Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks to the local community of staging a major cultural and/or sporting event.

Jessica Hocking

This essay will evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of Glastonbury Festival to the local community.  It will mainly focus on the economic impact on the local community of Glastonbury, Pilton and Mendip but will also examine the social impact of the festival.  “Festivals may be recurrent events (at intervals of a year of more) such as Glastonbury or one-off affairs like the Armada celebrations of 1988.  A festival may be over in a day, a weekend or last a fortnight or more.  Most festivals include associated activities, even if they a predominately one art form in concept” (Waters, 1989, pp 57).  Glastonbury Festival could be described as a multicultural festival, as defined by Wilson and Udall (1982, pp 4-6, cited in Hall, 1992, pp 26) who state that multicultural festivals are, “festivals representing the cultural materials of many cultures.  With few exceptions, audiences tend to be people who are not of the cultures presented.  Organisers tend to be academics or eclectic fans of the folk arts with the control of the events likely to be in the hands of a non-profit institution.”  Glastonbury Festival donates the majority of their profits to charitable causes and attracts a diverse range of different people and cultures, from the folk fan to the raver.


Glastonbury Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts was started by the owner of Worthy Farm, Michael Eavis, in 1970 and has continued to grow each year since then, with the 2000 festival attracting in excess of 150,000 people (BBC, 2002).  Glastonbury Festival is now one of the most well known festivals in the world “…this festival is now a multi-media, international event…” (Avon and Somerset Constabulary, 2002).  Hall (1992) highlights some of the benefits to the local community of hosting a festival, he says “undoubtedly, festivals and programs of special events provide opportunities for communities to expand the markets of existing firms and attract new businesses and commercial interests, and perhaps raise the overall attractiveness of the areas as places to settle.  However, “the nature of impacts varies with the age and status of the event and the size of the community in which it takes place” (Wall and Mitchell, 1989, p132, cited in Hall, 1992, pp 47).  An event such as Glastonbury Festival, however, may not attract the type of people or businesses that the local residents would approve of and this could create conflicts within the local community.


There is a great deal of support for Glastonbury Festival from the local community who benefit from it in many ways, which will be discussed later on in this essay.  The Glastonbury Tourist Information Centre show their support for the festival on their website, “The town of Glastonbury has gained enormously from its association with the Glastonbury Festival. In particular, PTA groups, Carnival Clubs, playschools, local charities and businesses are among the many organisations that have benefited from its success.  Therefore we, as a community, would like to show our support for the festival and thank Michael Eavis for bringing us all such a wonderful event.”  (Glastonbury TIC, 2002).  However, there are also a number of local residents who are opposed to the festival due to the problems caused by the quantity and quality of those attending.  These views will also be discussed later on in this essay by reviewing the minutes of the meeting by Mendip District Council for the 2002 licence application.

Glastonbury Festivals Ltd. (GFL) have provided a great deal of information as to how the festival financially benefits the local community.  A summary of this information will follow.  In total, from January 2000 to December 2000, GFL donated £703,158.97 to various charitable organisations worldwide.  Of the total amount, £289,613.72 is donated to local causes.  These local causes vary from carnival clubs and schools to various sporting clubs, many of which rely on funding from the festival to continue.  A letter to Mendip District Council (2002), in support of the festival, from a local child states, “…we could loose our carnival if he [Michael Eavis] doesn’t do this [Glastonbury Festival], because a lot of carnival clubs go up there to raise money to build their floats that cost thousands to make … and we’ve always had Pilton Pop Festival in the past.  Three cheers to Michael Eavis.”  Herbert (2001) states that, “in response to the questionnaire 74 percent of local residents asked say that the festival provides financial funding for local charities and schools”.

From the information provided by GFL it can be seen that it is not just through donations that the local community is benefited financially from the festival but also by an increase in business at the time of the festival.  A total of 316 local businesses received £3,308,625.78, from January 2000 to December 2000, by direct spending from GFL.  This level of financial input from GFL is much needed by local firms especially due to their rural location.  "We have a lot of support locally. The economy relies on the festival what with the demise of the agriculture industry. The economic case is very, very strong," said Mr Eavis (BBC, 2002). It is more than likely that, yet again, many of these local companies rely on the annual spending from GFL. 


