United By Mud

From folkies to farmers, it takes every kind of people to make the Glastonbury Festival. Nicholas Barber introduces portraits taken at last year's sodden gig

HOW do you take a snapshot of the people of Britain? How do you tick off as many ages, classes and creeds as possible, in one place over one long weekend? How do you rejoice in heterogeneity without abandoning a unifying theme - and still have time to catch Van Morrison on the Pyramid Stage? For Andrew Johnston, a Somerset-based photographer, the answer to these questions was, if not on his doorstep, then only 25 minutes down the road: Glastonbury.

Almost every June since 1970, tens of thousands of people from all over the nation have congregated in the fields of Worthy Farm, attracted by the prospect of losing themselves in a sylvan world of music, camping, noodles, face-painting, and wooden pyramids that mend your aura if you squat in them. The festival has grown into a unique, magical gathering, one that caters not just for rock fans or folk fans or dance fans or travellers, but for everyone who doesn't mind queuing up for running water. Johnston called in another photographer, Andrew Errington, and they set about putting last year's Glastonbury festival on film.

Glance at the pictures printed in every newspaper in the country this morning, and you'll see how easy it is to steal a candid snap of some half-naked, muck-encrusted students dancing around a pagan altar constructed of beer cans, but Johnston and Errington were determined to take a less voyeuristic path. With the permission of Michael Eavis, the Festival's founder, they erected a tent, 15 feet long and 12 feet high, mounted Errington's Hasselblad on a tripod, left one side of the makeshift studio open for lighting, and invited passers-by in to pose. This photographic healing pyramid was, says Errington "an area of calm and quiet in the middle of an amazing medieval encampment".

The idea was that the sitters would retain a dignity that your average handing-round-a-joint-in-the-rain festival shot doesn't allow. They were told that they were active participants in a photo-documentary and encouraged to present themselves however they wanted. It shows. In the portraits, with their echoes of Irving Penn and Victorian family groups, the sitters became stars of their own dramas, models that Benetton would spend millions of pounds tracking down and signing up.

For four days from sunrise on Thursday to sunset on Sunday, Johnston and Errington took over 1,200 pictures; our selection is just a cursory flick through the all-human-life coffee-table book the two Andrews plan to have published. As a celebration of "the diversity of pre-millennial Britain", the project has just one flaw. A cross-section of the population may well make its way to the Glastonbury Festival, but once those people get within a mile of the leylines that run through Plumley's Paddock and the Avalon Field, their identities mutate. Glastonbury is another planet, a parallel universe, where technology has advanced far enough to blast music across acres of countryside, but not far enough to make going to the toilet anything other than a nauseating experience. In order to survive, the inhabitants evolve into a new race. Sleep patterns go haywire, diets are upended, fashion edicts are spun around, until wearing oversized blue and yellow checked top hats seems rather stylish. And 1997's Glastonbury was more alien than ever. It was the year of thick, oozing, sucking mud, and anyone who wasn't put off could claim a special, tough, positive spirit. You can see it in these photographs. !

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project