Yesterday, along with thousands of other exhausted campers, I left Glastonbury Festival. For those of you who don’t know, Glastonbury is the world’s greatest 5-day party. It’s a place to forget the outside world and all your woes. You can let yourself go. It’s a place to be free and explore who you are and what you enjoy. But after 5 days of utopia, the outside world hits you like a bus.

The first thing that struck me as we came across regular folk in the surrounding areas was their faces. What I mean is, there was no perma-grin like there was on every festival-goers face. People looked tired, bored or worried. Not all of them, but many. They were just going about their days, but I saw something deeper. I saw a collective unhappiness. I saw a society that didn’t spark joy in its people. This was a dramatic contrast to a festival where attendees are made to feel as if anything is not only possible, but accepted without shame.

En route home we decided to stop by a supermarket to pick up some essentials before facing our sad, bare fridge. I didn’t think to change out of what I was wearing to do so. It never even crossed my mind. (It was a crop top and shorts; nothing offensive or overly revealing.) But once I got inside, I was met with disgusted looks. Granted, that might have been primarily due to a lingering stench from having not showered for a week, but something tells me it was the fact that I wasn’t conforming. I had mud on my feet and grass in my hair. See, at Glastonbury the wackier the better. You can even get your boobs out and cover them with glitter and there’s no need to feel like you’re being preyed upon or looked down on. Self-expression is encouraged. Fun is warmly embraced.

Reality didn’t feel like that. Reality made me feel ashamed of looking a little rough around the edges. Reality told me it didn’t want me. And I’m here to shout back and say that that isn’t OK. Why should I have to plan my footwear based on how quickly I can run in it if I’ll be alone on a night out? Why should I shy away from shorts because it’s just easier to try to walk through life trying to be invisible and not attracting any attention to myself? It’s interesting, because at the festival, most of the women were wearing the most revealing of outfits. But there was nothing sexual about it. It was beautiful. So I’m asking what makes it different within the festival grounds? It really comes down to the sheer number of women dressing that way. It becomes the norm at Glastonbury. No single female stands out because we all go there. We all embrace the extravagant. But we come back to reality and back to our regular wardrobes. We fear the extravagant once more because it attracts attention. It stands out.

How do we redefine ‘the norm’? How is it that we can spread the freedom of creative self-expression from Worthy Farm into all of our cities and towns? And it’s not just the clothes we wear and the way we decorate out faces, but the empathy and the sense of community. Political talk was bold and brash this festival, with many artists criticising the powers that be. They preached love and understanding, with Corbyn himself even making an appearance on the Pyramind Stage to urge us to reunite as a people, rather than support the divide. He spoke of music and poetry and creativity at the core of a happy society. He praised the Eavis family for allowing all of the festival attendees the space to express and enjoy themselves. There is something exquisitely magical that comes from that much togetherness and the hope is that it can come with each of us into our everyday lives now that the festival is over.

Yes this is a rant at wanting everyday life to be just as magical, but it’s also an opportunity for discussion. What are your thoughts on this topic? How do we redefine the norm and create a more loving society where all people are treated equally and allowed to express themselves without fear? Lord knows we’re desperate for it.

 

 

 

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Ahhh festival season. The summer vibes of sunshine, good music and cold beer. And of course getting together with all your buddies. It sounds a dream, right? I mean, it is. Floating out of everyday life and into utopia really does lead to the greatest of ‘ups’. Though tragically this is followed by the a contrasting, nightmarish down as you have to wake up the next day and ‘resume life’.

Festival environments are absolute pinnacles of creativity and connection. They are an opportunity for us to put forth intention for the creative kind of life that we would like to lead. Plus – of course – immerse ourselves in a hedonist music scene. My problem, however, is the trash.

You have no doubt seen the horrendous photographs of festival grounds left looking like a post-apocalyptic no man’s land on the day the crowds disperse and make their sorry way home.

