The start of summer is marked in many different ways.

For traditionalists, there is the summer solstice at Stonehenge. For sporting fans, there is the end of the football season and a brief moment in the sun for tennis and cricket. For hay fever sufferers, there is something in the air: pollen, mainly. And for music fans, there is the beginning of festival season.

Music festivals come in all shapes and sizes these days. Last week, I was at the Royal Festival Hall in London to watch the wonderful Kokoroko as part of this year’s Meltdown Festival. Then on the Friday, I was at the Brook in Southampton to see Squeeze’s Glen Tilbrook play his warm-up show before this weekend’s Glastonbury Festival.

Beginning this Friday, Glastonbury remains the biggest and best festival on the music calendar. Such is the demand to attend that its 200,000-odd tickets sold out last November, in an hour, before a single act was announced. Its headliners span the decades – Arctic Monkeys on Friday night, Guns N’ Roses on Saturday and Elton John’s last UK appearance to close the show on Sunday.

Back in the mid-1990s, I used to go to the festival every year. The first year I went, 1994, its older roots were still showing. The Levellers were headlining, singing about the Battle of the Beanfield, and helpful souls would let you in for a tenner through a hole in the fence (I paid for my ticket, I hasten to add). In those days, one of the beliefs around Glastonbury was that it was always sunny – the summer solstice throwing a forcefield of warm weather around the event.

By 1997, all that had changed. The gaps in the fence had been replaced by a ring of steel. The festival was broadcast live on the BBC for the first time, as it has been ever since. And the guarantee of good weather was replaced by torrential rain and the first reported cases of trench foot in the UK since the end of World War One.

The Levellers were now halfway down the bill, with the audience spending their set throwing mud at an increasingly riled band. The main headliners were Radiohead, whose OK Computer album had been released that week. It remains one of the best (and muddiest) gigs I’ve ever seen.

As good as the BBC coverage is, there’s no substitute for live music. We’re fortunate our region is primed with musical highlights: Camp Bestival, We Out There, Victorious and End of the Road are just some of the events we’re playing host to in the coming months. If you’ve never been to a music festival, this summer is a great time to start.