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Project management at Glastonbury Festival

It’s the most iconic festival event of the year and many of you may be looking ahead to sun, mud, and fun at this year’s Glastonbury festival.

Updated on: 12th November 2019

Always looking to illustrate project management in action in every industry, we spoke to Lou Fitzpatrick, a long standing Project Coordinator of the Silver Hayes area, previously known as the Dance Village.

What year was the reborn Silver Hayes set up and how much has it grown since?

Originally Silver Hayes was called the Dance Village which was set up in 2005, and it became Silver Hayes in 2013.

I’ve been involved with Glastonbury for thirteen years so have seen this area start off as a dance tent and then evolve to span across multiple venues.

When Silver Hayes came into being it became a much more diverse and artistic area, covering a more global outreach. 
It has also moved away from just being dance music because that’s such a mainstream giant now, so although we’re still a dance specialty area, we’ve started to look more towards the world music side of things.

How many people are involved in the running of the area?

Before we’re onsite we’re a team of about ten people, and by the time we actually start building onsite with all the working personnel and crew the number reaches almost 500.

How far in advance do you begin team preparations?

Throughout the year preparations are ongoing.

Malcolm Haynes is the Head Programmer and has worked for Glastonbury for over thirty years; he runs the area and works on it all year round.

He’s constantly going to music conferences internationally and talking to acts and managers in order to build up the programming.

I work on the project for four months, so I usually start around late February and get the artist administration underway. 

Then we have a few more people start in the office during the following month or two after that.

Learning People | Project Management at a music festival

To what extent is a project management structure involved in the work you do?

Malcolm and myself are essentially the project managers and project management capabilities are within the core skillset of the primary crew. 

We have a team of people who have a variety of specialties. 

This consists of one Production Manager who looks after the main technical and lights preparation, one Artist Technical Manager who goes to all the providers to ensure we have everything for the artists, Malcolm who is the overall Project Manager ensuring the team is communicated to properly at all times and has the same consistent vision, and myself, who fills in all the gaps.

Do you stick to the same system each year or is there a lot of learning from previous festivals?

We learn everyday and I definitely learn every year.

We try and keep the same team together so there’s a lot to be learnt from experience, and we do as much as possible to build on this rather than having to start again.

How does the team manage budget?

We get a set budget each year which Malcolm negotiates with Michael Eavis, the founder of the festival. 

It tends to be similar to the year before but Malcolm might redistribute it in a slightly different way year on year.

We’re very keen on debriefing and taking notes as we go so we try and make sure we capture all the improvements we could make the following year in order to distribute the budget more efficiently.

How does the team manage timescales?

We get a lot of deadlines set from the founders at the farm – i.e. Glastonbury HQ – in terms of pass lists, submissions for all the accreditations, and Health and Safety.

We’re just one cog in a huge machine although our area has the capacity for about 30,000 people, so we find that because there’s a lot of different areas Glastonbury itself has a lot of buying power to deal with a lot of things centrally timescale wise rather than us all coming up against them.

As a team we use Google Calendar a lot and at the beginning of each year we’ll go through last year’s calendar and use it to define this year’s timescales so we know what to realistically aim for and where the big pushes have to be – there’s not many surprises anymore!

Last year there were a lot of technical elements in Silver Hayes, including an open air stage and a street of sound systems and stalls – are you planning bigger and better things this year?

We’re planning to develop on what we started last year.

The Blues is the streets, the Favela has since had a few improvements, and we’re planning on the Gully – the open air stage again.

We have a lot of the same stage builders and contractors fulfilling the roles so things should remain pretty consistent.

One venue has been completely changed; we had an igloo a couple of year ago but there will be something new that hasn’t been announced yet – very exciting.

A part that is quite outstanding to the eye is the Sonic Structure which is five saddle spans put together, so a very technical structure which is fascinating to see and looks gorgeous.

There are huge liabilities with that sort of thing so we have a specialist team or contractors in to deal with it and representatives from that team stay on site throughout the festival in case anything happens to their structure or any improvements need to be made throughout the event.

We have to take into account all the technical calculations such as the weight loading of the trussing to make sure all the PA systems and lighting that is hung remains within remit, or how wind speeds will affect equipment etc.

Learning People | project management at Glastonbury

How are bigger and better changes to the area facilitated?

We reassign, we reuse, but we don’t put excessive amounts of money into something that we might have had in a previous year. 

When we revamp something we look at trying to financially channel some money away from it into something new.

Because it’s still only the second year of Silver Hayes, there’s a lot of budget dedicated to the creative aspects of the area so we can explore new ideas.

What does the team draw inspiration from?

Malcolm as our leader is a very inspiring man whose vision is amazing. 

He’s a great driving force behind all the decisions made in terms of how he wants the area to look and the acts we ask to perform.

Having worked together for such a long time we’re a great unit and everyone works hard to communicate Malcolm’s vision throughout the rest of the extended team, including the contractors and volunteers.

Project managers are in demand across a wide range of industries and we’ve certainly seen how exciting it would be to manage such a project as Glastonbury. If you’re interested in putting your skills to the test and getting certified in project management, take a look at the project management courses we have on offer and see if it’s a career for you.