The Glastonbury Festival has always been a place of extremes and 2005 was certainly no exception. As we arrived at the Glastonbury Healing Fields on the Tuesday we were blissfully unaware of the extremes we would experience over the next six days. Alec, a Glastonbury veteran who hasn't missed one since the mud years of the nineties, with his guitar and African djembe looking forward to some late nights making music around the camp fires. Bindi, an unflappable ex-nurse with an ever optimistic and intuitive approach and dry sense of humour who has enjoyed each festival since the millennium. Two Human Givens practitioners willing to sacrifice home comforts for six days to enjoy a relaxing break in a field in Somerset.
The idea started a year ago when we attended the 2004 Healing Field Gathering as a way to have a quiet weekend away from home in a temporary but supportive community. We started to wonder about the practicalities of introducing Human Givens to the worlds largest festival of the performing arts. We were already aware of the organiser's dislike of commercial nylon tents and preference for pretty, "back to basics" dwellings such as benders, geodesics domes and Mongolian yurts covered with white canvas. Our February application therefore carried the confident assertion that we could bring our sixteen foot diameter geodesic dome tent from which we could offer therapy to festival goers. After being accepted we realised that we had better find out how to build what we had already promised.
After long evenings building the ash frame and purchasing the canvas, our new geodesic dome tent proved to be a very comfortable dwelling for six days. Upon arrival on the Tuesday we were pleased to be allocated a prime location close to the entrance to the Healing Fields and next to the Earth circle mandala - a beautiful circular pattern carefully laid out on the grass using plants, grasses and bark and surrounded by rough benches and forming a natural meeting place.
This helped to ensure that we had a steady flow of visitors throughout the festival. We were each expected to work for four hours each day for donations. Some days were busier than others with Saturday being relatively quiet and Sunday totally manic. When it was sunny Bindi also provided Reflexology and Indian Head massages working outside whilst Alec ran Human Givens therapy sessions inside the privacy of the tent.
We set up a bill board outside the tent with laminated A4 information sheets explaining what the human givens apporach is all about. In retrospect we might have fitted in better with the spirit of the healing fields if we had used a chalk board, painted or carved sign instead of our rather formal looking laser printed and laminated sheets. Still, they served the purpose well and some people preferred to read the display whilst others preferred to chat to us. We got the usual range of responses to the phrase "Human Givens" - "Human what?", "Human Gibbons?" and only one or two people were already familiar with the term. The hot weather on the Wednesday and Thursday was almost too much but removing the central canvas cap of the tent kept us cool and in the shade.
Everything changed in the early hours of Friday morning as a terrific thunder storm passed over the festival site. Luckily the Healing Fields is on higher ground than most of the rest of the festival site and we stayed dry while hundreds of others suffered from the flash flood. Some tents were submerged under five feet of flood water but we managed to keep dry despite the torrential rain. Unfortunately some of the portaloos were overturned by the floods creating a serious health hazard and causing the entire area to be cordoned off. Friday morning was spent helping others to dry out and hoping that we were not going to be subjected to another of the famous "Glastonbury mud years". Luckily, although the storm was intense, it was the only rain to fall during the festival. The Saturday and Sunday were warm and although there was plenty of mud around the ground had mostly dried out by the end of the weekend.
Having experienced the highs and lows of the festival over the years, we were well aware that there would be many people experiencing various changes and challenges who would welcome the type of insights and therapy which we could offer. We had decided to focus on "Life counselling" and "Fast phobia cures" since this was expected to be the most practical therapy we could offer. There was a lot of interest and we ended up providing the full range of services, treating phobias, depression, anxiety, and general counselling. It was refreshing to see how open people were to the Human Givens ideas and the most common expression I heard by those reading the leaflets was "this seems quite sensible" or words to that effect. We treated people with fear of flying, fear of speaking in public and fear of spiders. No one took up the offer of a fast phobia cure for "fear of the famed glastonbury toilets". On the Saturday morning Alec was asked "Are you the phobia man?". The father-in-law of a young woman treated on the Friday had stopped by to report the success of one of the previous day's phobia cures. She had woken up with a spider in her tent and for the first time in years had remained calm. I think her family were astonished. It is always good to get positive feedback but you don't really expect much during the chaos of the festival.
It was a little frustrating when people who promised to return later for a session failed to turn up. On several occasions we turned people away because we had bookings. I suppose we should expect that to happen at Glastonbury where there are so many wonderful distractions. But we will be sure to give priority in future to people who are ready for a treatment immediately.
It was occasionally a little demanding using guided imagery when there was an acoustic band playing outside the next tent, or when a musical procession passed by. On more than one occasion Alec was congratulated by clients for the skill in which he drew the reality of the "disturbance" into the therapy session. At those times we would describe how wonderful it was to be in the middle of the most chilled-out place in the known universe.
We worked hard and saw less of the rest of the festival than we had intended but felt that we provided some real help and learned a lot about how to work in this relatively chaotic environment. We were disappointed that it took fifteen hours to leave the site on the Monday. Having risen at 7:30 am to get the car we were astonished when the marshals on the gate by the staff car park insisted that the only way we could bring our car back on site in order to load up the tent was to take it around to another gate - a journey against the flow of traffic which was leaving the site and which took twelve hours. This meant that we had to effectively leave the festival twice. We finally got off the site just before dark and got home after a very long day indeed - our anger and frustration at this lack of control barely contained.
Would we do it again? Well, having cleaned the thick mud from the groundsheets and wellies, right now we are glad that we don't have to make a decision yet since Michael Eavis has declared that there won't be a Glastonbury festival in 2006. Perhaps we will be fully rested and ready for it again in 2007! Overall we are very pleased to have played a part, introducing Human Givens to a large number of people and confident that we have provided some real benefits. Surviving the unpredictable extremes of the Glastonbury festival is always a reminder of what it means to be alive, and also of the importance of having our essential needs met.
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