3pm on Tuesday 21 June and I’m in a car park near Clapham Junction station. I’m waiting for my mate Ken as we’re a small (beer) server team of two volunteering for The Workers Beer Company. It’s my 6th Glastonbury and my 4th time working – I tend to pick wet ones; missed 2010 and last worked in 2009 (muddy), 2007 (mudbath) and 2005 (tent and bag flooded out in five hours of arriving!).
Never gone down so early before and I’m wondering just what there is to do on the Tuesday/Wednesday before it kicks off properly. Our coach driver takes the scenic route but the sun is shining and we arrive about 8.30 despite best efforts to drop us anywhere/everywhere; best one at a public car park “is that ok then?”, “no, not really”, “why not?”, “well what can you see?”, “nothing”, “exactly because it doesn’t open until tomorrow!”
On site, pitch tents, get photo ID/bandwrists and a quick beer before a wander round. Lots of work going on and not much open apart from one bar and food stalls to cater for the 35,000 people already on site!
Wednesday morning, raining and the site is becoming very muddy due to the sheer volume of people and traffic coming in. I’m amazed by the amount of stuff people bring and even more amazed by people who bring pull along suitcases – WTF? I take a wander around the site and head for The Park and kill a couple of hours over a coffee in the excellent Treecafe.
No work for us on Wednesday as only half the bars are open. We have a production tent in the Workers Village which has a cheap bar (£2 a beer), tea/coffee and food so no point going anywhere else. Thursday we’re working at The Bread and Roses bar which is steady but not mega busy because at Glastonbury, unlike many festivals, you can bring in as much booze in as you can carry. More like a pub than a tent as it had an inside area and sit down plus a DJ. Turned into a student/indie disco without the bar prices! After work I attempt to see a mate of mine DJing at the Meeting Point Bar. I go via the Dance Village and it’s carnage, deep mud, people getting stuck and falling all over the place. Takes me over an hour to see said mate who was leaving straight after his set (can’t stand mud or camping!).
By some fluke in the rosters we’re not working on Friday. First stop is the Pyramid Stage and the Wu Tang Clan; never seen them before and curious to see how they would go down. Turns out everyone else heads there too; we get stuck in a bottle neck just before the stage for 30 minutes and miss the first two songs. Starts raining again and I meet Ken at The Pyramid Inn for a couple of beers to get out of the rain. Catch the end of the Clan; thought they started poorly but improved by the end – however wrong choice for that stage without a band. BB King on next; we leave half way to watch Warpaint then BAD on the Park Stage before the not so secret guests (Radiohead) come on. I lose it at this point as the place is completely rammed so decide to leave Ken there and head back for food and a couple of drinks.
Site is very very muddy now so takes about 50 minutes to get back. Now it’s a question of damage limitation; Primal Scream headlining the Other Stage nearest to the Worker Village so it’s a no-brainer for me. Ken goes to see Cee Lo Green at West Holts. Despite the rain, Primal Scream pull off the best show I see all weekend; Screamadelica in full with stunning visuals followed by Country Girl, Jailbird and Rocks. Amazing!!
Saturday we’re working from 3pm to 9.30 and the bar gets busy at times and it’s generally good fun. People are unbelievably polite for the most part and the only problem is “Challenge 25”. This is the biggest hassle all weekend as we, as bar workers, are told not to serve anyone under the age of 25 without authorised photo ID i.e. passport or driving licence. No problem in theory but very easy to under/over estimate depending on your age/experience of doing this before. One of the guys next to me was asking for ID from almost every female as he was only 19 and didn’t have a clue! There were three “Mystery Shopper” groups sending in underage kids to try and buy alcohol and if I serve them then I’m liable to an £80 on-the-spot fine, the Bar Manager (every beer tent/bar on site has one) is liable for a £2k fine and can lose their licence and the Premises Manager (overall responsibility for all the bars) is liable for an ever heavier fine and can also lose their licence.
Glastonbury should introduce some kind of wrist band system/DoB proof to not put the burden back on the individual; if you went and think the current system doesn’t work then please contact them. We are.
Finish work and go to West Holts (old Jazz World stage – why they renamed it no-one knows!) and see Big Boi. Americans generally put on a better show than their UK counterparts – tighter bands, better co-ordination and this is no exception. Brilliant show and gutted we couldn’t get there in time for Janelle Monáe. Didn’t bother with the whole Shangri-La/Downlow/Arcadia area because if you’re not down there by 11pm you ain’t getting in. I have two golden rules for
1. Don’t fall over.
2. Don’t queue to get into a tent – you can call it what you want but it’s a glorified tent.
These two rules remain intact.
