This year Bicycology put in a proposal to do something at Glastonbury and managed to get six free tickets. I had never been to the festival so I jumped at the chance. We decided to meet at Bristol Temple Meads and cycle together on National Route 3. The idea was to reach the site by early Wednesday evening but due to a missed train and punctures we didn’t leave Bristol till after 4pm, and due to more punctures and general faffing we didn’t reach Wells until it was getting dark. After a chip stop we did the last few miles to Pilton, arriving about midnight.
This year for the first time there was a special Green Traveller Initiative to reward people for arriving by public transport or bicycle. This included a bike lockup area and cyclists camping field with solar showers and compost toilets. We arrived at the cyclists entrance but were going to be working in The Green Fields, and since we had trailers and a load of stuff that we needed there we thought it would be better to head straight over with our bikes. We neglected to take into account the Glastonbury mud! Cycling was almost impossible so we had to push, but within a couple of hundred metres great globs of grass-reinforced mud had formed around brakes, preventing wheels from turning. I guess it took about an hour to drag our bikes across the site and find our space. Fortunately we were able to crash out in a marquee and not have to worry about putting up tents in the dark.
We were in the campaigns area of the Green Futures Field, sharing a space with Veggies (the Nottingham based vegan catering campaign), an art exhibition and Rubbish DJ’s (turntables and amps mounted in a rubbish cart). The art exhibition and DJ setup were in the marquee which was closed up at night. Each morning we opened it up and laid out our Bicycology stall at the front. We had taken a load of old tyres and chains for making belts and bracelets – people could either make their own or buy them ready made from us with all the money going to 56a Infoshop in London. Very few people had been mad enough to bring their bikes across the site through the mud so although we had plenty of tools there was very little bike fixing to do (I did help one person fix a pushchair). When people came to our stall we chatted about cycling and related issues and had lots of information for people to take away as well as a big stack of our brand new bike stickers. Other jobs included helping keep the nearby recycling/upcycling point organised and going off site for supplies (I did two runs to Shepton Mallet by bike for Veggies). For food we gave Veggies a sum of money upfront in exchange for free tea/coffee and veggie burgers from their van and to join their crew for an evening meal – much appreciated.
Of course it wasn’t all work and we had plenty of time to go off and do other stuff. We went together to see a great set by Chumbawamba on the Avalon stage and Chemical Brothers on The Other Stage (which had a very impressive soundsystem). One of my favourite acts was Mal Webb (who I had never heard of before). On the Sunday night while Beyonce was doing her thing on the Pyramid stage I went to see Suzanne Vega on the Acoustic stage – I last saw her 24 years ago when I lived in New Hampshire.
Sunday was hot and sunny which dried out a lot of the mud but Monday morning was a race to get the marquee down and packed away before the rain returned. It was much easier getting off site than it had been getting on and we were on the road before noon. The light rain had a welcome cooling effect as we cycled up into the Mendips past Wookey Hole. After a short stop at the Castle of Comfort for refreshments there was a long downhill to Chew Valley and we made good time back to Bristol.
We didn’t have nearly as much impact as when we last did stuff at the Big Green Gathering but it was a useful experience and I had a great time despite the mud. Glastonbury is not on in 2012 and if we go back in 2013 we might be better off applying to do something in or near the cyclists camping area (where I am sure there would be plenty of demand for help with bike fixing and teaching bike maintenance skills).