My 150th published post to mark the sixth birthday of Normal For Glastonbury
It’s ironic that Normal For Glastonbury only came about because I’d decided to leave Glastonbury, quite possibly for good. I’d had a pretty rubbish year in 2015, half of which I spent organising a festival that got cancelled at the last possible minute, leaving me skint and homeless. It seemed that after 22 years in the town I’d exhausted all the possibilities that Glastonbury had to offer me in terms of work and accommodation and it was time to look elsewhere. Then I got an offer that sounded too good to be true. It turned out to be actually too good to be true when I discovered that the preferred method of conflict resolution in my new homeplace was a fistfight. I realised that two decades in the Glastonbury bubble had left me ill-equipped for the outside world and I missed my friends. I was going home to Avalon.
So, after all of six weeks, I was back. It was January 2016, it was cold and I needed somewhere to live. I got offered a room in exchange for doing some admin and writing a blog. I didn’t really know what a blog was so I got put on a course. I figured it would be a good idea to start a blog of my own, I didn’t expect anyone to read it, but I could learn the mechanics of blogging and it wouldn’t matter if the whole thing was a bit rubbish. My specialist subject was Glastonbury, I’d lived in the town since 1993 and I figured I could write a few funny pieces about life here. I put together a WordPress page and took a few photos around the town.
On the 22nd of April 2016, I published my first little piece titled ‘What’s Normal For Glastonbury?’. I posted about it on my personal Facebook page, I’d had quite a few friends say I should turn my hand to writing, they obviously found it funny as they shared it with their friends. Within 24 hours the piece had had a thousand readers, within 48 hours it had reached two thousand. Glastonbury was clearly a popular subject, but there was surprisingly little about it on social media. People were asking for more, people I didn’t even know. I was a bit freaked out.
You can read my first post here:
So much material!
I started to feel a responsibility to write more. When I wasn’t putting together the blog that I was being employed to do, I would pen short pieces about all different aspects of the town. I wrote about the funny food people like here, the proclivity of some of the residents for public nudity, the weird and wonderful stuff in the shops and the local landscape. I created a tongue in cheek visitor’s map that was hugely popular (I’ve revamped it at last and will be putting it out there soon). I even produced a mug with the map on, but the writing was a bit too tiny and all the middle-aged people complained (five years on I understand!). I covered local events with photos and videos. I realised the blog could be a great platform to promote the many creative people here and started writing about them individually. After a while, I started writing about more serious issues like homelessness and a road-building scheme that threatened the town. People started offering me money to write about them, I wanted the pieces to be interesting and relevant, so I would only accept if could write about their relationship with Glastonbury. Other people offered to write occasional posts for the blog too, like Andy Brady’s humorous contributions.
Here’s a selection of a few of my favourite posts from the early days, there are 150 to read so do have a look and see if you can find something new:
I set up a Facebook page to publicise my posts and share other things I thought would interest my readers, an Instagram account to share my photographs and a YouTube channel. I started writing more posts on visitor information. I got more commissions and the local art gallery asked me to interview all of their core artists for their Heart of the Tribe blog. A few readers started to support me with monthly donations and I had a small but growing membership on We Are Normal For Glastonbury.
People started coming up to me in the street and asking me if I was ‘Normal’, I even got called the Samuel Pepys of Glastonbury. After years of working with creative people but not thinking of myself as one of them, this sudden minor celebrity status was uplifting but also slightly uncomfortable. I sometimes worry that the actual me might fail to live up to expectations, especially as a friend commented that I was the only person he knew that was nicer online than in real life!
When lockdown came along I put together some of my best writing into an eBook, imaginatively titled ‘Normal for Glastonbury’ and first published on my 52nd birthday. It proved popular but lots of people wanted a paperback copy, so I put one together and got 500 copies printed. The night after I put the order in I woke up in a cold sweat, imagining boxes of them mouldering away unsold. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded and I ordered a second run a couple of months later. A postcard book of my Crap Views of the Tor followed, then a Crap Views of the Tor 2022 Calendar. (It’s sold out, but yes, there’s a 2023 one coming).
Wishes, Fairy-dust and April Fools
I also did a lot to promote the town’s online businesses to keep people going while we had no visitors, then publicised the reopening of the town after lockdown. It was funny really, I’d always insisted that the blog wasn’t about selling stuff or promoting businesses, but then I realised that without money flowing into the town we wouldn’t survive long on wishes and fairy dust.
For a year or so it was hard to be lighthearted, I wondered if I would ever manage to be funny again, but then on April the 1st 2021 I put out a post claiming the whole town was going vegan which caused quite a stir. I followed it up this year with another prank that fooled quite a few people.
Make a start, you never know where you’ll end up
So six years on and I can’t quite believe how something I did for a bit of a laugh has taken over my life! It’s given me a lot of opportunities and resulted in me meeting a lot of lovely people. I don’t completely support myself with my writing and photography yet, I’m not a natural entrepreneur and with Glastonbury becoming an increasingly expensive place to live I do wonder how long I’ll be able to hang on in here. If you enjoy what I do please do support me by joining We Are Normal For Glastonbury (there are 34 exclusive members’ only posts to read on there, with a new one every month or so, plus an exclusive visitors guide to the Town) or take a look at these other ways to keep me writing about our favourite place!
Thank you for reading my blog, honestly, it makes me really happy to know I’m connecting people around the world with Glastonbury and entertaining the locals too. I’ve wanted to be a writer and photographer since I was a kid and this blog has enabled me to be recognized and rewarded for both these things. If there’s something that you would love to do, but ‘real life’ has got in the way, then I say make a start, even in a small way, you might be surprised where you end up. Putting myself out there has been scary, self-publishing a book was frankly terrifying, but with each kind word from people like you it gets easier. Besides, Glastonbury is always the star of the show.
If you’ve got any ideas for what I should write about. or if you want to collaborate please get in touch. Do say hello if you see me in the street, I’m generally not as grumpy as I look, I don’t even mind if you ask me if I’m ‘Normal’!
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.
My readers support this blog to keep it independent and ad-free, so I can continue to write about and photograph Glastonbury Town and its wonderful creative community.
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