I cannot believe I am here.
My first thought while standing in front of the colorful Glastonbury sign overlooking the huge festival area. After having bought the tickets last October, not knowing which tragedies would cross my life’s path the following months – including a cancer diagnosis. Now I am close to tears, thankful and looking forward to some of my fave bands such as the Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro. After more than 1.600 kilometers by car. Weather forecast: sunny. Mood: couldn’t be any better.
I’m a passionate traveler and a real music enthusiast. I especially love the UK and Ireland. So guess my favorite combination this summer – yes, it’s a festival on British soil. That’s why I’ll attend Glastonbury festival in Pilton, Somerset, this June 2017.
Glastonbury Festival is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts enjoyed by nearly 200,000 people. In addition to modern music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, movie screenings, theatre, circus, and cabaret, along with other arts and performances.
The festival is inspired by the ethos of the hippie, counterculture, and free festival movements, attended by all kinds of people, of all backgrounds, nationalities, lifestyles, faiths, concepts of fashion (or lack of it), musical taste, and also age. Over the course of these days I will see lots of families – kids with protection earphones as well as older guys with rolling walkers.
As every year, the majority of staff are volunteers, helping to raise money for worthy causes such as Oxfam, Water Aid, Greenpeace, or local projects. In 2015 for example, hundreds of pairs of discarded wellies from the festival were donated to the migrant camp at Calais, France. The same year also saw an appearance by the 14th Dalai Lama on festival ground. Michael Eavis, festival founder, says, Glastonbury even pays the bands smaller fees compared to other festivals, in order to donate as much as possible to charity.
Nevertheless, no commercial sponsoring partners apart from those above can be seen on-site. Instead, you walk through wonderfully detailed decorated small huts offering palm reading and healing sessions or free workshops for any handicraft you can imagine – graving bows or carving everyday objects out of stone.
The spiritual and open-minded ethos comes alive in any corner of the festival. On these five days, music is the key to rethink our concept of the world, of how we want to live together in terms of politics, society, environmental issues, animal welfare, etc. Loads of questions are raised: How can we deal with limited natural resources such as drinking water or oil? Is being vegetarian an option? What about all the homeless people outside my own front door?
We’re altogether pretty sure that none of these problems can easily be solved at a music festival. For some there may even be no answer ever. But if at least everybody on the festival ground takes back home some inspirational thoughts, this may be the first step towards a better future for all of us.
There are moments when visitors – me included – ask themselves: Why can’t life always be like this? There are enlightenments, awakenings, and surreal happenings. It’s time to go with the flow, to explore something new. Discussions with politicians or open university lectures with astronauts are very my personal highlights. Most of the bands also take their chance for inspirational statements upon stage.
One of Eavis’ biggest ambitions is to call the visitors’ attention to global waste issues and trying to sensitize them to recycling topics. That’s also why you see tons of dustbins on the site – separate ones for food waste, paper cups and plates, or plastic bottles. To generally reduce waste, steel cups for refill can be obtained for a small deposit.
Another spectacular huge arrangement of supposedly old and worn out fashion clothes tells me to think about second-hand apparel as well as low wage production abroad. Leave no trace – that’s the overall festival motto, not only because it takes place on the fields of a working farm.
Most people seem to stick to it as I see everybody carrying back home their tents and camping belongings with them.
Glasto takes place in the Vale of Avalon, an area deeply steeped in symbolism, mythology, and religious traditions dating back many hundreds of years. It’s where King Arthur might be buried, and where Joseph of Arimathea is said to have walked. Isn’t this the best place to take some fresh ideas and an updated attitude with me?
One of the most controversial posters said: Eat Litter Shit Repeat.
For me, this one will now stick to my mind for a long time, leaving me behind with my thoughts probably long after the festival has been torn down. Apart from all those concert memories with sensational Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro, of course.
This is a guest post by Birgit Bachmeier.
Birgit is a passionate traveler. Even though her roots go back to Southern Germany, a piece of her soul always remains in the UK and Ireland, two of her favorite places. She is someone who savors every second of life and a dedicated follower of any- and everything music-related. Whether intimate concerts, big venues or huge festivals – she’s spending way too much money on travelling the world to see her favorite bands. Follow her on Instagram: @birgitbachmeier.