However, it is not only through direct spending from GFL that local businesses benefit.  All businesses associated with leisure and tourism benefit from the festival, from accommodation to shops and pubs, the publican from the Crown in Pilton said, “It was a magnificent boost to trade, with nothing lost, nothing stolen and nothing broken – we didn’t have to close the doors to anyone” (GFL, 2002).  In the weeks prior to the festival itself, those actually setting up the festival site use many of these local amenities.  “A proportion of people who come to the festival, including workers, performers and festival goers, choose not to camp on site and look to local hotels and bed and breakfasts for their accommodation” (GFL, 2002).  Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury and Wells Tourist Information Centres all state that all of the accommodation on their books is fully booked at the time of the festival.  There are also a number of local residents who open their homes up for paying guests over the festival period.  “As a result of the festival therefore, in excess of £250,000 is spent in the local community on accommodation” (GFL, 2002). 


Local garages also benefit from the number of cars arriving on site at the festival, “Mendip District Council quotes that there were a total of 57,000 cars in the official and unofficial car parks in 2000. Many of these vehicles would have used local garages for fuel, assuming each car only spent £10 this amounts to £570,000 spent on fuel” (GFL, 2002).


At the 2000 festival GFL directly employed 1600 people, twenty five percent of whom were employed from the local area.  Over £347,175 was spent on local employment, this amounted to over 55% of the total monies spent on wages for the 2000 festival” (GFL, 2002).  Local business also benefited by having stalls at the 2000 festival, of the 770 stalls at the festival fifteen percent were local businesses.  GFL (2002) states that, “It is our policy to try to accommodate local traders in preference to those coming from further a field.”


It is clear to see from the information provided by GFL that they make a considerable effort to involve the local community as much as possible in the festival and a large proportion of the direct spending and donations from the profits go directly to the local community.


Glastonbury Festival is a cultural event it can therefore be said that it can help to promote cultural tourism within the local community.  Cultural tourism is defined by The World Tourism Organisation (1985, p6, cited in Hall, 1992 pp 23) as “movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art and pilgrimages”.  As the Festival is such a well-known event it probably promotes tourism even when the festival is not actually on.  Those who have heard of the festival may want to visit Glastonbury at other times of the year.  GFL are aware of the festival’s ability to promote tourism in the local area, as stated by the Commercial Manager, “the festival brings a lot of money into the local area, and gives it a boost in tourism” (Commercial Manager of the Glastonbury Festival, 2001, cited in Herbert, 2001).  However, Van Harssel (1994, cited in Herbert, 2001) stated that a greater level of tourist activity may cause increased overcrowding and congestion, which in itself affects residents’ daily lives”.  An investigation by Herbert in 2001, into community participation in the planning and management of the Glastonbury Festival, shows that one of the major drawbacks recognised by the organisers and residents is traffic congestion.  She goes on to say; this can be supported by Murphy (1985) who believes that one of the most frequently stated irritant for the host community residents is congestion amongst the community.  Such a massive annual influx of festival-goers into the area will easily cause heavy congestion in such a small rural area.


It is obvious that this huge festival will have some kind of negative impact, both economically and socially, to the local area.  The main economic drawback of the festival is the cost to the local community of dealing with crime and other associated problems actually outside the festival site and the pressure put on local services such as hospitals and the police.  This is confirmed by Mendip District Council (2002) “The Glastonbury Festival attracts more than 100,000 people every year. It doubles the population of Mendip district and severely stretches the capacity of local services, such as the police, fire and hospitals”.  At the 2000 festival a total of 3237 patients were dealt with, 127 of which were referred to local hospitals and the helicopter was used twice (Festival Medical Services, 2000).  The festival costs the NHS £40,000 plus many empty beds in case of emergencies (Mendip District Council, 2002).  The Somerset Fire Brigade were called to thirty-four incidents at the 2000 festival (Somerset Fire Brigade, 2000).


