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.
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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.
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All words and photos are copyright Vicki Steward.