Green Field 1984 - Patrick Whitefied

This contemporary account of Glastonbury Green Field 1984 was published in Green Line Magazine issue 25 (Aug-Sept 1984) in an occasional series entitled "I Was There". Readers were encouraged to send in their own accounts of events which we will reproduce on this site as we discover them. Patrick Whitefield's piece on the 1984 Green Field kicked off the series.

The Green Gathering Lives!

ALTHOUGH IT WAS impossible to find a site in the Glastonbury area for a Green Gathering this year, there was a green field at the Glastonbury CND Festival, and it was a great success in its way. It had more of the atmosphere of the old gatherings than did last year's overgrown-gathering-cum-festival at Lambert's Hill.

The field was as far from the main stage as you can get, quite small and screened by a tall hedge. The contrast between it and the rest of the festival was total, and person after person remarked that it was by far the best place to be on the whole site.

The festival at large was its usual self: speedy, tense, dirty, commercial, with an absolute line drawn between providers and 'punters'. The green field was relaxed — though lively, clean and friendly, with most people providing something, however informally, and no one making a packet. Thousands of people passed through the field, and none of them can have failed to be struck by the fact that there was no litter on the ground - while the rest of the site was used, as it always is as one big disgusting dustbin.

It's a great shame that there was almost nothing to show the casual passer-by that this was the Green Field, or what 'Green' might mean in this context (most people in Britain still haven't heard of us yet). A biggish sign at the entrance saying THE GREEN FIELD with no more than a dozen words to explain who the greens are would have turned a lot of hard work into a lot of good publicity. The way into the field was through a garden of potted trees and flowers. Well worth the effort it took to set up, the garden set the tone of the field. Along the main drag there were poets and fiddlers, chess games, and Peter Brown the potter with his working raku kiln, as well as a few good cafes.
This led to the central circle, a wide Open space well used for non-competitive games, all-in drumming sessions — all-night ones, too — theatre, music, and a pleasant place to be away from the rush and crush. Green Deserts were there, so were a bakery workshop for kids, a women's tent, Green CND, and a stall where you could paint a picture by means of an incredible machine that was loosely based on a bicycle.

Among the musicians were Dib-Jak and Planet Waves, both familiar to people who've been at previous gatherings. Neither of these bands let the fact that they play fine music inhibit you from joining in if you feel like it. The boundary between contributors and audience becomes blurred; everyone contributes, everyone receives.

A whole series of workshops was planned, and most of them took place. But very few people took part. Although the Green Field did create its own atmosphere, you couldn't totally escape the festival vibe, and it's not one that really puts you in the mood for workshops. The same went for circle dancing and other spiritual goings-on — not very many people were into them.

This was in marked contrast to last year's Gathering, where the amount of workshop activity was perhaps even greater than before. It was also indicative of the difference between a Green Gathering and a green field at a festival. A Gathering is basically a get-together of like-minded people to share ideas and experiences. A green appendage to a decidedly non-green event is an opportunity to present ourselves to the outside world. The one is about sharing among ourselves; the other is, or should be, about sharing with others.

The pride of the green field was surely the showers. They were the only hot showers on the whole site, and there were two big tubs and an excellent sauna as well. There was a never-ending supply of hot water, run on solar power, a tiny amount of low grade firewood and a lot of hard work. It would have been even better if there had been a visual display — diagrams and a few words — explaining how it was all done and why. This was a good opportunity to demonstrate that it's possible to have modern comforts without destroying the Earth in the process. But to the average person taking a shower there was nothing to indicate that the whole thing wasn't run on fossil fuel. 

The same could be said of the green field as a whole: a missed Opportunity.  A great deal of work went into it, and the result was excellent, but it wasn't presented to people as a product of the green movement. Very few of the thousands who experienced that contrast between the green field and the rest of the festival can have realised that in it lies the difference between the old way of doing things and the new, green way. It was a failure of communication, and it shows that while the practical side of things has really come together, the communication side has hardly got off the ground. This is understandable, as previous experience has been with gatherings of the like-minded rather than events of this kind. Let's hope that communication with the outside world gets top priority on next year's green field.

But if you missed this year's, you don't have to wait that long. The HARVEST FOR THE HUNGRY at Molesworth Peace Camp, starting on August 25th, promises to be a Green Gathering and a half.

Details are elsewhere in this issue. See you there!

Patrick Whitefield

Sources: : reprinted from Green Line magazine issue 24 Aug/Sept 1984