One man’s rubbish is another man’s canvas…apparently! 2022 marks the first post pandemic Glastonbury fest. The 900-acre site will host over 210,000 people (including 60,000 staff) onto the fields of Worthy Farm, Somerset. According to previous statistics, 17,000 bins are needed throughout the festival.
Each year, every single 45-gallon oil drum bin is individually hand painted with a beautiful bespoke design, turning the 17,000 rubbish vehicles into works of art. Sure, their primary role is to keep Glasto green but on a secondary level, the art contributes to the escapism sphere that the festival is famous for delivering year after year.
In today’s day and age, where efficiency and budget rule, a commercial event commissioning 17,000 hand painted bespoke artworks, on bins at that, is a reassuring sight to see. The idea actually dates back to the 1980s with the idea stemming from festival founder Michael Eavis.
The oil drums are neatly stacked and stored through winter on the farm. In the weeks leading up to the event, the oil drums are scraped down with wire brushes to remove decay, then a base paint layer is added, followed by the decoration artwork layer. And finally, they are distributed to different parts of the site via tractor (this takes place on a working farm after all).
This process is carried out by two groups of painters. One team is made up of approximately ten professional paid artists living on the site, painting for ten long weeks. The other team of 80 volunteers live on site for three weeks in exchange for their ticket, and one heck of a life experience.
Both teams work tireless 40-hour weeks, painting together, eating together and living together on site; as a result the sense of community and joy here is palpable.
After a day of painting, brushes are put down and cleaned, and teams return from the many corners of the farm to their camp. From hosting quiz nights and talent contests to sharing the results of the day’s work, the evenings are where the spirit and bond of the group grows even tighter.
Another thing that becomes apparent from spending time within this community and chatting to many painters is the overwhelming sense of escapism from the everyday. This feels more akin to an artist residency than conventional work.
A motif that appears in many conversations is the pride in the accessibility of the art; it’s for everyone. It’s seen as the antithesis of the often gate kept art world. Bins feature everything from the solar system to Harry Styles, zebras at a birthday party, wellington boots, Dali’s melting clocks, a Campbell’s soup can, Diana Ross, Mr Blobby, Stonehenge, sound waves, the Pyramid Stage, peacocks, palaces in the sky, Prince, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Michael Eavis’s face as a Teletubby-esque sun, Viking longships, mushrooms, Frida Kahlo and flowers… many, many flowers.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the bins and the intricacy of the the art that graces them as well as the process, are just a small part of what makes Glastonbury feel so special and iconic.