Glastonbury Festival - Designing an experience

Added on 01/07/2013

I was very lucky to get a ticket to Glastonbury this year - 6 hours of travelling with what felt like my entire flat in my back pack was the start of an amazing 5 days.

It was the second time I attended, and unlike the first time there was no mud! The sun had his hat on, and similarly everyone around us had their party hats on. I had an incredible time, and the one thing that I feel sets Glastonbury apart from other festivals is the organisers attention to detail.

Designing a City

The festival has been nicknamed the “Temporary City” as it covers an area equal to the whole of Oxford. It houses 250, 000 people each year, and is officially the largest festival in the World. Apart from the sheer size, another factor which sets the festival apart from other events is that Glastonbury Festival Ltd donates most of their profits to charities.

The amount of love people have for Glastonbury is reflected in the effort that people put in to the designs that each area of the festival displays. Each area has its own theme, and so much hard work goes in to creating visually exciting designs. Trees were painted, sculptures were made, wood was carved and signs were painted. These designs start to take shape as early as a whole year before the festival - which is mad when you think that next year’s designs are already under way!

Larger than life

One area which I particularly loved was the Green Peace field. Green Peace play a huge role in the political messages that Glastonbury tries to put across, and by having their own field they really didn’t have to hold back, and this made it an exciting place to be. They had everything from hot tubs, snow, boats, icebergs and -my personal favorite- mojito chocolate truffles. Huge structures were designed to represent the state of Global warming (you could crawl through the ice-bergs to the top of the Arctic Dome) and it was the scale of these physical designs that really put their message across so well.

Not so incy-wincy spider

These infrastructures were an impressive size - but the one design of the whole festival that really blew me away was the Arcadia spider. At 30 feet high, this spider housed DJ’s in the center while shooting out fire balls and lasers into the 50,000 strong audience. The Arcadia has become an iconic design of Glastonbury, and every year goes to show just how talented the people who imagine, design and create these ideas really are!

Read all about it!

It was not just the 3D design at Glastonbury that I loved; they also had an array of printed material which had some amazing designs. There is an actual printing press at the festival where you can pick up their “Free Press” newspaper. It is printed in Pantone 207 Red, and you can actually see the press in action as it prints on 100% recycled, unbleached, 48gsm material. They printed 15,000 copies per day which meant the press was in continuous action, all day and all night. The sheet and page sizes were a little wider that the Guardian Saturday Review.

The newspaper had commissioned a new woodblock poster font, based on the distinctive hand lettering seen on the festival signs around the site which I really love. The font was hand carved into cherry wood, and we were even given the opportunity to design our own poster with their on-site letterpress!

The Phoenix has risen

The final piece of design at the festival that really needs a mention is the huge metal sculpture Phoenix that sat on top of the Pyramid stage. We were questioning whether it would move - and half way through the Rolling Stones set on the Saturday night the phoenix rose, spanned his enormous wings and spat fire out its mouth - an incredible site to see. The designer of the sculpture, Joe Rush, described the build of the bird as a “huge logistical effort”.

Glastonbury is about so much more than the music - every piece of design has been planned, tested and created from scratch. They have created their own typeface based on the hand lettering from sign painters back in the 60’s, and always exceed expectations with their 3D sculptures and set design.

A definite must do for anybody who loves design, not just music! Can’t wait to go back next year.

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