There is a special club that exists in the world today. It’s fairly limited in its membership and those that are admitted to its collective rarely leave. Non-members tend to be a little mystified, imagining Freemason-type rituals and silly handshakes perhaps. Fellow brethren understand each other in an unspoken way. The name of this club? It doesn’t really have a name, but if it did it would be something like “People Who Have Worked At Glastonbury”. Rubbish, eh? That’s probably why it hasn’t got a name.
I’ve been a member of this clan since 2000. A fairly long time I suppose. Before that I was a fence-jumper. I went through, under, over the thing. I bought dodgy hand stamps from even dodgier security guards. I tried every blag possible to get in. Every year it was a given that I would go, it was assumed I would find a way through. I reconciled this in my head by telling myself that buying from the traders benefitted the festival in some roundabout way. A bit out of order, I know, and not unlike so-called ‘vegetarians’ who still eat fish.
Punter VS Worker
Responding to an advert for the festival’s official website in 2000, I found myself, six weeks later, in the middle of Pyramid backstage feeling more than a little lost and bewildered. Busy isn’t the word. Anybody who thinks that environment is lovely and fluffy and that Sienna Miller is going to come up and ask them if they want a swig of her vodka is living in a fantasy world. It’s business, baby, all the way. Those stood around looking star-struck stick out like sore thumbs. Sienna is there, but she’s not talking to you matey, now for God’s sake stop flashing those wristbands and laminates around, you prize buffoon.
The reality is that doing Glastonbury as a worker will be unlike any festival (or any experience) you’ve ever known, but in a subtle way. Explaining these differences (even though there is NOTHING subtle about this place) is a tricky one. Remember that bit in Pulp Fiction where Samuel L. Jackson’s character Jules is trying to explain Amsterdam? Glastonbury is like that. It’s the real world, not a different planet, so the usual rules apply; you still have to be nice to people and if you want something done you might have to wait a bit for it. The barter culture works well though and it helps to have a good stash of beer to throw around. Instant results, if they’re needed.
You’ll see hardly any bands (though you will hear them). Your mates, if they’re there, will all be off having the most amazing time, drinking cider until it comes out of their ears and you’ll feel jealous. You’ll wish, just for a moment, that you were a punter without responsibilities and that you could just drop it all and hit the Dance tent for a while, except you’ve got work to do….
A Day Job Like No Other
Then again, you’ll find a camaraderie with your co-workers unlike any other. You’ll understand the behemoth that is GFL far better than before, which means you’ll be more tolerant when you’re at a massive event in the future, instead of ripping into the ‘shambles of a production’ when a bar runs out of beer in front of you (cos let’s face it, we’ve all been there). You’ll get meal tickets, hot showers, good toilets, better access to get from A to B. You’ll also get that magical moment when you realise it’s all come together, that you’ve been part responsible for doing something really amazing. Whether that’s feeding thousands of crew members, picking up litter, or keeping the site power up, it’s all Worthy with a capital W.
You’ll also get that bit that sends shivers down your spine, about a week after the festival, usually prompted by something on TV or a song on the radio, that sends you back to the farm, makes your eyes go a bit moist, and makes you realise that you’ll never be able to do Glastonbury as a ‘punter’ ever again. It happens every year for every crew member I know. And that I guess, is the Royale With Cheese.*
This year is an interesting one for me as I will be working alongside the guy who took me to the festival for the first time so many years ago. He’s been more times than I have and has always wondered what it’s about to work here. Now he’s about to find out for himself, which in a rather gooey way is something like seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child. #retches
(*those who haven’t seen Pulp Fiction won’t get that one either)