Glorious Glastonbury

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Will Beacham, ICB European bureau chief, writes about his adventures at

Glastonbury in Somerset, UK last weekend, Friday 26 to Sunday 28 June …


With the mud now removed from most of my clothes, I’m back in sunny Sutton’s ICIS office to share my experiences. Barbara only wanted the highlights of Bruce Springsteen from the comfort of her armchair. But I can tell you it was worth the effort of trudging through the fields with a pint of hot cider in my hand to watch probably the most electrifying live performance I’ve ever seen. You’d better get a ticket for next year!


For five days each year, a few fields in a quiet corner of the UK’s West Country become a throbbing city of 180,000 people. The Glastonbury Festival of the Performing Arts is a national institution. Started in 1971 by a farmer, Michael Eavis, who had an interest in music, it has grown to become Europe‘s biggest festival.


Whilst there this year, I started thinking about the organisation and economics of this event, plus its wider impact on the local area and on demand for chemicals. 


The local economy must benefit hugely from the festival. There were several hundred stalls selling everything from food to clothes to the “ShePee”, which I’ll leave to your imagination. Of the 180,000 people attending, 40,000 are workers: a major boost to the economy.     


The huge number of tents covering the site must also stimulate demand for the UK plastics industry: or more likely, China‘s plastics industry.


“Green” is certainly a key theme of the event. Woe betide anyone trying to avoid the queues at the toilets by hiding behind a bush or hedge. A team of “green police” (see video) wearing British Bobby hats coloured green patrol the site, blowing their whistles and chasing offenders.


The figures for waste produced are staggering. In 2008 the festival recycled 49% or 863.32 tonnes of its waste. This included 193.98 tonnes of composted organic waste, 400 tonnes of chipped wood, 9.12 tonnes of glass, 54 tonnes of cans and plastic bottles, 41 tonnes of cardboard, 66 tonnes of scrap metal, 11.2 tonnes of clothing, tents, sleeping bags, 0.264 tonnes of batteries, 10 tonnes of dense plastic and 0.25 tonnes plastic sheets.


This year the festival also used a fleet of New Holland tractors, all capable of running on 100% biodiesel refined from used cooking oil sourced in the UK.


This year I saw fantastic performances from Prodigy, Will Young, Tom Jones and Neil Young plus DJs like Pete Tong and Deadmau5. Don’t tell any of my cool friends, but I also loved Australian legend Rolf Harris! 


Icecream van in Glastonbury mud on the only rainy day

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Will and friends

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The shape of business travel to come 

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