Revelling in the mud, music and mayhem that is Glastonbury

Updated: 2014-07-08 10:05

By Wang Mingjie (

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Revelling in the mud, music and mayhem that is Glastonbury

Camps are ubiquitous at the Glastonbury. Photo by Wang Mingjie 

More than 175,000 people spent five days, from June 23 to 29, immersed in the mud and puddles of a field in Somerset, Southwest England.

The experience brought out the best in festival-goers, who appeared to delight in the ecstasy of the music, the excitement of the atmosphere and the dynamic nature of the festival. Glastonbury village, near Pilton, temporarily became the third largest city in the region.

The 135,000 tickets for Glastonbury 2014 sold out in less than 90 minutes - a new record according to Michael Eavis, founder of the Glastonbury Festival which has been running since 1970. This left a lot of people without tickets and those desperate to get in had to find other ways, with only a few managing to become volunteers.

Normally volunteers are required to work three 8-hour shifts for their ticket, but it does vary slightly. In some cases they would be required to pay for the ticket in advance, and would be reimbursed after completing the required shifts. Organisations recruiting volunteers include Oxfam, providing stewarding at key locations; Festaff, wrist banding staff for the event and Avalon, responsible for services at all 13 bars at the venue.

Apart from the music and scheduled events, there were a variety of activities on offer. There was a cinema stage, showing films ranging from recent blockbusters to horror films, and also screening live sporting events such as the World Cup and Wimbledon.

Other attractions included the healing fields where massages, relaxing music and mediation were the order of the day. One of the site's main draws was the Stone Circle where thousands assembled late at night for impromptu jam sessions and fire juggling or to just enjoy the sunset or early sunrise. There was also a cabaret tent and a circus, as well as poetry.

Festival goers went to Glastonbury for a variety of reasons: some attended for a specific headliner or performer; most attended for the atmosphere and the bragging rights to say they "did" Glastonbury.

Sarah Biggs, a regular festival goer, said: "If you like festivals, you have to experience Glastonbury because it is different to every other festival out there. Everyone I have spoken to has said it is the best festival he/she has ever been to. It is not just about the music and it does not matter who is headlining each year; it's more about the circus, the tent site and the atmosphere."

"What makes Glastonbury different from other festivals is its sheer size. The only reason I came here is for Dolly Parton and I cannot get that from any other festival. Glastonbury can draw in these massive acts that you would not ordinarily get. I would not have come here if it were not for Dolly Parton. The thing that might put me off a bit about Glastonbury is also its size," said Jo Furnival, who has been to various festivals around Europe.

Revelling in the mud, music and mayhem that is Glastonbury

Exhausted festival-goers wait for bus to go back. Photo by Wang Mingjie

James Hadfield, a third-time Glastonbury goer, working as cellar manager at the Guest Bar said: "There are down times when you are overworked and have to serve drinks seeing a crowd at the bar five people deep, or when it rains like cats and dogs in the field whilst watching the performance. However, there are also glamorous moments when you work at the bar engaging in interesting conversation with customers or at times you finish the shifts and have the time to explore this massive festival."

Surprisingly, Asians (including Chinese) were seldom spotted. They seemed to not like this kind of environment, muddy camping without decent toilet facilities.

Grace, a South Korean girl and the first Asian I met at this predominately white festival, flew from Seoul to England just for the festival after failing to obtain a ticket for the past three years.

Christine Liu, the first Chinese I came across at Glastonbury, said: "The music festival industry seems to be much more mature in Western countries whereas in China it is still in the embryonic stage. People in China do not seem to be very keen on outdoor festivals. Also, the culture difference is one of the reasons that dissuades Asian people from appearing at these festivals as we are encouraged to partake in outdoor activities at a very young age whilst in Asia, kids are always brought up to stay clean, away from mud, and hence their tolerance for camping conditions is much lower."

Drinking was an indispensable element at Glastonbury apart from music. Glastonbury is one of very few festivals that allows people to take their own alcohol. There were 13 bars at the festival site, with the Guest Bar and Winnebago bar serving VIPs.

Celebrities like Lilly Allen, Bradley Cooper, Rita Ora, Julien MacDonald etc were all reported as drinking at these bars. To give an idea of the scale of alcohol consumption, sales hit nearly £1 million with £2,000 in tips at the Guest Bar alone, according to Nichola Mannee, the make-up artist and manager of the Hospitality Bar.

Dirty portaloos, and no showers at the camp site are deemed the two biggest nuisances for festival goers. For those interested in experiencing Glastonbury but unable to bear camping without hot shower and clean toilet, Glamping (glamorous camping) is now an option in which festival goers pay a premium of £400-£500 per person for a luxury experience with tent and other simple amenities being provided, including a large mattress, luxury loos and showers.

At times, it felt like the weather, not the music, was the star. The occurrence of heavy storms has been common in recent years with wellies becoming a must for festival goers. By the Saturday morning it had turned the 1,200-acre site into a swamp of thick mud.

What was needed was fist-pumping music from big-name acts to help the muddy masses escape damp tents and overflowing bars to gaze upwards in a common act of musical worship.

Despite the weather, dirty toilets and lack of showers, festival-goers at Glastonbury 2014 declared the festival a huge success with many already making plans to attend next year. With ever increasing numbers of Chinese students studying in the UK and waiting to experience the English way of life, it won't be a surprise to see more Chinese attending Glastonbury in future.