Greetings friends! While I’m on the road, I’ve lined up a couple of terrific guest posts for pop culture travelers out there. Today, we’ll catch up once again with Taryn, who went to the legendary Glastonbury festival in Pilton, Somerset, England in 2013. She learned so much from the experience, she’s sharing her best tips with us, and already planning her return in 2014. Welcome back, Taryn!
“I Survived Glastonbury 2013“….that’s what my t-shirt would say if shopping malls still had silk screen t-shirt shops. I’d never done a music festival (or anything like it), I’d only been camping once (and hated it), the thought of not showering for more than 48 hours scared me and rumours of the toilet situation just about did me in….but I did it – I survived Glastonbury.
If you haven’t heard of it, Glastonbury is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. It takes place most years over 900 acres in the Vale of Avalon. For the 2013 festival, 135, 000 tickets sold in a record 1 hour 40 minutes. Add to ticket buyers approximately 35, 000 staff/volunteers and performers and for 5 days it becomes a temporary city the size of Oxford. For fun, use this app to see your local area mapped the same size as Glastonbury. Yep, it’s huge.
Thinking about camping, toilets, and the size can make attending Glastonbury a little overwhelming. I was nervous but with a bit of planning and the advice of my group (all veterans), I not only survived but I’m planning on doing it next year!
Getting tickets for Glastonbury has become increasingly hard over the last few years. In order to purchase tickets, you must be pre-registered. You need a photo to register and it will have to be approved before you’re sent a registration number. This does not guarantee you ticket – it just allows you to attempt to buy tickets. When purchasing, you can buy up to 8 tickets at one time provided you have 8 different registration numbers. Tickets go on sale in October and only a £50 deposit is made at that time. Balances are paid in the spring and then a re-sale is done in April. Ticket price for 2013 was £205 which includes the full festival, your camping (5 nights) and a souvenir program.
What to pack
My packing was made much easier by the fact that the group I was attending with had all the camping gear I needed. It IS possible to show up at Glastonbury with nothing but the clothes on your back – you can buy anything and everything you would need to camp as well as clothes, wellies and pretty much everything else. I used Krista’s packing list for South Africa as inspiration with a few modifications:
- 2 pairs leggings (would definitely take again, perfect for layering)
- 2 skirts (one peasant type/one skort type) (both would take again)
- 1 sundress (would take again)
- 3 tank tops (didn’t wear any)
- 5 t-shirts (wore 3)
- 2 long sleeved shirts – one for layering which I wore; other was for layering over tanks – never wore it
- 1 fleece zip (necessary!)
- 10 pairs underwear (I did not follow Krista’s list here but only because I knew I wouldn’t be able to wash anything)
- 1 pair wellies (purchased 2 pairs wellie socks once there)
- 3 rain ponchos (2 cheapies and 1 heavy duty; used the heavy duty one when it rained and for sitting on)
- Old track pants/hoodie for sleeping (ready to throw away)
- 1 pair Birkenstocks (old ones that I was ready to part with if they didn’t survive; they didn’t)
- 1 messenger style bag – I used it for the first day but had bought a small backpack in Oxford and ended up using that instead. I found it much easier on my back/neck for wandering around all day. Especially once you throw in camera, sweater, wine – the essentials!
I would definitely downsize on t-shirts/tanks for next year. I was in England for 4 days before I arrived at Glastonbry so did have a few things I thought I’d use earlier in the trip but didn’t. I basically recycled all my outfits. I used a sports/weekend bag (approximately 40L size) and while it did the trick I would consider a backpack for next year. It was a 40 minute walk from our campsite to the gates so while my bag wasn’t overly heavy it wasn’t as comfortable as a backpack for walking.
So the (ahem) toilet situation… This was probably the cause of most of my pre-Glastonbury anxiety. I won’t lie – it’s bad. But it’s not as bad as I thought it would be and it certainly wouldn’t keep me from going again. I won’t get into too much detail on this (unless you have questions!) except to say that the open air long drops were preferable to portable toilet (just don’t look down). Also, I refuse to admit to anything but some people would say that personal portable urinals are a lifesaver for middle of the night emergencies…or late afternoon emergencies.
This was the other cause of my pre-Glastonbury anxiety. But I did it – 5 days no shower/no hair washing. I had a package of wipes that are used for patients receiving home care – baby wipes would work too – but the home care ones are larger. They work. There are showers but who wants to queue for 1 ½ hour for a hot shower? (well, I kind of did on Day 4). I also bow down to dry shampoo…and have finally kicked my 30 year habit of washing my hair every single day.
