For the second in our new series of Q&As with the organisers of Glastonbury’s fields, stages and venues, we hear from the Acoustic Stage‘s Area Organiser, Stuart Witcombe.
1. How would you describe your area of the Festival to someone who hasn’t visited it before?
The Acoustic field is dominated by our fantastic Kayam tent. It’s a stunning affair with six huge spires reaching over 50 feet into the air. The field has a sort of village green atmosphere, with lots of beautiful flags, and plenty of places to sit down. Quality food can be enjoyed at, probably, the most impressive cafe on site, a two story timber built construction, brought down to Glastonbury every year, called Common Ground. It’s very impressive, and wouldn’t look at all out of place in the Swiss Alps. We even have a cinema tent, it’s a proper cinema too, with an amazing sound system, showing bang up to date movies, some of which are even in 3D. Last, but by no means least, you’re never more that a few steps from a decent pint.
2. Have you made any changes/additions for this year?
We’ve really pushed the boat out on the decor in the main venue this year. It’s always a bit of a challenge because it’s so big, but thanks to the enthusiasm of my decor and lighting people, I think it’s going to look amazing.
3. Which of your acts are you most excited about in 2011?
I’ve always been a big Floyd fan, so top of my list has to be Brit Floyd on Friday night, they’re a really tight band. If anybody wants a glimpse of how good they are, check out this video of their gig in Liverpool on YouTube.
I never listen to gospel music at home, but I wouldn’t miss The London Community Gospel Choir on Sunday. Their musical vibrancy and power is enough to uplift anybody. If you’ve not listened to gospel music live before, they are the best introduction you could possibly get.
Also, Acoustic has always been a launch platform for new bands. It’s worth coming down earlier in the day to get a glimpse of future big names. For example, Newton Faulkner, who is playing on Friday, played at Acoustic before he made it really big. Now he has a huge following.
4. Do you have any good food recommendations in and around your area?
As I mentioned before. You can’t miss Common Ground. It’s a proper building selling good quality wholesome food.
5. How/when did you first get involved with the Festival?
A friend of mine’s father used to run The Acoustic Stage. Back in 1989 I came down on a guest ticket. The day after I arrived I volunteered to help as a gate steward for the stage, and I’ve never missed a year since.
6. What’s the best thing about running an area at Glastonbury?
The crew! They are brilliant. There are a lot of them, and they’re such a mixed bunch, with a massive and diverse skill set. It’s kinda like a random bunch of people, from merchant bankers to farmers, have all run away to the circus. But only for a week or two.
Glastonbury is such a unique event to be involved in. A one off, forged together by years of dedication from everybody who has worked there. And it doesn’t matter what you do there, you can still feel proud that you’re part of what makes it work.
7. And what’s the worst?
There is an incredible amount of red tape to deal with in the months leading up to the Festival. It’s all very necessary to make sure things run smoothly, and everybody is safe. But it really doesn’t feel like ‘Rock n Roll’
8. Is there anything outside your area at this year’s Festival that you’re particularly looking forward to?
You’re joking aren’t you? I barley leave the compound! Having said that, I do sneak next door, to Kidz Field, on the odd occasion. I enjoy a few snatched moments regressing, whist watching some of the wonderful shows for younger festival goers. Don’t tell my crew though, or they’ll know where to find me!
9. What’s the best performance you’ve ever seen at Glastonbury?
Back in 1995 Portishead played at Acoustic. They’d just hit the big time and it was, and still is, the biggest crowd ever seen at The Acoustic Stage. In fact the audience spread out of our 8,000 capacity tent, across the Festival, and out of sight. There were tens of thousands, you couldn’t move for people. It was actually quite scary for a while, and then they started to play Glory Box. 20,000+ people, and you could have heard a pin drop, every single person frozen mesmerised, listening to the music. Nothing else mattered apart from the music. That’s really what The Acoustic Stage is all about, The Music..
10. Finally, what’s your top Glastonbury tip for people coming to the Festival for the first time?
Leave your preconceptions at home. There is no way to describe the Glastonbury Festival experience. When I arrived in ’89 it changed my whole philosophy. People are different, they leave the trappings of modern existence at the gate, and come alive.
It may also be worth doing some sit ups, and facial exercises before you arrive. Hours of belly laughing can really take its toll on otherwise under used muscles.