Monday, 1 July 2013

Diary of a Glastonbury Festival Oxfam Steward

Day One
Tuesday 25th June 2013

5 am. Abruptly awoken by the sound of the campervan exhaust vibrating as it bellows out thick black smoke. Dragging myself out of the comfort of my warm bed to the cold air of dawn, within the space of five minutes I'm up, teeth and hair brushed, and running out the door in the very same bright pink onesie I wore to bed the night before- surely some sort of record?

Chugging down the M5 it wasn't long before we were in Glastonbury and rolling onto site. You can sit rather smugly when you're in a camper at a festival... as you will know if you've ever attended one in the past, organizers  seem to designate car parks as far away as humanly possible from where you'll end up camping, and so thus you end up lugging a whole weekends worth of clothes (for all weather), food, tent and other optional extras that only first timers bring- people that are blissfully unaware when packing of the five mile trek ahead of them, half an hour into their walk however wishing they'd not bothered and dumping at the nearest opportunity.

Being (and not to blow my own trumpet, but) intrepid and hardened festival goer I have endured my fair share of playing donkey and carrying my own body weight across muddy fields. A family investment in the campervan however has meant this torture exists no more: I can bring as much food clothes and optional extras as I see fit, and trust me, I do.

Taking all of five minutes to set up (another perk of having a campervan) we went and registered where we received all our shifts, wristbands, ID cards, and a lovely bring orange hi-vis before talking a walk into the festival site. My tenth year of Glastonbury festival walking into somewhere which, to me, feels like a second home jam packed with 100,000 other people, it was rather eerie walking through an almost desolate area before the public arrive tomorrow. The same feeling still hit me as I walked through the gate however... I'm home.

Day Two
Wednesday 26th June

You only realize quite how lucky you are when you're thrown into a situation where you have a minimum of a five minute walk to the toilet or nearest water point. So used to it being readily available wherever you are, I feel rather ungrateful cursing on my cold walk to the toilet this morning when in comparison to so many living in third world poverty, a five minute walk to the toilet is a luxury. Our three shifts alone each raise enough money to provide a house for a family in Syria. Yeah, you're doing it mainly because 205 quid for a ticket to a music festival is extortionate and you can't afford it, but that fact is a nice little extra that makes your 8 hour shift seem that little more bearable.

As I fall back into the routine of dealing with horrendous toilet facilities I remember my unwritten rule I've always followed when at a festival... never, wherever possible, chose the toilet a man has just walked out of. Everyone knows they are, even when sober, disgusting pigs, however mix a little beer into the system and not only does their stench become 1000x more pungent, but it means their aim is a little out, meaning for a filthy toilet not fit for a lady to use after they have soiled it. I still firmly believe that without men the festival would overall be a lot cleaner.

Tonight is our first shift, 10pm until 6am... ouch. The festival doors officially opened this morning and people are pilling in making it progressively busier. As we walk to our location, a vehicle gate on the opposite side of the massive site, it's interesting to note the intuition and creativity of methods people dream up to reduce the effort needed to cart across their beer and other heavier items, such as cider and other canned alcoholic beverages in copious quantities. The best I've seen so far has to be a wheelie bin... how did it even get here?! 

Day Three
Thursday 27th June

First thing in the morning, I've just returned from the night shift. Although the shift went seemingly fast, 6am could not have come quicker, and after giving a cheery wave to our supervisor Ocean (yes, really) we strolled off ready to spend the day in bed. 

I woke up mid afternoon by the rain pounding against the window and stayed in the campervan until 9pm at night when I knew it had stopped. The problem with festivals however is that it only takes a little bit of rain before 100,000 feet walking over the already saturated ground churns it up and lanes turn into mud slides- good job I brought my wellies. 

We took a stroll into the festival once the rain had stopped trudging through the already muddy paths... it is surprising how many people come to Glastonbury- probably the one festival renown for being the muddiest and wettest- without wellies, or even anything remotely suitable for mud, opting instead for flip flops and trench foot.  

The problem with Glastonbury now is, again being the ten year snobby Glastonbury veteran that I am, that the number of punters has dramatically increased whilst the site hasn't particularly. On a Thursday when  the main arenas aren't yet open it means that swarms of people head to those that are such as the dance village and the park... I'm already fed up of walking through annoying drunk people and it's only Thursday night... 