Food and alcohol
Glastonbury is unique for music festivals in that you can bring your own alcohol. The only restrictions are no glass and you can only bring alcohol for personal consumption. They’re pretty loose on the whole “personal consumption” thing – I saw people with trolleys and wheelbarrows filled with 5-6 flats of beer and/or cider. I think as long as you’re not caught selling, you’re good. You can also buy alcohol on site – lots of beer, cocktails and wine sold in plastic bottles – for £4-£9. We brought a decent amount of our own alcohol as well as food for a few barbeques. Food was in the £5-£7 range and they had everything! Pretty much any kind of food you can imagine: Italian, burgers, vegan, all day breakfasts, Asian, sushi, seafood – you name it, they had it. The only questionable thing I ate was vegan schnitzel – and I mean, really – vegan schnitzel? (I blame fatigue and alcohol for making that bad choice)
Navigating the site
Glastonbury is huge and there are a lot of people. While you get quite good at navigating your own camp area and perfecting your own path back to the tent (left at the blue tent, then right at the pile of beer cans, over the pinwheel, through the blue gazebo), it’s difficult to appreciate the size of the entire site. One of the handiest things at Glastonbury is given to you by the fine folks at The Guardian – a neck lanyard with a guide and map inside. Some people are too cool to wear them – I was not. It was invaluable. The map includes all the camping areas and venues.
It’s not just about music
Really, it’s not. We spent a few hours in The Green Fields on Saturday morning. There were dozens of craft workshops – you could probably spend all five days just doing crafts (wood working, willow workshops, jewelry workshops, metal workshops, textiles). We spent several hours in the Theatre and Circus area on Sunday afternoon – juggling and acrobats in the Circus Tent, buskers, and just people walking about in fun costumes. There’s a cinema tent. There are after-hours nightclubs, a silent disco (so much fun!) and late night events that go until 6am. And never underestimate the enjoyment from just grabbing a lager, sitting down and watching things happen around you.
It’s not just about music….but it kind of is
The line-up this year was amazing. I was pretty excited at the prospect of seeing so many acts that I loved (The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes), acts that were recommended to me (Ben Caplan, Zac Brown Band) and seeing The Rolling Stones for their 50thanniversary AND much heralded first time at Glastonbury. (Side note: I was lucky enough to see them for their 40th in Toyko when I lived in Japan) Music is obviously a HUGE part of the Glastonbury experience but that being said….You can’t see everything. It’s impossible. When the line-up was first announced, I made a huge list of the acts I wanted to see. When the specific time slots were announced I had to cut some things. Once I got there, I cut again. Timing of shows, maneuvering through crowds and the distance between venues make it a challenge. My final cut/must-see was one act – The Stones. Our group chatted about who wanted to see what and who might tag along. It’s a great way to experience something different. The first night a few of us tagged along with someone who wanted to see Sinead O’Connor at the Acoustic Tent (the majority went to see headliners Arctic Monkeys) – the show was fantastic and I was taken back to 1988 being an angst-ridden teenager playing “Troy” at full volume in my bedroom. The final night headliner was Mumford & Sons and I don’t think anyone in our group went to that. Most of us chose to see Bobby Womack instead and the last night was like an awesome, chilled out soul party. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy and something new to discover.
- Be prepared for little sleep: tents are practically on top of each other and even if you go to bed at a decent hour, there will be people around you will be staggering back at 6am. And while the live music must be finished by midnight, there are many after-hours venues which will keep you awake. (looking at you, people singing in the Silent Disco until 6am)
- Be friendly to your neighbours: we chatted with the people camping around us, gave each other tips (shower queues, best toilets) and shared food/condiments. It definitely promoted a community vibe and made you feel that you had some people looking out for you.
- Use the property lock-ups: a group of 4 was arrested for stealing out of tents – phones, wallets, cameras. Property lock-ups are open 24 hours a day and are available in all the camping areas.
- Visit the information points: they provide location information, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, condoms and rolls of toilet paper.
Overall, my first Glastonbury experience was amazing! There were times I was overwhelmed and I was exhausted for about 2 weeks but I don’t regret a single minute of it. It was like nothing I’ve ever done and I’m already planning Glastonbury 2014!
Glastonbury 2014 is scheduled for Wednesday, June 25 to Sunday, June 29, 2014. Tickets go on sale in October and registration is now open.