How The Portable Cabin Became The Backbone Of Festival Sites

Gatehouse kiosk ticket office cabin 8ft x 6ft

As we approach the summer solstice, it can only mean one thing for music fans: the Glastonbury Festival. This annual event is more than just a music festival: it’s a cultural phenomenon that is famed and imitated around the world. About 210,000 people are expected to attend the festival this year.

The site takes up around 1,000 acres of Worthy Farm in Somerset, and it takes about six weeks to set it all up. This not only includes the 62 stages, but also the toilets, catering facilities, portable gatehouse buildings, changing rooms and other backstage areas, and much more.

All of this takes a great deal of planning and careful logistics to ensure everything comes together, particularly for such a large-scale event. The portable cabin plays an unsung but non the less essential role in all of this, more of which later, but first let’s have a look at how the famous festival has evolved over the years.

The very first Glastonbury Festival took place at Worthy Farm over 50 years ago in the late summer of 1970, and it was attended by around 1,500 people. The admission fee was £1 and included free milk and camping. The Kinks were advertised as the headliners, but they had to pull out at the last minute and were replaced by Marc Bolan and T-Rex.

The festival was founded by Michael Eavis, and according to the V&A Museum, he was inspired by the Isle of Wight Festival and the Woodstock Festival in the US, and also the local Bath Festival of Blues in Shepton Mallet.

The following year, the date of the festival was changed to coincide with the summer solstice on 21 June, which was celebrated by crowds who gathered at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in the south west of England. From the start, the festival set out its strong spiritual and creative ethos, although some people now question the countercultural value of the event.

Legend has it that the famous Pyramid Stage was constructed on the location of a ley line that runs through the Vale of Avalon, and is supposedly a ‘chakra’ down which the earth’s energies run. David Bowie was the first artist to perform on this stage, although there is no archive footage of the landmark event.

There were a few loosely organised gatherings throughout the 1970s, but the multi-day event as we know it today did not start to take shape until the 1980s. During this time, the festival carved out its unique niche as an environmentally-friendly and politically aware event, attracting big name artists and larger crowds.

Michael Eavis and his team faced an ongoing battle with the local council each year to stage the event, as objections were raised about noise, hygiene, overcrowding, and water supply. However, the festival continued to grow in size and ambition, incorporating a more avant garde range of performers and musical genres.

By the 1990s, the festival was firmly established as a cultural event, and it rode the wave of rave, Britpop, and the vibrant and eclectic dance music scene of the era. From the mid-90s, highlights of the festival were also broadcast on TV. Today, the festival attracts global megastars, and the performers are more diverse and varied than ever before.

Underpinning all this iconic cultural activity is the humble portable cabin, which has multiple uses at outdoor festivals around the UK and beyond. Here are just some of the essential purposes they serve.

First aid stations

Health and safety is naturally a key priority at large gatherings, but inevitably with so many people in one place minor accidents, illnesses and injuries will occur. Portable buildings can be used as temporary medical centres to administer first aid in a safe and clean environment.

Artist green rooms

The performers are the beating heart of the festival, and they need secure, comfortable and dry places to prepare for going on stage. Portable buildings are used as dressing rooms and hair and makeup stations; rest and relaxation areas; private spaces to carry out media duties; and any other requirements of the entourage and VIP backstage lounges.

Food and drink stalls

UK festivals are often culinary havens, having progressed well beyond the traditional burger and chips vans. Festival caters use temporary buildings to set up kitchens and food counters, and even indoor dining areas.

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