These days, it feels like music festivals are constantly raked over the coals for ballooning ticket prices, unoriginal artist lineups, or, you know, selling hundreds of tickets but failing to produce an actual festival. But a viral essay from one Glastonbury attendee may just restore our faith in festival humanity.
On Tuesday, July 11, Laura Whitehurst, a 27-year-old from Manchester, U.K., published a blog post titled, “An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim.” The letter detailed how, despite the tens of thousands of people attending the festival annually, staff managed to not only respond to her personal requests as a first-time festival ticket holder, but made her attendance completely feasible and safe.
For Whitehurst, the staff’s attention was completely unexpected but also unforgettable. In the three months leading up to the festival, she had received innumerable harassing calls and texts from a group she had planned on attending the event with, all because two of the men in the group had sexually assaulted her—all because the “friends” didn’t want Whitehurst to report the men. They didn’t want her to “ruin Glastonbury for us all,” they told her, through up to 15 voicemail messages a day.
“At the crisis centre the next day, as I lay sobbing on the table being photographed and probed by four nurses, I received a barrage of phone calls and threats from certain friends telling me to go home, to not report it. Telling me that no it wasn’t consensual but ‘don’t ruin the group’ and ‘don’t ruin Glastonbury for us all,'” Whitehurst wrote. “Eventually, the harassment got worse. I couldn’t turn my phone on without getting more. I blocked the numbers, the contacts on Facebook, the accounts on Instagram, but they’d find more ways to get to me.”
After speaking with the police, they suggested Whitehurst contact the festival to try and ask for a refund. And much to her surprise, her 500-word submission to Glastonbury was immediately responded to by a woman named Marianna, who put Whitehurst in touch with Glastonbury’s event operations lead, a former cop named Adrian.
Instead of turning Whitehurst away, or refusing to refund her, Adrian laid out a complete security plan that would allow her to attend Glastonbury to the safest of their ability.
The plan would safeguard her through the check-in process and camping experience, as well as several “security clearances.” Adrian would also give her a parking pass so she could privately transport herself and her friend Tom, wristbands to allow her to use the hospitality bars and accommodations, and a personal letter he issued himself.
The letter informed recipients that “the bearer of the letter must have her requests for her safety taken seriously and she must be taken to safety immediately.” So, if Whitehurst were to run into her attackers and harassers in line, or see them at a stage, she could take the letter to stage security and be ushered to safety.
“Despite the fact he—as the Events Operations Lead—had one of the busiest jobs in the world weeks before the festival, he dedicated himself personally to me. I was overwhelmed (I had cried at least 5 times by this point…),” Whitehurst wrote.
The festival came, and Mariana and Adriana helped Whitehurst and introduced her to others she could contact should she feel necessary. And while Whitehurst did feel anxious and nervous at times that she’d see her former friends, she never ran into them (though she did make conscious decisions to avoid their campgrounds and pass on artists she knew they’d be seeing).
With the Glastonbury staff’s help, Whitehurst was able to take an immensely negative, traumatic experience and find joy in something she would have otherwise missed out on because of said experience.
“I made some new great friends, I saw some incredible acts, my tan lines are ridiculous, my hangovers were unreal and at the end of it all, I didn’t feel like a victim, I felt like someone who had finally been to Glastonbury,” Whitehurst wrote.
Whitehurst’s account is inspirational but also extremely emotional, and even has the internet in tears. Twitter users responding to her letter have commended the festival staff, as well as Whitehurst’s strength for sharing her story with the world.
So touched by your story 👏🏼 for not being intimidated by your so-called friends. Horrible situation. Well done for staying strong!— Fran Newman-Young (@francesca_ny) July 14, 2017
This made me cry. Ordinary people do extraordinary things and Glastonbury is full of those people, it's a very special place. Take care xx— ilona burton (@ilonacatherine) July 13, 2017
That's one of the bravest, most humbling and most life affirming pieces I've ever read. You're an incredible person to write that x— Chris Owen (@wonky_donky) July 13, 2017
I had a little cry when I read this, I hope you return again and again and again…. x— Sarah (@SarahGarth) July 13, 2017
Ur a very brave women, & @GlastoFest makes everything possible, I really hope justice prevails, more importantly you can move on & be happy— Raz (@razza_bezza) July 13, 2017
And as evidenced by Whitehurst’s letter, she too believes that her experience is a testament to just how must people do care, despite the coldheartedness and disgust we may experience from others.
“…On a deeper level, I am writing this to say that people really care. Sometimes when you lose all hope, the unbelievable and altruistic kindness of strangers can help give you the strength to keep fighting,” she wrote. “I have met some really awful humans in my life, who have killed my spirit and, in all honesty, made me feel life wasn’t worth living anymore. To me it wasn’t just a festival, it was genuinely restoring my faith in people again. People that really fucking care.”
Read Whitehurst’s entire open letter to Glastonbury Festival staff here.