Glastonbury Festival is huge. If you haven’t been before, it’s hard to picture the scale of it. A city with a population larger than Portsmouth appears in rural Somerset, and people flock from across the country to spend a week soaking up the music and sun. While the array of entertainment available is mind-blowing, the constant assault on your senses can make it overwhelming for neurodiverse and neurotypical people alike.
One of our values at Hyphen8 is to “Make a Difference”. I was lucky enough to make a difference for neurodiverse people at Glastonbury this year, and nab myself a free festival ticket in the process!
I volunteer with Diverse, a Bristol-based charity that is run by and for people that identify as Autistic or otherwise neurodiverse (e.g. ADHD). Diverse aim to grow a friendly, connected community through social activities and interests. As well organising activities across Bristol, Somerset and South Gloucestershire, they run sensory calm spaces at festivals, providing an oasis of serenity for overwhelmed, neurodiverse people to escape the chaos of the festival and to give themselves time to recharge.
With just under a week’s notice (and with the last-minute blessing of Hyphen8’s CEO), I arrived on site on Tuesday morning to help set up. Diverse ran two Calm Spaces in the festival, each of which was kitted out with thick, dark curtains, soft chairs, weighted blankets and ear defenders. All of these allowed users to block out the sensory onslaught of the festival.
We joined the Glastonbury Access Team Briefing alongside Access Stewards, Viewing Platform teams and a dedicated Deaf team! Glastonbury have been working with Attitude is Everything since 2005 to break down the barriers that disabled audience members face, and it was moving to see the number of people involved in making the festival accessible to all.
Glastonbury have been working with Attitude is Everything since 2005 to break down the barriers that disabled audience members face, and it was moving to see the sheer numbers of people involved in making the festival accessible to all.
After the festival kicked off, the Calm Spaces were open and ready to be used by anyone that needed them. This included neurodiverse people who felt overwhelmed, those who were struggling with anxiety, or some who were just curious to learn more! People who were really struggling were allowed the time to rest and recharge before making their way back into the festival.
I had so many conversations with people wanting to share their experiences of ADHD, or with family members talking about the difficulties of bringing their neurodiverse children to these kinds of events. Reading back the guest feedback after each day gave an insight into how helpful these spaces were, with people sharing how the calm space had “saved their festival” and given them “the space to recharge”.
I’ve been to a few festivals over the years, but never as a volunteer (usually preferring to prioritise my own needs and my musical wishlist). Volunteering with Diverse really enhanced my experience of the festival, and I can’t wait to work with them again.
To find out more about Diverse, and the activities that they offer, see their website here: https://www.diverseuk.org/
If you’re planning on attending Glastonbury next year and want to learn more about the Access facilities available, see here: https://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/information/access-information/
To learn more about Attitude is Everything, and the work they do to improve access to music and live event, see here: https://attitudeiseverything.org.uk/