Who would have thought I’d be back in the UK doing another Glastonbury Festival but with sunshine this time?
Having experienced being a Glastonbury Virgin last year and not knowing what to expect, this year, I am totally prepared mentally, I think.
Hopefully, the weather will be kind this year and the sun will show its face…not like last year’s mud fest!
The run down
This year, the festival runs from the 21st to the 25th June – check out the 2017 line-up.
An hour’s meeting with the Silver Hayes crew the week before the festival, saw Fire Stewards now armed with their information packs, which contain the valuable ticket, maps, safety booklet, contact list, and of course, the trusty Shift Roster.
A quick glance at the Roster revealed that Radiohead was not to be on this occasion…for me anyway. I am on shift in another tent when they are playing…damn! Why is it that after specifically requesting not to do a shift whilst this band plays, I get that exact shift elsewhere? Annoyed.
Leaving Reg at the festival site
After provisioning Reg, the trusty motorhome with tins and packet food, alcohol, but also sleeping bags, pillows and clothes, we ventured to the Steward’s campsite on the Sunday before the festival.
Although the festival gates don’t open until the Tuesday, already, people are setting up around the grounds with hundreds of tents, campervans, motorhomes, and anything else that will become the festival goers’ home for the festival’s duration.
Finding our patch of grass, drove Reg onto it and staked out a small patch of blue tarpaulin at the step. Locked up and left to help a friend with erecting his campsite for a couple of other Stewards. So far, it is warm, sunny, and no rain about – a good sign.
I’m quite apprehensive leaving Reg alone at the site. Although this particular site has security, is enclosed, and not in the public area, it’s still a risk.
The sun has been shining for a few days now and I have to admit, even for an Australian, it’s actually quite warm, especially erecting a couple of tents and a Gazebo. Let’s hope the sun stays out for the duration of the festival also as typically, it’s an ankle-deep mud fest!
In the beginning…
Born out of a “free festival movement” and “heavily influenced by hippie ethics” back in 1970 on the day after Jimi Hendrix died, this world-renown festival outgrew the Worthy Farm in 1985. This saw neighbouring Cockmill Farm purchased to expand the festival grounds.
Today, the festival is the largest music and arts festival in Europe, and spreads over 1,000 acres across 14 farms – it really is that massive. So, thought I would include the aerial photo below to give you an idea of size.
Unlike the festival’s name suggests, this event does not take place in the town of Glastonbury. The festival is held at Worthy Farm, which is in the village of Pilton, about 7 miles from Glastonbury.
Returning for the gig
After a quick hearty breakfast at Weatherspoons in Wells on this ambient Thursday morning, our ‘special’ lift drove us through a ‘special’ gate and straight into the Steward campsite. I was surprised that no one checked us at all.
What a relief to see Reg where we left him, not harmed in any way but fully enclosed and surrounded by many tents.
Lucky I pegged a small ground sheet down otherwise, a tent would have been pitched right at our doorstep, which incidentally, is nothing unusual at this festival. Space is at a premium and you’re lucky to have a small walking sliver around your tent or van – that’s how close tents are to each other here…all fun and games though.
Fire Steward’s induction
Unlike last year when I was on shift during the induction, this year I am free to attend, so met in the Silver Hayes base for the one-hour induction.
This steward’s base is a demountable set up as a meeting point prior to each shift, somewhere you can get some hot coffee, tea, water, and ear plugs whilst you’re on shift – especially on the graveyard shifts.
After our induction, walking around all the Silver Hayes tents and areas that we patrol, our group is free to go until our shifts come up. The deal is that you have to do four 5-hour shifts over the four days and you get free entry. If you miss even one shift or skive during a shift, you forfeit your ticket and escorted off the grounds – end of.
Word got around that the Silver Hayes Crew area has new caterers this year and supposed to be better than last year, so decided on dinner here tonight. Sadly, the curry and rice was okay – a tad stingy with portions. This came with a cheese and spinach slice, which they ran out of early whilst serving meals. Not exactly Indian food, but when you’re famished…catering was definitely better last year.
Typically, the food at the festival is expensive and not great. Alcohol is also expensive. As an example, £5 buys a pint of Thatcher’s Cider, or a basic pie, or a very basic plastic-like hamburger.
Although there’s a plethora of cuisines from around the globe and wonderful aromas to entice hungry festival goers into food stalls, meals look better than they taste and sell at around £7+ for a small plate. Just keep this in mind if you’re not planning to take much food when you’re camping at the festival, as you can easily blow your budget on food and alcohol during your stay.
As a Fire Steward, my allocated shifts are from 09:00-14:00hrs, 22:00-03:00hrs, 10:00-16:00hrs, and 16:00-21:00hrs – much better than last year’s shifts, except I miss Radiohead – one band I really wanted to see at Glastonbury.
The shifts are in the Pussy Parlour, Wow tent, and Sonic tent – all of which require ear plugs, but when patrolling close to the stage, Ear Defenders as well as ear plugs.
We’re here not to be overbearing as this is a festival and people are here to have a great time. Our task includes politely telling people to put out cigarettes, making sure no one has collapsed, spot any aggressive behaviour, give people directions to various festival areas, and to just oversee safety of festival goers.
The majority of people know we’re volunteers and so, are very friendly and nice to us, even when asked to put out their cigarette or go and smoke outside of a tent.
Is all the festival hype really true?
In one word: YES and then some…
Everything you’ve heard about this festival is true but even better, especially when the sun shines, so it’s much easier to walk around and see more, than when it’s a knee-deep mud fest.
The music line-up and activities are endless.
This year, the freshly introduced Cineramageddon is a huge hit and a place to watch unforgettable movies whilst sitting in “mutated vintage American and British cars“. Just couldn’t co-ordinate my shifts with the cinema times, but managed to check out the cars you sit in to watch a movie – very cool.
Of course, the non-stop music on at the many stages, is amazing; arts and crafts on show including live art, excellent; masses of people moving from one area to another like a procession of fish swimming in a stream, incredible; but mostly, the people watching is spectacular!
The lengths that people go to just to be noticed or simply to wear whatever they like, is entertaining to say the least.
Glastonbury is where anything goes and everything does go…let’s just say that the mantra is: what goes on at Glastonbury, stays at Glastonbury.
Some 2017 festival stats
Thought I would provide some statistics for the 2017 festival, if anyone is interested and to give you an idea:
- Festival takes place across 900 acres in the mythical Vale of Avalon, Somerset, South-west England
- 1,300 volunteer medics treating 4,000 festival goers
- 180 reported incidents with only 71 official arrests
- 175,000+ festival goers with 50,000 more on Sunday, which is the last day
- Around 250 volunteer Silver Hayes Fire Stewards
- About 1,000 volunteer Stewards in total
- Security for the 5 days’ costs £5,000,000
- Cost: £238 + £5 booking for a ticket, more for a motorhome, caravan, or campervan
Sadly, it takes around 800 cleaners and £750,000 to clean up the mess that festival goers leave behind. At least the leftover tents are donated to the Scouts and charity, and not just thrown away.
The cleaning starts on Monday morning. Everything must be cleaned and everyone out of the farm by the Tuesday – a mammoth task.
I’m told that the actual figures of anything to do with Glastonbury festival are never made public, so everything is an approximate number. I’m not sure why this is the case but if anyone can shed some light on the reason, I would love to know.
One night we walked right up to the hill just beneath the famous Glastonbury Festival sign, just to gaze out on to the festival grounds at some height, and to get a better perspective at night – gorgeous sight!