2014 Glastonbury Website Poet in Residence: Rob Auton


June 29, 2014

benchman
Photo: Julian Ward

This year’s Glastonbury Festival official website poet in residence Rob Auton has ideas, writes them down and says some of them out loud to audiences at poetry nights, comedy nights, cabaret nights and more recently in theatres at theatre nights.  He has had his poetry played on the radio and on the television and was recently described by the Independent as both “lanky” and “a talent to watch.”

This is Rob’s seventh time at Glastonbury but his first time with any responsibilities. He once had his photograph taken with Michael Eavis but the flash didn’t work.  Expect words and writings coming from the mouth and pen of a man who knows what a pigeon looks like. Follow Rob on Twitter.

Beyond belief

I believe in a country called Glastonbury
Where legends go for fun
Where people pour themselves a cup of ambition
Where songs force people to form circles full of love
Where emotions rain down and soak through from above
Where politicians would work with blistered hands
A Joe Strummer quote hangs framed above each of their desks
“People can change anything they want to and that means everything in the world”
On the black door of number ten would read the white painted words
HUMANITY FOR ALL
A country where people dance on the unforgiveness of a supermarket floor
Where sequinned circus sensations seep from ceilings of estate agents that only deal in tents
Art branches through the trees
Mud stained adult’s knees
Dragons with children for a heart
Where suits are worn as fancy dress and you can paint your face as a tiger without receiving a stare
They are too busy being their own animal to care
Where strangers can be stranger
Where a party is shutting eyes and biting bottom lips
Not pointing at another party with a finger of accusation
Too busy baking bread in the ground to sigh at someone pushing
Balloons for hair
Music for air
Up and down and high and low and thick and thin and wide and narrow and tall and asleep and awake and together and apart and short and shiny and dull and light and dark and young and old and wet and dry and hot and cold and strong and weak and happy and sad and soft and hard and hit and miss and clean and dirty and this and that and here and there and life and death
Within the walls it is magnified
People being people the only way they know how
The only way I know how
To try to make it work
To try to find those pools of what it feels like to just exist on this planet
A break from reality spent in reality
Thanks for having me

Register

Pyramid Stage
Half past nine
Saturday night
I stand alone at a microphone
Metallica sit backstage ready and waiting to turn mud to metal
I tap the microphone twice with my index finger
Silence of thousands fills field
When it is quiet enough to hear the whispers
I begin to take a register to find out who is in the crowd
An extensive list of names and towns
“Dave from Birmingham?” Twenty three people put their hands up and start shouting
“YEEEEEEEAHHHHH that’s me! I’m Dave from Birmingham”
The Daves cheer as they realise they are all called Dave
And they are all from Birmingham
A strong bond
Even though they are miles apart they excuse their way to create Dave Town
When united by name and hands they rejoice in what they have in common
Everybody else is waiting for Metallica
“We are the Daves! The Daves of Birmingham!”
I continue to call out more names
“Rachael from London?”
Screams red flare into the air
“I am Rachael from London”
“Me too”
Black biro in hand I tick my way through the name place combinations
A sheet of paper clipped to a clipboard
Why do I have to have a clipboard in my dreams?
I want a piece of paper that is as solid as a clipboard
A piece of paper that believes in itself so much you don’t have to rest it on anything
I don’t just want that in my dreams I want that in real life
Stiff strong paper
Maybe the paper cuts would end too many lives
I begin to eat into Metallica’s allotted time as the crowd call out requests
“Do Nigel from Inverness! That’s me!”
I look out to the crowd,
So many stories behind each face
All gathered here with their names
I call out four final names
James, Lars, Kirk and Robert from Los Angeles California
Four men walk out onto the stage
I take a black kazoo from my pocket and ready myself next to the lead guitarist
ONE
TWO
THREE
FOUR

Special Guest

The sky wasn’t a fan of Rudimental
“What a racket” it rumbled
Lightning looked at their lighting design and forked it off our Pyramid plate
Somebody pressed pause on the party
It went from hailing the ones from Hackney to hail hitting heads
Hysterical rain of laughter
Sometimes you need something to stop to realise it was moving
A train
A festival
The storm performed an unlisted set on every stage and left without an encore
A rainbow gave the Earth a brightly coloured handle
A bag of world with this festival in it
Precious goods

