I was asked to do this painting of a local scene here in the Somerset village of Pilton where I live. Although rather idealistic, it is fairly close to what the fields around my house are like. Long rolling hills separated by hedges, stretching out to the Quantock Hills, then Exmoor, and finally the sea beyond that.
These fields tend to be small in modern standards, and are stuffed with sheep, cows or some crop or other just as they have been for the last couple of thousand years.
A bit about Pilton
Pilton is situated on the edge of the Somerset Levels. Although dry now, the base of the village (thought to be known as Pooltown) was a shallow lake and naturally legend has it that it is yet another place where Joseph of Arimathea and possibly Jesus landed in Britain.
The area is full of these legends. A few miles down the road is Glastonbury Tor and Abbey on the ancient Isle of Avalon. The now ruined Abbey still has the grave of King Arthur clearly marked out. And if it is marked out then he must be there, stone never lies.
The Glastonbury Festival
There is, however, quite the oddest metamorphosis in June each year as Pilton (not Glastonbury) hosts probably the biggest music festival in the world with over 80 stages. Yes, all the sheep, and cows are shipped off for a few weeks, and are replaced by 175,000 festival goers so our wee parish of 900 souls becomes the biggest city in Somerset.
A brief history of The Glastonbury Festival
It all began modestly enough in 1970 on a single field on Worthy Farm. The headline act was T-Rex who replaced The Kinks. That festival all turned out OK so they did it again the next year. This time Pink Floyd were meant to bill but pulled out. They were replaced by a smart young pretender named David Bowie. I wonder what happened to him!
Over the next few decades it all grew and grew peaking in 1999 at 250,000 due to gate crashers jumping over the fence.
At this time, the festival was in danger of being ruined by its own popularity so a bigger and better fence has been erected and this snakes in a great circle around the valley.
Since that time peace has generally prevailed. Just a few stars on show in the wee fields beyond my house have been: the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Radiohead, U2, Neil Young, The Foo Fighters. Not just rock greats either. Even Country stars like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and Johnny Cash have all played here.
The Glastonbury Festival for me
If I go out of my front door and walk then to get to the front of the pyramid stage, then it will take about 12 minutes or so if there are no crowds, so it’s all pretty much on the doorstep. Prior to living in Pilton, I lived in London for 23 years, and one of the few things I miss about London is the plethora of takeaway food, and beer any time of the day or night. Enquire on purchasing this image as a limited edition print here
So come the Wednesday when the Glastonbury Festival doors open, I pop down Worthy Lane, and take in the vista of indulgence heaven. I generally begin with hot Raclette cheese with onions and potatoes. I go on from there piling on the pounds with each sitting. Bliss. Enquire on purchasing this image as a limited edition print here
Naturally, you run into your neighbours on site, often stopping for a drink or two, and then see a band together much as we do down the club. This being Pilton, some neighbours are in many of the bands that we see. One or two bands are famous on the world stage. We wave at them, and they wave back. Everyone smiles.
Painting at the Glastonbury Festival
As my pencils and paints are in the house they are easy to get on site and begin a bit of work between feeds. It’s all about the people. You have to get them early as near the end none of us are at our best, and everyone looks exactly the same as each other anyway. The same washed out pallor. It is such a huge spectacle you have to pick and choose your subjects carefully, you are always mindful that it might rain soon so you can’t choose a massive subject.
I consider myself most fortunate that I have the best of both worlds here in Pilton, a wonderful rural life with the occasional bit of Rock at the base and Donna Kebab on top. I think King Arthur would certainly have approved.
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