Each year, a town the size of Bath temporarily sets up camp in the middle of the beautiful Mendip countryside for one of the world’s most famous music festivals. A huge amount of work goes into making the festival a success and there are now just weeks until around 203,000 people descend on Worthy Farm in Pilton.
What goes on behind the scenes at festivals to keep all the revellers safe? With one of the world’s biggest parties set to take place in Mendip later this month, council staff are preparing to help others and reduce risk of accidents at the festival.
One of the busiest council teams over the festival week is the Environmental Health team. This year is Senior Environmental Health Officer Michael Berry’s 13th year at the legendary music festival. Rather than working the Pyramid Stage, or meeting top artists Michael has a rather more down-to-earth set of responsibilities.
Michael set out a typical day at the festival:
8.30am – “I arrive at the council offices at the Shape Mendip Hub in Shepton Mallet to get a lift to the festival site. This is when I’ll put on my wellies or sun cream, depending on the weather forecast. Usually for Glastonbury I need both!”
9am – “Once on site I’ll talk to the teams who have been working overnight to find out if there have been any problems or, hopefully, that everything is running smoothly. There have been occasions where we’ve had to ask the festival organisers to look at certain areas of the site where, particularly in the evening, there have been pinch points which have made it hard for people to move around. It’s certainly not all negative though – the festival organisers work extremely hard to make sure everything runs smoothly and any problems are dealt with quickly, so I’ll always make sure we give positive feedback to the festival as much as possible.”
10am – “I’ll attend a health and safety meeting with staff from the festival where we’ll identify any issues or problems that need to be looked at.”
10.30am – “I’ll then head out on site and carry out checks on a range of different things, like talking with the campsite crews to check there’s no overcrowding and that people are spread across all the different camping areas. I’ll also check that entry at the different pedestrian gates is running smoothly and that water is flowing from all standpipes. I also have to make sure that there are no serious issues with the festival’s infamous toilets – not one of my most glamorous jobs!”
1pm – “Time for lunch, so I’ll either grab a bite to eat at event control – where the council’s team is based – or out around the site. There are around 400 food stalls on site, so I’m spoilt for choice.”
2pm – “Time to check in with the hard working team at the medical tent to find make sure there haven’t been any serious injuries. Sunburn, sprains and the occasional broken ankle are about as bad as it usually gets. Someone once went to the medical tent to report that they thought they were a giraffe! I’m not sure how they dealt with that one…”
3pm – “Further checks of the site, while constantly communicating with other council officers working around the site to make sure I’m always aware of any issues that have arisen and may need to be dealt with.”
5pm – “Return to event control to review what’s happened over the day and brief the night team before they head out on their evening shift.”
6pm – “Travel back to council offices before driving home for a well earned shower!”
It’s a busy and tiring day’s work, but Michael says he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It’s great fun,” he said. “There are always different challenges but at the end of the day you’re working at one of the world’s biggest music festivals, which can’t be bad, can it!”
The council’s work at the festival is paid for by festival organisers through the costs of applying for and maintaining a licence.