If you don’t have a ticket, here’s how to break into Glastonbury – from people who’ve actually done it
See you in Shangri-La
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people take over Glastonbury, the vibesiest place on Earth. A small number of those attempt to get in without the whole “register with a photo and pay over £200” fiasco.
We spoke to two friends who succeeded. These are their stories. Obviously we don’t want to reveal their identities – so all names have been changed.
‘The Van’, by Tim Howard
It was Fabian Johnson who first had the idea of breaking into Glastonbury. Two of his friends he camped with at last year’s festival had broken in for a couple of years in a row, so about three months ago he mooted it as a possibility to our group of friends.
We only committed to the idea 100% on the weekend before though. We decided to break in for a number of reasons. Some of us had tried to get tickets after registering and found they’d sold out in a matter of minutes.
Others didn’t feel like paying in excess of £200 for what seemed like a shoddy line-up in contrast to previous years. The one unifying reason was that we all sought the rush, the sense of danger, that went along with gaining entry.
I ordered a 3.8-metre extendable ladder on the Monday, which I found by Googling “telescopic ladder” and clicking on the first one that came up. It cost about £85 – but postage and packaging was free, and between the three of us who were heading down together, that sounded like a steal.
It arrived on the Thursday morning, so that afternoon I picked up my two companions, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, and drove down to Somerset. Despite the decision to follow through with our plan being fairly last minute, other aspects of our preparation were meticulously prepared.
Michael made a 30-page PowerPoint presentation three weeks beforehand, pinpointing the best car parks to leave the car in, the best potential points of entry and a number of inspirational quotes.
Any doubt in our minds was diminished the moment we saw that. We parked up in the pink car park and waited for it to fill up. I managed to find a stray baggie of coke in my glove compartment, so we nailed that and shared a bottle of wine. Between the three of us, we had the one backpack and a conspicuous-looking black canvas bag with the ladder in it.
Once we decided the car park was full enough, we made our way south-east, towards the wooded areas adjacent to the Stone Circle. We had to pass through three or four security checkpoints, which wasn’t a problem – no-one batted an eyelid.
We headed away from the campsite as the traffic streamed in the opposite direction. Honestly, I don’t think we could have looked more blatant. We heard the crackle of radios – a security guard had seen something was amiss with these three chaps circling the perimeter of the site.
We dived into the hedges, not wanting to chance it this early. After the guard moved away, we continued our journey south, pushing our way through the hedges for around three miles and remaining undercover. As we rounded the south side, our adventure took a few twists and turns.
One of us managed to fall into an electric fence. All of us were then chased by cows. We also had a testing relationship with a main road. Altogether though, we made it trouble-free into the woods.
9.30pm, Thursday. We are concealed in the dense undergrowth in the woods, monitoring the route of the patrolling Land Rovers. After they’d passed four times, and we felt that we’d worked out their schedule, we made a break for an abandoned cowshed. Here we waited.
There are two fences encircling Glastonbury: the infamous “super-fence”, about 15ft straight up with an additional 3ft overhang, and within that a lower fence, probably around 7ft high. Our intel from the PowerPoint suggested that security patrolled within the two.
Bearing this in mind, we crept out from the shed and moved in to take a closer look. Downhill we went, until we were around 10 metres away. It was pitch black at this point, and we remained under cover. We watched as the Land Rover did an in-out, and then began to crack out the ladder.
We clicked the ladder into place and were just about to make our big push, when a light flickered on around the base of the wall. A guard. Hidden under the cloak of darkness, his face briefly illuminated as he checked his phone.
Shocked, we rustled in the hedges. He looked up. We stayed deadly still as he shone his torch out and radio’d for back up. Four more guards arrived as back up and started beaming light into the undergrowth.
For 45 minutes we remained motionless. When the lights stopped shining, we retreated back into the woods, and set about testing other potential entry points. There were guards surrounding the perimeter every 50 metres, and a manned station every 150.
Throughout the night we made five similar attempts, testing different parts of the wall. It was the same story each time – too well-policed to get the ladder up without being seen.
