A festival-goer blowing bubbles in front of the Glastonbury sign at the Glastonbury Festival
Image: © Yui Mok / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Hundreds of pounds to sleep in a muddy field! Why do so many people splash out on festivals like Glastonbury?

In the first of a series of features from some of the UK's biggest music festivals, we sent our intrepid reporter Tree Watson along to Glastonbury to find out how much people really spend on getting that 'festival experience'

Of all the festivals in the UK, Glastonbury, or ‘Glasto’ as it’s affectionately known, is the one that everyone’s heard of. Originally just £1 for a ticket (including free milk from the farm!), it’s grown into one of the world’s biggest music festivals, with tickets now costing £220.

Despite the high price, the 135,000 tickets on offer rarely take longer than half an hour to sell out. No matter what the line-up, demand is always high. Once you add in your travel costs and spending money, you’re easily looking at the best part of £500. Yet people of all ages are willing to spend this amount for five days sleeping in a (probably very muddy) field!

Poster for the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970

With my wellies and waterproofs, I set out around the site, to talk to a few people at the festival about how much they spent, whether they thought it was worth it, and how much they’d be willing to spend for the full Glastonbury experience...

Julian, age 45 (and a half)

Julian at the Glastonbury Festival
Julian: "It's well worth it!"

How much have you spent to come to Glastonbury?
I think I spent £650, all in.

Is it worth it?
It's well worth it!

Would you still come if it cost you twice as much?
Difficult question. I'd still go but I'd look for ways to save money along the way. I'd take more booze/food and buy less on site, that kind of thing.

Anon, age 24

A Glastonbury festival-goer
Anon: "£50/60 on drugs and a tenner on a dress…"

How much have you spent to come to Glastonbury?
My ticket was £250, which included my single coach, but didn’t actually include return travel, so you’ve got £16 on that, plus I bought an airbed and a phone charger, so that’s £20, plus £50 on food, plus £50/60 on drugs and a tenner on a dress… so what’s that £350/400 already? Plus I’ve got £120 in cash for spending here.

Is it worth it?
Err yeah! The thing about the original ticket is it’s kinda money you’ve saved up already - it’s like buying flights for a holiday, that money just goes and that becomes irrelevant. I think the problem comes with all those little added extras that you kind of forget about like travel, or ‘oh, I need a new sleeping bag’. No matter how much I plan, in the month of June I get to this point where I’ve borrowed £50 off my housemate, £50 off my mum. Even though I’ve got a full-time job and a savings account. It’s right at the end of the month and I just can’t do it otherwise.

Jen, age 39, and Zach, age 36

Jen and Zach at Glastonbury
Jen and Zach: "It’s almost like you get the festival for free. You’ve just made a really good donation to Greenpeace, as well!"

How much have you spent to come to Glastonbury?
This year... tickets were £400 and something... travel £100... food £350... probably about £750 all in. Oh and another £100 for our sweet costumes which we’ve invested in heavily (can't you tell?).

Is it worth it?
Always, always! I wouldn’t spend this much on another festival. This one I really like because I know a massive amount of the money that we spend on tickets and the things that we buy here goes into the organisations that the festival supports. So Wateraid, Oxfam, Greenpeace. Glastonbury’s contributed millions of pounds to those organisations in the last four or five years and so I don’t mind paying the amount of money that the ticket is, it’s an expensive ticket but you’re on vacation for a week and the money is going to something that you’d be putting money into anyway, so it’s almost like you get the festival for free. You’ve just made a really good donation to Greenpeace, as well!

How much would you be willing to spend?
We’ve had years where we’ve imbibed quite a bit more than this year [this year Jen is pregnant and so not partying quite as hard as usual]. We’ve had years where we’ve spent over a grand [£1000] for sure. But it’s not a grand easily parted with, it’s in our calendar, we budget for Glastonbury every year. It’s the way people save for their summer vacation we block that week out from work, we save up money for it, and plan accordingly. It’s not an impulse thing to do.

