Glastonbury Festival's hidden heroes

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News, at the Glastonbury Festival

  • Published

There were more people in the Glastonbury Festival's temporary tent city this weekend than live in Swansea or Swindon.

Attracting 177,500 people and covering more than 1,000 acres, the legendary festival also required battalions of workers behind the scenes.

Here, a selection of them reveal what it took to make the event run smoothly.


Image caption,
David Dargo has one of the least desirable Glastonbury jobs

The filth-filled, festering, claustrophobic cubicles of Glastonbury legend can bring a tear to the eye and a clothes peg to the nose of even the most hardened festival-goer.

So spare a thought for those who had to spend 12 hours a day cleaning the festival toilets.

Fans may find it hard to believe, but teams armed with mops and buckets regularly scrubbed and spruced up the 4,700 loos across the site to help them cope with the demands of five days' continual use.

One such unsung Glastonbury hero was 18-year-old Hungarian student David Dargo, who could be found near the Other Stage wearing a crew T-shirt bearing the optimistic slogan: "Love your loo."

"A couple of my friends applied last year," he says. "They told us that this is not a great job but that you can be here in the festival and enjoy the concerts and the feeling of it."

Mr Dargo and his friends, who travelled to Glastonbury together, spent 12 hours a day, from 0800-2000 BST, doing the festival's dirty work.

"We've got this mop and this bucket and we have to clean all the toilet and pick up the garbage," he explains.

"It's not so difficult but it is a lot of time disgusting because people get drunk and can't aim into the hole of the toilet. But we have to do it and then after the work we can enjoy the concerts."


The biggest stars would have no performance without their humble roadies to set up their kit, and with around 100 artists across the 10 biggest stages every day, the Glastonbury schedule had to run like clockwork.

Image caption,
Tom McCluskey says the roadie's life is a hectic one

Tom McCluskey, 19, was busy backstage with instruments, cables and cases belonging to dance band Delphic, who played twice over the weekend.

"I set up all the amps and guitars, retune the guitars, restring the guitars, reskin the drum kit and set the stage for the band," he says during a break at the John Peel Stage.

Working at the festival was "more hectic and a lot hotter" than a normal gig, he says.

"Having to set up in the sun without air conditioning or any form of cooling, and with loads of people around, makes it difficult.

"Today we were only going to get backstage an hour before we were going to go on, which isn't enough time.

"And we've got a really short changeover, so we've got to get a lot of gear on stage in under 20 minutes, sound checked and ready for the band, which is going to be difficult."

The band and crew rolled in to Glastonbury on a 10-man tour bus a few hours before the first show, and were due to leave shortly after the second.

"I think we're going somewhere in Europe," Mr McCluskey says of their next destination. "Maybe Sweden."

Despite the hot work and hectic lifestyle, travelling the world with a band is a music freak's dream.

"It's a good lifestyle - I love it. There are not really any downsides," he says.


Image caption,
Sgt Eden has been on the Glastonbury beat for 17 years

When Sgt Shirley Eden first worked at Glastonbury in 1993, it was a very different place.

"People were climbing over the fence, there were far too many people on site, it was scarily overcrowded," she recalls.

"There used to be fights and shootings, we used to get the new age travellers and there would be no-go areas. All that's changed.

"I'd be quite happy now to bring my children here. If you'd have said that to me 10 years ago, there's no way I'd have brought children here."

Sgt Eden began as a mounted officer and is now involved in planning the police operation at the festival.

Eight horses are stabled on site, helping the police effort alongside officers on mountain bikes, CID teams and bobbies on the beat.

"The public love the horses - they're a big magnet for people to chat," she says.

"The horse is the thing they want to talk to first and then they come and talk to you second. The best way of gathering intelligence and finding out who's doing what is to talk to people.

"People maybe don't actually realise they've seen someone acting suspiciously until they talk to you."

Crime declined slightly this year, with 345 reported crimes by Sunday morning. The biggest problems were thefts from tents and drugs offences.

"When you think of how many people are here, it's very small," Sgt Eden says.


Image caption,
An army of litter pickers work hard to keep the site litter-free

Starting work at 0600 BST every day, 21-year-old Joseph Dove was one of 150 volunteer litter pickers who cleared the Pyramid Stage field of discarded cans, cups and other debris after the night before.

"We have to be up and into breakfast by about 0530," he says. "It is very, very hard work, especially come day four. It does hurt. But it is rewarding when you see what we've done."

Many Glastonbury revellers would only just be going to bed at 0530, but after three years cleaning up after others, Mr Dove says the schedule did not prevent the litter crew from enjoying the festival's delights.

"The mornings are a bit of a struggle," he says. "We go out [at night] and we just brave it really.

"Usually we'd have a nap in the afternoon, but it's a bit hot in the tents. We just soldier on."

Mr Dove was one of about 70 litter pickers working on behalf of the Bhopal Medical Appeal, which helps victims of the 1984 Indian gas disaster. The festival paid the cost of the litter pickers' tickets to their charities.

"It's £180 each donated, so they get thousands of pounds, which is brilliant," Mr Dove says.

And there were small perks to scouring the fields after a night of musical mayhem. "We find phones and car keys and wallets - they go to lost property. But if it's just loose change, it goes straight into the back pocket."


Image caption,
Husband and wife team Helen and John Ashworth tend to medical mishaps

Teams of rapid-response medics were posted around the site to be first on the scene when called by security or stewards.

Carrying kit on their backs, the pairs of first aid personnel travelled to incidents in the fastest way possible - on foot.

"Over relatively short distances, we can make quicker progress than an ambulance can through a dense crowd," says John Ashworth, from Bath, who is an IT consultant by day.

"One of our roles is to try to reduce the ambulance movements in the crowd."

Working with wife Helen, a first aid trainer, Mr Ashworth would decide whether a patient could be treated on the scene, taken to one of the three on-site medical centres or needed an ambulance.

The system was new this year and drastically reduced the number of times ambulances were called into the crowds.

Most calls were to deal with knee and ankle problems. "There are people falling over on the stony ground rather than slipping over on the muddy ground," Mr Ashworth says.

"Often if we take people back to the first aid post, they come in and have a bit of a rest for a while and can go about their way."

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