WaterAid and Glastonbury - a very special partnership

5 min read
Anna Hedges and WaterAid volunteers, in a flashmob in front of the Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury

On the week that hundreds of WaterAid volunteers would have been descending onto the legendary fields of Worthy Farm, WaterAid’s Special Events Manager, Anna Hedges, looks back on 10 years of a very special partnership with Glastonbury Festival.

This year, like for all of us, June has been very different. Usually, my team and I would be working at full speed – hundreds of lists sitting on our desks, thousands of items painstakingly packed into numbered boxes, meticulous map planning on where each of our water kiosks should sit– all the work that’s involved gearing up for our busiest (and favourite!) week of the year. The cancellation of Glastonbury this year has forced us to pause and reflect.

I am incredibly proud of what WaterAid and Glastonbury have achieved together. In the last 10 years alone, our volunteer team has grown from 170 to over 620 people. We’ve introduced new water kiosks, bottle refill points, female urinals, and have cleaned thousands of toilets. We’ve raised over £2.5 million, and each year, our media coverage also reaches billions of people globally.

Most importantly, we’ve reached even more people with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.

This would not have been possible without the incredible support of Michael and Emily Eavis, and the wider team at Glastonbury who we are forever grateful to. It also wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing volunteers whose endless energy, enthusiasm and passion has allowed our presence at the festival to grow to what it is today.

WaterAid staff at Glastonbury 2015, celebrating the 100000 signatures signed for our petition.
Staff and volunteers celebrating the 100000 signatures signed for a WaterAid petition in 2015
Image: WaterAid/ Sam James

Why WaterAid and Glastonbury?

When people attend Glastonbury, it’s often the first time they have to queue to get clean water, use a toilet that isn’t quite like the one they’ve used at home, or think about how they will keep their hands clean.

By handing out water at our Water Kiosks, we’re raising money to help bring clean water to the 785 million people living without it. By keeping the toilets of Glastonbury sparkling clean, we’re raising money to help reach the 2 billion people in the world – one in fourwho do not have a decent toilet of their own.

By providing services and running campaigns, we’re engaging the public in water, sanitation and hygiene issues. We’re sparking action, gaining new supporters and cultivating positive change.

As Emily Eavis notes, the “spirit of Glastonbury” is charity. Thanks to Michael and Emily, the Joint Charities (WaterAid, Oxfam and Greenpeace) are put at the heart of the festival – we all share a common goal to improve the lives of people and our planet.

Michael and Emily Eavis in front of the new WaterAid water kiosks for Glastonbury festival 2019, Glastonbury, UK, April 2019
Michael and Emily Eavis in front of our new Water Kiosks for Glastonbury 2019
Image: WaterAid/ Billy Barraclough

A partnership to be proud of

Since WaterAid’s first appearance at Worthy Farm in 1994, our presence has grown so much. The two biggest highlights for me are the launch of our water refill points in 2014 and the creation of our Loo Crew cleaning teams.

Our Glastonbury Water Kiosks are modelled on water kiosks in our programme work in Madagascar and Zambia. We introduced the sale of reusable water bottles and provided free water refills  - a huge moment in the festival world at the time. Last year we quadrupled the number of Kiosks to support Glastonbury’s ban on single use plastic, ensuring that everyone could access free tap water as part of their festival experience. It was an incredibly proud moment.

In a meeting at Worthy Farm in early 2016, the Glastonbury team challenged us to take on cleaning the long-drop toilets onsite – over 2,400 in total! We agreed, and created the legendary Loo Crew, an invincible team of over 200 volunteers. I was nervous about how it would go and when it came to the 2016 festival, the team battled with the wettest, muddiest start to the festival in years. I was so proud of every single volunteer and we received incredible feedback. We’ve returned with the Loo Crew every year since and I am forever in awe of their enthusiasm and passion for cleaning toilets. They are heroes!

Flick through these photos to see some of our top Glastonbury highlights throughout the years:

We’ve had some brilliant campaigns and met some incredible people, too. In 2015, over 46,000 Glastonbury-goers signed our Make It Happen petition, asking the UK Government to support a dedicated goal on water and sanitation in the Sustainable Development Goals. The Glastonbury signatures made up almost half of the total petition, and the following September, world leaders signed up to 17 Global Goals to end extreme poverty, which included a goal specifically focused on access to water and sanitation.

We’ve had support from many amazing artists – from The Killers to The Cure, Metallica to Kenny Rodgers.

Brandon Flowers (L) and Ronnie Vannucci (R) of American rock band 'The Killers' supporting WaterAid's #accessdenied campaign at Glastonbury Festival, June 2019.
The Killers' supporting WaterAid's #accessdenied campaign at Glastonbury 2019
Image: The Killers

We have achieved so much. But there is still more work to be done.

Our work with Glastonbury continues

Now, more than ever, we need to work together to make sure everyone, everywhere has what they need to stay safe and healthy. Not just during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, but long into the future. Clean water is essential for us all. To wash our hands, to keep our homes and hospitals clean, and to protect ourselves against diseases and viruses.

We are working tirelessly across 26 countries, to install handwashing facilities where they're needed most; to provide the essentials so people can wash their hands thoroughly; and to share the simple but vital steps we must all take to keep each other safe and halt the spread of coronavirus.

The cancellation of Glastonbury leaves a significant gap in our funding. To help with this, we are so pleased to have been working with Glastonbury to produce a special line of merchandise to raise money for WaterAid, Oxfam and Greenpeace. The posters, tote bags and t-shirts feature a line from a Paul McCartney song that captures the spirit of the last few months perfectly. You can browse the range here.

We will hugely miss seeing everybody at Worthy Farm this year: from the amazing Glastonbury team and our wonderful volunteers, to all the brilliant festival-goers. But rest assured, we will be back together soon. I will return to the helm of (in my opinion!) the best job in the world, and when we are all reunited, we will make the most of every moment. Glastonbury 2021 will be the most special festival yet.

WaterAid volunteers being briefed at Glastonbury Festival, June 2019.
Image: WaterAid/ Billy Barraclough