A couple of weeks ago, charity administrator Colin Daffern chose Glastonbury Festival as his specialist subject in the semi-final of the BBC’s Mastermind quiz. He scored an extremely impressive 11 points in the Glastonbury round, and only missed a place in the final on the show’s number of passes rule. We dropped him a line to find out a bit more about him and his interest in the Festival…
How many times have you been to Glastonbury Festival?
I’ve been 12 times in all, volunteering as a steward with Oxfam.
When was your first visit?
1998, which, as I’m sure most people will recall, was one of the wetter years! I have a vivid memory of watching Catatonia on the Other Stage whilst calf-deep in mud. In spite of the weather, I completely fell in love with the place. I’d been to a few other festivals in the previous couple of years, but the diversity and the atmosphere of Glastonbury just swept me off my feet.
What made you choose the Festival as your specialist subject?
It’s a topic which I knew I already had a fairly good working knowledge of without having to do too much intensive revision, and I was pretty sure that it hadn’t featured as a specialist subject on the show before. I also thought it was a nice contrast with the subject I’d chosen to do in the heats, which was Michael Foot!
(Although having said that, there is a little link between the two. Michael’s Tory opponent in Plymouth at the 1950 and 1951 general elections was Randolph Churchill. Randolph was, of course, the father of the late Arabella, who was such a key figure in the development of Glastonbury over the years, and his one-time personal assistant was Andrew Kerr, who was heavily involved in the early festivals!)
How do you know so much about the history of the event?
Ever since I first went to Glastonbury, I’ve been fascinated by the way it has evolved both musically and politically over the years, from something which was very much part of the counter-culture to a pretty mainstream event, whilst still successfully maintaining a radical edge. Consequently, I’ve read a lot of books and articles about its history and development.
How did you revise for the Mastermind appearance?
There were three or four books about the festival which I read a couple of times over and then skimmed through again just before I filmed the show! I also watched Julian Temple’s brilliant documentary and a few shorter films about the festival from over the years.
Do you have a favourite Glastonbury memory?
I have lots, but the one that springs immediately to mind is watching David Bowie headlining the Pyramid Stage in 2000. I’d seen him live before and I’ve seen him again since, but there was something truly magical about his performance that night. The rush of excitement that went through the crowd at the opening chords of Starman and Ziggy Stardust is something I’ll never forget! Leonard Cohen in 2008 was another very special performance for me as well.
If you were talking to someone going to the Festival for the first time, what would you tell them they shouldn’t miss?
I’d tell them to spend as much time as they can exploring the place, sampling the huge array of fantastic food on offer and soaking up the atmosphere, especially on Wednesday and Thursday before the bigger stages kick off. I’d also encourage them to spend some time in the cabaret and theatre arenas, as well as some of the smaller stages up in the Green Fields, as it’s often here that you stumble across brilliant if lesser-known performers.
Oh, and I’d also let them know that the toilets are nowhere near as bad as they think they’re going to be…!!
Will you be coming to this year’s Festival?
Yes, I’ll be back again with Oxfam.
What are you looking forward to at Glastonbury 2013?
I always look forward to seeing those perennial acts who do the small venues year after year, like Hattie Hatstar and the Biggles Wartime Band! In terms of the bigger names, the Stones are going to be an obvious highlight – I’ve been waiting years to see them! I’m also hoping to catch Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Sinead O’Connor, Chic, Billy Bragg and the legend that is Kenny Rogers (I can’t wait to hear the crowd singing along to The Gambler!).
You were cruelly pipped to a place in the Mastermind final on number of passes. But did you enjoy the experience of being on the show?
Yes, I had a fantastic time, in spite of not making the final. In many ways it’s perhaps not as nerve-wracking as it looks on TV. This was actually my second stint in the black chair – I also reached the semi-finals back in 2006! My specialist subjects on that occasion were Kenneth Williams and Ian Dury.