A report from Avon and Somerset Constabulary (2002), complied for the licence application for the 2002 festival, states that “it can be reasonably predicted that recorded crime in the Mendip District overall will increase by 30 percent in the financial year 2002/03 if a licence is granted”.  This level of increase in crime puts a considerable strain on the local police, especially seeing as a great deal of the crime is actually committed outside of the festival perimeter, “the car parks and areas immediately outside the perimeter fence are gathering points for organised touts and criminal gangs” (Mendip District Council, 2002).  One the major problems for the local police is controlling the huge number of people that turn up at the festival without a ticket in the hope of getting over the fence.  Many of these people congregate close to the festival sites and unlicensed raves attended by those who cannot get into the festival cause a considerable amount noise that affects local residents.  “During the 2000 festival 400 vehicles (2000+ people) arrived for an unlicensed off-site rave.  Of the 98 noise complaints that Mendip District Council received in the year 2000 from distressed local people, seven complaints related to the official festival; the rest derived from the off-site rave” (Mendip District Council, 2002).  The cost of policing the 2000 festival was £1.25 million.  The festival pays 40 percent; the taxpayers pay the rest causing tremendous drain on police resources (Mendip District Council, 2002).  The festival also attracts the travelling community, many of whom then stay in the district and are very difficult to move on.


One of the many reports submitted to the licensing board, from Mendip District Council (2002), highlights some of the detrimental effects to the environment caused by the festival.  The wildlife, where it still exists, does a general exodus.  The festival creates a million gallons of raw sewage, which helps to pollute the River Whitelake.  60,000 cars and coaches come into the district, which with the numerous fires and smoke machines etc help to create a haze like an industrial smog over Pilton.  The festival creates 1000 tons of rubbish, very little of which is recycled.


From the information that has been examined for this essay, it is rather difficult to determine overall whether the positive impacts of the festival outweigh the drawbacks.  It also depends on whom you speak to in the local community with regards to how they feel about the festival.  Mendip District Council receive many letters and phone calls from local residents some showing support for the festival and other from residents who are wholly opposed to it.   It is clear that GFL make a great deal of effort to donate to local charities and to support local businesses, but it seems that not enough is being done to combat the detrimental effects caused by the festival.  As stated by Herbert (2001) in her conclusion, “in general, more members of the host community agreed that the festival brings more disadvantages to the community than benefits, although this could be improved with the community having greater involvement in the planning and management of the Glastonbury Festival”.  The 2001 festival did not go ahead as it was felt by the licensing board and the police that it would not be safe and following the 2000 festival the festival organisers were fined £6,000 for breaches of the licence conditions (Mendip District Council, 2002).  This has meant that the conditions of the licence for the 2002 Glastonbury Festival are much more stringent, with the festival organisers this year stating “No Ticket, No Festival” (GFL, 2002).  The festival organisers are combating the huge problem of the number of people turning up without tickets, which appear to be those who cause the most problems in the local area.  There will be stricter controls with regards to stopping those with no ticket getting anywhere near the festival.  Off site car parks are proposed with buses running to the festival site for only those with a ticket (GFL, 2002), however, it will not be clear until the festival actually happens as to whether this will be effective, it may just cause more problems within the local area.


It is clear from the research undertaken that a great deal of effort has been put into trying to ensure that the problems caused by previous festivals are not repeated.  An organisation called Mean Fiddler have taken over the running of the festival, they have experience of managing other large-scale cultural events such as the Reading Festival and Homelands (www.meanfiddler.com, 2002).  Hopefully this will help to make Glastonbury 2002 safe and fun and a great deal more pleasant for the local community.  If the conditions of the licence are breached this year it is almost certain that Glastonbury Festival will not be allowed to continue, it is therefore up to all of those involved and all of those who support the festival to make sure that it is successful.



Avon and Somerset Constabulry (2002).  Report to the Regulatory Board for the application for a Public Entertainment Licence (PEL) for Glastonbury Festival 2002.  Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Portishead.

