Part 5

Can I work at the Festival?

Yes there are lots of opportunities to work at the festival and many people do stewarding, litter picking, recycling and other work in order to fund their enjoyment or just to put something back into the festival. The majority of “ticket workers” are expected to put in a total of 24 hours over the course of 5 days but they are otherwise free to enjoy the festival at all other times. Most still have to pay a deposit which is generally equal to the face value of a standard ticket but this is refunded once you have completed your allotted shifts. Some organisations also supply you with food and private campsites with toilets and showers.

You can also apply to do paid work for one of the contractors who provide security for the festival but you will find that working hours will be considerably longer and often very unsociable.

You do have to apply early however. People who have proved to be reliable in the past tend to get first dibs and anybody who doesn't complete their shifts allegedly gets placed on a blacklist to ensure that they are unable to apply to work at the festival in future years. But it is a great way of getting involved, meeting new people and feeling part of the festival. Having worked on one of the information points myself a few years ago I can certainly recommend the experience.

More details on working at Glastonbury can be found HERE.

Is there much litter?

OK, put on your hard hats because this is the point where I get on my soapbox and have a bit of a rant!

Worthy Farm and the surrounding Vale of Avalon is an incredibly beautiful place. And yet far too many people who come to Glastonbury are just too damn lazy to put their rubbish in a bin or to bag up all their crap around their campsite, and as a result the whole site just degenerates into a huge tip. There are about 15,000 bins distributed across the site. You can't miss them. They're all brightly painted. Please use them.

Don't drop cigarette butts! They are non-biodegradable and every single one has to be picked up before the site can revert to being a dairy farm. Portable ashtrays are readily available these days. If you are a smoker then please add one of these to your kit list essentials and deposit your butts in the special bins provided.

And when you leave on the Monday, bag up your rubbish and make life a little easier for the litter and recycling crews who have to clear up after you. If you don't do it then somebody else has to! Green (recycling) and Black (landfill) bin bags are handed out by the stewards near the gates and are also available from Camp Site Stewards and Info Points so there really is no excuse for leaving your camp site litter lying around when you go home.

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that if they leave their tent standing it will be recycled by charities for use in war and famine affected areas of the World. Although the festival did try to initiate such a programme a few years ago, this does not happen and the vast majority of tents left at the end of the festival simply end up in landfill.

It costs approximately £1 million to clean up after the festival each year. That’s about £7:00 from the cost of every ticket sold that could have been donated to the festival’s chosen charities if it weren’t for people’s laziness and ignorance. "Love The Farm – Leave No Trace". It’s not just a nice slogan, it’s a very real problem which could so easily be overcome if people were just a little more thoughtful about their surroundings and the people and animals they have to share the farm with. So please people - let’s SORT IT OUT!!

Does it get very crowded?

Even with more than 200,000 people on site there is generally plenty of space for everybody. However there are times when large crowds are on the move, especially in the evenings when people are moving between stages, or after the headline acts finish when people are heading in and out of the late night area in the South Eastern corner of the site and around Arcadia. Most of the "pinch points" such as gates and bridges have been widened over the years but nevertheless it can be scary for those who aren't comfortable in large crowds. So please be careful, think of others, and don't add unnecessarily to any crowd situation.

If you find yourself in a position where you are a little overwhelmed by the whole thing there's always plenty of space to sit quietly for a while in the Greenfields and always remember that places like the Sanctuary, The Samaritans and the Welfare tents have people on hand to help if it all gets a bit too much.

What times do the bands start and finish?

The first acts hit the stage at around 11 O’Clock each morning and there is a curfew on the main stages of midnight on the Friday and Saturday and at 11:30pm on the Sunday. The headline acts used to continue for a further 30 minutes each evening but this was amended in the 2010 license conditions as a compromise for allowing an increase in volume. However, many of the other stages continue after midnight and loads of the smaller venues carry right on going all through the night. You'll find out much more about these in Part 6.

Which stages should I spend my time at?

Whilst it is physically impossible to see absolutely everything at Glastonbury in 5 days I would still suggest that you should try to experience as many of the different stages and areas as you possibly can whilst you have the opportunity.  Different teams are responsible for running each of the stages and as a result they are all individual and all have their own unique atmospheres. Some stages concentrate on a specific genre of music but the majority have an incredibly diverse line up with something for everybody's tastes over the course of the weekend.

