Glastonbury Festival, the weird and the wonderful.

Background

For a few days in June, the 900 acres of farmland which plays host to Glastonbury Festival is transformed into a fully-functioning, makeshift city. Glastonbury Festival is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world and a template for all the festivals that have come after it. The difference is, that Glastonbury has all of the best aspects of being at a festival in one astonishing bundle.

Being a Somerset gal, I’ve attended the festival regularly from a young age and since moving to London earlier this year, was excited to head back home and enjoy the week of madness. Safe to say, Glasto’ never disappoints and the teams behind the production always pull a handful of surprises out of the bag year upon year.

Travel

Hours of queuing for transport and site entrance can often scare off potential attendees and I too mentally prepared for the wait ahead. However, this year the festival seriously upped their game dramatically reducing wait times by running more shuttle buses to and from the site from surrounds towns, villages and transport links. We were in the queue for the bus at 5.30am and through checks, ticketing and pitched up by 8am. A record year in my Glastonbury history.

This festival is all about the people and there is a real sense of community buzzing throughout the site. The welfare and health and safety teams worked around the clock to provide care and provisions to those that need it. Toilet roll, plasters, sun cream, blankets; You need it, you got it.

Security checks are incredibly important for a festival of this size and although once in the festival I felt incredibly safe, we were less than impressed with a quick feel of the outside of our huge backpacks and waved on through. On the one hand, we were grateful to not have had our bags unpacked which had taken hours to organise and cram full taken apart on a trestle table, but on the other hand were shocked and concerned as advocates of safe festival delivery for both staff and attendees alike with these vague checks.

Camping

One of the only thought through decisions you’ll make at Glasto’ is where to camp. Similar to living in London, it’s best to choose an area where likeminded people reside. Checking the festival website for a rundown of the camping areas or asking friends who have been is always a good idea. We camped at Oxlyers; The camping ground closest to The Other Stage with about a 10 minute walk to the Pyramid and Park stages, it was located well and inhabited a pretty chilled out crowd.

Food & Drink

There are so many choices for food on site, whether you fancy a Yorkshire pudding the size of your head filled with a shepherd’s pie or a vegan thai platter – it’s available.

For the first time at a UK festival, Glasto’ teamed up with the Co-op to build a pop up supermarket. The temporary Co-op was a fantastic addition to the food offering selling everything from sandwiches and snacks to much needed ice and suncream, a life saver for a quick breakfast run without having to spend alot or to top up on essentials.

When it comes to alcohol, it’s a bring what you can carry affair. So outcome the sack trucks and wheelbarrows to parade in a month’s worth of booze to see you through the festival. However, there are bars throughout the site and one of my favourites is the Brothers cider bar. Being from the west country, it is tradition to have at least 2 pints a day of the festival nectar during the 6 day stint. I’d highly recommend the Strawberries & Cream or Toffee Apple flavours.

Music

With a line up featuring over 2,800 performances across 79 stages, there is music quite literally everywhere you go. But for me, that’s the beauty of this festival, you don’t need to highlight a timetable and sprint across site to catch a good act, you’ll see a few acts you love then potter around and stumble across amazing music. Highlights for me included The Killers, Shy FX, Lewis Capaldi, Tom Odell, Dermot Kennedy and pretty much everything Shangri-La was pumping out.

Aside from the music

There are fields and fields full of theatre and circus, comedy, family entertainment, wellness, cinema, arts and activities. The interactive Rave Tree in the Greenpeace field was the most memorable for me, standing at 22m high made from recycled materials and inhabiting a DJ booth in the centre. We managed to squeeze into a packed out tent to watch stand-up comedy from Jonathan Pie and even printed our own line up screen prints to hang in our flat back in London at the on-site free printing press. In amongst the mainstream arts you’ll find some very quirky performances and some damn right weird but it’s all part of the experience and another story to tell.

Block 9, Shangri-La and The Unfairground are always a must visit not just for the music but for the set build and live installations, it’s practically an outdoor gallery. A creative and controversial district whose production is just incredible.

Waste management and sustainability

OXFAM, Greenpeace and WaterAid work incredibly hard together with Glastonbury to “love the farm, leave no trace”. They go above and beyond every year to ensure the farm is well looked after and the attendees follow suit to ensure the longevity of the festival.

15,000 hand painted bins are scattered around the site and it was great to see people putting the correct recycling in the correct bins so that it could be processed at their on-site recycling facility.

At The Fair, we support a range of campaigns that promote positive festival behaviour such as the AIF‘s taking your tent home, say no to single use plastic and not urinating on site or in neighbouring streets or gardens. Glastonbury nail the sustainable approach with colourful artwork and messages across the site promoting respect for the festival.

When it comes to waste, the long drop toilets are not for the faint hearted. The introduction of the compost loos over the last few years are by far the best option, smelling the least and generally kept the cleanest. Being too scared to try it in past years, the female ‘She wees’ turned out to be a saviour when venturing on a night out with the lads who didn’t fancy waiting an hour for us gals to que for the cubicles (if you fancy giving it a go, skirts and dresses are your friends and jeans are not!).

Top Tips

  • Always check the map, even if you know the site well, the site is huge and could cost you a 45 minute trek in the wrong direction.
  • Take a hat, even if you aren’t a hat wearer –dancing in the sun for hours on end burns your scalp! Glasto’ doesn’t prise itself on shade, it really is in a big open field.
  • Don’t go with a head full of preconceptions and a plan. Keep an open mind and go with the flow, the best adventures happen this way.
  • Just don’t care; Dance like no one’s watching, wear crazy things and sing along as loud as you can, everyone is in the same boat.

Photos: Courtesy of Glastonbury Festival Gallery

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