What’s Normal for Glastonbury?

I love Glastonbury, I’ve been visiting since the 8th of August 1988 (8/8/88 of course) and have lived here since July 1993. I’ve tried moving away, even emigrating, but I’ve been pulled back repeatedly – by the Glastonbury rubber band effect as it’s locally known. Glastonbury is an endlessly fascinating parade of engaging characters, mythology and history, interesting shops, and great musicians. Except on my less positive days when it’s shabby, shambolic and full of nutters trying to blag a quid.

What is life in Glastonbury really like?

It’s surprisingly easy to buy crystals, magic wands, cloaks and vegetarian food in the town. It’s surprisingly hard to buy underwear, white goods or a Big Mac. Although saying that there is now a Macdonalds on the edge of town. It is apparently the favourite haunt of Glastonbury’s teenagers, particularly those who whose parents live entirely on a diet of raw food and regular colonic irrigation. 

Second generation Glastafarian teenagers are somewhat challenged when it comes to rebelling against their parents. It appears that if you want remarkably nice, well adjusted, responsible children, you could do worse than to drag them off to festivals all Summer from an early age, trusting that they will get you back to your tipi or truck even when you are hallucinating and have lost your shoes. Chances are they will then turn into the kind of adults who give up smoking spliffs at around 18 years of age, do jolly well at University, wear understated designer labels and get a job with a decent salary, while retaining many of their parent’s ideals around equality, ecology, community and kindness.

Here’s a gallery of pictures I took of perfectly normal Glastonbury people, going about their ordinary lives.

What always draws me back to live in Glastonbury, besides the remarkable community, is the music. You would be hard-pressed to find a town with a higher concentration of talented singers, songwriters and musicians. Many of them live here, many more are regular visitors. Where there is a fireside, a gathering of more than 3 people, a pub garden, a bench on the High St or a patch of grass, there will inevitably be someone performing.

Most villages have one oddball, Glastonbury being a market town might be allowed 3 or 4, but actually, we have hundreds. Only we think of them as ‘lovable local characters’. Rival reincarnated King Arthurs have been known to battle it out on the High St. A local B&B hosted 4 people at once who claimed to channel St Germaine, apparently that made for a lively breakfast table, until they all stopped talking to each other. More than one person walks through the town sporting a sword or bow and arrows strapped to their backs.

Glastonbury is, of course, a tourist town, although for many their visit is more of a pilgrimage than a day trip. There’s no way the multitude of shops selling stuff that is, quite frankly, not necessarily useful or practical, survive through local custom. Unlike many tourist towns however Glastonbury attracts visitors throughout the year, not just in the Summer months, this is partly thanks to all the special interest groups who like to congregate in the town for their own annual knees-ups.

Glastonbury’s calendar is full of gatherings of druids, Wiccans, pagans, fairies, earth mystery enthusiasts, goddesses, Krishna devotees, even ‘Breatharians’. This year the charity Zombie Walk clashed with the Faery Ball, locals were entertained to overhear fairies replete with cloaks, full-size wings, hair extensions, and the full range of steampunk accessories bitching from the sidelines as to what the fake blood spattered shambling zombies “thought they looked like”.

Having lived in Glastonbury for so long it is virtually impossible to walk down the street without acknowledging at least half the people who I encounter. Depending on the weather and time of year this could result in the journey taking several hours, or even the entire day. When I’m busy, or particularly grumpy, I find avoiding eye contact and repeating the mantra ˜Invisible, Invisible, Invisible” surprisingly effective. This mantra is best repeated silently however, otherwise I risk becoming one of the people everyone else avoids.

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.

For more of ‘this sort of thing’ join the We Are Normal For Glastonbury membership site, for exclusive content, a comprehensive guide to making the most of your visit to the town, a personalised membership certificate and more. Membership is only £20 a year.

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All words and photos are copyright Vicki Steward.

49 thoughts on “What’s Normal for Glastonbury?”

  1. This is brilliant!!!!
    Thank you for putting into words the feeling I’ve had since visiting Glastonbury in 2007.
    Only there a week, but it was an important week evidently.

    Again, many thanks for the words…

    Brightest of blessings

  2. All so true, first time I climbed the tor the first person I met was Merlin. cloak and all …i offerd him a lift down into town. No… he said, horse & cart for me.

  3. Really very clever and so TRUE! We’ve only been here 5 years but recognise so many of the wonderful qualities you describe ….

