It’s easy to forget that, behind a huge branded event like Glastonbury, real people with genuine empathy are working behind the scenes, not just to make the thing happen, but to ensure that those attending feel safe, cared for and included.
Laura Whitehurst was one such festival goer, who almost didn’t make it to the fields this year after a horrific incident in April left her with crippling anxiety about attending.
Writing in a blog post titled ‘An Open Letter To Glastonbury, From A Victim’ Laura explains how she attempted to get a refund following her experience.
“I was lucky enough to get tickets to Glastonbury for the first year ever, with a group of friends who were equally as excited as I was – WhatsApp groups sharing outfits and line up rumours sprung up within minutes of receiving the golden tickets, and June 2017 could not come soon enough.
“Unfortunately for me, something horrible happened in April 2017, months before we were due to jump on the 2am coach down south. I was sexually assaulted by two of these ‘friends’ after a night where I had mistakenly put my drunken trust in these guys at an after-party. My memories of the night were hazy; the drunken texts with other friends to come and save me, coupled with the injuries I sustained were not.
“At the crisis centre the next day, as I lay sobbing on the table being photographed and probed by 4 nurses, I received a barrage of phone calls and threats from certain friends telling me to go home, to not report it. Telling me that no it wasn’t consensual but ‘don’t ruin the group’ and ‘don’t ruin Glastonbury for us all.’ The nurses were asking me to report it to the police, but I was receiving 15 voicemails a day with threats from these friends, and with every threat received, another inch of my fight would disappear.
“Eventually, the harassment got worse. I couldn’t turn my phone on without getting more. I blocked the numbers, the contacts on Facebook, the accounts on Instagram, but they’d find more ways to get to me. This is the point I went to the police.
“After a harrowing three hour video interview, I still couldn’t feel relieved. I had taken time off work, I was barely surviving on two months worth of SSP & I was receiving threats not to attend the festival that I had been looking forward to for months.
“The police officer recommended I get in touch with the festival, and try and ask for a refund to help my money troubles. I was gutted, but we agreed for my own personal safety whilst investigations were ongoing, it was the best route to take.”
However, when she managed to get hold of festival organisers, it didn’t end up being quite the simple transaction she perhaps had in mind.
“I couldn’t find a number, nor an email to contact, so I filled out a 500 word enquiry form on the website, assuming that with a festival that size receiving hundreds of enquiries per day, my plead for support may get overlooked.
“Instantly I received an email from an amazing human being – Marianna – who told me the Events Operations Lead would give me a call.
“I received a call off Adrian a few days later. Adrian is an ex police officer, and asked me to tell him what happened. It felt difficult disclosing the details over the phone to a stranger, but he made me feel at ease.
“Instantly he set to work. He told me he would do everything in his power to make sure I could attend the festival, and would put a safeguarding procedure in place to ensure I could. He contacted the DC at the police station dealing with my case, and together they devised a plan. Despite the fact he – as the Events Operations Lead – had one of the busiest jobs in the world weeks before the festival, he dedicated himself personally to me. I was overwhelmed.”
To Laura’s surprise, the Glastonbury team executed their plan to include her from the festival gates right to the end, giving her and friend Tom hospitality passes to use the backstage bars if she needed a quiet moment, a new camping space, and a special letter.
“I arrived at the festival with Tom at 8am on the Wednesday, and pulled into the staff car park, far away from where the rest of the revellers would be arriving. I was asked to call Marianna at this point and let her know I had arrived, so we started to attempt to load all of our belongings for five days, plus 3 crates and a shocking tent onto our backs. Marianna arrived, with a beautiful girl named Kerry driving a security vehicle, and both greeted me with the loviest hug someone driving through the night could ever ask for. They were so unbelievably sweet and welcoming it was like meeting old friends again. They helped us load our stuff into the van and told us to jump in. We had no idea they were going to take us anywhere, we were prepared for the long, sweaty trek to the queue like the rest. They drove us up the the gate, and got out with us, with all of our things. At this point my anxiety was through the roof, I was looking over my shoulder frightened of catching glimpse of the perpetrator and their friends. Marianna noticed my worry, took my hand and walked us up to the security guard at the front of the queue. They had a quick chat and he ushered us right through, Marianna making sure she didn’t let go of me the whole time.
“We jumped through security in minutes, and climbed right back into the van that had been brought to the other side for us. Back in the van, they passed me an envelope. In the envelope contained a letter. The letter was from Adrian addressing whomever received it that ‘the bearer of the letter must have her requests for her safety taken seriously and she must be taken to safety immediately.’ I was asked to carry this letter, along with a list of numbers, with me throughout the whole festival, just in case. I was also passed two hospitality wrist bands, one for Tom and one for me. These offered us a space behind the Pyramid and Other stage which had quieter bars only accessible to hospitality wrist band holders so in case I became overwhelmed or needed a place to clear my head a bit, I had it.
“I broke down in the back of the van. Marianna came round to the door and gave me a huge hug. I had asked for none of this, and yet these incredible humans had come together to make sure for the next five days I wouldn’t have to feel like a victim – I could actually enjoy the festival. In a festival catering for so many, they really gave a shit. They gave a million shits. More shits than I could ever have expected or asked for.
“They dropped us off at a camp where they wouldn’t expect our friends to be, and took us to our reserved spot behind the stewards, who were all briefed about the circumstances. They all greeted me with hugs and helped us carry all of our things from the van and get ourselves set up. Saying goodbye to Marianna and Kerry, I handed over THE WORST thank you card ever – like, how on earth can a thank you card ever be enough? Especially when it said ‘You are a good egg’ with a picture of an egg on the front (my card buying skills need work) and we all hoped to find each other again in the midst of the crazy. Kerry came to our camp once the next day to check in (hugs aplenty) but we never did see the others again.”
At this point, you may well have already shed a tear or two. And that’s before you’ve even read the part where Laura describes the impact that kindness actually had on her, which you can see in her full blog post online here.
She ends with a huge thank you to Glastonbury, and an ask for her blog to be shared so that Mike Eavis might eventually see it. So far, it has been shared more than 50,000 times. We’re doing our part too. Mike, if you’re reading, thank you.