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This essay endeavors to understand the negative impacts Glastonbury Festival has on a multitude of areas within British society focusing on four main areas, economic; environment; politics and society. Through critical evaluation of the festival, recommendations can be made in order to reduce its effect on its stakeholders. There is an awareness that Glastonbury Festival has impacted negatively on more than the four topics discussed below, such as the tourism industry around the festival site, the IHRCS (2010) report on Music Tourism at Glastonbury Festival can be used for further education on this matter. However, this essay will focus on the four impacts with the most coverage by the media and academic personnel.
Glastonbury Festival began on the 19th September 1970, attended by 1,500 people, the two-day festival headlined by T-Rex cost £1 with each attendee receiving a bottle of milk on arrival. Fast forward to 2017 and the festival has become a five-day event with 175,000 people attending, tickets costing upwards of £238, multiple acts and appearances by major celebrities and political figures (Glastonbury Festivals History, 2018). Tickets were sold out online in under an hour before musical acts were announced, Glastonbury Festival is the biggest festival in the UK and one of the best in the world (Hawkes, 2016). In 2015 Glastonbury made £25.9 million, after costs and large donations to charities were made, the festival on average takes £86,000 in profits (ITV, 2015). Glastonbury’s founder, Michael Eavis, takes a modest salary of £60,000 and is a strong believer in giving to charity as such the festival gives some of the largest single donations annually to charities such as Oxfam and Green Peace (Ellis et al, 2017).
Festivals have negative impacts on the area they are in as well as the people who attend them, McDonnell et al (1990) stated that the impact of the festival depends on its size, the bigger the festival the bigger the impact and the more people it affects. The possible impacts can also be assessed through three main themes. The time of the festival [winter; summer; night; day], the location of the event [Indoor; outdoor] and the theme of the event [passive; music; political]. These all alter what the impacts will be and how severely they will affect the stakeholders of that event (Jago and McArdle, 1999). Applying these techniques for identifying the negative impacts of festivals to Glastonbury will enable solutions to be easily created. The economic impacts that Glastonbury has are mainly positive, bringing £1 million per year into the local villages and tourist economy and Eavis’s large donations to charity both example of this, however, Glastonbury’s economic impacts are not all good. Firstly Glastonbury has a long-running history of serious price inflation both surrounding the tickets sold and the stalls inside. Since it opened in 1970 to 2016 the ticket price alone has increased by 22,700% from £1 and a bottle of milk to £238+, this is a huge difference from the inflation rates of the rest of the economy has increased on an average of 3% per annum (Simpson, 2016). This is common for festivals and thus a solution would be hard to create, the price has risen so drastically due to the increased popularity of the festival. If the rate of inflation can be reduced it would benefit the festival goers but as long as they are willing to pay then the price will continue to rise.
The second issue relating to the economic impacts of Glastonbury festivals is their exploitation of workers, after the last Glastonbury (2017) following speeches from Jeremy Corbyn about the importance of workers rights the organizers laid off nearly 700 workers all on zero-hours contracts with little to no warning after only two days of work. These people had been offered over three weeks of work clearing the site, many were left stranded on and around the site with no money and no homes as many were migrant workers (O’Connor, 2017). This outright exploitation of workers rights and the zero hour contracts cost many of those workers greatly as they were unable to eat the money they needed. Zero hour contracts as a whole are exploitative and run a large risk of being misused by businesses as the employees have little power and often are not afforded the same rights, pay or benefit as those on more extensive contracts (Sutherland and Canwell, 2004).
To try and resolve this issue and ensure that Glastonbury cannot and will not exploit workers again in the future it would be recommended that all workers are issued with fixed-term contacts stating the time frame they will be working for and the jobs they will be expected to do. This type of contract is set in advance and award employees the same treatment as those with full-time contracts thus limiting the ability to exploit workers (gov.uk, 2018). By doing this it would protect both the employees and the festival who are legally bound to abide by the set contract. Glastonbury also impacts on the environment in a substantial way, the motto of the festival is “Love Worthy farm; leave no trace”, the festival says that it is committed to recycling and the environment encouraging the festival goers to take their rubbish home. They have also installed solar panels to power the stage, have over 1,300 recycling volunteers and are the worlds biggest singular donor to Greenpeace (Glastonbury Festivals Green Policies, 2018). Despite these moves to become a more environmentally friendly festival Glastonbury still has a long way to go, in 2011 the waste abandoned at the festival consisted of 400 Gazebos; 9,500 roll mats; 6,500 sleeping bags and 3,500 airbeds (Gray, 2013). It doesn’t get any better as the years go on, in 2014 11.2 tonnes of waste were collect and in 2017 1,650 tonnes of waste including 5,000 tents were collect, some of this waste is recycled but a vast majority is sent to landfills due to the plastics used to create these products are not designed to be single-use and recyclable (Vonow, 2017). Disposing of all this waste cost the festival £780,000 and required 1,300 volunteers in 2017, this may not seem like a lot of money due to £20 million plus in profits, Glastonbury makes each year however its the impact it has on the environment.
