Our series of interviews with the people behind Glastonbury’s fields and venues continues with Glastonbury stalwart Alister Sieghart, who tells us about the Cubana Salsa Tent.
1. How would you describe your area of the Festival to someone who hasn’t visited it before?
The Cubana Salsa Tent is the genuine Latin experience at Glastonbury – the Festival is all about having a good time, and in Latin countries they know a thing or two about that. So on top of the fantastic festival experience, you get the even more fantastic Latin party experience, with the best music late into the night, hot salsa dancing and an atmosphere that knows no limits. In the daytime we have bands and DJs interspersed with free fun salsa classes. At night we run late – our top bands come on right after the main stages finish.
2. Have you made any changes/additions for this year?
Yes, following last year’s terrific success, we’re bigger and better, with more space, an extended line-up, and in a more central location. We’re now in Holts, just along from Leftfield and Chill ‘n’ Charge.
3. Which of your acts are you most excited about in 2011?
It’s a close call, but Sur Caribe are going the extra mile for us this year. They’re a the top band from Santiago, Cuba’s musical capital, a 15-piece, with maestro Ricardo Leyva leading some of the island’s hottest young musicians. They’re coming over specially for the Festival, and will be our house band over the weekend. So as well as performing at night (Thursday and Friday) with the full ensemble, smaller groupings of band members will be providing offerings from the Cuban repertoire throughout the weekend.
4. Do you have any good food recommendations in and around your area?
Well, since last year we’ve been sponsored by Cubana bar/restaurant, so there’s great food and drink right on the spot. Cubana are a good fit not just because they’re Cuban, but also because they take a lot of trouble making sure their stuff (Latin street food) is really top quality. And they do mojitos…
5. How/when did you first get involved with the Festival?
I’m one of the few people still working for the Festival who were involved in the 1979 event – I ran the information stall, which consisted of just 2 people: myself and a girl called Lucy, under an old tipi canvas. Since then I’ve worked as a pyramid builder (1981), scaffolder, main stage crew, tractor driver, site safety patrol… I’ve performed… ummm, quite a few things. For more than twenty years I’ve been the Festival’s designer – tickets, adverts, all those vehicle passes, laminates… there’s so much that I’m actually working on the Festival the whole year round. On top of that, the salsa tent has been running since 2007 when I first floated the idea to Michael, and it’s gone from strength to strength every year.
6. What’s the best thing about running an area at Glastonbury?
You get to showcase the stuff you’re passionate about to one of the best audiences in the world.
7. And what’s the worst?
It’s a lot of work! And during the event, you don’t get enough time to go and visit all the other amazing things that are going on.
8. Is there anything outside your area at this year’s Festival that you’re particularly looking forward to?
Every year I’m blown away by something extraordinary, that I had no idea about beforehand. I’m eagerly anticipating whatever it turns out to be this time!
9. What’s the best performance you’ve ever seen at Glastonbury?
I’ve seen some extraordinary performances over the years. Some that stand out: Fela Kuti, Roy Ayers, Gil Scott-Heron, Herbie Hancock. But I’m going to give the crown to Stevie Wonder – the Festival had been trying to get him to play for a long time, and it was really worth it when it finally happened last year. (Though they let some farmer with a beard join in with one of the songs – Pyramid security isn’t what it used to be!)
10. Finally, what’s your top Glastonbury tip for people coming to the Festival for the first time?
Don’t try to do everything, accept the fact that there’s way too much going on for that. Instead, set off every day with no particular direction in mind, and see where it takes you.