With so many stages spread over such a large area it is pointless trying to decide on all of the bands you want to see in advance because you will find that there are so many other things going on that you will be constantly distracted. My advice would always be not to restrict your Glastonbury experience by setting up camp at one of the main stages. By all means make a rough plan by picking two or three "must see" performances each day but then broaden your horizons by spending the rest of the time simply wandering and discovering new things. There is always a surprise waiting around every corner.

Once you've been to Glastonbury a few times you will find that changes to the locations and set up of the various stages are regular occurrences and this is symptomatic of the continual evolution that we see at the festival, where old favourites disappear to be replaced by new surprises every year. However, to give you an idea of what goes on where, here is a quick run down of how the stages lined up in 2023.

If you’ve seen the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury on the telly before then you won't have any trouble recognising this as the main Pyramid Stage. The Pyramid Field slopes gently uphill away from the Stage. There are also large screens on either side of the stage so it is possible to have a good view of what is going on well away from the stage itself, even with a crowd of 100,000 or more in the field. Some of the headline acts also benefit from having some of the best lighting and pyrotechnic displays you are likely to see in this country.

Since the Rolling Stones' headline appearance in 2013 the top of the Pyramid has been adorned each year with a different sculpture created by Joe Rush and his Mutoid Waste Company. Joe has been a big part of the Glastonbury scene since the 1980s and his customised vehicles and other artwork can often be seen in various places around the site. Joe's Pyramid Stage Peace Sign was in response to the fact that once again we have war in Europe as well as being a throw back to the days when the festival was heavily related to the CND movement.  It first appeared in 2022 with a blue background but in 2023 it was given a lick of green paint to match the festival's ecological ethos.

In 2023 Arctic Monkeys joined a select group of acts who have headlined the Pyramid Stage on 3 or more occassions when they appeared on the Friday evening.  Guns 'n' Roses rocked the Pyramid Field crowd as the Saturday night headliner while Elton John (pictured below) played the final UK gig of his "Fairwell Yellow Brick Road" tour when he closed proceedings to a packed audience on the Sunday.

Other acts who appeared on the Pyramid Stage in 2023 included Royal Blood, Lizzo, Lil Nas X and the Foo Fighters who kept everybody guessing when they were announced under the alias of "The Churnups"

On the Sunday things tend to get a little more cultural. There is often a lunchtime session of brass bands, choral or orchestral music. In 2014 we were treated to a performance by the English National Ballet and the English National Opera have also appeared in the past.

Sunday afternoon also includes a golden oldie Legend slot, which is often considered to be the fourth headliner as it regularly attracts the largest audience of the weekend. In 2023 Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf) wound back the years with classics like "Father & Son" and "The First Cut is the Deepest". In the past iconic names such as Dolly Parton, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Cash, James Brown, Tom Jones, Leonard Cohen, Kylie Minogue and Diana Ross (pictured) have also trodden the Pyramid Stage boards.

This is the second or Other Stage, which undertook a major facelift in 2015. Some people still refer to it as the “NME Stage” even though it hasn’t officially been called that for many years. The field here is flatter but you can still get a good view from most positions around the field on the screens to either side of the stage. Acts on the Other Stage tend to be primarily indie orientated although major dance acts also regularly appear here.

For the last few years the Other Stage has had a fairly major name opening proceedings on the Friday morning. In 2023 Ben Howard was given this honour. The lineup on the Other Stage also included headline performances from Wizzkid, Lana Del Rey and Queens of the Stone Age together with Fred Again, Central Cee, The War on Drugs and Chvrches (pictured).

Much like the Pyramid, at the last few festivals the Other Stage has been adorned with Joe Rush creations, some of which have paid tribute to Glastonbury legends such as David Bowie and Lemmy of Motorhead who had passed away during the course of the previous year. In 2023 this rather curious piece kept its beady eyes on the audience below.

