One of the biggest challenges which festival organisers face, from a wayfinding point of view, is to create a wayfinding system which can guide thousands of people around its location but using temporary signage, design and means. Temporary signage at the best of times, i.e. in a permanent location such as an airport, is often very problematic and confusing. Issues such as lack of conformity between existing and temporary signs and lack of proper planning are just a few of the issues that can occur. What makes Glastonbury Music Festival such a fascinating wayfinding case study is that we are talking about an event which, including staff, is home to over 200,000 people for the 3 day festival (although many people stay from the Wednesday/Thursday through to the Monday).
My wife and I got completely well and truly lost one evening as we tried to find our tent. The festival, for those of you who have never been before, is simply huge. I would estimate that the venue is the size of approximately 60 football fields and thus you can begin to see why it might get confusing to find your way around this temporarily made city. Walking around at midnight at a loss, we eventually managed to find our tent with the help of a security guard, who led us back to the main entrance we first entered the festival site at. Eventually, tired and exhausted and wet, we found our tent!
* Festival TIP: The trick, if you want to avoid the problems we had and which other seasoned travellers clearly already knew, was that it is a great idea to create your own temporary landmark. What some people do is to take with them a very tall flagpole and flag and place it right beside their tent. If you do not have your own, then try and pick a camping spot which is close to where someone else has done this and use the flagpole as your own landmark. A good landmark will be view-able from a distance, i.e from an aerial view.
Another thing you can do is try and camp close to other noticeable features and these may include a tree, hedges, entrances, toilets, or even close to food and catering stalls. You might want to avoid the stench of the toilets which builds up over the days, or avoid the crowds, which can create a high level of foot traffic close to the stalls, but first and foremost I would recommend to make sure you have some way to relocate yourself. You need to be able to navigate not just in daylight but in darkness, in the rain, in the crowds, when you have possibly had a few drinks and with other people potentially putting up tents between you and the walkways.
Getting lost for fun – wayfinding and navigation can also be fun and a source of pleasure. Just like getting lost in New York City within the safe confines of Manhattan, enjoying discovering new parts of Greenwich Village and enjoying shopping on side streets off Broadway, allowing oneself to get lost in Glastonbury can be fun. Wayfinding and navigation have different values when they need to be done, such as when you really need to get to a certain music stage for the start of your favourite band, or you really need to find your tent. A good wayfinding system needs to be there for when it is needed; the system may not always be needed and used, but it needs to be there in the background.
What makes Glastonbury Music Festival especially interesting for wayfinding is the fact that there is no conformity in that the signage, each field, each area of the site is unique and there really is no standardization and why would we want that anyway. It would take away the fun of Glastonbury. Nevertheless, planning the wayfinding system to help festival-goers navigate around the site, it is a tactical challenge.
Lost? How could you possibly get lost with on a temporary city like Glastonbury? The map below is just a part of the overall site.
The Green Peace field, Green Kidz field, Field of Avalon, Bella’s field, Paines Ground, Pylon Ground, Cockmill Meadow, Sheppard Pit, Tipi Field and the Dair Ground are just a few of the locations you might desire to find. You have to attend Glastonbury to really appreciate the true size and scale of the site.
Probably every wayfinding convention is broken at the festival, but everyone seems to get by and desire to return. Many people do though get horrendously lost, such as what happened to my wife and I and the difficulty the one night finding our tent in the dark. Naming conventions for signs are random, signage comes in a variety of colours and designs, signs compete with each other for space – everything is random. Still struggling to find your way around and still getting completely lost on day three of the festival and feeling in a sense of panic? My wife knows the feeling well!
The organisers actually do a significant amount and overall, one has to say, an incredible job in planning this temporary city. The day after the festival ends, the task of returning the site to empty fields starts almost immediately and takes weeks to do and to tidy up.
You can learn more about the festival from the official site at: glastonburyfestivals.co.uk.