I just got home yesterday from a summer-time adventure.
I was working for Greenpeace at Glastonbury Festival. I can’t believe I haven’t written about the project sooner to be honest, but my life’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I finished the 2nd year of my degree at the beginning of last month.
Basically, me and my friend Lola won a competition, which was about designing innovative ways of communicating climate change and the plight of the Arctic. In our application we summarised three ideas, which were for igloos with sound and visual installations for various Arctic issues, a timeline of melting icebergs and a large bird’s eye view map of the Arctic. The prize was to actually come to the festival and build your designs. We didn’t hear back for ages, so I was pretty shocked when Lola rang me excitedly telling me we’d won. They wanted us to create the timeline idea, and said the igloos were cool but there wasn’t enough space for them.
Anyway, that was about two weeks before the day we were expected onsite, and we were asked to stay from 17th June to 2nd July. We had the actual festival weekend off, which was fantastic. Working on the decor team of the build crew was a lot of fun, and it was also hard work. It was baking hot all week, and I felt close to sunstroke on a couple of occasions, but somehow I managed to avoid coming home looking like a lobster.
We spent three days painting our timeline, which was very big and right at the front of the Greenpeace field, next to the giant replica of the Arctic Sunrise ship. The timeline showed two scenarios, one called ‘business as usual’ which depicted melting icebergs giving way to rising sea levels and open water filled with oil rigs and industrial fishing ships. The other was called ‘global sanctuary’ and showed ice and water levels stabilising and lots of Arctic wildlife and sealife. This was supposed to show the consequences of our collective actions, and to underline that we have a choice – the melting of the Arctic is not inevitable.
The rest of the days we spent helping to decorate other parts of the field, and helping other members of the team with their specific projects. I helped to paint the cafe and the ship, and worked on a whole host of random creative tasks like making jellyfish brains out of those annoying little polystyrene S’s you get in boxes and neon paint, making octopus tentacles out of painted foam and plastic, and making barnacles out of old egg boxes. This was all heaps of fun and it was wonderful to work at something that isn’t writing essays or waiting tables. As the finishing line neared, things did start to get a bit frantic, but I managed to get to Wednesday with only one emotional breakdown, which is pretty good-going for me.
The other volunteers were a fantastic bunch of people. Lots of different ages and walks of life, but they were all lovely and I had a lot of good conversation by the campfire. We also did lots of enthusiastic dancing while we worked, which was a lot of fun. I say these guys were from many walks of life, which is true, but there was definitely something that meant everyone was on the same page. I guess you do need a certain characteristic to want to work for an environmental campaign group in a field for weeks. Let’s just say about one in three had waist-length dreadlocks.
Oh and did I mention the cushdy camping setup? I’m used to camping for a festival being something of an ordeal, that you endure because the rest of the experience is worth it. But camping in the special Greenpeace crew camp took all the things I hate about camping out of the equation. We got fed three vegetarian, healthy and usually delicious meals a day. We had showers. We had a campfire and a crew bar. We could charge our phones. The toilets didn’t make you want to chunder and they even had toilet roll on 90% of occasions. It was practically a 5 star resort.
On the very last day, I even managed to interview the design co-ordinator of the field for my next episode of Future Focus, my sustainability talk show. It’s going to be about environmental communication. Watch this space!
In sum, I had a really amazing time working with Greenpeace. It was fun to be creative and watch our space evolve from a bare field with some scaffolding to an awesome cornucopia of activity and beauty, with the life-size Arctic Sunrise replica, the skate ramp, the giant polar bear puppet, the stage, the cafe, farmer’s market, climax dome cinema-come-talk-space, jellyfish seats and the secret bar. Watching everyone swarm in to enjoy our creations on the Wednesday was a high point. I really do think it was one of the coolest fields on the site. And I like to think our hard work helped the Save the Arctic campaign just a teeny tiny bit. 1,000 people signed up as monthly donors, and who knows – maybe one or two people were even inspired to do something to help the Arctic after ogling mine and Lola’s timeline. What? I’m an optimist!
Of course – the actual festival itself was also an adventure of epic proportions.
But that’s a different story…
You can find out more about Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign and join the 5.3 million who believe it should be a protected sanctuary here.