Glastonbury Festival – through the eyes of a marquee company

Glastonbury Festival conjures an image in everyone’s minds – whether it’s a memory from your youth, the pictures on the TV or an annual event that is as big to you, if not bigger than Christmas, we all know about it.
As one of the marquee companies nearest to the site here in Somerset, we’re right in the thick of it, and have been going there for 15 years to put up an array of structures.
Sadly for us it’s not ‘all about the music’ – it’s all about the logistics. We have to get somewhere between 5 and 10 marquees onto the site in the fortnight preceding the festival. Quite apart from the very specific timing requirements of all our customers (for example a 24 hour bakery built on a scaffolding platform – we’re the second part of a long chain of contractors after the scaffolding company, whose schedule is determined by the amenability of the Market Manager in that area), we are faced with a myriad of logistical challenges:
Juggling our stock of marquees over a 2-3 week erection period in our busiest time of the year
Ensuring our best marquees don’t go there and then need to go to a smart wedding the following week
Getting a vehicle pass on to the site (procedures change from year to year and every security guard has a different story)
Not getting stuck in a massive queue just to get in
Passing the H&S briefing requirements on every visit
Finding the right pitch and hoping it’s been marked out correctly
Getting the marquee the right way round in the absence of the pitch holder
Never being able to get hold of anyone on site because their phone is dead
Making sure everything is properly secured to avoid possible theft
Avoiding getting stuck in mud
And once we’ve got them all up, we lose half our staff to the festival itself – and as anyone who’s been will testify, the following week’s a write-off as well!
Then after the event you can guarantee that all the tents will be covered in either mud or dust and will need a thorough clean.
So why do we do it? Because it’s part of living in Somerset, all the boys love it, and if we can avoid all the above pitfalls, we may actually make a bit of money!