WE all have our reasons why the Glastonbury Festival is special to us.
A right of passage; a romantic moment; a stunning performance…
But for Louise Medd and her family, the festival has become something of a spiritual and emotional gathering.
Mrs Medd attended the first ever Glastonbury Festival – then billed as Pop Folk and Blues – in September 1970.
But she didn’t attend again until 2015 – and has developed a special relationship with the festival – but more on that later.
“My dad dropped my friend and I off,” she said, recalling her trip almost 50 years ago.
“It was just for the day, because we lived in Chewton Mendip at the time, so we were close.
“I went to quite a few things then, because they used to do these outdoor concerts at Bath and things, they did some indoors and some outdoors.
“I saw Fleetwood Mac, The Small Faces, Amen Corner.
“And I went to the first Glastonbury with my friend Sally, whose parents owned the bakery.
“It was decided we both had respectable parents, so we were allowed to go.
“We were 16. But I remember nothing about it really.
“We wouldn’t have been drinking, we were good.
“I just know we were dropped off at the gate and I know that my father picked us up.”
After that, she decided she ‘didn’t want to go again’ – and never considered it.
“I was married at 20, moved to Burnham when I was 20, and just never thought about it really,” she said.
The incessant nagging of her daughter, Victoria, combined with her son, James Griffiths’ passion for the event, eventually saw her return to Worthy Farm.
James suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, a disorder of the body’s connective tissues that causes heart defects and often, dislocation of the optical lens.
“James went, I think it was just after his first heart surgery, and I was absolutely petrified of him going,” Louise explained.
“I don’t think I slept until he came home.
“Victoria always felt she’d had a deprived childhood because she’d never been to Glastonbury.
“Then, about five years ago, she registered me as well and I said ‘don’t be ridiculous’.
“But she got me a ticket and I thought ‘what the hell am I doing’?”
The family attended the festival in 2015 – Louise’s first visit for 45 years.
IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME: Victoria, Harrison, Mollie-Louise and Louise with festival founder, Michael Eavis
She was joined by her children – Victoria and James – as well as Victoria’s children, Harrison and Mollie-Louise, and she never looked back.
“James always loved it,” Louise said. “He thought it was ridiculous when we said we were bringing the children too, but when we got there, he realised there were lots of children.
“It’s very family orientated now, isn’t it?”
The 2016 festival followed – and it had become a tradition for the family, even though James often battled illness at the event, with site medical staff and the disabled provision proving an invaluable help – as well as the Glastonbury faithful themselves.
Louise’s husband, Marcus, refuses to go, saying it is ‘not for him’, and she was having her doubts before returning…
“I kept saying ‘this is way out of my comfort zone, what am I doing?’,” she said.
“Before we went I kept on at James telling him he needed to hire a scooter and he did, and it was the best thing we did. He would fill his basket up with cans of cider and I would put my head in my hands…
“But I think it’s great how they are with disabled people, particularly with the mud. It can be a nightmare.”
Victoria continued: “The year of the mud, James had a tooth infection and his heart started playing up and he had a freak cataract, so had lost his sight on site as well and the medical team were absolutely brilliant.
“They were really, really good.
“One year, James had never been up to what we call ‘the word’ (the Glastonbury sign in the Park area) and he said he could never get up there.”
“The next thing I knew, I got a phone call saying he was up by the word,” Louise continues.
“You could see, going up the hill, crowds of people from all angles, pushing him through the mud up to the word,” Victoria said.
“He didn’t get up to touch it, they didn’t do the last climb, but a lot of our pictures were taken when they got him so close.”
SPECIAL TIMES: James, surrounded by family and friends, at Glastonbury
That picture now hangs in the lounge of the operating theatres at London’s Harefield Hospital, where James received much of his care, with staff proud of how they helped a young man achieve his dream.
“They (surgeons) sent me a picture of all the theatre staff in their scrubs pointing at the picture,” Louise says proudly.
Then, in early 2017, the family was in turmoil.
James, aged just 35, became very seriously ill.
But despite being ill, he was insistent he wanted a ticket to his beloved festival – but they had missed out in the October sale and had a tough task ahead…
For the resale, the following April, the family was at Harefield as James battled his condition in intensive care.
“The October, we didn’t get them and James was just gutted,” said Louise.
“We were at Harefield with him when it was the resale and someone got in touch through a page and they had got him a ticket.
“At Harefield they have relatives’ accommodation and we were all there.
“Victoria got through, but got James’ number wrong.
“We are all in a state as he was very poorly, but when she got the number right, it said tickets had already been bought.
“But we didn’t know someone had bought them.
“We were sat there in floods of tears. That was for 2017.
“But that was the year he didn’t make it,” she said.
James sadly passed away on April 30, 2017.
As time wore on, the family decided they had to attend the festival – as it was so special to James.
“We had to go,” Louise said. “But when we didn’t have James, it was tough. It was tough.
“But I think it helped. It was quite surreal.
“We had a bin near our campsite which someone had painted in memory of James, and I made them bring it up to our campsite.
“I remember one evening sitting up there on my own and I was sat outside, looking across the field with all the lights, and I can remember feeling really sad.
“This year (2019), I was fine until the music started up and I just said, ‘I’m feeling really sad’.
“I try not to burst into tears in front of people, I prefer to be private, but it just came over me.
“But it is a very surreal place to be.
“It’s become a part of the year for the family.”
TRIBUTE: Louise with her sculpture from Glastonbury
In the back garden of Louise’s home, in Burnham-on-Sea, is a sculpture, from Glastonbury, which she has hung in memory of James.
There are also pictures around the house allowing the family to remember those good times in the fields of Worthy Farm.
Now, almost 50 years after her first visit, and for reasons which may be so different to so many others, Louise and her family have become Glastonbury Festival devotees.
Along with one family member who cannot be there in person.
“It is a special place and I change when I go there,” Louise added.
“I don’t smoke, but as soon as I get there, I have a cigarette.
“I don’t drink during the day, but we’re having wine with breakfast.
“It’s bonkers, because I really do become a different person.
“And I thoroughly enjoy it.”
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