Despite loving live music and a good party, Emma Fowle had always been reticent about attending a large-scale secular music festival. But when she finally took the plunge – aged 46 and with her two teenage daughters - she was unprepared to be so deeply impacted


I’ve always wanted to go to Glastonbury but, somehow, I never quite got there when I was young. Over the years, my husband and I have talked about whether we were now too old, or whether the alternative atmosphere for which the festival is famed would feel too spiritually dark for us as Christians. Having a dad who was once a drug addict, I’m also not a fan of illegal substances – would I be able to relax and enjoy myself with the excesses that would surely be going on all around?

So when we got the opportunity to go this year as a family, our kids were super excited – but we also wondered how we’d find it. We needn’t have worried. Not only did we make some memories as a family that will last a lifetime, I also discovered that spiritual lessons can be learnt in the most unlikely of places:

1. Age is just a number

Watching legends like Guns N’ Roses and, of course, the inimitable Sir Elton John smashing it on the Pyramid Stage, as well as seeing the retired couples strolling hand-in-hand, and the older men and women rocking crazy outfits at all times of night and day reminded me that life does not stop at 25.

Thank goodness.

It was incredible to create such beautiful, intergenerational memories with my own children, but also to see them appreciate the beauty in the older people we saw - both on and off the stage.

There are so many areas of life where low-level judgement exists, especially around what you wear – and especially within the Church

At its best, our church families should model this so well, and our Glasto experience reminded me why this is so important. Life is long, and our faith experiences give us a wisdom, grace and passion that it is imperative we pass on to the next generation. Later life isn’t sliding quietly into oblivion. I’ve heard many a wise person say: “If you’re still breathing, God still has work for you to do”. Amen to that!

2. Girls rock

I knew that, of course, but watching Lizzo boss it in her 30s, Sharleen Spiteri still rocking out with Texas in her 50s and Debbie Harry take to the stage in thigh high boots at 77 was a beautiful thing to watch as a 46-year-old mother with her two teenage daughters.

The Church - and wider society - has come a long way in opening the door for women and creating spaces where we can be released into all God has made us to be. It’s good to take a moment to celebrate the progress that has been made. But there is much more to be done. The stages at our Christian festivals are still not as equal as those at Glastonbury – and not because organisers aren’t trying. When the majority of people preaching on a Sunday morning are male, how do women gain the experience necessary to take to the big stage?

3. Everyone shines

No matter your age, shape or size, the dress up at Glastonbury was INCREDIBLE. Want to wear a gold glitter dress with trainers and a feather boa at 11am? Sure, go ahead. A tutu to go grab a coffee? Why not. No one is judging your outfit choices, colour clashes, whether it’s appropriate for your age (or sex) or if it’s a bit ‘too much’- and I loved that.

Without meaning to, there are so many areas of life where low-level judgement exists, especially around what you wear – and especially within the Church. But I’ve decided every day should be a bit more Glasto. And a bit less judgey. You can’t have too much glitter if you ask me.

4. Joy is infectious

At 10am on Wednesday morning as festival goers streamed in, the heavens opened. Many of the punters, who had struggled across the 1,000-acre site with their camping gear, crazy outfits and food and drink, had slept in the car park overnight. But despite the rain (which mercifully didn’t last long), people were buzzing. I’ve never met a happier bunch – and that includes in some churches I’ve been to!

I am a trustee of a Christian festival called Creation Fest, and we often talk about serving with joy – even when you’re exhausted, 15 things have already gone wrong that morning and someone has just been rude to you. Not only does the Bible tell us that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), it’s also a great witness to what God has done in our lives. If Jesus really came to give us life in all its fullness (John 10:10), no one should be more joyful than us Christians!

5. Sober can be fun

Attending Glastonbury in my mid-40s with two teens in tow was, if I’m honest, probably even better than if I’d done it 25 years ago. For a start, I can remember the whole weekend.

Getting to do it this way, on half a cider and a can of lager in the whole five days we were there, hopefully modelled something important to my 17 and 15 year olds, too. No doubt they’ll go out and do different at some point, but at least their first festival experience was with a sober mum and dad, jumping up and down like loons and having a thoroughly fabulous time. I pray that teaches them that they, too, can enjoy a drink or two if they’d like one - but it isn’t necessary to be leathered in order to have fun.

When the majority of people preaching on a Sunday morning are male, how do women gain the experience necessary to take to the big stage?

So would I recommend Glasto to Christians? Absolutely. Did you know that there’s even a church on site? Our faith calls us to be in but not of the world (see John 15:19, Romans 12:2). We’re to be different, but not necessarily separate. Having a good time, the right way, is a God-given gift, and a privilege to be enjoyed, as well as being an example to those around us that Christ-followers are not all stuck-up killjoys.

For me, music has always been something transcendent; a thin place in which I find it easy to raise my hands, tilt my face heavenward and whisper: “Thank you Jesus!” This weekend, I certainly did that.