The sun has taken his hat off to the Festival

The obese rain hits my paper cupped too hot tea
Each drop a cooling kiss from the… what?
It’s raining and I’ve got a too hot cup of tea and the rain is cooling it down
Thanks nature
Another unsheltered one eats a watermelon
The wettest watermelon I have ever witnessed
It is more water than it is melon
People all over the site are finding out quickly if their waterproofs are waterproof
If rain gave you a suntan
I would be badly burnt
Mother nature is a modern art movement and it is painting these fields with wrong chocolate Angel Delight
Hair is hatted or hooded for some
For others the weather simply doesn’t exist
Sunshine on the brain
Bathing in the beauty of the beast

Wild life

What if it was other creatures that put this festival on?
No humans allowed
Forced to watch on through the non-existent gaps in the fence
Where animals live the time of their lives
Chimpanzees jumping up and down on the stones of the circle at sunrise
Oooh oooh aaah aaahing at the rise of the burn of the big ball
Eyes wide as they will go
Fingers outstretched
Alive and jumping
A butterfly watches on with tears in its eyes as a caterpillar attends a salsa class
A sea lion DJays in the Rabbit Hole
At the back a killer whale stands on its own in smiling silence
Stood smart and shining in its pristine black and white suit
Finning out big fish, little fish, cardboard box
Lions and Zebras with U.V kissed foreheads rave in harmony
In the circus tent a badger breathes fire as a snake swallows a samurai sword
A wolf huffs and puffs and blows a kiss at a little pig dressed as a pug
In the Green Fields two rabbits give a massage to a pregnant orang-utan
Her eyes look like they have been closed forever
Camels sit around a fire on humps of stone talking about what it is like to be a camel in today’s society
How inspired we would be to see this gathering of life
Looking on in jealousy and wonder at what they have created
Why didn’t humans think to do this?
Humans did think to do this
Humans stripped back to the bones of their humanity
It is only Friday
It was Friday last week
Who knew two days with the same name could be so unlike one another
The barriers are coming down
Bumping into people is encouraged
Imagination and energy flowing through Avalon
So many variations of human
Wild life getting wilder

Window

I am in a portacabin behind the Other Stage writing this
The window is open because I just opened it
I wouldn’t have dared to do that when I first arrived on Wednesday
I opened a window at Glastonbury
I have been here quite a few times before and I have never had the opportunity to do that
Thousands of people on site will not get to open a window this weekend
Not one with glass in it anyway
I am not boasting
With the window open I can hear Blondie playing
Music followed by cheers

They are watching Blondie
I just opened a window

Both valid means of entertainment

Teeth

There are a lot of teeth at this festival
There are a lot of people too
There are more teeth than people
I am glad it is not the other way around
It’s convenient that teeth are small and in people’s mouths
Not big and out of mouths and walking about
If teeth were the size of an average gravestone with the ability to party
There would be a lot less room here
We are lucky our teeth are prepared to share a tent
The tent called the mouth
They don’t even get to see that much of the bands
And the teeth of rockstars don’t get to see their fans too much either
Fixed and stuck in gums waiting to be called into action
A bite, a clench, or maybe a smile
If all the teeth that got through the gate were in one big mouth
How big a bite would the teeth be able to make in the world?
A big enough bite to make a difference?

He is with us

His words echo off every blade of grass
Determination bounces off trees and into minds
The smoke from his pipe in every plume
No instruments to plug in apart from his guts and grit
He is with us
In every “hold on just a minute”
In every “I can’t stand by and just watch that”
In every bang of a fist on a table
In every teenager who realises for the first time that something isn’t quite right
He is with us
In every mention of equality
In the absurdity of war
The coals of the fires he left behind are hot and glowing with his words
Striking a match under the apathetic
He said he came to Glastonbury every year for one simple reason “because I need a boost”
Filling heads with realisation that it is on us if we want to make a change
On us to make a difference
On us to move forwards not backwards
Making people feel those flames in their chest
That heat that comes from someone who is blazing with heart
Minds loaded with what he left behind
A huge Left Field welcome for Tony Benn
Applause
Action

