A warm welcome to Vicki Steward who is sharing her home town of Glastonbury where she has lived more or less permanently since 1993. Glastonbury is renowned for his music festival but it is a town that attracts not just musicians but those who wish to sample a life that is rich in diversity.
What’s Normal for Glastonbury? by Vicki Steward
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.
We sell practical things in Glastonbury too
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.
Pok, one of Glastonbury’s many musicians
What always draws me back to 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 idiot, Glastonbury being a market town might be allowed 3 or 4, but actually, we have hundreds. 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, there’s no way the multitude of shops selling stuff that is, quite frankly, not terribly useful, 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.
Because dogs like to be fairies too. Not.
Glastonbury’s calendar is full of gatherings of druids, Wiccans, pagans, fairies, earth mystery enthusiasts, goddesses, Krishna devotees, even ‘Breatharians’ (See my post about Food in Glastonbury.). Last 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 23 years 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.
All words, photos and the map are copyright © Vicki Steward.
My thanks to Vicki for sharing her passion for Glastonbury and over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of her other posts that are mentioned in this introduction.
About Vicki Steward
During the 24 years I have (mostly) lived in the town of Glastonbury I have spent over a decade organising festivals (yes, including Glastonbury), been a New Age and Occult bookseller, worked for a cult Psychedelic Jazz Rock Band called Gong, lived in a shared house ( The Glastonbury Institute of Gracious Living ) famed for its fancy dress parties, helped run the Assembly Rooms Community Arts Venue and done some other stuff which will most likely form the basis of some blog posts.
The photo is taken not in Glastonbury, but in nearby Shepton Mallet at a retreat where I worked with people who were suffering various forms of crisis in their lives – homelessness, bereavement, relationship breakdown, recovery from addiction etc. Here I am shovelling shit. This was just one in a series of attempts to move out of Glastonbury.
I have also lived in a caravan and cabin on the Somerset Levels. There was no running water and my electricity came from an 80W solar panel. On my doorstep was Ham Wall Nature Reserve, which I spent two and a half years exploring and photographing. As I was only a four mile cycle ride from Glastonbury, where I went to the office, to shop and to socialise, this was hardly a credible attempt to move away.
So, 24 years and counting and I’m still here, on the Summer Isle, and I still mostly love it.
I’m pretty handy at all sorts of project management work, IT, events organisation, photography etc, so please take a look at my hire me page. If you’d like to contact me please do so using this handy form!
Connect to Vicki Steward