Lynn B, age 63, John P, age 61, Mick, age 67 (not pictured)

John and Lynn at Glastonbury
John and Lynn: "I think of it as a holiday and if it were more than, I dunno, £500/600 I might rethink."

How much have you spent to come to Glastonbury?
With the parking, and the ticket and the add-ons like admin charges, probably not a lot of change out of £300 just to get here. [Mick]
The ticket is £220, I bought a couple of bits… I probably spend about £20 on bits… and the petrol, so say probably about £280. I think while I’m here I’ll probably spend about £350. [John]
The petrol down will be about £80… and the petrol back presumably… because I bring virtually all my booze, I spend probably up to £50 a day. [Lynn]

Is it worth it?
Yeahhh! For enjoyment yes, for value for money… questionable.

Would you still come if it was twice as much?
I don’t really think of it like that actually… I think of it as a holiday and if it were more than, I dunno, £500/600 I might rethink. [Lynn]
Probably not, even though it’s a unique event that would push it beyond sensible boundaries. I think £600/700 for five days is acceptable, even though I think the drink is a bit expensive. Food I think is good value for money actually, the food’s alright. [Mick]
No. [John]

Jo, age 23

Jo at Glastonbury
Jo: "Last night I spent £3.50 on some chips."

How much have you spent to come to Glastonbury?
Erm… I don’t even really wanna think about it to be honest. A ticket, whatever that was, £220... £89 on a bus, £30 on a tent, £30 on a sleeping bag… oh my god… a tenner on some glittery clothes… erm £70 on food and drink. Last night I spent £3.50 on some chips.

Is it worth it?
Yeah, I’ve only been here a day but it’s worth it so far, definitely!

What’s the maximum you’d spend to come?
I think altogether I’ve spent way more than I think… I think altogether it’ll probably end up costing, like, £500, so already I’d be like woah! But I’ve actually spent that. I probably wouldn’t want to spend more than £700, which is a bit mad.

Josh & Laura, campsite crew, age 28

Josh and Laura at Glastonbury
Josh: "While we were there I spent about £150, I think, on pints and food, and not a lot else."

How much have you spent to come to Glastonbury?
The tent was free, travel was basically free, another steward drove us down and so we chucked him a tenner, then my mum and dad were coming up [to Manchester] to help us move house so they drove us back up, and as a volunteer steward you get in for free. While we were there I spent about £150, I think, on pints and food, and not a lot else. Normally, we spend more but because of the weather this year we didn’t go shopping, we didn’t buy fancy dress outfits, and didn’t drink as much. When it’s dry you can just skip to the bar. Laura normally buys presents but because of the rain you don’t want to browse the shops, you just want to sit down, or watch the bands.

Is it worth it?
Yeah I think it’s value for money, it’s the prices I’d pay day-to-day to beer and for food if you’re eating out and drinking out.

Would you buy a ticket in the future?
I would if I was that flashed with cash, definitely, and I have in the past a couple of times.

Right, that's my work done... now I'm off for a beer, after this quick summary

That was fun! The amount that people spent to come to Glasto varied, but of all the people I spoke to (apart from the campsite crew, who got in for free), no one had any change left from £400. Despite the fact that outside of London, this could cover a whole month’s rent, the running theme was that whatever they’d spent, everyone thought it was worth it.

Theoretically, if there were more tickets available, the price would go down, but with thousands of people missing out every year, demand would still far outstrip supply. And there’s only so much room! Maybe increasing competition between food stalls would lead to a drop in prices, but there's already over 250 food stalls and several bars to choose from, and the fact that the festival is in an enclosed space means that you’ll only ever have limited choice over what you pay for food and drink, unless you’re strong enough to lug enough for five days across the site along with your tent and everything else!

Whatever the ‘Glastonbury experience’ is, even in a time of austerity and increases to the
here in the UK, it’s certainly something people are happy to reach deep into their pockets for.

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