The cancellation of Glastonbury 2021 is a huge disappointment for the 210,000 music lovers who had booked tickets, and has sent tremors of concern through the events industry.
But it is also devastating for hundreds of local businesses, clubs, charities and thousands of individuals who face disastrous losses of income because the extravaganza is not going ahead.
The festival is worth tens of millions of pounds to the Somerset economy, and businesses from bakeries to sign-makers, and including suppliers of marquees, lighting rigs and sound systems, are counting the cost.
Locals who work as technicians, stage hands, fence-makers, security guards, toilet cleaners, performers and in countless other roles will be looking for alternative work in the high summer.
Steve Henderson, a butcher and Glastonbury town councillor, said a lot of people depended on the festival. “It’s not just the tradespeople that do business there. It’s the charities, the sports clubs who rely on it for fundraising. It’s a blow for a lot of people.”
EM Print and Signs relies on Glastonbury for about a fifth of its annual turnover. It produces signage, handbooks, banners and letterheads. “The festival is a very large customer,” said director Martin Linter. “We’ve managed before in fallow years so we’ll have to focus on looking for other work. But it is a big miss for us.”
Charlotte Grant, who provides festivalgoers with cordials, smoothies and teas made from foraged ingredients, said she was “gutted” but not surprised.
“Obviously this is a blow for us, not only just financially because of the festival itself, but also because of what this means for other events this year. Having spent the last nine years building a festival-based business it is a bit scary, but we are trying to stay positive and fingers crossed we can survive. We are just trying to look forward and thinking about when we can all get together and party in fields again – the first festival back will feel so good.”
Hotels, B&Bs and local people who rent their homes out during the festival will also feel its loss.
Ten minutes from the site, the 17th-century Pennard House hires out its rooms and tipis in its grounds.
“Glastonbury is a great boost for the local economy in many different ways,” said owner Harry Dearden. “During the festival period, pubs, restaurants and local retail outlets all see increased business and there is huge demand for accommodation of all sorts, from hotels to small B&Bs or even temporary pop-up glamping accommodation in people’s gardens.
“It’s an incredibly well-run enterprise that gives a lot back to the community so it will always be missed when it’s not on. And particularly after this year would have been a hugely welcome boost to morale if it could have safely taken place.”
Clare Charlton, who runs Pilgrims B&B in Glastonbury, has a full house of festivalgoers when it goes ahead. “It’s not looking good for lots of people,” she said. “Glastonbury is a huge chunk of many people’s business. I think some businesses aren’t going to survive this.”
Nobody is complaining about the cancellation – they understand it makes perfect sense.
Paul Norton, the owner of Tor Town Taxis, said: “They had no choice, but it affects us terribly. We do a lot of work transferring people from train stations and airports to the festival. We’re very worried about things at the moment.”
Vicki Steward, a photographer, writer and creator of the Normal for Glastonbury blog, usually works as a site manager for the Glasto Latino area at the festival. “It’s a real shame. Many local businesses started up because of Glastonbury, hiring tents or sound systems. I’m concerned that some of them will pack up and do something different. They might have been able to hang on after last year but this may be too much. There may be people abandoning a life in the creative industries.”
The Tor rugby club in Glastonbury has been running a Mexican food stall at the festival for over 20 years. “We raise enough money at Glastonbury to cover our running costs for the year,” said the club president, Richard Hopkins.
When last year’s festival was cancelled the club tried to make up the shortfall by running a Mexican takeaway. “We’ll have to think up new ways of making our money and lessen the impact,” said Hopkins.
Glastonbury poet Lisa Goodwin has run the pop-up Magic Hat cafe at Glastonbury and other festivals, but has now sold her equipment. “Glastonbury gave us enough income to allow us to go to other less lucrative festivals,” she said. “It’s mortifying for so many people that it’s been cancelled. It’s not just about business, it’s about getting together with your tribe, people you see every year.”
Goodwin won the Poetry Slam at the festival in 2019 and hoped that would be her “golden ticket” to perform back at Glastonbury and elsewhere. “I had planned to get more gigs but that is impossible now.”
Meanwhile she has written a poem looking forward to whenever the festival takes place again:
“I want to go to Glastonbury
Come sunshine or come flood
I’ll be tripping on the dusty rocks or slipping in the mud.”