Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is one of the biggest music and cultural open-air events worldwide. With over 100 stages, various areas, from Kidz Field through to the Pyramid Stage and from Field Of Avalon to Silver Hayes and thousands of tents, it is a unique place where everyone has their own story to tell. This one is mine. Glastonbury as seen by my eyes, or to be exact with my camera lenses.
I remember when I first got my Glastonbury ticket three years ago and tried to get as much information about the Festival ahead. Overexcited, trying to plan where to camp, what to see, where to go. I remember I stumbled upon the Glastonbury Festival website and couldn’t fathom how BIG Glastonbury is.
I was staring at the advice given “If in doubt just wander…” and couldn’t get my head around it. Now, three festivals later I can say it is the best and only advice you ever need. The site is huge and without a doubt, you will work your feet off and still miss acts you wanted to see. But on the bright side, you will discover things you never expected.
One of my all-time favourite places to be at Glasto is South East Corner. It’s pretty far from my usual camping site, but it’s worth a daily or nightly walk.
This place is home to the Common, BLOCK 9, Unfairground and Shangri-la.
What most people have in mind thinking about SE Corner is the night party. That is only half of the story. Unfairground, BLOCK 9 and Shangri-la are full of night clubs, pubs and small open till late stages, but what makes the area different is activism.
This year the Shangri-la main theme was Re-cycle – Re-use – Re-sist! Most of the installations were built from waste left on fields after last years Festival. The mountains of rubbish, with post-apocalyptical death standing on the top, posters asking “WTF FAM?” contrasted with brightly dressed festival goers. They were there as remorse, a quiet question – will you take your stuff home this year?
Glastonbury organisers put a lot of effort into the yearly clean-up, and they want Festivals goers to get it straight: #LoveTheFarmLeaveNoTrace. It is part of your ticket to commit to clean up after yourself. The messages are visible everywhere. Don’t pee on the land; Love the Farm, Leave No Trace; Take your tent home. Unfortunately, so many people ignore that message every year.
For the very first time, this year, Shangri-la has become a home for Earache Records, an independent record label from Nottingham. They brought their very own night club, made of an old tube carriage.
The tube wasn’t the only change in Shangri-la. The old Hell Stage got a refit and new name – The Truth Stage and became a home for Earache Records’ bands.
Napalm Death, a death metal band from Birmingham, had the honour to open the stage on sunny Thursday afternoon.
Just a few steps away from Shangri-la lies Unfairground. A mind-altering zone, full of quirky installations, a land of arts and music in a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde reality. This area changes from spooky playground at day time to a twisted night clubs zone after dusk.
A littlet to the side of Unfairgroung lies BLOCK 9. Provocative and dark. Looking like a slaughter house with a car smashed into tower block and a skeleton looking out of the window from what appears to be a warehouse on fire. Loud electronic music combined with lights and disturbing messages. However don’t judge a book by its cover, go and venture inside.
Glastonbury is well known for its volunteering and community commitment. South East Corner isn’t the only place where you stumble upon activism. In fact, the Festival is a temporary home for Oxfam, WaterAid and Greenpeace.
The army of volunteers wander the fields, helping with the crowd management, working on the gates, info points, in the shops and campaigning for charities. How effective are they? Well, if you think that I became Greenpeace member a year ago at the Festival and I will be joining Oxfam in the next year to do some stewarding… I would say they’re very effective.
This year one of the main themes of Glastonbury was help for refugees. Oxfam covered it with Stand As One and for the very first time, on Worthy Farm the Help Refugees charity appeared. They had their shop in the Pyramid Stage area and teamed with the Festival organisers to donate unwanted sleeping bags and tents rescued from post-Glasto hell to the ones in need.
Now if you have just read this and thought to leave your stuff on the field is OK as someone will benefit, let me tell you something. It is not. If you want to do something good, pack your tent, fold your sleeping bag and bring it to one of the donations points. There are plenty of them on every site. Leaving your rubbish in the middle of the field is a disgrace.
Glastonbury is not only about music and activism. It is a place where you can just wander and suddenly become a witness to the most unusual marriage proposal I’ve ever heard or seen. With a dry run and a few mishaps and with cheering crowd, the pink-umbrellas-made proposal took place on Thursday afternoon on Big Ground overlooking Pyramid Stage.
Friends and complete strangers, passersby and onlookers, all joined the celebrations under the old oak tree as she said YES.
On the Glastonbury map, far South West from my tent lies Stone Circle. The legend says it’s a holy place where you can hear the spirits calling you from the past. It is usually the hang-around spot and offers one of the best views of the Festival from the hill above Tipi Field.
The way up is long and no matter the weather – always hard, but worth it. Climbing the hill, you can turn into Green Fields, which houses Green Futures, Greenpeace and Greencrafts Village. It’s always good to recharge your activism, get a healing massage or just catch a breath on the way up.
There are tea and coffee shops, secret stages where sometimes massive acts pop in and play, like Noel Galagher playing an unexpected, solo, acoustic show last year.
When you finally get to the top, there is a treat waiting for you. The hammocking leisure centre. Yes, you got it right. Hammocking on top of the hill, looking down on The Park area, Arcadia and Glade. With a bit of luck and good weather, you can enjoy your favourite band playing Park Stage from the hammock.
The Park is one of the “must see” areas if you are doing Glasto with your little legs. There is the Ribbon Tower and a real sand mountain where the little ones can dig, climb and do all the stuff that kids normally do. Even The Park gate is children friendly and somehow resembles a Disneyland or Fairy Tale’s gate.
When the sun goes down there is one place that comes to life. Arcadia and her massive spider. The Metamorphosis Show is a must see for every Festival goer. A story how life transforms and rebuilds told with lights, sounds and motion. The 50-tonne spider, shooting 60-foot flames into the night sky with acrobats hanging on lines is something hard to imagine but worth seeing.
The spectacular show channels ideas of physical and metaphysical evolution. Metamorphosis sees aliens flying from the sky, new creatures born from spellbinding cocoons, baby spiders crawling overhead and 6 million volts of lightning played like an otherworldly musical instrument.
Metamorphosis show is usually at midnight, allowing the crowd to get there after the headlining acts finish. But if you ask me the best day to go and see it is Sunday. On Sunday the show starts at 9.30 pm and benefits from the sky highlighted by sunset. It is worth to sacrifice a Sunday headliner and go to see Arcadia’s Spider in action.
The show is only 30 minutes long and you are free to stay and dance under the metal monster which is occasionally shooting flames in the night air to the rhythm of music. Or you could hit the path to Glade and SE Corner.
Glastonbury never goes to sleep early, but if you want to, it is wise to have a tent pitched on the opposite side of the festival, like mine, pitched on the quiet area of Hitchin Hill.
Photography and Words by Edyta K at Glastonbury Festival 2017