Having grown up in this area, I still think of it as ‘Pilton pop festival’, yet only became a fan and actually attended two years ago. Thankfully, we were lucky to get tickets again this year.
As a ‘clean liver’, in all senses of the word, it had never appealed to me to go. However once our sons had been, and just about everyone else we knew, we had to try it out for ourselves.
Bike to Glasto
Thankfully, both visits have been without the famed mud bath, and having certain standards, we cycle in using the ‘Bike to Glasto’ scheme where our tent and luggage is collected and delivered to the site and we camp in a secure, hill top site, a few 100 metres from the bike lock up and luggage collection, and with lovely compost loos and (sometimes) hot showers.
Although we live close enough to return home, we like to enjoy every second we can at the festival and not get dragged back to reality with phone calls, emails or housework and gardening.
I was fully prepared to have a ‘Bee free’ time, focussing on the Greenfields area, people watching, and of course the odd band.
Unlike the previous festival, I did have a quick flick through the programme, jammed full with artists, events and locations that the festival goer must see. I noticed that one of my ‘Bee Gurus, Chris Park was speaking in the Tipi field with the Native American Elders, I really wanted to join that, but sadly on my walk there ( about 3 miles) I got distracted and so didn’t make it.
A friend had sent me a message asking if I’d seen the Beam installation. I’d not even noticed it in the program but quickly looked it up. Wolfgang Buttress, famed for his Hive installation at Kew Gardens had his latest creation in the Greenpeace field.
On the Thursday evening, I stumbled across it, or rather in to it. Dusk was showing it off to it’s best. The main bands hadn’t yet started and so I could clearly hear the buzzing and quacking piped into the area live from the hives on Worthy Farm.
There were also projections onto the wooden slatted walls of gently working beekeepers, and bees. Flashes of light were moving between the panels, as if they were swarms of bees.
It really was beautiful.
Trying to learn more about it, I dipped back into the program and discovered that the ‘Glastonbury Free University’ was hosting a talk with the artist, along with the musicians and technical genius’s that worked together on this project.
Long hot walk
On the hottest day of the festival, I walked across the site and up the steep hill to the Crow’s Nest bar where the talk was being held. Incredibly, at such a massively attended festival, I was only joined by around fifty other bee enthusiasts as Wolfgang, and the scientists, musicians and technicians who have been working together on this project answered questions about their installation.I loved that the festival had brought together as many people as the farm had bees with it’s five colonies of 50-100,000 bees.
Glastonbury, famed for its black bee colonies, had them connected with BEAM. In fact, those very bees were monitored for BEAM through accelerometers, and their live signals were transmitted to BEAM and converted into light and sound, essentially expressing the mood and energy of the colony, live, which we were able to experience.
Not the Pyramid stage
On the Sunday evening, (clashing with the grand finale in the Pyramid stage of The Cure), an experimental live performance of musicians and haunting vocals, was performed on the Greenpeace stage. Melodic and meditative, we sat absorbed by the sounds, only slightly effected by the background sounds of two hundred thousand people and very many music performances filling the air. A screen showing footage taken of the Glastonbury bees was the backdrop, with an interesting snippit showing a bee interacting with a varroa mite.
Calling themselves ‘BE’, the musicians were members of Spiritualized (including Doggen Foster, Kev Bales, James Stelfox and Jason Pierce), Amiina (string section for Sigur Ros), Daniel Avery, Ólafur Arnalds, Kelly Lee Owens, Camille Christel and Matt Black (Coldcut/Ninja Tune) sat together entranced by the sounds of the bees, apparently almost always in the key of ‘C’!I felt so priviledged to not only have met Wolfgang, but to have learned so much more about his work with the Hive at Kew, and to understand how this project has been in the making for over four years!