In 2014 the UK alone produced 202.8 million tonnes of waste, out of this only 44% was able to be recycled and 7.7 million was bio-degradable producing high levels of methane which add to the high levels of carbon in our atmosphere (Government Statistical Service, 2016). In 2010 Glastonbury emitted 42,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment throughout the year contributing to the global warming crisis (Edwards, 2010) Glastonbury is looking to reduce their waste, the festival has brightly painted bins across the site, signs asking festival goers to take their waste home and have a team of 1,300 dedicated to clearing the site after the festival (Glastonbury Festival Green Policy, 2018). This in mind it would be recommended that instead of a solution is to clear the waste it would be beneficial to increase the recycling capabilities of the waste.
Therefore the proposal is that Glastonbury uses their influence and asks retailers to produce fully recyclable festival gear from tents to chairs to roll mats, once this has been implemented the festival can begin to only allow festival goers to bring these items onto the site thus removing landfill waste. This solution would take place over 5-10 years but would be a way to make the festival more sustainable and to educate festival goers on the importance of recycling.
Glastonbury has high levels of pollution, whilst the festival has solar panels used to power stages and in 2016 banned the use of diesel generators on site for all the vendors (Glastonbury Festival Green Policies, 2018). The biggest pollutant within the festival is the river, in 2014 Glastonbury was fined £31,000 for allowing sewage to spill into the Whit-lake River, this incident occurred after an overflow tank burst. The festival did not report this to environmental agencies instead it was recorded by outside monitoring of the river during the festival, the festival was taken to court where it was discovered that a similar incident had happened in 2010 resulting in such a large fine (Environmental Agency, 2016). The spillage caused the trout population to die in the river as well as 42 other breeds of fish, the reason being that when human urine breaks down it releases ammonia.
Ammonia causes stress to the fish resulting in them stopping eating, mutations in their larvae and juveniles and eventually death if a water source is exposed to continuously high levels of ammonia it can cause the environment to become toxic killing all marine life (Eddy, 2005). It is vital that this issue is resolved, to do so the festival must invest in the sturdier storage of sewage throughout the festival and large overflow tanks, they also need to monitor the rivers ammonia levels and report all findings to the environmental agencies. Lawbreaking at festivals has become commonplace, more explicitly drug use, the rise in the drug culture since the 1960’s means the user has gone from smoking pot to taking “dance drugs” such as Ketamine and Ecstasy. This is due to the rise in festival culture and the underlying theme of festivals are a place to safely for illegal recreational drug use. Whilst these types of drugs were mostly used by people on the outskirts of society in the 1980’s their consumer base has changed to the ordinary youths taking a break from their 9 to 5 lives (Parker et al, 1998).
Glastonbury has a strict drugs policy on their website stating that all attendees will be searched on arrival and arrest will be made of those both selling and using illegal highs (Glastonbury Festival Drug Use, 2018). However whilst this is “not condoned” by the festival they have become part of the deeply embedded culture of Glastonbury, with websites such as The Tab and Vice documenting the types and even order of drugs you should take during the festival, it has become commonplace (The Independent, 2017). This is a huge issue for the festival and impacts negatively on the individuals attending the festival, impacting not only on their health and mental wellbeing but their lives outside of the festival. The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens (2014) states that repeat use of drugs in an intense short period can have huge emotional impacts and in the majority of cases causes addition to the ‘high’ that is achieved through drug taking.
Therefore it would be strongly recommended that Glastonbury take a stronger stance regarding their drug policy, more thorough checks, and a zero tolerance policy during the festival would help eliminate the culture of drugs. Large festivals such as Glastonbury have huge social influences, the high spirits associated with the festival can mean peoples opinions are defined by what they see, read, hear and experience. Michael Eavis is open about his political views being a very left wing, and he influences the festival-goers through a left-wing experience area, Left-field. In 2013 when the conservatives came into Government Eavis chose to move Left-field from a small outskirt attraction to the center of the festival to alter views and draw support for the Labour government (Bragg, 2013).
The Festival has always been heavily influenced by Eavis’s political views, in 1981 Glastonbury was funded by CND (Campaigning for Nuclear Disarmament), in 1984 workers wore miners hats to support the mining strike and in 2017 Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the Labour party gave a speech (McKay, 2000). The clear attempt to influence festival goers views can cause tension between state and locals, the juxtaposition between festivals and real-life can cause political unrest and dissatisfaction amongst the people (Burr, 2006).
Glastonbury can also be viewed as hypocritical, the festival itself pushes left wing anti-consumerism whilst it is a consumer heaven, charge hundreds for tickets and huge amounts for all the extras within the festival. With this in mind, it would be advisable that Glastonbury reduce its influence on its attendees and becomes more objective focusing on the wider social views not on its organizer’s opinions, thus reducing the tension between the now Conservative state and the left-wing festival. The festival provides many with an amazing five-day experience however its negative impacts across major parts of society cannot continue.
Glastonbury Festival must alter its disregard to the environment, producing over 1,650 tonnes of waste in 2017 as well as polluting the river due to carelessness has major implications for the environment (Environment Agency, 2016 and Vonow, 2017). If Glastonbury chooses to follow the recommendations given above in regards to the economy, political and social influences it will become a more sustainable and positively impactful festival. To conclude festivals such as Glastonbury Festival, who have over 175,000 attendees annually and stream worldwide to an audience of millions, have a social responsibility for the negative impacts they have on all parts of society (Glastonbury Festival History, 2018)
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