This is West Holts, which prior to 2010 was known as "Jazz World". It's my personal favourite of the 3 large outdoor arenas, as it always has an extraordinarily eclectic line up and far more of the smaller festival atmosphere which I tend to prefer. This was the first area to benefit from the addition of dozens of the giant flags, which have gradually spread around the rest of the festival site in subsequent years.

The screens to either side of the West Holts Stage were only added for the first time in 2016.

The diverse array of performers who played on this stage in 2023 included Kelis, Loyle Carner, Rudimental, Young Fathers, Mahalia and Candi Staton.  This was Korean band Ak Dan Gwang Chil (ADG7) bringing an eastern flavour to proceedings on the Friday afternoon.

Also in the West Holts field is an artist signing tent which is run by Songlines magazine and where you can buy CDs and other merchandise and get them signed by the artists who perform on the stage. This is the queue of people waiting to meet Hollywood star Jeff Goldblum, who performed here with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra in 2019.
For many years, Glastonbury had one huge Dance Tent with a capacity reckoned to be in excess of 15,000 people. This was the venue for historic sets by the likes of Daft Punk, Fat Boy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and Scissor Sisters, and was also the scene of the infamous Toilet Truck incident in 1998 when one of the sludge gulper lorries was brought in to pump out mud and was accidentally set to blow instead of suck! 

In 2005 the one big Dance Tent was replaced by a number of smaller stages to create a Dance Village which in some years was home to as many as 7 different dance music venues. Then in 2013 the area completely reinvented itself again with several new venues, all collectively grouped under the title of Silver Hayes.

The main flagship venue in Silver Hayes used to be an absolutely vast 3-winged alien spacecraft of a tent which housed the "Sonic" Stage.  This was replaced by a slightly more traditional tented structure for a couple of festivals and then in 2023 Sonic disappeared altogether to be replaced by a new open air venue called The Levels where Camelphat, Nia Archives and Sub Focus were among the big name dance acts providing the beats and bleeps.  Whereas Sonic used to close down for the night at roughly the same time as the main stages, The Levels was programmed to carry on raving all the way from midday through until 3am in 2023.

Making its debut appearance in 2022 was the Lonely Hearts Club, which was designed to look like an art deco cinema.  In 2023 Dimension, Hedex (pictured) and Daniel Avery all put in powerful performances.  

I generally don't spend a great deal of time in Silver Hayes after dark but the extension of performance times into the early hours and the quality of the line up pulled me in last year and I was pleasantly surprised by what proved to be a great atmosphere.

On the other side of the field you can find WOW! which has an absolutely banging PA. WOW! has been around for a number of years in one form or another and is now the only survivor of the original Silver Hayes venues which we first saw in 2013. 

Bass lines are to the fore at the fourth Silver Hayes venue, 
Firmly Rooted, which celebrates Sound System culture with dub and dancehall orientated artists.
Beyond the Silver Hayes dance area, in the north western portion of the site, you will find a huge red and blue striped marquee which hosts the Woodsies Stage. This was originally known as the “New Bands Tent” but was renamed as the "John Peel Stage" in memory of the legendary DJ in 2005.  The current name has been in place since 2023 and reflects the name of the field in which the stage is located.

The Woodsies tent seems to get bigger and more popular with every passing year and often has appearances from well established performers as well as the more cutting edge up and coming stars of the future.

Well known names who played the John Peel Stage in 2023 included Hot Chip, Christine & The Queens, Phoenix, Warpaint, Maneskin and Editors.

Due to its elevated position the pointed roof of the impressively proportioned Acoustic Stage tent is visible from around the Festival site. This is where some fairly big name rock acts play acoustic sets as well as the more folky regulars. It also benefits from having the Cockmill Arms Real Ale Bar right next door. There is always a friendly atmosphere and a really crisp sound system in this tent but one thing I would point out is that the stage here is on a slightly uphill slope and so if you are of less than average height and want to see what is going on I suggest you get there early for a front row spot.

The stellar line up of acts who played the Acoustic Tent in 2023 included The Saw Doctors, Paul Carrack, Rickie Lee Jones and Gilbert O'Sullivan.

2007 saw the introduction of an entertainment area which was positioned at the top of the Park Home Ground camping field. Simply entitled The Park the area was initially programmed by Emily Eavis so that she could hone her skills before assuming more of the overall responsibility for the festival from her father, Michael. The Park includes several venues and the diversity and quality of entertainment here almost sets it aside as being a mini-festival all of its own which many smaller events would struggle to match.

