Brown, Gong, Fairport Convention.
Thai sticks, Moroccan hash, magic mushrooms, Mexican mescaline and Timothy Leary acid rained like manna from the blue skies. Celestial sounds echoed through the valleys in this psychedelic wonderland, where streams of extravagant humanity had come from everywhere to celebrate life. Flutes, guitars, drums, harmonicas; happy naked babies like butterflies; goats, a calf, horse-driven gypsy caravans. As our eyes met, reflecting open smiles and free love, we sang, danced, embrace, experienced ecstasy.
A drove of timESPace travellers with coats of many colours dwelled in vans, trailers, trucks, limousines and pantechnicons, with their Tarot cards, tattoos, muesli, brown rice, books on mysticism, magic cats, bubbling cauldrons, unleavened bread and video-cameras.
It was the first time I’d seen people living in mobile homes — a life style which immediately tickled my fancy. As did sleeping close to the earth in a tent, where apart from shaking out and folding sleeping bags in the morning, not much other house work was required.
In this microcosmos, where goodwill flowed as naked bodies soaked in the sun I met the scarlet haired Rainbow Gypsies from California who taught me to henna my hair; took LSD with the poet George Andrews; was charmed by Pan-like Heathcote Williams playing his flute to woo his girlfriend, top-model Jean Shrimpton.
Oh how happy was the gypsy in me: washing in limpid streams; cooking on an open fire; joining in musical choirs that went on till it was time to salute the sun with Yoga asanas. As I watched the smoke from chillums sneaking up towards the sky, I wanted to remain in this sweet life, this dolce vita, forever: in this link between me and the Divine.
When the event came to an end we shared our last chillum round the last of the fires with heavy heart. In the morning we packed our tents, cramped our few clothes in baskets and carpet bags and headed back to the city to resume our daily lives. But we were never the same again. We had glimpsed Paradise on Earth and from now on we were to take the road directed towards Eden; the road less travelled.