BLOG: Glastonbury – the highs and lows

Posted on 16.06.2016

BLOG: Glastonbury – the highs and lows

For Diabetes Week 2016, guest blogger Imogen Lee shares a great Glastonbury experience...

I spent much of the run up to my first Glastonbury hypoing. For the months leading up to it I dreamt that the festival could be a celebratory end to finishing the final chapter of my PhD. Instead the unconscious stress that coursed through my veins forced my blood sugar levels down so often and so unexpectedly that concentration and words slipped passed me…again. The night before travelling to the festival I felt that I had failed to achieve my dream. I sat on my bed in tears. The next day and for the rest of the festival I would continue to hypo on a daily basis.

This could have made for an awful festival experience, but it didn’t. This is partly because Glastonbury is unlike any festival I’ve been to. Here are a few reasons why the festival is worth investigating and investing in if you have Type-1 diabetes, or any other long-term and fluctuating health condition.

Food

Despite taking enough snacks, Lucozade and glucose tablets to last me through a zombie apocalypse (especially handy on the long coach ride back), the food stands made low levels more bearable. There were, for example, some great late night options. So post-gig, pre-Shangri La, instead of feeling like a boring diabetic who needed to eat a Go Ahead bar, lows were buoyed by the comfort foods I knew the value of, such as toast and jam or porridge and bananas. Dinners and lunches could be carb free thanks to a plethora of awesome mezze, jerk and roast chicken stands. Or I could take my chances on the carb-lottery with crepes or pakoras. The only hiccup came when I left my tent without Lucozade, which on a site of nearly 1000 acres does not make for a quick walk back. Obviously though drink options were plentiful and being Glastonbury, when the guy in the queue overheard my boyfriend and I panicking, he asked if I’d like to go in front of him. Because people at Glastonbury are, in the main, lovely like that.

People

What makes Glastonbury particularly inspiring are the thousands of people who put their heart and soul into creating a world that exists, only for one week. Their sheer purpose for one week is to make people happy. From the painted bins and silk flags that trail the site like a Hansel and Gretel map to the Blues stage and Block Nine, the site is an all-consuming spectacle.

Obligatory flag shot...

It meant that even when I felt rough and was missing an act, there was always something in front of me that was equally worth seeing and almost certainly more unexpectedly delightful. That’s what made Glastonbury special, I could enjoy being where I was, when I was. I spent most of Sunday in the Healing Fields dozing and taking advantage of the free hour-long yoga sessions. It was, as ever, just what my body needed. In fact about 80 per cent of what made the festival great for me was that my diabetes did not stop me doing anything, even if it did, from time to time, make me do it differently. A lot of this was because of the facilities and staff.

Disabled access

Every year the campsite has a different theme.

I stayed in the accessible, ‘disabled’ campsite, Spring Ground. This had unexpected advantages for me. It allowed me to use a fridge to keep my insulin and ice blocks cool and gain the gleeful camaraderie of seeing someone else’s insulin in there too! It allowed me access to a sterile space if I needed to change my cannula in the middle of the night and being surrounded by trees, it offered quiet respite after a day of hypos that left me a little too tired. I could take a shuttle bus out across the site to two different locations if I needed to.

I also had access to the viewing platforms at all the main stages, which I was again not expecting to use, but when I hypoed in the middle of Public Enemy I could still enjoy the set, rather than be distracted by the prospect of being danced on while I hypoed.

Public Enemy from the West Holts viewing platform.

By Sunday night after my final hypo of the festival I stood on the viewing platform at the John Peel tent singing my heart out to Phoenix. When I was eleven I dreamt of going to Glastonbury, at fifteen I dreamt of meeting John Peel and at sixteen I listened to Phoenix and dreamt that at some point I would 'feel better'. After fourteen years it appeared that I had achieved quite a few of my dreams.

Your right to let go like everybody else

Thanks in no small part to the work of Attitude is Everything, similar facilities are becoming more common at festivals. I recommend that anybody with a disability or long-term health condition, hidden or otherwise, asks about access facilities. And when they’re not there demand them, whether directly by contacting the festival/venue, or indirectly, by getting involved with Attitude is Everything. The more vocal we are, the more likely people are going to feel comfortable about their conditions and the more the industry will see access as a valuable necessity not an additional expense. This is not about special treatment, this is about levelling the playing field and encouraging more people to discover the sheer delight of standing in a field singing at the top of your voice with 20,000 others, being able to let go like everybody else.

Imogen writes about history, landscape, gardening and health on her website With A Bit Of Earth

You can also follow her on Twitter (@talkingimo) and Instagram