Who would have thought I’d be back in the UK revelling in another Glastonbury Festival but in sunshine this time?
As the 2019 Glastonbury (Glasto) festival runs from 26th-30th June, wanted to re-share this 2017 experience of the Glasto festival with you…
Where is the festival?
The festival is not held in the actual town of Glastonbury, but at Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton – around 5 miles from Glastonbury.
As a Glastonbury Virgin back in 2016 not knowing what to expect, this year I’m totally prepared mentally – I think.
Hopefully, the weather is kind this year not like last year’s complete mud fest!
The run down
An hour’s meeting with the Silver Hayes crew the week before the festival, sees Fire Stewards now armed with their information packs, containing the entrance ticket, maps, safety booklet, contact list, and of course, the trusty Shift Roster.
A quick glance at the Roster reveals that Radiohead is not to be on this occasion…for me anyway. I’m on shift in another tent when they’re 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 (trusty motorhome) with tins, packet food, alcohol, sleeping bags, pillows, and clothes, we venture to the Steward’s campsite on the Sunday before the festival.
Although the festival gates don’t open until Tuesday, already people are setting up around the grounds with hundreds of tents, campervans, motorhomes, and anything else that will be the festival goers’ home for the duration.
Finding a patch of grass for Reg, stake out a small patch of blue tarpaulin at the step, lock up, help a friend with pitching his campsite. 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 festival 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 following Jimi Hendrix’s death, 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. Spreading over 1,000 acres across 14 farms, it really is that massive – here’s an aerial photo to give you an idea.
Returning for the gig
After a quick hearty breakfast at Wetherspoons in Wells on this ambient Thursday morning, our ‘special’ lift drives us through a ‘special’ gate and straight into the Steward campsite – no one checks us at all.
What a relief to see Reg where we left him, not harmed in any way but fully enclosed and suffocated by a plethora of tents.
Lucky I pegged a small ground sheet down otherwise, a tent would be pitched right at our doorstep.
Space is at a premium. You’re lucky to have a small walking sliver around your tent or van – this is how close tents are to each other – fun and games.
Fire Steward’s induction
Unlike last year when I was on shift during the induction, this year I’m free to attend so meet 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. Also, they’re somewhere you can get 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 to patrol, our group is free to go until our shifts.
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.
Word got around that the Silver Hayes Crew area has new caterers this year and supposed to be better than last year, so decide on dinner here tonight. The curry and rice is okay. A tad stingy with portions and comes with a cheese spinach slice, which ran out early. 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, 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 food when you’re camping, as you can easily blow your budget on food and alcohol over the 4 days.
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 want to see at Glasto.
The shifts are in the Pussy Parlour, Wow, and Sonic tents – all of which require ear plugs, but when patrolling close to the stage we wear Ear Defenders over ear plugs.
We’re not here 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 aggressive behaviour, give people directions to various festival areas, and to 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 hear about this festival is true but much better – especially when the sun shines as it’s much easier to walk around and you 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 can’t co-ordinate my shifts with the cinema times, but manage to check out the cars – very cool.
Of course, the non-stop music on at the many stages is amazing. Excellent arts and crafts on show including live art. Masses of people moving from one area to another like a procession of fish swimming in a river’s current, incredible. But mostly, the people watching is spectacular!
The lengths that people go just to be noticed is entertaining to say the least.
Glasto 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
Some statistics for the 2017 festival if you’re interested:
- 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 (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 Tuesday – a mammoth task.
I’m told that the actual figures of anything to do with Glasto are never made public, so everything is an approximate number. Does anyone know the reason for this?
A wander up to the hill just beneath the famous Glasto sign to gaze out across the expansive festival grounds, and for a better glimpse reveals a magical gorgeous sight!