Crashing out at Glastonbury Festival

Crashing out at Glastonbury Festival

Summary: Glastonbury Festival is the home of all-night madness and high emotion, and that's just buying the tickets

TOPICS: Tech Industry
The Glastonbury Festival is the UK's most popular regular music event. People from every part of the planet converge on a West Country farm for three or more days of music, ecology and alternative pursuits, as they have done in ever increasing numbers for more than thirty years. It continues to thrive when others have faded: its unique blend of the commercial and the anarchistic, organisation and chaos, makes it a heady and revitalising experience.

It's a glorious antidote to the individualistic, schismed, urban society in which we spend the other fifty-one weeks of the year. I've been six -- or is it seven, it's hard to tell -- times, and have the usual selection of weather, wonder and plumbing stories to tell. But it doesn't look like I'll make it in 2004: technology has let me down.

Glastonbury's attitude to technology has been characteristically ambiguous. Many of the first festival-goers were back-to-nature types very suspicious of big science and its toys, but the place has always had its own little radio station and a papal dispensation for Marshall amps. Mobile phones were for yuppie scum, until Orange banged in a base station on the farm and you could call your mates at the end of a gig. Now, they're indispensable.

And it is mobile phones, together with that darn Internet, that have cooked my goose this time. For while 100,000 people or so attend the festival, nearly twenty times that many would like to come. Most of those people have access to at least two phones and a modem; many will have been able to scrape together four or five mobiles and be on broadband. The result, when the tickets went on sale last night at 8pm, was an unintentional denial of service attack on the ticketing agency that put the siege of Troy to shame.

I started at 8 p.m., with just the one broadband connection and three phones, and by 2 a.m. was exhausted. Because of new anti-touting rules, even if I got through I could only have bought two tickets: myself and a friend had a compact whereby whoever hit paydirt first would sort out the other. He gave up at 4:30 a.m. There are still tickets and we are still trying, but with little hope.

Everyone expected some problems, but the parlous state of the online ordering system is unforgivable. The press office says that it's working, just very slowly: it is not. Five times I managed to get through to enter my details: three times it rejected my card details, and twice it told me that the tickets were sold out. My card is valid and there are still tickets: overload is one thing, but spewing incorrect errors is the action of a broken machine.

You can't fit two million people into a Somerset dairy farm. It is an impossible task for the Glastonbury organisers, but they're not doing anyone any favours. The best thing about Glasto is going with your mates -- but with pot-luck on buying tickets, many decades-old groups of dedicated festival goers will be broken up. It's also particularly unfair on those without Net access or banks of mobiles, and this harms the inclusiveness that makes the experience so special.

Glastonbury is about alternatives and fairness. It would be far better not to treat the ticketing like a big gig -- the festival isn't just one huge Madonna concert. Sell tickets in small batches over time; have a lottery for people who write in ahead of schedule, arrange for tickets to be available across the country through the good causes who benefit, allow people to apply as a group. Anything would be better than relying on a broken, inappropriate and frustrating method that has probably wasted ten million hours of all of our lives.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Exactly is what I would say to everything you have written. I had 6 phones going and 2 internet connections and I got to the payment screen 5 times. Each time I put in my details to be told there are not enough tickets left. It is no longer a festival, it is now a pop concert and has put me off going in the future. This should have been my 3rd glastonbury! Me and my friends were all planning to go but so far 2 out of the 20 have been successful. They are very lucky to be going but I am sure they didn't imagine going on their own. It's a shambles but the organisers will not come out and say so.
  • I've been trying now for 17hrs pretty much non-stop on mobile and internet-NIGHTMARE-im at work now and still going on the sly...just about given up hope...It's a real shame it's such a shambles and agree that tickets should be sold in batches throughout the year, perhaps regionally and definitely NOT all through phones/internet...its just too frustrating not even being able to get through after trying to call approx. once every 5secs for hours on end. . . . .right - back to the grind!!
  • I have been going to glastonbury every year since i was 10 - i'm now 23. I have been on the net and 3 phones since 8pm last night non stop it is now 13:30. All my mates are trying too, and nada...

    I don't understand why the radio stations have hyped up ticket sales. Real glastonbury goers do not need reminding or to be told when tickets are on sale. It's not like they think no-one's gunna turn up and they need to advertise !!!!!
  • Here! here! and so say all of us.... we have been glastonbury festival goers over the past 15 years and this is the first year that the group who usually reside opposite the stone circle near the big oak tree on masse will not be attending! it is a crying shame I AM crying with frustration and lack of sleep if i never see a computer or the redial button on my phone again it'll be too soon.......a massively dissapointed tree dweller.
  • Right there with you... especially with the small batches going on sale at different times... even having some where you have to turn up in person (like the radio 1 events) so that people without phones or internet access can go and pay in cash.

