Dolly & Me at Glastonbury

On the afternoon of June 29th 2014 I was stood in a field in Somerset, ankle deep in mud surrounded by 200,000 tired and unwashed people all waiting on a glimpse of the queen of rainbows and rhinestones herself, Dolly Parton.

Only she could lift the spirits of the weary, hungover Glastonbury masses. I had endured torrential downpours and risked life and limb walking miles in treacherous mud for three days in the vain hope that the next act I saw might be the one to change my life.

Unlike every other nondescript indie band that weekend Dolly was something special. She more than just a country music megastar, she was a living, breathing legend. I would have probably got on my knees to worship her but then I would’ve ended up stuck fast in the muddy swamp.

I looked around me and it was a beautiful sight: fake boobs and blonde wigs everywhere (and that was just the men), groups practicing their Jolene dance routines, rainbow flags flying high, the old and young staring at the stage in wide eyed anticipation. A sign read ‘Dolly take me to your bosom’, another declared ‘Jolene is a Slag.’ Above our heads may have been grey clouds of murk but down here we were all witty sunshine. As one of Dolly’s favourite aphorisms says: if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.

4:20 arrived and a hush fell. 

Hello, Dolly! 

She bounded on the stage beaming, bringing all of us on her road to joy. We loved her because of the music, from real hoedowns like ‘Blue Smoke’ to classics like ‘Why’d You Come in Here Lookin’ Like That’ but it was also just her sheer force of personality which owned the day. She pretended to be surprised when we sang along with ‘Jolene’, told us stories about her life and even wrote us a song about how we shouldn’t let the mud ruin our day. Dolly might have been a millionaire wearing a white rhinestone suit but she made you feel like she was one of your friends, right down there in the mud with you.

When ‘9 to 5’ started I sang my heart out, channeling every drunk karaoke singer that ever lived. And hey I loved Dolly so much I even pretended to be excited to see the guy from Bon Jovi who wasn’t Bon Jovi and applauded politely when she mentioned God.

When she sang ‘Coat of Many Colors’ she dedicated it to all the good mothers and ‘your mama wherever she may be’. My Mama was right there with me – she had never sewed anything in her life but instead her gift to me was weaving a love for music deep in my soul. We were destined to see Dolly and sing along together. It was a perfect moment in time.

Dolly ended the set with ‘I Will Always Love You’, hoping life would treat us kind and wishing us all the happiness in the world. It felt like the blessing and encouragement I needed to go and do something with my average life. I would bring Dolly back to Scotland with me – at least in spirit if not in person (I did consider kidnap). I would try to be more joyful, more creative and appreciate the good things in life.

Ok I know this makes me sound like I’d been brainwashed after a crazy evangelical rally but at least I was worshiping something that was undeniably real.

Looking back on that weekend it feels like a little miracle to even have been there at all, and to have Dolly on the legends stage? I’ve never been able to go to the festival before or since, and likely won’t be able to in the future.

Seeing Dolly that day was heaven-sent serendipity. I shall be forever grateful to have been in her exalted presence and trampled the same mud as her.

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