Mass Participation at Glastonbury 2016

The Greenpeace field at Glastonbury Festival was this year visible from far away across the festival site. A monument to Saturn V, the rocket that was the engine of the Apollo missions, stood proudly in the field. It’s message was simple: if we draw inspiration from the effort to put a human on the moon – an idea that was seemingly impossible at the time – then we can de-carbonise our world and build a secure future for ourselves and others that respects every living being and creature on our planet.

This means greening our cities and building sustainable energy networks, so Greenpeace explored how this might look in practice. The field was split in to zones, with each zone representing a form of clean energy generation – solar, wind, wave, green gas and anaerobic digestion. Overground pipes created visual links from the generation zones to the areas of the field that consumed energy such as the Garden Café or intimate Engine Room venue. Reserve energy was ‘sent’ to the Battery Bar (which was partially modelled on a Tesla Powerwall) where it would be stored until later needed.

Mass participation and playing with light

Each year at Glastonbury, the creative team introduce interactive elements in to the Greenpeace field. We see interaction and immersion as an effective way to communicate ideas and campaigns that can already be challenging in a festival environment. By participating in an adventure, people become more engaged with the campaign itself which in turn is more likely to affect their actions and behaviour in future.

This isn’t the first time Greenpeace has explored mass participation on the field, wide games have often been a feature in previous years – playing out a story that communicates problems our environment faces. This however is the first time that human interaction combined with lighting technology has been used to create a game that tells a story – in this case that if we work together we can achieve the changes needed to sustain and boost our energy networks.

Human interaction with technology

This energy grid came alive at night as rings of light pulsed down the pipes from source to demand. Light flowing vivaciously like electrons drew crowds towards the music in the Engine Room venue, creating an electric vibe. We installed sensors throughout the field, up to 50 meters apart, that when connected together by a line of people holding hands further energised the grid – boosting the light levels running across the pipes and enhancing the speed of electrons as they zipped along to their destination. This demonstrated that individual and ordinary people, when working together to form a human chain, had the influence to create real change – inspiration we hoped people would take home with them after the festival had finished.

The Greenpeace field at Glastonbury is powered by a mix of second generation bio-diesel and solar PV. Great efforts are made to use sustainable materials and recycling policies are in place to re-use any materials not kept for future events. Structures on the field are constructed with materials that are re-used on a cycle of several years.