Glastonbury is the Holy Grail of all festivals and it knows it. The organizers charge over £200 for a ticket and that’s if you’re lucky enough to get one. High-prices and low-availability meant the unorthodox route of jumping the fence was a routine means of entry for some. Until Michael Eavis’ ‘super fence’ that is.
Clash spoke with serial fence jumpers and up-and-coming Hackney-based band Shoreditch Knights about their most memorable experiences, over a traditional East End meal of pie and mash on Broadway Market.
Sipping from the green parsley gravy left over on his plate, Giles Atkinson, twenty-eight-year-old bassist and producer of the band, introduced his memories. “It was Glastonbury 2001, it was a dark night, I caught the attention of my sister and the guitarist and the lead singer from the Shoreditch Knights nearby and we together manhandled the gate lengthways up against the fence and hey presto we jumped and ran into the night.”
Meanwhile, the tweed-cladded singer of the group, Clovis Wilson-Copp, responded to Atkinson’s story with an experience other than their venture together in 2001: “I remember back in the summer of 1999, jumping the fence, climbing through dense undergrowth, under cover of darkness.”
The singer’s brother and guitarist of the band David Wilson-Copp, preferring to opt out of the green coloured gravy meal, and instead gently sipping instant coffee from a polystyrene cup, explained part of his technique to gaining entry. “It was about thirteen years ago. I remember getting a ladder from the woods that a hippy showed me and it was made out of branches – it was sort of tied together with ribbons and all colourful and we took it over the fence and got over the first stage, but we couldn’t get over the next fence because it was two fences. We got stuck up there so we just left the ladder and leaped the second fence and just ran.”
The Shoreditch Knights’ success in gaining entry was not unusual, but in 2003 a £1m twelve-foot steel ‘super fence’ was installed, making it become nearly impossible to climb. However, Clash spoke to Peter Ellis, a forty-year-old builder from Hastings about how he, along with his friend, were the only two people successful in keeping up with the tradition the first year the new fence was used.
Ellis was aware of exactly how tight security around the enclosure was, so his attempt took an extra level of planning that no other fence jumper had ever applied. He explains his method; “A month before it actually started, me and a friend of mine went down there and buried a ladder in the woods – quite near the top part of Glastonbury, near where the stone circle is. This was the year that they had the new fence. The ladder was in two parts and we measured it so it didn’t stick out too far up the top. We got exact measurements; it was just a foot sticking up above the top. Then we returned to retrieve the ladder on the Wednesday just before the festival began. We got to the festival about midnight at one of those unofficial car parks, and walked around the whole festival to get to the woods where we had the ladder buried. By that time it must have been 4:30am and it was just getting light. We put the ladder together with some nuts and bolts and then we had a homemade grappling hook to get down the other end. We timed it perfectly because as it was getting light, the watchtowers’ security must have knocked off for a tea break or breakfast.”
Clash does not condone these actions. But our hats are off to the lengths music fans will go through to immerse themselves in their beloved music. Roll on summer.
Words: Cai Trefor
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