The Park remained predominantly unchanged for a decade but in 2019 it received a major facelift with new venues appearing and others being moved around and given fresh new facades.

The main Park Stage is positioned in a natural amphitheatre and since 2019 it has been bedecked with fairy lights and numerous banners drawing attention to various aspects of environmental crisis. The line up here often used to include a number of mystery “special guests” and rumours were always rife at the festival as to who these might turn out to be. Radiohead and Pulp both turned up unexpectedly in 2011 but word got out and there were serious safety concerns with the number of people who turned up to see these acts and as a result I'm afraid the big name mystery guests had to stop.

In 2023 The Park attracted headliners Fever Ray, Fat Boy Slim and Alt-J, along with an incredibly strong undercard including Sparks (see picture above), Leftfield and Thundercat.

There's lots more about the smaller venues in The Park in the "What Happens at Night?" section in Part 6.

The Avalon Stage is one of my personal favourites. It’s only a short walk from West Holts and has a nice friendly club-like atmosphere which has been retained despite the tent being increased in size in 2023.  Acts who played the Avalon Stage last year included The Damned, Vintage Trouble, Neville Staple and Melanie C for some fabulous Spice Girls nostalgia.

In the same field you will find the Avalon Café which has bands playing long after the main venue has shut up shop for the evening.

This short film was shot in and around the Avalon Field in 2013. Although it's 10 years old now it still gives you a great idea of the special atmosphere here and also includes some footage and philosophical musings from my very good friends Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs, who traditionally play the opening set on the Avalon Stage each year on the Friday lunchtime. 

Leftfield is where you can listen to & get involved in political debate and educational films & lectures. Tony Benn famously made several appearances here and this is also where politically motivated musicians like Billy Bragg (see picture) do their thing as well as hosting late night DJ sets. For a number of years Leftfield was located in the William's Green area, which now hosts Carhenge, next to the iconic tug-of-war tower which still remains in its position due to the fact they would have to dig new foundations in order to relocate it.

However, Leftfield was absent from the festival in 2009 and when it returned in 2010 it was moved to the Holts Field, which is actually where it originated way back in 2000. Following Tony Benn's death in 2014 the Leftfield tower was renamed in honour of the great man and you can see a video of him speaking and being interviewed at Glastonbury HERE.  

Until 2000 The Glade was just a bunch of trees and a very smelly toilet. From then until 2005 it was an outdoor dance venue which changed in format pretty much every year and spawned the now sadly defunct electronic music festival of the same name. For the first time in 2007 the main stage area was fully covered and quite a few live bands started to appear to compliment the DJs and sound systems. 

In 2022 the main Glade Stage was moved away from the trees and in 2023 the larger tented area which we can see here played host to the likes of Denis Sulta, Carl Cox and a Faithless DJ set.

Although I was quite sad to see the main Glade Stage move away from the Glade itself, it was replaced among the trees by a new venue called the Glade Dome, which made up for things to a great extent, with a lovely atmosphere together with some impressive lighting and decorations.   

Croissant Neuf is the biggest of the Greenfield venues and usually has a mix of the acts you will regularly see if you attend the smaller independent & grass roots festival circuit. It is powered entirely by natural energy resources. As well as the main 2,000 capacity tent there is also a small bandstand situated nearby where Glastonbury legend and all round top bloke Mik Artistik often plays one of the first sets of the weekend on the Wednesday afternoon.

There are several smaller and very intimate venues to be found in the Green Futures field. If you look hard enough you’ll find live music playing at these from Wednesday afternoon all through the weekend. The biggest of these tents is Toad Hall shown here.
The people who run the Small World Stage, actually host their own grassroots festival in Kent twice a year in May and August and you will find lots of folky acoustic stuff going on here together with a vegetarian cafe.

Nearby you will also find the Lizard Stage as well as the pedal powered Mandala Stage (pictured) where somebody has to jump on a bike and pretend to be Chris Froome if you want to hear the bands playing.

