‘No live music and a curfew’: Glastonbury opens Worthy Farm for tranquil camping

Festival regulars are poised to secure pitches when booking lines open

The announcement that a farmer in the English West Country is opening up his fields as a campsite for a few weeks in the summer does not usually cause a stir.

But when booking lines open for one site on Saturday, pitches at Worthy Pastures are expected to be snapped up.

The big clue for the excitement is in the name. Worthy Farm, the home of the Glastonbury music festival, has cancelled this year’s iteration of the earth-shaking event because of Covid-19 but is inviting people to come and camp at a “tranquil, family friendly” site.

It will be a very different kind of Glastonbury experience: no headliners, no sound systems and a noise curfew will come into force at 11pm. But it is causing a flutter among many Glastonbury regulars who have struggled to contemplate making it through a second summer without a visit to the beloved green fields.

“I think it looks great,” said festival obsessive the Glasto Thingy, a well-known online chronicler of the festival. “There seems to be a fair bit of excitement. I think the spaces will go pretty quickly. I’d love to have a good wander round the farm when the festival isn’t on.”

This summer’s campsite is being billed as a chance to get “back to basics” with a range of unfurnished bell tents and scout tents for hire.

At the more modest end, two person pre-erected tents will cost £195 for three nights, “Glastonbury bell” tents will be available at £425 for three nights, while an eight-person scout tent will cost £1,125 for six nights over the August bank holiday weekend.

There will be food traders, a bar and a “village store” selling local produce and freshly baked bread. People will be able to enjoy picnics in front of the pyramid stage and watch the sun rise and set at the stone circle.

There will be showers, but those in search of the true grubby Glastonbury vibe may be glad to hear there will be compost toilets and no laundry facilities. The weather will dictate the abundance – or lack – of another Glasto staple, mud.

Glastonbury threads on festival forums were alive with chatter about the plan on Friday, with some saying they would be poised over their refresh buttons to try to secure a spot, and feeling the sort of anxiety normally reserved for festival ticket drop day. One wrote that they felt “weirdly overexcited.”

Another said: “I’ve gone from being completely dismissive to feeling anxious about not managing to get a booking.” A third was thrilled after two fallow festival years to at least have a map of the campsite over which to pore.

People began to dream of taking along their guitars and drums and putting on impromptu shows close to the pyramid stage. Someone joked (we think) that Coldplay’s Chris Martin, a West Country boy, was going to book a tent and was taking his children – and acoustic guitar.

Others were relishing the idea of giving their children a Glastonbury experience. “I just love the idea of having nice food stalls and a bar and being able to play in those hallowed fields with my little girl,” said one.

Worthy Farm in June 2020.
Worthy Farm in June 2020. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Another warned against dewy-eyed Glastonbury veterans carting their teenagers along and boring them with memories of drinking a particularly good pint of cider on just here – or queuing up for the toilet over there.

One of those who will be trading at the site, Mark Selwood, of the Coffee Box on Wheels, said the call from Glastonbury about Worthy Pastures was one of the best days of his life.

“We are now very busy contacting our local tradesmen, electrician, gas engineer and plumber, the coffee machine is being serviced as we speak. Our crew, who are all local people, are champing at the bit and we just can’t wait to get back to the farm to serve all those lovely campers who we know will be happy and smiling.”

Not all are happy with the idea, however. Joanna Benner, who lives nearby, argued that “family friendly” infers that the campers will only be families. “But that obviously won’t be the case,” she wrote in a formal objection to the plan. “A campsite of that size will bring a lot of people from all over the country. We are in a pandemic.”

One Somerset campsite manager, who asked not to be named, expressed concern that Worthy Pastures could take business from other sites. “I think they’re rich enough already,” they said.

Vicki Steward, the creator of the Normal for Glastonbury blog, who usually works as a site manager for the Glasto Latino area at the festival, said she was pleased the site would provide work for some local people, many of whom have been hit by the cancellation of the festivals this year and last.

The Glastonbury poet Lisa Goodwin said campers would be welcomed: “I think it’s an opportunity for folk who haven’t had a chance to get out of the cities to enjoy being in the Somerset landscape.”

Goodwin came up with a few lines to mark the announcement:

While drops of nostalgia drum on your tent,
And memories drift on the time you have spent,
Dancing with strangers, gathered in crowds,
Where the wild comes alive as the sun goes down.


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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