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Massive peace sign created by humans at Glastonbury
Photograph: Matt Cardy

25 of the most surprising things that happened at Glastonbury 2023

Yet again, Worthy Farm delivered plenty of pinch-me moments – including some very unexpected appearances

Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

Ah, Glastonbury. There’s nowhere quite like it on the planet. Time Out was there on the ground to report on all of the fun, and boy, was there a shit ton of it. There were also plenty of weird things going on too – with surprise star appearances, not-so-secret sets and just a pinch of drama. Here are 25 of the most surprising moments from the 2023 festival. 

  1. Rick Astley and Blossoms packed out the Woodsies tent to play a surprise set of Smiths covers, just because.

  2. People had some pretty weird ideas about who Elton John’s surprise guests would be. Would it be Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Kate Bush, Prince Harry (!), Ellie Goulding, Dolly Parton, Eminem, Pulp, Chris Martin, Matty Healy, Blur, Rick Astley, Britney Spears or Michael Eavis?

  3. Lana Del Rey was half an hour late for her set because ‘her hair takes a long time to do’...

  4. … and led an a-capella crowd sing-along to ‘Video Games’ when her set was cut short, before she was escorted off stage by security.

  5. Someone in the crowd was carrying a flag of King Charles’s fingers. Enough said.

  6. The Pretenders brought out Johnny Marr, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney. Gasps were heard.

  7. Dermot O’Leary played a DJ set. It kinda slapped. 

  8. Central Cee performed ‘Sprinter’ with Dave. He also welcomed a very confused-looking kid to the stage, saying: ‘He’s a natural!’

  9. Fred again.. played a not-so-secret set with The Blessed Madonna, which shut down the Temple stage because there were too many people. 

  10. Hot-air balloons flying over the farm added extra sparkle to Lizzo’s stage show.

  11. Francis Bourgeois was spotted in the wristband queue wearing a very on-brand Southern Railway cap. 

  12. Jake Shears performed in the the scorching NYC Downlow replica club on Saturday night. Sweat was literally dripping from the ceiling. 

  13. Tilda Swinton joined Max Richter for a spoken-word performance and they were interrupted by a naked protester.

  14. There were spectacularly long queues for Sistxrhood, a club exclusively for women, non-binary and trans people.

  15. Rina Sawayama called out Matty Healy before playing her song ‘STFU!’ ‘I wrote this because I was sick & tired of these micro-aggressions,’ she said. ‘This goes out to a white man that watches Ghetto Gaggers and mocks Asian people on a podcast.’ Go on girlie. 

  16. Lewis Capaldi struggled to finish his set but the crowd were on hand to belt out the words instead.

  17. Cate Blanchett wiggled on stage in a yellow suit to Sparks’ ‘The Girl is Crying in Her Latte’.

  18. …and was allegedly spotted backstage dancing to Shygirl’s ‘Coochie (a Bedtime Story)’. Iconic.

  19. Joe Wicks hosted a workout class for 2,000 people. Because there’s nothing better than a bit of HIIT after a night on the lash.

  20. David Hockney debuted his first AI-generated artwork on the Pyramid Stage, which used tech to remove the figures from his 2014 painted series ‘The Dancers’.

  21. On Thursday morning, thousands of fans descended onto Green Fields to attempt to create the world’s largest human peace sign. It was beautiful.

  22. Debbie Harry mashed up Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ with riffs from The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save The Queen’. What a queen.

  23. If anyone served c*nt this year, it was Lil Nas X, who swapped from white fluffy trousers to a shimmering blue number with a bull’s head over the crotch. He also brought out Jack Harlow for ‘Industry Baby’.

  24. Cat Stevens shouted out Ricky Gervais, who is apparently a big fan and celebrated his birthday yesterday. Ew.

  25. Elton John’s four surprise guests? In reality, they were less glitzy than imagined. We got Jacob Lusk of Gabriels, twenty-year-old singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez, Brandon Flowers of The Killers and Rina Sawayama. Still, what a show.

ICYMI: How to get tickets for Glastonbury 2024.

Plus: The best UK music festivals to book for 2023.

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