Trojan horse gets Travellers past gates: Glastonbury festival used to be free; now tickets cost pounds 58. But there are ways of getting past the guards

Alex Renton
Friday 25 June 1993 23:02

'RIGHT]' says Ian. 'We've got a pass. We've got a bus and it's legal, and we're going to steam Glastonbury. Let's go]'

There are two ways of getting into the Glastonbury festival. You can buy a ticket for pounds 58, pack up your tent and make your way to Somerset. Or you can join the Travellers.

The Glastonbury festival gets the Travellers heated. 'It's our festival,' one says. 'It was a free people's festival for years until Michael Eavis (the farmer who organises it) decided to start demanding money. We made it, what right has he to keep us away?'

Until three years ago Mr Eavis set aside a field for the Travellers. But they were banned after disturbances and fights with security guards.

This year they have been prevented from holding any substantial gathering: now they are thirsting for a party. Policing is so tight, there is no hope of finding a site for a 'free festy'. So it's Glastonbury or bust.

Billy, a Traveller at a site near Street in Somerset, has turned his home into a wooden horse to take us into the festival. At 5.30pm on Thursday 10 adults and two children pile on to the ancient Leyland coach. Supplies are loaded. Traveller economy depends on trade: everyone's got something to sell - beer, water, food. everything a festival goer might need. Billy is hoping to sell the bus for pounds 1,500.

Yesterday he and two others jumped the fence, found a stall whose name they could use to bring in the bus and had their hands stamped to allow them back in.

The eight miles to the site at Pilton take an hour in the sun and slow traffic. There are blue uniforms everywhere.

Approaching Gate 2, we crowd into the back of the bus, leaving just the 'legal' people in the cab. The little girls love this game: 'Ssh', they keep saying, and when the two-year-old cannot take any more excitement she yelps. We giggle. This makes her yelp more. 'Shush,' says the older child, 'or the pigs will take you away.'

Billy explains to the gate guards that he has to meet his mum, who runs the Bristol Vegans' stand. This bus is the kitchen, but we've lost the passes. Astonishingly the guard nods, hands over passes that have been left for the vegans and waves us on. 'I cannot believe it,' Billy says. 'We've saved pounds 640,' says someone else.

The celebration came too soon. As we look for somewhere to park, the clutch dies. A steward appears and says there may be a problem with our paperwork. Travellers know how to deal with this. Billy gets out of the cab with the keys and disappears. So when security guards gather round and tell us we'd better go, we're sorry, but we can't.

Two hours of argument, threats to dismantle the bus and debate over whether or not we really are the Bristol Vegans follow. Finally, just as the sun begins to set in splendour over the Glastonbury crowds the word comes: 'OK. I don't know how you did it, but Mr Eavis says you can stay.' Five minutes later the ambassador from Mr Eavis returns, laughing: 'You jammy bastards. You made it just in time. The Bristol Vegans have just arrived at Gate 2.'

(Photograph omitted)

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