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Glastonbury Festival: People power builds a lasting future in Pilton

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: June 23, 2012

  • Mandy Briggs and her daughter Luanna, 12, residents of John Burns Cottages, Pilton. Their homes are built of stone from Worthy Farm, the home of Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis

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There is more to the Glastonbury Festival than five days of music and performing arts staged on fields in Somerset in June and enjoyed by thousands. The event has wide-ranging and positive implications for the community in which it lives, as Wendy Best discovers...

With a population of just 1,100, Pilton, to the casual observer, is a quintessential English village nestled below the shadow of the famous Glastonbury Tor.

There are winding narrow streets, stone-built cottages and a thriving pub, post office and village hall, plus green fields as far as the eye can see, and for 11 months of the year it’s easy to forget it is also home to the biggest music festival in the world.

But income from Glastonbury Festivals has helped pay for a range of village projects – from developing Pilton Working Men’s Club to completing a project providing housing with affordable rent for local people, and from renovating the Glastonbury Abbey Tythe Barn in the village to rebuilding the Pilton Playing Fields pavilion and repairing the Pilton Methodist Chapel roof.

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The list is endless and the most recent economic impact survey funded by Mendip District Council and the festival shows the net value of the 2007 event to the economy was more than £81m.

Mums Mandy Briggs, 42, and Joanna Sheldrake, 40, who have both just completed degrees, laugh as they recall going to bed and hearing Oasis or David Bowie wafting across the hedgerows.

They are both beneficiaries of the affordable housing on land given for the project by festival founder Michael Eavis, who frequently visits the houses with interested VIPs. They include Prince Charles, who endorsed the project by planting a tree during the 2010 festival.

Mandy and Joanna both say the project, which is seven years old in a week or so, has enabled them both to have homes for the first time.

“I think the project was welcomed,” says Mandy. “One of the gripes was that local people could no longer afford to buy and live in the village. It has created a community and a safe environment in which the children can be brought up – and we are involved in the village.”

Joanna agrees but says the children can also see how success is achievable as they see Michael’s achievements.

Down the road from the cottages – built from stone quarried from Michael’s farm – is Pilton’s Working Men’s Club, which is now part of an integral building housing the village hall and post office.

Currently under consultation are plans to merge the bodies which run the club and the village hall, says president Jim Govier.

A Not The Glastonbury Festival is being held this weekend with local bands and singers performing at the club.

Jim said the club was founded in 1892 and was in just one room reached by outside stairs, which were later condemned.

“It is the focal point for the village, a community place,” he said. Open every night and lunchtimes, too, at the weekend, the club is a bustling hub, with the neighbouring village hall also home for a host of activities from yoga to the British Legion.

“The bulk of it was here before but Glastonbury Festivals has made sure it is going to stay here,” said Jim.

Vice-president John Boyce said many villagers had given time for free to help with the club, which needs turnover of £100,000 a year to keep going.

He has been on the committee since the age of 16 and had many roles. “There’s not many villages that have a facility like it,” he said. “A lot of people put a lot of effort in to get it where we are today so it can stay for the village for the rest of time. It’s a marvellous place and a marvellous building.”

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