Martin Parr’s visit to Glastonbury – photo report | The music


Tduring her week, I should have lived and photographed the Glastonbury Festival for the first time. The fact that this would have been my first is a cause for regret for me as I have spent a long career trying to shoot a mixture of all that is British, and in particular iconic British events. How I managed to miss this festival almost overwhelms me, given its importance in the British social calendar. I have an excuse however, because the last weekend in June is still the AGM of Magnum, the cooperative of which I am a member, and I have always felt compelled and eager to attend.

Lockout notice at Mary’s Gate

So for the 50th festival, I planned to go, but as we all know, it was canceled. However, I thought it would be interesting to visit the site just before the festival opens, to see what it looks like.

Cows at the Pyramid stadium

I’m taken by John from the press office, and the first thing to remember is that this is a large, busy and busy farm. I photograph Steven, the director of the farm, cleaning his tractor, and there are heaps of manure nearby, and in front of the skeleton of the Pyramid scene is a large herd of Friesian cows where normally you would see several thousand of dancing and undulating festival-goers.

Joe Rush's Mutoid Waste Sculptures for Cineramageddon

Joe Rush's Mutoid Waste Sculptures for Cineramageddon

Kidzfield Castle

There is a feeling of melancholy throughout the site.

Martin Parr

The other first impression is that the site is huge. It will not be new for regular participants, but for this virgin Glasto, it is amazing to see the magnitude of all this. We pass the staff canteen, which serves 20,000 meals a day; we see various emblematic sites like the Greenpeace boat and the stone circle. We visit a site called Permaculture, where John picks raspberries: normally at this time of year, he would be a thriving market gardener.

The underground piano bar

All around the site are remnants of various attractions that are waiting to be brought back to life in a year. There is a feeling of melancholy throughout the site.

Michael and Emily Eavis

We return to base and meet Emily, and a few moments later, Michael goes into his bright red Land Rover. He’s an agile 85-year-old man. I explain that I took his picture several times and the last time was when he opened a summer party in a retirement home in Shepton Mallet. He says, “This is the kind of thing I do! I photograph their portrait outside the door of one of the barns on the farm.

King’s Meadow, with Stone Circle (erected in 1992) in the distance

Permaculture seats

A stone bench in the woods above King’s Meadow

The tour continues and I go to an area with dozens of dumpsters and many garbage trucks, which recalls that at the top of the festival, it is a community of more than a quarter of a million people, with all the services it involves. There are lots of old barrels of oil which are the trash cans, which are freshly painted every year but now look a little sad. I go to the festival workshop barn, where Rob is employed year-round to build and maintain the festival infrastructure.

I hope to be back next year to see the real thing in full operation, but I am grateful to have had this chance to see the lay of the land for the first time.

The 2020 poster design by Stanley Donwood


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