By Holly Black
In the middle of June I disappeared for 3 weeks. Had you looked, you would have found me in a field in Pilton, drilling bits of wood together to build a stage for the now world-famous Glastonbury Festival.
The Green Stuff
I know you’re probably expecting me to look at the ‘green’ side of Glastonbury (or rather, the lack of one) I have spent many a post-festival Monday roaming the fields of Glastonbury Festival despairing at the state of humanity. Who leaves their tent behind? Who leaves all their food and booze behind? Who leaves their shoes behind? I am thrifty, to a certain extent. I still wear trainers I found at Glastonbury, a couple of jumpers and a pair of jeans or two. I still rely on the Monday after Glastonbury to furnish me with sun cream for the rest of the year. And why not? It certainly appears that no-one else wants this stuff. There are loads of people talking about the wasteful side of Glastonbury punters - the Guardian loves a story on waste at Glastonbury, this great new outfit 8th plate collected TEN TONS of spare food from the festival site (brilliant news) and Glastonbury Festival themselves have a ‘zero waste’ policy, which, let’s face it, hasn’t worked in recent years (although I do love the adage “a tent is for life”.)
But, I’m not going to talk about this. The closest I might get is the mention of 'green' is in reference to the rolling hills in which the festival takes place. I’m going to talk about something which inspired and invigorated me at Glastonbury 2015, and the weeks before and after.
Glastonbury Festival can be described as a temporary big city. Over 150,000 people come from all over the country (in some cases the world) to become neighbours - if only for one weekend. The sense of local shrinks down to the person dancing next to you under the bright lights. This is a strange concept in lots of ways. You pitch up a tent, meet your neighbours, party all weekend with them, then probably never see them again. A brief sense of kinship until the next year.
But, Glastonbury Festival is more than just this brief interaction between punters. The people who come together to create the festival are a family. They eat together, drink together, build things together, and take them down together. It’s the time of year when a group of both strangers and friends come together to create something magnificent - something that brings four days of pure happiness to many people in the UK.
For the three weeks I worked as part of the on site crew I experienced a little bit of the magic behind the scenes. As a group we worked together on our stage; horizontally, making decisions and solving problems as a team. We met and worked with other folk in our field, leant each other tools, borrowed scaff, shared wood. We had a drink together in the evening in the local (Chelsea Inn a field), and we went back to our green field together in the evening to socialise with our neighbours and hunt down friends in other build crews over some of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in a long time. The magic of both working and living outdoors making it feel a little bit like a holiday with a big group of friends.
The people who work to put Glastonbury Festival together take pride in what they do - and they do it year in, year out, to make you smile. A few years ago you may have seen the Arcadia spider spouting information during the countdown about how the people who work there simply want to bring something spectacular to the masses. Often these people who use their creativity are seen as crusty squatters and travellers on the edge of society - but the political stuff spouting out of the bottom of a huge laser-shooting, aerialist holding, raving, fire breathing spider, was remarkably honest and cut close to the bone - it explicitly expressed the creativity of the makers and creators behind the magic, and how the festival wouldn't exist without them. You may have seen Michael Eavis speaking in the Unfairground this year, marking the 30th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield - one of the most violent clashes with travelling communities in the history of the UK - and one of the worst cases of police violence in 500 years. The group of travellers that left stonehenge came straight to Worthy Farm for refuge - Michael took them in and they helped make Glastonbury Festival what it is today - for which he gave thanks. One of these people was Joe Rush of Mutoid Waste, who transforms the festival site each year using waste metal to build his crazy sculptures. One of the travellers from the Battle of the Beanfield is Dale Vince, now founder and owner of renewable electric company Ecotricity. These people are not at the edges of society - they are the ones that add the fire and joy that we lack so badly in much of our lives.
I know people who dismiss the festival scene - seeing it as hedonistic and commercial, with nothing positive to come out of it, but I disagree. Glastonbury 2015 filled me with a sense of humanity, friendship and love for the groups of people who come together every year to make it better than the last. Living in a field for 3 weeks, working hard to make something truly magical is a beautiful thing. A new sense of local maybe, but a closeness that can’t be repeated until the next summer solstice.
And if you don't believe me - see if for yourself - just watch these lovely fellow Bristol folk at work (who, coincidentally, are set to 'go green' with their signature flames being converted into biofuel...)
For more on the Battle of the Beanfield, read: 30 years on: What really happened at the Battle of the Beanfield by Felicity Hannah.
Read more from Holly here.