26 June

Block 9 Summer Wine

Cars sit parked high in the side of buildings
Petrol fuelled meteors crashed in from the highways of imagination
What was once country air is now smoke with laser scaffolds
Glitter in beards in leotards on legs dance above the lookers up
This is what the opposite of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ looks like
This is ‘The first of the absolute apocalyptic carnage in a glass tipped over your head and in your eyes’
Whistles in my ear whistle me away
I am sat solo in the Avalon Cafe
Watching a Brazilian film, City of God without the shine and the chickens
The subtitles read
“Look at that dog, he is always like that.”
A dog was barking at a man
If my mind was a dog it would be barking at the moment
Barking at this
This Glastonbury
The wildest of animals too magical to tame

Beyond the back of my mind

“This is a very old and ancient sage.”
A lady dressed up as some sort of red and white skull faced Captain Hook’s bit on the side is holding sage under my nose
“Here! Here! Look this one is a Mexican Marigold.”
Alan Titchmarsh would love this lady
In ‘The Back of Beyond’ I believe what people tell me
I believe what people show me
A screen censored dancer moves perfectly in time with her silhouette
An indoor tree stands seasoned with people’s paper wishes
There is a coffin that is not for death
People who are very alive are lying in it
A coffin must feel spoilt when it has more than one person use it
One of the death crew paints faces from a palette of magpie colours
Publishing on skin what will come to us after life
These people come for the people
The people come for these people
One youthful rucksacked youth says “I might go home”
And then laughs hysterically

Secure

I show the security guard my wristband as asked
Without anything nearly resembling a smile he says
“Sorry mate, no troublemakers are allowed in today.”
He has said this to me the four times I have seen him
I don’t say anything until he says
“Only joking in you go.”
He either has a very good memory
Or somehow knows I take security guards seriously
Or he is saying this to EVERYBODY
Or maybe he is a from the circus field and is in a very realistic costume

Spread

A day and a half of this has weathered the faces
Some people look ever so slightly sun-dried
There are a lot of red necks here
Not that type
At the morning taps bags under eyes bulge with the findings and losings of last night
Bags packed with bonfire smoke and the first hints of what’s to come
Come Monday morning those bags will be fit to burst with what Worthy has given
Glastonbury is what a supermarket would be like if supermarkets sold good times instead of chicken spread
Here the fields are the bread and the people are spread
It has started to rain
The bread and the spread are getting wet

Billy Violets

The Green Crafts field is where the logs are reincarnated
Beautiful blocks rescued from the burn of the tree surgery
Annette has brought the wood back to life
A mini mountainous masterpiece with moss for music
Four seasons all at once
There is a real warmth to that field
A harmony of voices intent on creating
Jim with watering can in hand was giving it a glint
A dedicated desire to introduce children to the art of gardening
Billy Violets with the bark for skin sits atop of this wooden world
A love for the land passed on from generations gone by
I looked to my right and saw what looked like a copper shark spinning
Just like my head

Rocket Night

In the Rocket Lounge my Glastonbury took off
Man in pork pie hat put trumpet to face
It could have easily been a man in a pork pie costume
But on this occasion it was a man in a hat
No jelly involved
He inflated the inflatable parts of his face that were his cheeks
Did what he needed to do with his fingers and blew
No sound
A silent trumpet
Pointed upwards until the sound desk brought the brass
Heads and hearts filled with that shiniest of sounds
If they sold that tent in a camping shop the label would read
“Sadproof tent
Wakes three hundred
Special features include ska band ‘The Guns of Navarone’
This model comes with a cocktail bar and staff”
The guns fired into the crowd
Blobbing bending bullets of bass hit the back of every knee in there
Heads upped and downed
People started to skank out their night
Was I skanking? I am not sure
It felt like I was and that is what matters to me

