NEWS IN FOCUS: Glastonbury keeps spirit of charitable giving alive

Nick Cater

The music festival has a long tradition of supporting good causes - and this year will be no different, says Nick Cater.

Next month's Glastonbury Festival is set to be the biggest and best yet, especially for charities, campaigns and social enterprises.

For more than 30 years, the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts has been creating awareness and raising funds for causes ranging from global developmental and environmental concerns to needs on its doorstep. It has even helped restore a Somerset tithe barn.

With 150,000 music fans, performers and crew behind a £1 million security fence, Glastonbury is a temporary walled city that resembles a refugee camp as its mix of tents, shop stalls and notorious toilets sprawl across Worthy Farm, home to festival organiser Michael Eavis and his daughter, Emily.

Charities and social enterprises participate and benefit in many ways: receiving donations from ticket sales, collecting cash on site, and selling or giving away goods and services, whether it's the Samaritans helping those who want to talk or the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre running left luggage centres.

While some of the artists will themselves be working for charities, other non-profit groups will sign up celebrities, secure names on petitions, gain media exposure from the scores of journalists, and recruit supporters among the mainly young and very captive audience.

Glastonbury's history since its first festival in 1971 reflects the concerns and interests of the Eavis family. The second festival was held in aid of the International Year of the Child in 1979, and then it settled down to be an almost annual event, with the CND receiving valuable publicity and around £500,000 in donations as its centrepiece cause during the 1980s.

In the post-Cold War 1990s, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid took over as the festival's main charity partners.

After last year's event brought donations, fees and wages of around £1 million for charities, the early indications are that 2003 could generate even more.

Fair trade is the theme of this year's festival from 27-29 June and the event's organisers are playing their part in raising awareness.

Emily Eavis is helping Oxfam to collect what could be the world's largest petition and to present it to the World Trade Organisation. That personal commitment is typical: with Chris Martin of the band Coldplay, Emily travelled to Haiti to see how Oxfam supports coffee farmers' co-operatives, and Michael Eavis has visited Ghana to see the work of WaterAid.

In recent times, Oxfam has provided hundreds of volunteer stewards for the festival, raising close to £1 million in the process. This year it will have two marquees on the site to promote campaigns and recruit donors and supporters, and will also feature on the festival's web site, in the printed programme and films shown on the main stage.

WaterAid says Glastonbury is a highlight of its year, with the funds "invaluable to its work, while the profile gained is priceless".

Last year giving away water bottles and rain macs in exchange for donations brought in £4,000 from festival fans, while an auction of the work of Kurt Jackson, the festival's official artist, raised £19,000. The charity hopes to receive more than £50,000 this year.

WaterAid's senior press officer Jules Acton, who dressed up as a tap at the festival to attract interest, believes Glastonbury is the ideal place to raise awareness of the sanitation problems faced by the world's poorest people.

"Festival goers tend to become fascinated with toilets, so they are always interested to hear that more than a third of the world's people - 2.4 billion people - don't actually have anywhere hygienic to go to the loo," she says.

Bob Wilson, events co-ordinator at Greenpeace and one of the festival organisers, says Glastonbury is also perfect for donor recruitment. "It is unique, especially in its commitment to causes and the way it has maintained its no-logo feel," he says. "It's a chance to thank supporters, and try to attract new ones: it also has exactly the right audience to find people who want to become activists.

"This year we will promoting the use of wood that has been certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council. We will use FSC-certified wood for our skateboard ramp and climbing wall, plus we'll have our GM-free 24-hour cafe to raise the issue of genetically modified foods."

Last year, Greenpeace received a £200,000 donation from the festival, attracted more than 500 new supporters who are likely to contribute a total of £50,000 in the future, and got 10,000 people to sign its "Choose Positive Energy" petition.

As well as the myriad of stages and tents full of music and entertainment, Glastonbury will be divided into various areas, including the Healing Field for spiritual activities and alternative therapies, and the environmentally focused Green Field, complete with solar-assisted showers.

The centre of political debate will be the Left Field, where former MP Tony Benn will share the stage with comedians Mark Steel and Mark Thomas as well as US campaigner and film maker Michael Moore.

John Shearlaw, press officer at the festival, stresses that groups wanting to get involved in Glastonbury need to plan carefully, take advice from others with experience and make contact early.

But he adds: "As Michael Eavis has said, 'It's not called Worthy Farm for nothing.' "

For further information about the Glastonbury Festival, visit www.glastonbury-festivals.co.uk/

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