We live next to Glastonbury and can see the whole festival from our gardens – the perks you get are ridiculous | The SunJune 22, 2023
WITH its pretty stone cottages and less than a thousand residents, Pilton is a picture-perfect village of tranquility.
But for five days every year it is home to the world-famous Glastonbury Festival, with over 200,000 visitors descending on to the fields around it.
Preparation for the event starts weeks before revellers start arriving, gradually transforming the streets and adjoining countryside of the usually quiet Somerset village into a hive of activity.
The four-metre tall, 8km long ‘super fence’ can be seen snaking around the 900 acres of rolling farmland the site covers across the Vale of Avalon, which is actually six miles away from the bohemian town of Glastonbury.
The million-pound fence is a wooden structure joined by metal batons, devoid of screws, nuts or bolts – so it is virtually impenetrable and can’t be dismantled by would-be ticket dodgers.
The sheer scale of the festival, with its madness and mayhem, could be enough to annoy even the most laid back of residents, but Pilton-born Eavis, 87, has had more than 50 years to fine-tune the operation he runs with daughter Emily.
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So, what’s it’s really like living in Pilton during the globally famous festival?
The Sun recently spent the day there to find out.
Approaching the village by car days before the festival kicked off, we were met by an orange-jacketed security man, who got up from his chair to eyeball us as we drove past.
We soon learned his colleagues were dotted around the village, increasing in number nearer to the site.
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The only shop in the village, the local Co-op, is difficult to walk round because of the stacks of extra beer and cider crates stacked in the middle of the floor.
A shop worker explained festival-goers shop there for cheaper drinks, queueing out of the door until all stock is used up. Last year a pint of lager at Glastonbury was around £6, though prices are likely to go up even more this year.
As we wander around chatting to locals, it’s clear the festival is mostly viewed in a positive light – not least because everyone who lives there gets a free ticket, worth £355.
Amber Westmacott, 26, and Ash Thick, 27, a builder, moved to Pilton five years ago, and rent one of 52 new properties built on land donated by Michael Eavis.
The live there with their children Chester, six, Carter, four, and two-year-old Luna.
Admin assistant Amber told The Sun: “We didn’t move because of the free festival tickets, but it’s great that they come with it.
“The Eavis family do a lot for the community, because they’ve grown up here and because they want to give back. Michael himself is very approachable, and Emily is friendly too.
“They obviously want the festival to cause as little stress as possible to the villagers, so we’re offered free tickets which we apply for online and then collect at the village hall.
“We always go to Glastonbury, and take the kids for the experience and atmosphere, but we don’t do the whole site as it’s too tiring for them.
“You can transfer the tickets to family, or you’re given the option to sell the tickets back to the festival at face value if you don’t want them, and lots of people do that and go on holiday instead.”
Although road closures around the village and the surrounding area are heavily guarded by the marshals with radios, locals come and go as they please with car-parking passes visible in their windscreens.
Otherwise, cars are stopped and asked where they are going, even in the days leading up to the festival, just in case anyone is planning to sneak in ahead of time.
John Pratt is a retired education officer who has lived in the village for 23 years.
He said: “When I first came here, I remember there were people walking the streets carrying cider or beer and it could be a bit scary because you weren’t quite sure if they were going to be friendly or not.”
The huge, more secure fence was erected in 2002 response to a meeting involving residents, the police and the ambulance service, to stop people who hadn’t registered or paid from entering the event site through a hedge.
John recalled a story from a local man in the nearby village of Ashcott. He was reportedly held up at knifepoint by some festival-goers and had his arm broken as they tried to steal his car.
John said: “Things improved after the meeting and the organisers agreed to put the fence up. There were a few incidents of people driving their car into it, to try to gain entry, but they weren’t successful.
“It means any ‘untowards’ are mostly kept out, and legitimate people can enjoy the festival while residents feel much safer.”
Another long-term resident, who asked not to be named, recalled the years before the erection of the super-fence.
“Twenty or thirty years ago festival week was absolute chaos. The traffic blocked the streets of the village, and you couldn’t get out of your house to get to work.
“People were abandoning cars to get into the festival and jumping through hedges, so they didn’t have to pay. It’s much better now the fences are up.
“They do come down into the village but don’t bother us too much and are generally well-behaved and respectful.
“The Eavis family put a lot of effort into making sure the residents aren’t disturbed.”
Having been in the village for generations, it’s easy to bump into an Eavis.
We visited one of the homes closest to the site and the door was answered by a friendly man who invited us to see the view of the super-fence at the back of his sprawling garden.
He introduced himself as Phillip Eavis, Michael’s younger brother. As we left Phillip’s property, we noticed his swimming pool bore a sign reading: “Private, please keep out.”
Another local told us in the past trespassers had been found on his property, once going for a midnight swim and on another occasion smoking marijuana.
Exactly the same sign is seen repeatedly on homes and properties around the village, apparently provided by Michael upon request.
Safety, it appears, is paramount.
More marshals are seated along residents’ roads throughout the village during the five days, even overnight, along with the heavy police presence.
Flo Sumner, 27, and husband Andy, who have a one-year-old daughter called Elodie, love the fact they get to enjoy the festival on their doorstep.
“We’ve enjoyed quite a few festivals and most of the community appreciate the work that goes into making us feel involved and welcome.
“We also feel completely safe during the festival because there is much security around at this time of the year.”
Resident Mikhael Nyblom, 75, lives in Bread Street.
He says he enjoys the festival most years, but cited problems with traffic and noise among the negative aspects.
He said: “We are told we must move our cars to let traffic through, but it’s difficult to find other convenient places, especially if you have someone like builders working on your house, or a lay-by like the one I have outside.
“You can hear the festival going on, which is expected and fine before midnight, but when it’s 3am and people are still partying it’s not acceptable, you can still hear it, especially depending on the way the wind is blowing.
“It’s a small price to pay to get free tickets I suppose, and we do enjoy going most years.”
One anon resident said: “The Eavis family are lovely and do a lot for the village, but I don’t think they realised how big it would become, so they had to address the problems as they came along, responding to our concerns as best they could.
“It’s pretty well run now and causes barely any problems.”
And Michael Eavis gives more than just free tickets back to the close-knit community.
Earlier this month football pundit Gary Lineker officially opened 20 social rent housing on land Michael donated.
It was the second phase of the build, with David Beckham opening the houses built in the first phase five years ago.
Speaking about the new homes, Michael said: "Pilton is really important to me – it's where I was born, where I have lived man and boy, where I have brought up my family, and, of course, it has been home to the festival for more than 50 years now.
“With rural house prices so often out of reach for local people, these houses give villagers, most of whom are working families who live around here, the opportunity to live here for the rest of their lives at a social rent.”
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He said of all the things he’s achieved in his life, it’s the thing he is most proud of.
Meanwhile his most famous legacy is about to light up the fields around Worthy Farm in the Avalon Valley before peace is restored for another year.
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