25 June

Army

It’s an army of heart that makes this happening happen
Hammering heaving pulling pushing
In love with their labour of love
Driving dragging building binding
Hours and days and weeks and months
Gripping gluing taping training
Eyes on the prize of changing lives
Chopping clearing lifting loading
To show us what we have never seen
Fixing fitting spraining sweating
Giving us the gift of not knowing what’s around the corner
Planting pumping welding wiring spraying seeing sawing stretching stitching
All that work for those who woke and hoped and clicked and refreshed and prayed and cheered and earnt and saved and begged and borrowed and packed and travelled and arrived and pitched and discovered

In the queue for the bus at Victoria station 10.23am

“Did you know that he got a D in GCSE English?”
With arms and back and front fully loaded for fields
I wondered who they could have been talking about
A friend who is always saying how good he is at spelling?
Maybe she had been reading somebody’s autobiography
Bono?
Jesus?
Who got a better mark at GCSE English? Bono or Jesus?
Jesus never wrote an autobiography but if he did I think it would have its own stand in a book shop
“Where are you? We are in the bus queue. Hurry up.”
Voices up and down this line simmer with burning anticipation for the next few days
“I can’t wait to see Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs”
Some people in this queue must have a history with our destination
The future laid out before us
Along with the Festival

Glastonbury bound bus

“Can I sit here?”
“Yes no problem”
I wonder if we will talk?
We won’t because i am writing this in my note pad
Writing about a conversation instead of trying to make one
Do I prefer it like this?
Not all the time
The conversations on this bus are at thirty percent volume
People are either asleep or saving their breath
They will need it where we are going
Lungs are essential at Glastonbury
As are conversations at one hundred percent volume

Butterdrive

From the bus window I saw a London based butterfly
It was flying in the same direction as our bus
Was that butterfly flying to Glastonbury?
How green of it to grow its own wings and fly all the way to the Festival
No exhaust fumes or vapour trails left behind it
A carbon footprint free living thing
It didn’t look to be taking very much stuff
I guess you don’t need that much when you are a butterfly
Some wings
A body
A desire to party
No need for a tent, a change of clothes or a sleeping bag
Butterflies break out of a sleeping bag once in their life and never climb back into one
I am at the Festival now but I haven’t seen that butterfly yet
I have a feeling it might get here quite late
I wonder if I will bump into it over the next few days
Do you even notice if you bump into a butterfly?
I have already seen a lady dressed up as a butterfly
She had so much stuff with her though

Zips

I’ve seen so many zips today
Zips zipping bulging journeys together
Closing front doors of tents
Making things away
Zips look like they have never worked so hard
Look at all these zips
Miles and miles of zips
Zip upon zip of zip
Zipping up people’s weekends of wonder
All zips and no zops
If a zip was a zop, what would it be? Nothing!
I salute the zips
I haven’t seen one person dressed up as zippy yet though
It is only Wednesday I guess
If Whitcomb L. Judson had been at Victoria coach station this morning
He would have cried at the widespread use of his invention
“They are being used, look at that, people look like they need zips”

17 June: Friend of the Farm

Packing to visit the friend that is the farm
The friend that is the farm that is the freedom and the fire and the fun
When you pack to visit a friend do you pack a gazebo that you are going to build in your friend’s mouth with the intention of leaving it there?
Who would pitch a gazebo in their friend’s mouth and then drive off?

The friend that is the farm has a face
Hedgerows for eyebrows
Eyebrows frowning at the thought of winding up wet with waz
Who urinates on the eyebrows of their friend?
If your friend lets you urinate on their eyebrows do you really want to be friends with them?

The friend that is the farm anticipates the arrivals
Blades of grass sit silent, waiting to cushion the back of hope filled humanity heads
Trees welling up with golden sap tears
They’ve been praying for Dolly for years

The friend that is the farm has fields full of faith for us as humans
Trusts us to treat it the way that we would want to be treated if we were farms
Our friend that is the farm is a friend like no other
Our friend who is hosting the finest example of what spirit can be
Our friend with the musical heart that is beating to the sound of our silent excitement
Our friend who is waiting to give us the party of our lives
Our friend the farm worthy of hosting the world
Our friend called Glastonbury

 

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