The night before Glastonbury I had failed to achieve my dream. I sat on my bed in tears. The next day and for the rest of the festival I would continue to hypo on a daily basis. This could have made for an awful festival experience, but it didn't. This is partly because Glastonbury is unlike any festival I've been to and Glastonbury 2013 had some especially awesome things about it that hopefully won't be so unique in years to come. So here's a few reasons why the festival is worth investigating and then investing in.
The only hiccup came when I left my tent without Lucozade, which on a site of nearly 1000 acres does not make for a quick walk back. Obviously though drink options were plentiful and being Glastonbury, when the guy in the queue overheard my boyfriend and I panicking, he asked if I'd like to go in front of him. Because people at Glastonbury are, in the main, lovely like that.
What makes Glastonbury particularly inspiring are the thousands of people who put their heart and soul into creating a world that exists for one week only. Their sheer purpose over that time is to make people happy. From the painted bins and silk flags that trail the site like a Hansel and Gretel map, to the Blues stage and Block Nine the site is an all-consuming spectacle.
It meant that even when I felt rough and was missing an act, there was always something in front of me that was equally worth seeing and almost certainly more unexpectedly delightful.
The more vocal we are, the more likely people are going to feel comfortable about their conditions
In fact about 80 per cent of what made the festival great for me was that my diabetes did not stop me doing anything, even if it did, from time to time, make me do it differently. A lot of this was because of the facilities and staff.
Due to my boyfriend's job I was fortunate enough to stay in the disabled camp site, Spring Ground. This had unexpected advantages for me. It allowed me a fridge to keep my insulin and ice blocks cool and gain the gleeful camaraderie of seeing someone else's insulin in there too!
It allowed me access to a sterile space if I needed to change my cannula in the middle of the night and being surrounded by trees, it offered quiet rest bite after a day of hypos that left me a little too tired. I also had access to the viewing platforms, which I was again not expecting to use, but when I hypoed in the middle of Public Enemy (natch, sorry Rolling Stones but until you start paying your tax without complaint and scratching Nirvana songs with your back, Chuck D wins) I could still enjoy the set, rather than be distracted by the prospect of being danced on while I hypoed.
Thanks to the work of the charity Attitude is Everything (AIE), who are in the process of 'making music accessible to all...by working in partnership with venues, audiences, artists and the music industry,' similar facilities are becoming more common at festivals including Latitude, Reading and Leeds. I recommend all people with or without disabilities, hidden or otherwise, ask about access facilities. And when they're not there demand them, whether directly by contacting the festival/venue, or indirectly, by getting involved with AIE.
The more vocal we are, the more likely people are going to feel comfortable about their conditions and the more the industry will see access as a valuable necessity not an additional expense. This is not about special treatment, this is about levelling the playing field and encouraging more people to discover the sheer delight of standing in a field singing at the top of your voice with 20,000 others, being able to let go like everyone else.
Attitude is Everything also have opportunities to volunteer at festivals like Glastonbury. This not only means you get to enjoy the festival for free (for a few shifts) but you're helping to ensure people with disabilities are seen to be the same and as different as everyone else.
AIE volunteers managed the platforms and the gates back at the camp site. Like all the volunteers and security staff at Glastonbury their relaxed, informed and cheerful nature made the festival for me. It was through them that I learned about Gig Buddies. The Brighton based organisation pairs people who have learning disabilities with other people who share their 'interests and passions for live music,' so everyone has a chance to enjoy gigs and (as of this year) festivals. What a fantastic way to meet new people, hear music and help ensure that someone's disability doesn't disable them.
The support offered by charities such as AIE, Gig Buddies and not to mention Deaf Zone and StageText are steadily unpicking ideas of disability, showing them to be only one aspect of what makes an individual an individual.
By Sunday night after my final hypo of the festival I stood on the viewing platform at the John Peel tent singing my heart out to Phoenix. When I was eleven I dreamt of going to Glastonbury, at fifteen I dreamt of meeting John Peel and at sixteen I listened to Phoenix and dreamt that at some point I would feel better. After fourteen years it would appear I have achieved quite a few of my dreams.
4and8 blogs about Type One Diabetes here and tweets about it here