Got back to the Village and get to bed around 6am. Wake up at 8am boiling hot so throw open the tent and go back to sleep not realising my tent is facing the sun. Wake up again just after 11am with burnt legs – doh!
Sunday – start work at 3pm in Bar Boulevard which is the last beer tent before you reach the Pyramid stage. It’s a crap bar (tent), poor layout, cider machine keeps breaking down and everyone wants to drink cider. The two main drinks are “Tuborg” – probably the worst lager in the world and “Gaymers” – bright orange fizz that resembles Iron-bru – personally wouldn’t touch either with a bargepole.
“Challenge 25” remains problematic and halfway through my shift I take a break for some water. When I return there’s an almighty row to my right because an officious twat of a server has been questioning some bloke’s ID. Now this chap has a full beard and to me looks at least 25 and probably mid 20s. Turns out he’s 28 but the twat refuses to believe this as he thinks he has fake ID! The ID in question is a driving licence, taken sometime ago when he had very short hair and no beard (now has mid length hair and beard). His mate turns up wondering where the hell he’s been for the last 15 minutes and defends him as you would. Security/Bar Manager called and the whole thing has escalated to a point it never had to because one individual makes a piss poor judgement. There is talk of confiscating his driving licence at which point we step in on the basis that legally (I reckon) we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on not withstanding it’s the wrong thing to do. Eventually it gets sorted out.
Now we all make mistakes, poor judgements, especially when we are tired. Glastonbury is tiring, from traipsing around in the mud to not getting enough sleep due to noise/rain/heat/staying up/etc. The problem was watching the way in which this twat was IDing people; getting them to take off their hat and sunglasses and holding the ID to their head/face as if he was in fucking Crimewatch! He kept doing it and at the end of our shift we thanked security and asked her to keep an eye on the twat; “Don’t worry, if he pulls that shit again he’s a dead man!”
Final shift over, time for a beer and then see Beyoncé; out of curiosity mainly. Miss the first song and by the time we reach the back of a very busy Pyramid Stage, she does “Single Ladies”. Very tight but then bizarrely about four songs in welcomes her “special guest”, Tricky! Half the crowd near us had no idea who he was, the rest of us best summed up by the comment to my right, “who’s on next, Bez!!”. Her set becomes way too schmaltzy for me so I go see Kool & The Gang at a very busy Holts Stage – great fun and again put on a show – UK guitar bands take note!
Back to The Village and watch the sun come up before catching about three hours sleep before coaches turn up to take us back to London. The air con doesn’t work properly and fails on the way back from Fleet service station – everyone is literally dripping with sweat – coach keeps overheating and stalls repeatedly on the way back – never been so happy for a journey to end!
Bus ride back to South London, shower and watch TV for the first time in a week. Uber tired for the rest of the week as I acclimatise to regular sleep patterns, not wearing wellies and a diet that doesn’t consist of Otter ale, wine, burgers for breakfast and stuff with chips!
So another one over and would I work another one? Probably yes, would never go as a punter for the main reason that when it turns to mud as it invariably does, you are fairly screwed in what you can do.
Sunny side up
- Tuesday evening; first time I’ve seen an unspoilt Glastonbury
- Working; for a 5 to 7 hour shift you get transport, own camping areas with showers/toilets plus production tent with food/ bar
- Lovely people; you can talk to anyone
- Random generosity; the scouse lads who bought me a Mojito outside the Cubana tent (thank you again) – the bloke who gave me a £5 tip as he lost his wallet on Thursday and had it handed in with all his cash/cards on Sunday!
- Sean Rowley’s Guilty Pleasures on Thursday night; Primal Scream on Friday night; Ross Allen rocking Stonebridge Saturday night
- American acts that put on a show
- Getting political again; the return of Leftfield
- Missing everyone I worked with (except one); great bunch of people.
Muddy side down
- The mud; you never really get used to it
- Wearing wellies continually
- Saturday night in a small cabaret tent with salsa/latin music killed by some Oompah band coming on about 2am….
- Officious twat (see Sunday above)
- Mess; way too many people not throwing/recycling stuff – clear up after yourself fuckers
- Not one major act said anything political outside of Leftfield
- The “Death Coach” back to London
- Not missing sleeping in a field or chemical toilets