Daily Mail

What we see left behind is anything and everything not considered of value to these people: cheap tents that were bought with the intention of only being used once, cheap fancy dress costumes only intended of being used the once, food and drink packaging, clothes, shoes, sleeping bags and pretty much any other item you can think of that one would need to survive at a festival for a few days at a time.

There are three main issues that lead to this wasteland. These are problems in society at large; not simply for the few days of a year at a festival.

Packaging – especially the non-recyclable or non-biodegradable kind

You need to replenish yourself between seeing your favourite artists. This means you’ll likely hit up one of the food stalls on-site and purchase a meal and maybe a drink. It’s important to think about the packaging these are served in. One-use Styrofoam or plastic containers will outlive you. At the very least 500 years. Think about that. And you’re just one person at one music festival! That’s a hell of a footprint you’re leaving on the earth.

Some festivals are doing things oh-so-right. By this I mean only providing biodegradable or recyclable packaging. They also offer a plethora of bins specifically for these items, with the intention of encouraging the crowds to make smart choices in their disposal.

There is a way around using any packaging at all. This is what I’m determined to do for my next festival: bring my own containers for food and beverages. Vendors often don’t care what they put your portion in. Give them the cash and bring your own container. This reduces your demand on resources.

Mentality – if it’s cheap, it doesn’t matter if I only use it once

This is something that spreads far wider than a 3 day festival. It is the drive behind our fast fashion industry and cheap superstores offering bargain-price shit that won’t last. We have got it so wrong when we live by this logic, because we are leaving a lasting pile of crap to accumulate, all because we somehow think we’re getting a better deal. A cheap alternative of whatever material item will never be as good as one made well and built to last. And surely it’s better with things that will stick with you through the times than having to go to the effort to compile a collection of new one-use items each time the demand calls?

What we need – globally – is conscious consumption. Think about each purchase you make. Do you really need it? Where was it made and why whom? Will this last? Is it made well with attention to detail?

What will you leave behind when you die? The earth will keep on spinning and future generations keep on blooming, but our pile of waste on this rock continues to grow at alarming rates. It is filling our oceans, smothering our land, destroying our wildlife and ridding our planet of its natural beauty. Think about the bigger picture when you next sway towards a one-time-use object that will lie around without decaying for the rest of your life.

Responsibility –it’s an organised event so someone else will clean up, right?

This is one of the toughest conundrums, because festival organsers plan for their grounds to be destroyed by the end of the event. They thus make sure they have ample back-up support in place to implement ‘mission clean-up’ once the crowds have left. It’s a safe assumption to make, because there is indeed an ocean of litter left behind. But this also backfires because all the guests know that someone will clean up that bag of camp trash they leave behind, that water-logged tent or that welly missing a sole.

The only way I can think to get around this is to allocate a spot to each group of campers. This way, there is a name attached to that specific plot of land and so someone who has no choice but to take responsibility for the miscellaneous items left behind for someone else to clean up. But this would be a massive change to typical ‘free for all’ camping festivals so the process of implementing such a practice massive and with many aspects to plan for.

I walk the city streets and don’t generally see people throwing rubbish on the ground. Most people wait for one of the bins scattered along the pavement and do the right thing by throwing it in. At a festival, it becomes acceptable to throw your waste wherever you feel like because there is this unspoken ideology that someone hired for the job will throw it away for you, dispose of it properly.

One of the most powerful things you can do is live by example.

  1. Make a point to throw your trash away properly
  2. If you see a friend leaving stuff on the ground, politely ask them if they would like you to throw their rubbish in the bin. It’ll bring their awareness to what they’ve done without causing conflict.
  3. Think about containers you can bring with you to fill with food and drink and re-use.
  4. Think about your purchases pre-festival in preparation for the big event. What will be the life story of those items once the festival is over?

If you have any environmentally-friendly festival ideas worth sharing, please comment below as I’d love to read them!

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