The Bandstand is situated in the middle of the main "Babylon" market area and is a great place to get away from the crowds and sit and listen to some of the unknown gems who play there through all 5 days of the festival. Here we have The Clay Bottom Jug Busters entertaining the early arrivers on the Wednesday evening in 2023.

Also in the main market area you will find the Babylon Uprising tent blasting out reggae and dub tunes from their soundsystem throughout the day and into the early hours. 

If you follow the northern path between the Pyramid and Other Stages through an area which has become known as "The Reach" you will stumble across a venue which popped up unannounced in 2022 called The Hive.  If you are rushing between the 2 main stages it's very easy to get waylaid here by something unexpected.

The Reach also plays host to the BBC Introducing stage, where up and coming bands from around the country are invited to play, having been chosen for the honour by local BBC Radio stations. Ed Sheeran played his first Glastonbury gig on this stage in 2011. And just 6 years later he was headlining on the Pyramid.

This is the hugely impressive Dead Pony from Glasgow fulfilling their dreams of playing at Glastonbury in 2022.

On the track which leads from the Pyramid Stage to the Woodsies tent you can find San Remo. There have been several incarnations here over the years. From 2011 to 2019 it was a venue called the "Beat Hotel".  In 2010 it was the “Cocktail & Dreams” karaoke bar and prior to that it was the “Guardian Lounge”, where some of the big name bands appearing on the main stages over the weekend played more intimate sets. The line up at San Remo included a good mixture of live acts and DJs right through to 3am each night from Thursday to Sunday in 2023.

Close to the West Holts Stage you can find the Glasto Latino area. Live salsa and tango music is played here from Wednesday evening onwards and experts and beginners alike can hit the dancefloor and also join in the free classes throughout the daytime. They do a very quaffable Mojito here and not unreasonably priced too.

Positioned in a small wooded area on Pennard Hill, way up beyond the Tipi Field, you can find Strummerville. The Joe Strummer Foundation are a co-operative who tour various festivals promoting grass roots music in memory of the legendary leader of The Clash. You can snuggle down in the comfy sofas next to a roaring fire while you enjoy the acts playing on what must surely be the smallest stage at Glastonbury. However the miniscule scale didn't prevent Mumford & Sons playing a secret gig on the stage in 2011 when it was positioned in one of its previous homes in the Unfair Ground. You can read more about The Joe Strummer Foundation and the projects they are involved in on their website HERE.

Even the Tipi Field has its own Ancient Futures Stage. What better way could there possibly be of spending a Saturday night than dancing to festival legends Kangaroo Moon in a big old wigwam?

As well as all of the above, several of the bars, cafes and stalls dotted around the site have small stages where acts will entertain you while you glug your cider and munch your falafels. You are unlikely to find any details of who is playing or even where these venues are in the programme. You'll just have to wander and discover them for yourselves.

How long does it take to walk between the stages?

The answer to this question can vary enormously and is very much dependant on several factors. For a start you need to consider how many people are likely to be on the move at the same time and whether you are going to be moving with or against the flow of traffic. Then you have to allow for the ground conditions because if it’s muddy then everybody tends to stick to the paths and trackways and it all becomes very congested as a result.

In dry conditions with relatively few people about it is easily possible to stroll from the front of the Pyramid to a similar position at the Other Stage in less than 10 minutes but when it’s crowded and muddy the same journey can take half an hour or more at an excruciatingly slow shuffle.

You’ve also got to remember to factor in the dietary & toilet requirements of all your mates and the possibility of being waylaid by a massive articulated polar bear or a 9 foot tall unicycling grasshopper en-route!

I would therefore suggest that it would be more useful to give you a rough idea of how far it is between the various stages and then you can work out how long these journeys are likely to take accounting for the conditions at the time. So based on the highly technical “ruler-&-piece-of-string” method I reckon the following distances in metres from the Pyramid Stage are reasonably accurate:-

  • Other Stage 600m 
  • Acoustic 600m 
  • West Holts 700m 
  • Silver Hayes 700m 
  • Woodsies 800m 
  • Cabaret 800m 
  • Avalon 900m 
  • Croissant Neuf 900m 
  • Shangri-La 1,100m 
  • The Park 1,200m 
  • Stone Circle 1,300m

Go to Part 6