Glastonbury Town – My Happy Place

A chat with a regular visitor to Glastonbury, Activity Coordinator and artist Emma Walters

Emma and Huw – photo by Stewart Wellar

One of my favourite things about Normal For Glastonbury is it gives me the chance to meet and chat with people and make new friends. Everyone has their own story and relationship with the town and I find it all fascinating. One of my (relatively ) new friends is Emma Walters, who visits Glastonbury with her husband Huw. I first contacted Emma after she made a comment on the Normal For Glastonbury Facebook page that I found really interesting, she said that rather than moving to Glastonbury, she’d rather take some of the Glastonbury vibe home with her. I really liked that idea, because a lot of what people really enjoy about being in the town isn’t specific to the geography or history of the place. It’s easy to chat with strangers here, to offer support to your neighbours, to smile as people pass by in the street. There’s the anticipation that people will be friendly in return, something which sadly isn’t always the case elsewhere. Emma is inspired by the kindness and open-mindedness that she finds in Glastonbury and has found very practical ways to take that home with her, to improve the lives of others in her community and work.

Emma is in her early 50’s and is an Activity Coordinator in a care home in Kent. We chatted about her work and her relationship to Glastonbury Town. 

When did you first visit Glastonbury?

I’m not good with dates but first started coming about six years ago A friend’s parents moved from Kent to Glastonbury to work as therapists in the Goddess Temple. They bought a bed and breakfast and we were offered to stay. I didn’t know anything about the town before that, except that my parents had bought my Nan here years ago and they told me I’d like it. 

On my first impression, I was a bit disappointed. People had built it up. I was expecting Harry Potter land, witches and wizards everywhere, magic and mystery. Instead, I saw the poverty and I thought that you had to have made it to afford to live here, I thought it was quite middle class. Now I don’t focus on homelessness or poverty, instead I see people as individuals doing their thing. When I’m sitting in the Mocha Berry I see the community spirit. Yes, there are cliques, but people do look out for each other here. I feel like in Glastonbury you stop seeing and you start being, is that really hippie-dippie? 

That’s why I come to stay in Glastonbury. I feel like I can just be me here. Yeah, I can do it in my everyday life, but I feel like I have to explain and justify myself. People can’t separate the idea of the town from the festival I tried to tell people it’s a nice town with interesting people. I want people to know Glastonbury isn’t all about taking drugs, getting pissed and making music. There’s so much going on here. 

I’m really grateful to Glastonbury for widening my world, giving me space, and the opportunity to be the person I was in my 20s again, except now I’m in my fifties! My friends say Glastonbury is my happy place, I go back home feeling really positive. I recharge my batteries here. 

How do you use what you’ve learned in Glastonbury in your care work?

I went into the Sons of Asgard shop and I loved it. I felt like I’d been there before. I was really curious as to what their business was about. I came home and looked them up on Facebook and saw they did courses. I did their aromatherapy beginner’s course, It opened up my world. Doing their courses gave me confidence, everything I was learning I could put into practice with my brain-injured clients. I set up a sensory room, I play them chakra music. I’ve always believed there should be a holistic approach to care. Often, in our profession, the only treatment is medication. I want it to be about making clients feel good, giving them touch, not painkillers, at the end of their lives. Before COVID, I qualified as a neuro physio assistant, but I wasn’t qualified in massage, the qualification I got here made it legitimate. Now Sons of Asgard have given me a scholarship which is fantastic. 

Apparently, I’m a good listener, but people rarely ask how I feel. I wanted to be able to offer people who have burned out some physical therapy because the talking just got too much during COVID. I feel like the time for talking is over, it’s the healing that needs to come through now. 

I know you love drawing, tell me about that

I’ve always drawn for pleasure, as an escape from my job. Glastonbury. inspires me greatly. I illustrate for my local magazine’s kids’ page. I like bringing happiness and reminding people of childhood experiences. I encourage my clients to express their creativity too, it gives them joy. I started making pictures that parents and kids could relate to. Everyone likes to be seen. I drew pictures of people dressed up at Beltane and put them on Facebook. The response was really positive. I felt like it made the good vibes last longer than the day.

I love what I get from Glastonbury, but I don’t plan on moving here, I like dipping in and out. 

When Emma visited Glastonbury at Beltane she made a video of The Horde processing up the High Street. It was much better than the video I’d made so I shared it on the Normal For Glastonbury Facebook Page. So far it has received 7000 likes and 823,000 views, far more than any of the videos I’ve made for my page, but I’m not jealous (much).

Enjoy this post?

Then you’ll love my books – ‘Normal For Glastonbury: Life in England’s Most Magical Town’ (the new fully illustrated edition is now available) and my ‘Crap Views of the Tor’ Postcard Book. There’s more in my Online Shop too.

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