Sarah and Chris at the Glastonbury Disabled Campsite

Sarah Howard-Coles has been part of the Glastonbury festival for the past 14 years and a Zipcar member for just over 1. Here she shares her Glasto 2013 experience with us as a steward at the Disabled Campsite.

Sarah Howard-Coles"The 2013 festival was my 14th year working as a steward for the Disabled Campsite at Glastonbury and, I have yet to tire of living in a field in Somerset for seven days with 177,000  other people.

Most workers tend to arrive on site before the festival starts which means we can enjoy the calm before the storm. My friend Chris (who has also been stewarding for a number of years) and I tend to arrive on Tuesday and get an early start under our belts so we can have our tent and creature comforts set up by early afternoon.

We picked up Zipcar Macedonia from Putney on Tuesday morning at 6:30am and drove from there (with a little lunchtime pit stop in my home town of Frome) to Pilton.

This was the first year we were able to get permission to drive our vehicle on to the site to drop off our camping gear – which as anyone who has had to lug their stuff around a festival site will know, is an absolute god send!

Zipcar Macedonia in the Disabled Campsite
Zipcar Macedonia in the Disabled Campsite

After setting up, the first evening normally involves a steward briefing which runs for an hour or two, this gives us the opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with the other stewards, and more importantly the Glastonbury machine in terms of protocols, any changes to the site layout or other relevant information needed ahead of the festival start.

Around 8pm, it is then tradition for us to head up to the Stone Circle area, high on the hillside, to watch and enjoy the vast expanse of the festival site buzzing with energy and anticipation for what is to come..

As a disabled camping steward you are required to work 3 x 8 hour shifts across the duration of the festival and the stewarding roles can vary greatly. However, based on the experience we have built up in certain areas, we tend to get similar positions each year:  running the main access to the site for all disabled campers and the disabled viewing platform on the Other Stage.

Chris and I had the opening shift on the Wednesday morning at the main gates where we welcome all those who will be camping on the disabled site and ensure they have the right passes for their needs e.g. wristbands for the disabled viewing platforms and passes should they need to take their vehicle onsite. We also ensure people are able to gain access to the shuttle bus which runs a direct service from the car park to the disabled campsite – making life a lot easier for those who may have mobility issues.

View of the festival from the hillside by the stone circle
View of the festival from the hillside by the stone circle

This all sounds fairly straightforward, but the first shift is always a shock to the system given the volume of people you encounter. We started work at 06:30am and the queue of eager festival goers was already stretching across the field in which we were based…. We estimated that before midday, we had processed around 1000 happy campers and their families through the gates and got them safely on site. When you return to the disabled campsite after that first shift, you are immediately taken aback by the previously empty space now full to the rafters with all manner of tents, accessories, flags and motor scooters!

Chase & Status performing on the Other Stage
Chase & Status performing on the Other Stage

On Saturday night we had a viewing platform shift on the Other Stage where Chase & Status were headlining. Here you are responsible for ensuring the platform is accessible for all those who require the facility during the festival, and that those on the platform can see the bands performing without any obstructions, and are comfortable and safe in their surroundings. As an added bonus to working this particular shift, we are able to enjoy the music alongside the festival goers and get to know them a little more than the fleeting encounter at the start of the festival.

Between the shifts of course there is the opportunity to go and see what Glastonbury has to offer, which is a real onslaught to the senses. From my point of view, it’s one of the most magical places on earth – where you step away from reality into a bubble of complete and utter madness for seven days.

Roll on Glastonbury 2014!"

Sarah and her mates relaxing in the sun by the Pyramid Stage
Sarah and her mates relaxing in the sun by the Pyramid Stage

Have you been to any festivals this year? Share your stories and recommendations below!

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