    I also like groups being able to apply together... and how about allocating a few thousand to be auctioned off with any profit over and above the
  • What crap. The fact is that over the last couple years Glastonbury Festival has embraced the full force of the media 'hype' machine. Consequently everyone from 16 to 60 wants to go. No matter what system you have in place there will always be this problem. Expand the system and tickets sell in seconds, it'll always be a lottery there is no viable alternative.

    This system did work, tickets are selling as fast as the system can cope. I had the same error messages on the website as the writer did but at around midnight it suddenly went through, tickets ordered.
  • this is a shortcut that takes you straight to the order form... it works!! i just did it and now have my email confirmation!
  • I must have pressed "click here to order" over 1000 times and everytime I get a message telling me I have requested too many, 2! I've even tried 1 and apparentley I'm still asking for more than I should. Some of my mates have got tickets, but don't want to go if we can't all go. Completely gutted! Matt
  • Emma,
    is not the same server as
    (which is the regular link to the form page).

    Freya and the other one are on sequential IP addresses and I have tracerted them both and they are probably sitting next to each other on the rack however freya is probably a test server and at the moment there is no guarantee that your order is going into the same system as the other one.
  • Mark,

    This is a lottery, however it does not weight people equally so is not really that fair. Sure I agree that Glasto is a victim of its own success and I prefered the days back in 1995 when I first went but until one of the other festivals even comes close it will continue to be the main event of the summer.
  • OK, so it's now a lottery, run it like one. Give everyone a month to apply for sets of 4 tickets, cut out the duplicates then pick the first 112 000 out of the hat.

    At least I think that would make sense. Engaged tone hypnosis has fried my brain.
  • re the Freya link, I have an email from the Glastonbury info person, - got their address from the glastonbury website, who says its a valid link. So hopefully it did feed into the same ordering system..
  • thank god about the freya link, i found out about that earlier this morning, and me and some friends managed to use it successfully - however i am now trying to get a pair for a mate who can't get to the internet at the mo using freya and it doesn't appear to be working anymore. it was good whilst it lasted!
  • Yep - I'm still going. I've had 3hrs sleep and taken bout 1hr off apart from that. Me and my girlfriend have been using 3 phones between us along with my broadband connection. That number will be ingrained on my head for the rest of the year 0870 830 2004. I also managed to get past the order form, only for it to tell me at 4.30am that they were sold out. This happened a couple of times. But the phone message was still the same. There is no way you can stop trying after 8hrs of dialing. Seems unfait, but there must be literally thousands of other people who have tried just as much.
  • Couldn't agree more - Glastonbury isn't about mobile phones and debit cards and crappy internet ticketing systems. Whilst it's understandable that Michael Eavis wants to keep tickets out of the hands of the touts, partnering with a ticketing website and telephone system that patently can't cope is dangerous in the longer term. The spirit of the festival has started to change as corporate partners and technology have come on board. If they're not careful, they'll destroy everything that makes Glastonbury such a glorious escape from the rest of the year. Then will be able to cope simply because no-one will want to go.
  • Ok, So maybe i've been scammed but if you are still having problems and fancy chancing it me and my girlfriend spent last night phoning the official 0870 number. I woke up and phoned a mate who gave me these numbers.....
    I tried for twenty mins at 11am AND GOT THROUGH!!!!
    Good luck!
  • A new evil twist - I managed to get through on the web at 1:30am. I got the email confirmation and went to bed relieved. At 3:18pm I get an email saying that they were unable to collect payment from my bank and to try again for tickets! No indication why, there's plenty of money in the account!!? Dirty tricks?!
  • Get a life you losers. Do something more constructive with your useless existences -- it's only a crappy festival with tuppence halfpenny groups without an ounce of originality between them.
  • I had 2 windows open, and somehow both of them successfully ordered tickets simultaneously at 12.30 today (were they releasing them in batches??).

    I haven't had my email confirmation and I fear they've mistaken me for a tout and cancelled my order. Surely they should still let me have one lot of tickets (2), surely...

  • Well i think this is quite a good way to do it, it makes sure everyone who's going has really put the effort in and cares. Some people will be unluckly and miss out and some will be lucky and find it easy, but it's been such a mission everyone will be well up for it when we get there.

    chill out and quit moaning