Day Four
Friday 28th June

The festival officially started today: the main arenas are open and, best of all, the sun is back out! 

We woke up and got ready for our next shift at 2pm-10pm... thinking it would be quite this afternoon as most deliveries were made earlier in the week we were in shock at how busy we were. After a slow start the shift soon descended into a star spotting session as we learned we were positioned next to the stars gate! We let in the likes of Greg James, Sinead O'Connor, Chase and Status, Major Lazer, The Rolling Stones (their four huge tour buses at least), Professor Green, Rita Ora, and best of all, Michael Eavis himself-not a bad day all in all.

Seeing Miles Kane, a personal favorite of mine, perform for a short while on our break, for me made the afternoon quite worth while, and finishing at ten to run off and see the Arctic Monkey's even more so.

Stood at the back of the crowd absolutely knackered from a hard days work I have to say I was somewhat disappointed with the Monkeys. Once a band that were full of energy with songs such as Mardy Bum and Florescent Adolescence there seemed to be a lack of it in their set, going through the motions as it were. Although they played their classics I wasn't sure whether it was the 8 hour stint of standing up I'd just endured or the set that was sending me to sleep! 

After getting back to camp we're settling down for the night when the sound of an acoustic guitar and bad singing starts... who in their right mind brings a musical instrument to a music festival?!(optional extra right there... they must have a van).
"Hey up, we've got James Blunt over there", says Dad, shortly followed by the slightly more offensive "shut the f*** up." 

Good job we brought ear plugs. 

Day Five
Saturday 29th June

Beginning to miss my home comforts; running water, flushing toilet, electricity and my boyfriend... all in that order! Today has been our day off and with the sun shining and 20 degree temperatures it couldn't have been better. Having a lie in in the morning we walked across to the far east side of the site down to Shangri La to watch Norman Jay. Firstly I found fifty quid... morals half go out the window at the festival, feeling rather guilty about picking it up with only a quick look round first played on my mind for the next couple of hours, however there is no where to hand it in, and when it's been dropped anything goes right?! Sat on the grass at the Shangri Hell listening to the perfect collision of African vibes and classic tracks. 

Rather sun burnt we went back to camp for something to eat before heading back out to watch Major Lazer. I've never before really been a fan, introduced by my Dad however that the band had tweeted that they ideally wanted a huge basket ball net and a helicopter to drive over and dunk it in during their set, I was assured it was to be an entertaining hour. And so it was. Erratic dancing from all and bopping in the early dusk set up for a great night steering clear of the Rolling Stones. Dad insisted we walk past the Pyramid stage on which they were performing on our way round to the other stage if not only to say " I saw The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury". It turned out to be disastrous. EVERYONE had turned up to see them. The biggest crowd I have ever seen swarming back even beyond the tents. It took us half an hour to shuffle through to the other side, and feeling rather claustrophobic and uncomfortable we got as far away as possible... I feel there should be a tshirt- I saw The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury and almost got crushed to death. 

The rest of the festival site was somewhat quite! So seizing the opportunity we watch a little of Chase and Status and went up to the park before returning back to Arcadia to watch Fat Boy Slim who was amazing. Arcadia never fails to amaze me... the fire, the lights and the music is a mixture which is perfectly combined providing a fantastic atmosphere. It only takes someone as big as Fat Boy Slim to make for a massive crowd pleasing set.

At around 2am we returned to camp in the knowledge that we had to be up at 5 for our shift... 

Day Six
Sunday 30th June

8 hours later... what a killer. Turns out sleep is pretty important... another boring shift but now we're free! Absolutely knackered, but free all the same. We stumble back to the camp, give back our hi-vis' and claim our reward... a green badge. All that work for a green badge!.. and the people in Syria, of course. We went back to bed for a little while however it wasn't long before we were out again, making the most of our time left. We saw a few acts and bought a few bargains in the last knocking sales that always happen on the Sunday before feeling massively drained watching the XX, and decided to boot it home before the rest of the punters had the same idea. Six days in a field, with a seat on top of a wheelie bin for a toilet and no shower seriously takes it's toll on you, and although I massively enjoyed myself I have never been more excited to go home! 

After a panic of the van not starting and coaxing her into life we set off... saying goodbye for another year safe in the knowledge that I'll be back again next year to endure the same emotional spectrum of experiences this week has brought. 

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