  4. The beginning of a book I hope. Write it as fiction, nobody outside the area will ever believe the truth.

  5. Hi vicki…i loved this blog…very entertaining. Not surprisingly your observations are v funny. I also love your website but just to say i couldnt find a contact me option. Thought it would be good if people could easily get in touch with you. Also you might want to invite feeling to sign up to receive your blog posts…i certainly would.Writing a blog is a great way to popularise and promote your talents i hope u get some really interesting projects and great pay!

    • Thanks! Great feedback – I appreciate it. There is a contact form on the bottom of ‘Hire Me’ but I’ve just made it a page too. I’m new to WordPress and haven’t worked out how to push the signing up bit yet, perhaps you could email me on my new ‘Contact Me’ page and tell me how!

  6. Hee hee, great reading, I’m the only St Germain in the village made me chuckle in agreement. Beautiful. Love the teenage reyrograde rebels all rings true .

    • Thank you. I’m helping run a B&B at the moment so I might have to write something on that subject. I’m sure you’ve got some great stories, if you’d like to meet up please use the contact me form.

  7. Genius, funny, spot on, after living here for a mere 15 years, having a grown up daughter who fits the description of the second generation Glastonian, your blog is so accurate without being mean. Full of so much love for this perfectly absurd place we live! xx more more! xx

  8. Wonderful! My friends that have never been to Glastonbury don’t understand when I try to explain what it’s like… Now I can just send them this post instead 😀
    Love the second generation bit… Fits so many people I know, and me too (mostly). I realised the other day that working full time in an office feels kinda rebellious because I never saw my parents or any family friends doing it when I was growing up!!

  9. this has really hurt my emotional body. now i need a nettle & rescue remedy smoothie

    great blog Vicki! do you want to join our “everyone else avoids us” support group? we don’t have many meetings 🙂

  10. Highly amusing and perceptive article. Brilliant! A man balancing upside down with his head in a bucket, has been my most memorable encounter to date, on the High Street. They say, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. Consequently, I now dress up in white tights and frilly lace, wear a long green, caped greatcoat topped with a feathery tricorn. I ring a bell and shout my head off in public quite regularly now. So far, I have enjoyed every single second of it!

    • Great to know you are reading my blog David, I took a photo of you at the bank closure last week, I’ll post it up soon. Love the man with his head in a bucket story, can we have a chat, would love to get more stories from you.

  11. Most excellent, I’ve been visiting the town since the 1970’s, (Local innit) and living here since 1994. I tried to leave once and also came back, No other town would have me.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

  12. But you did forget to mention the trials of being a woman when new to the town, as in every other woman will HATE you on sight, and every man will try all the tricks there are to get into your pants……Here are many of the ones I have encountered all of which require a “home visit”….
    Your beautiful aura which just needs a little cleansing….
    An “exchange” of energy (one man offered to brush my hair for me, but I did not deem this enough to give him the “exchange” he quite wanted)
    A mutual massage to release tension, CLOTHED, of course, shoulders only…cough
    Some crystal healing (this was back in the day when I used to put up waifs and strays of either sex, allowing them to bed down on my floor with a spare quilt and mattress., I awoke to find the man, and the crystal, in my bed, I threw the man out, I still have the crystal twenty odd years later)

    And then there was the time I took in a homeless alcoholic, he was a nice enough chap and I wanted to save him, but alas, being partial to a “drop” of the hard stuff myself, that was never going to go well…..ahem..

    EEh, I was a nice young lady back then, naive but all rainbows and big heart, Now I am bitter and twisted and middle aged
    Glastonbury is still a wondrous town, if clad in enough armour

    I look forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

  13. I still love Glastonbury, is over 18 years since I left, and still think maybe one day, I will return, there isn’t a normal, Glastonbury has phases of weird, long time no see vicky.

  14. Erm, “McDonald’s on the edge of town”? Since when? McDonald’s is in Street, which the authentic must have realised, in the past 23 years, is a whole different town.

  15. Great blog Vicki, nice work! I spent so many years in that town and I’m quite sure there’s nowhere else like it. I think you really should consider writing a book, even if it takes years of gathering peoples memories and stories. It would be so worth it! Mandy F xx

  16. First class blog Vicki. I’ll be following it and promoting it in any way I can. Glastonbury is such a unique place, and you’ve got the tone and feel of it exactly right. I saw a fight on the High Street last time I was there, between a cider drinking beggar and a local redneck. Actual fisticuffs, including the use of a magic wand, followed by a ripe exchange of swear words from the benches. A tourist said they thought Glastonbury was supposed to be so peaceful. That’s the last thing it is!

  17. This sounds like my life! I’m always being pulled back in. 😭😸👍 For better or for worse we shall see. Niki

  18. One of my favourite places to visit, for all the above reasons and more. Am hoping to drop by some time this summer/autumn if I can.


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