BBC (2002).  Glastonbury Festival.  [online] available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A480304 [20.04.02]

Commercial Manager (2001).  The Glastonbury Festival.  Shepton Mallet, Somerset.  Cited in Herbert, R. (2001).  An investigation into community participation in the planning and management of the Glastonbury Festival (BSc Honours Project).  University of Plymouth, Plymouth.

Festival Medical Services (2002).  Reports to the Regulatory Board for the application for a Publics Entertainment Licence for Glastonbury Festival 2002.  Festival Medical Services, Somerset.

Glastonbury Festivals Limited (2002).  Accommodation over the festival period.  Festival Office, Pilton.

Glastonbury Festivals Limited (2002).  Employment 2000.  Festival Office, Pilton.

Glastonbury Festivals Limited (2002).  Local Garages/shops/pubs.  Festival Office, Pilton.

Glastonbury Festivals Limited (2002).  Market Traders 2000.  Festival Office, Pilton.

Glastonbury Festivals Limited (2002).  Monies spent with local business’ by Glastonbury Festivals LTD Jan 2000 - Dec 2000.  Festival Office, Pilton.

Glastonbury Festivals Limited (2002).  Monies to charities and other Organisations from Glastonbury Festivals LTD Jan 2000 - Dec 2000.  Festival Office, Pilton.

Glastonbury Tourist Information Centre (2002).  Glastonbury Festival.  [online] available from: http://www.glastonburytic.co.uk/festival.html [20.04..02)

Hall, C.M. (1992).  Hallmark Tourist Events: Impacts, Management and Planning.  Belhaven Press, London.

Herbert, R. (2001).  An investigation into community participation in the planning and management of the Glastonbury Festival (BSc Honours Project).  University of Plymouth, Plymouth.

Mean Fiddler (2002).  About Us.  [online] available from: http://www.meanfiddler.com [22.04.02].

Mendip District Council (2002).  Reports to the Regulatory Board for the application for a Publics Entertainment Licence for Glastonbury Festival 2002.  Mendip District Council, Somerset.

Murphy, P.E. (1985).  Tourism: A Community Approach.  Routledge, London.  Herbert, R. (2001).  An investgation into community participation in the planning and management of the Glastonbury Festival (BSc Honours Project).  University of Plymouth, Plymouth.

Somerset Health Authority (2002).  Reports to the Regulatory Board for the application for a Publics Entertainment Licence for Glastonbury Festival 2002.  NHS, Somerset.

Somerset Fire Brigade (2000).  Reports to the Regulatory Board for the application for a Publics Entertainment Licence for Glastonbury Festival 2002.  Somerset Fire Brigade, Somerset.

Wall, G and Mitchell, C. (1989).  “Cultural festivals as economic stimuli and catalysts of functional change”, p132-41 in G.L. Syme, B.J. Shaw, D.M. Fenton, W.S. Mueller, eds, The Planning and Evaluation of Hallmark Events.  Avebury, Aldershot.  Cited in Hall, C.M. (1992).  Hallmark Tourist Events: Impacts, Management and Planning.  Belhaven Press, London.


Waters, I. (1989).  Entertainment, Arts and Cultural Services.  Longman, Essex.


Wilson, J. and Udall, L. (1982).  Folk Festivals: A handbook for organisation and management.  University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.  Cited in Hall, C.M. (1992).  Hallmark Tourist Events: Impacts, Management and Planning.  Belhaven Press, London.

World Tourism Organisation (1985).  The states role in protecting and promoting culture as a factor of tourism development and the proper use and exploitation of the national cultural heritage of sites and monuments for tourism.  World Tourism Organisation, Madrid.  Cited in Hall, C.M. (1992).  Hallmark Tourist Events: Impacts, Management and Planning.  Belhaven Press, London.







Goldblatt, J.J. (1997).  Special Events: Best Practices in Modern Event Management.  Wiley, Canada.


Torkildsen, G. (1999).  Leisure and Recreation Management.  Spon Press, London.


Watt, D.C. (1998).  Event Management in Leisure and Tourism.  Longman, New York.