Musical mecca to muddy field: What it takes to clear up after Glastonbury
Glastonbury’s muddiness has become so excessive it is beyond self-parody. It’s so muddy it looks like the Eavises must have shipped in extra mud for fear the festival won’t live up to its muddy reputation. To my knowledge, that is not something that they do. But setting up and clearing up after the festival is something that requires a lot of work.
Anyone who has wandered Glasto’s muddy trails will know the true scale of the festival is hard to take in. So just think about how hard it must be to take down. Every year, 135,000 revellers (just less than the entire population of the Isle of White) cram five days of partying into 1,000-acres in Somerset. It’s a wonder that the field is even clear in time to start setting up the festival next year. So how do they do it?
Transporting instruments is one thing, but what about the stage?
There are so many acts playing Glastonbury each year there is literally no way to count them. Really, try it. Since there’s so many of them, how can they possibly all be accommodated at once? The BBC set out to investigate just how this is done during the 2013 festival and found that the process involves a lot of moving pieces, known as “risers” that bands set up their equipment on and slide out onto the stage before they perform like surfers on a particularly accommodating surfboard on a particularly still sea.
But what happens when they leave? First, all of the members have to be carted off — no mean feat if Arcade Fire (with just fewer members than the population of the Isle of White) is playing. Then, there is the equipment. It’s not as simple as ordering an Uber and cramming everything into the back. Instruments can be very difficult to transport. For example, the technique and care needed for moving a piano is extensive; not only can it take up to four professionals to transport, concert grand pianos weigh up to 600kg and cost upwards of £10,000. Try carrying that through fields of sludge.
Thankfully, as this post-show report from a crew member shows, bands bring their own roadies with them to Glastonbury. But once they’re gone, who gets rid of the actual stages?
This report from The Observer shows us the vast scale of constructing and deconstructing Glastonbury’s many stages and structures. Ingeniously, most of the components of these stages are used as part of the site’s other function as a working farm. The Pyramid Stage, for instance, can be taken down and put back up as a cow shed. Anything that isn’t used on the farm is flat-packed and kept in the Green Barn to be taken out and rebuilt next time the festival is on. Just think of it like quickly building IKEA furniture before 200,000 guests come to stay and then putting it away afterwards.
Taking out the trash
Taking down the stages is clearly a fully regimented process involving a lot of planning and, if it really is anything like taking down IKEA furniture, tons of patience. But disassembling the stages is only one part of clearing up after Glastonbury. And it turns out the most substantial part of the job is clearing up the smaller things, like rubbish, waste and mess left by attendees.
After last year’s festival, it took 800 litter pickers six weeks to pick everything up. These brave volunteers were tasked with clearing up all of the rubbish people leave behind — and there is a lot of that. More worryingly, though, it was their job to gather belongings that people have just discarded and left behind, even though they are still perfectly usable. As this video shows, everything from tents to blow-up mattresses to camping chairs to gas bottles was left behind. It almost looks like some people were leaving their tents up in the hopes that they would still be there when they went back this year.
There is some good that comes of this though. After the painstaking cleanup process, leftover tents and supplies were donated to refugees who needed them. With up to 11 tonnes of clothing and around 5,000 tents abandoned each year, these leftover items are actually immensely helpful to those in need.
As the livid, but restrained narrator of the above video says, though, there are places for people to leave their unwanted items to make collecting them up and giving them to charities quicker and easier.
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