Glastonbury in the heat: ‘We’ve still got queues, but this year for water not wellies’

Festival shuts down showers and offers extra shady areas, while sales of ice-cream soar

Long queues at taps and shower closures were seen across the Glastonbury site as the festival dealt with its hottest day as temperatures rose to 30C on Saturday.

Showers were closed across the site as a precautionary measure to preserve water as temperatures soared and the festival’s management coped with the demands of 200,000 people requiring drinking water in challenging conditions.

After rumours circulated that water was running out, organisers released a statement on Saturday afternoon to reassure the crowd that there were adequate supplies.

“There is not a water shortage at this year’s Glastonbury. Our supply is running as normal,” the statement read. “As always in hot weather, demand for water has increased, so we have put in place the usual restrictions on staff and guest showers and the limited number of public showers.”

The statement confirmed that the festival’s onsite ambulance team has had 27 heat-related calls for assistance during the event so far, and that queues should be expected at some taps.

Waiting in a queue of more than 100 people to refill their water bottles late on Saturday morning, Paulina Wilkin from London said she preferred a bit of rain at the festival. “I always think that until it rains it’s a real fashion show and you need the rain to level everybody out, so I’ve missed the rain a bit.”

Her partner, Adam, was not so sure. Ultimately extreme heat is better than the rain, he said. “When it rains a lot you can’t sit down and you’re just walking and walking and walking. And then it’s queues for the wellies and not queues for the water.”

A woman sits under an umbrella as temperatures rise to 30C.
A woman sits under an umbrella as temperatures rise to 30C. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Free sun lotion and a record number of water stations were just part of the contingency plans the festival organisers put in place earlier in the week as the dreary June weather transformed into a balmy and hot weekend in Somerset.

Temperatures on Friday hit 27C as Stormzy made history by becoming the first solo black British act to headline the Pyramid stage. Saturday night saw The Killers top the bill at the Pyramid stage with Liam Gallagher, the Chemical Brothers and Janet Jackson also performing at the festival’s halfway point. The Cure are the final headline act on Sunday night, with Kylie Minogue and Miley Cyrus also taking to the Pyramid stage.

Business at ice-cream vans across the site was booming. “I’ve never worked at Glastonbury before, but I’ve worked other festivals and we are very, very busy,” said one ice-cream seller. He said that most people were buying ice lollies and drinks, with the fruit pastille lolly the most popular.

Is this a record-breaking heatwave?

Temperature records for this time of year have already been broken across much of Europe. The highest ever June temperatures were recorded in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Andorra, Luxembourg, Poland and Germany, while France registered an all-time record high of 45.9C.

Why is it so hot?

The latest heatwave, caused by an “omega block” – a high-pressure pattern that blocks and diverts the jet stream, allowing a mass of hot air to flow up from northern Africa and the Iberian peninsula – follows a similar extreme weather event last month that made it the hottest June on record.

Is this heatwave a result of climate breakdown?

It is not possible to pin the heatwave definitively on climate change because weather varies naturally. Moreover, the effects of climate change are not simple. For example, heavy rain and cloud across northern Europe is likely to become more common as the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the jet stream weather system to become fixed in position.

However, this year’s weather is certainly in line with the predictions scientists have made of rising temperatures, more heatwaves and prolonged droughts interspersed with periods of heavy flooding.

What are the negative impacts of a heatwave?

The body’s ability to regulate its own temperature is crucial; babies and older people are less well able to regulate their temperature and should stay in well-ventilated conditions. In the 2003 European heatwave there were about 70,000 excess deaths attributed to the long hot spell. People with underlying illnesses can also have problems, and even those who are healthy can experience difficulty sleeping and discomfort, so people are advised to stay hydrated and wear loose clothing at night.

There is also an impact on farmers. While warmth at the right time is crucial for crop growth, excessively high temperatures can inhibit that growth, particularly if they are prolonged. Livestock can also suffer in the heat and need extra care.

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

There are 800 water taps on site and mobile water units, with 37 WaterAid kiosks giving out water and bottles. Free sun cream was also available at information points and property lockups, and the festival said extra shaded areas would be opened if needed.

Sunday is expected to be cooler, with a maximum 23C predicted. The Met Office and NHS England issued a level two alert for the heat, suggesting that people who are vulnerable should stay out of the sun when it’s at its hottest.

This year Glastonbury has installed a plastic-free system, so no single-use plastic can be bought on site. The move was motivated by the desire to save on clean-up costs, with the final bill for the removal of rubbish from the site estimated at £785,000.

In 2017, the last time the festival was held, visitors used 1.3 million plastic bottles. The festival previously banned food traders from using plastic plates and cutlery, requesting compostable alternatives instead.

Glastonbury’s wristbands are made of cloth, single-use plastic cups are not used in the bars and only paper straws are available.


Lanre Bakare and Frances Perraudin

The GuardianTramp

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