Those woods on the south were far from silent on that Thursday night. Twigs snapping, odd whistles, and a number of thoroughly unconvincing animal calls let us know that we were not alone in our endeavours.
At around 3am, we bumped into another trio, doing exactly the same thing as us. We exchanged the stories of our night so far, wished each other luck and headed our separate ways. Strength does not come in numbers when it comes to breaching Glastonbury’s walls.
4am. Eventually we found our way to the edge of the VIP section, where the perimeter was much easier to breach. We hopped over the (much lower) wall, amazed at how we’d done so unscathed.
The rain was torrential, and ahead of us lay the campsite security, the one barrier between us and the festival. We decided to chance it. There were enough people being herded in to consider that the odds of them checking our wrists were fairly low. Eyes straight ahead. Into the crowd.
Two of us made it. Jermaine Jones didn’t. We turned back to get him. No man left behind.
The guards were surprisingly reasonable. “You have thirty minutes to get off site. Go.” It was a 7-mile hike from the VIP campsite back to the car, made all the longer by our disappointment of getting so close.
Arriving back at the car, security had tightened substantially. We got a full shakedown – all of us were strip searched – and they scanned the car for drugs. Luckily we disposed of that coke earlier.
After that, they let us go, and we drove to Glastonbury town for the night. The three of us slept in the car – Jermaine left the window open so I got soaked by the rain.
We spent most of Friday phoning friends of ours in the festival, sounding out any potential way in. Could they cut off the ends of their wristbands so we could sew one out of them? No, the design meant that the only word on the ends was “void”.
Could one of them slip a band off, give it to a friend and use it to smuggle us in? No – an electronic lanyard system was in place for anyone who left the site, and you couldn’t go back on without one.
We spent nearly the whole day moping around this Somerset town, until it got to 6pm when we had a meal and decided to head home. I put my keys in the ignition. The battery was flat.
A Scouser in a transit van pulls up and asks us what’s wrong. I explain everything that’s happened over the last few ours.
“£120. Each. Get in the back of the van.”
We have nothing left. We get in the van. After a bumpy half-hour ride, the van draws to a halt. The Scouser opens the doors and we get out. In the workers’ area. Of Glastonbury Festival.
We walk straight in and find the nearest stall. All of us by as many multi-coloured glittery bangles as we can and cover our wrists.
Would I do it again? Definitely. There was no trouble taking the van route in whatsoever – but I wouldn’t advise anyone to try to assail the wall. It’s impossible.
Well, nearly impossible.
‘The Ladder’, by Fabian Johnson
From the outset, I was always looking forward to the challenge of gaining entry than the actual festival. It was Friday morning when Tim Howard – whose story you have already heard – phoned me from a pub in Glastonbury, broken from what he’d done the night before.
Was I dissuaded? Certainly. Was I going to try exactly the same thing? Of course. I headed from my home on the south coast up to Frome in Somerset, where I was set to meet my partner-in-crime, Clint Dempsey.
En route, I stopped at the Waterstones in Chichester to buy a map of the area around Glastonbury. The festival site sits astride two Ordnance Survey maps, so I had to buy both, cut them up, stick them back together and then mark out my prospective entry points.
I then colour co-ordinated my various plans.
Clint was hammered when we met. We went to a supermarket where he stocked up on essential foodstuffs – namely Cava, sangria and whisky. We then drove together to the orange car park, which I figured was the best starting point for our mission.
The car park was full when we arrived. So instead, I turned back and headed to Shepton Mallet, a village about three miles from Glasto. I parked in the car park of the Mormon church, and left a note on my dashboard, explaining that my car had broken down (it hadn’t), I’d pushed it up the hill to here (I hadn’t) and that I’d be back to retrieve it at the end of the weekend (I did).
Clint and I then headed to a nearby pub, hoping to catch a cab back to the festival. We arrived at around 10pm. The pub landlord was rat-arsed, and couldn’t call a taxi for us.
Instead, he recommended that we each give his underage son a tenner and let him give us a lift to the festival. Naturally, we obliged. Car park security was on lockdown when we arrived back at the festival, with guards staunchly protecting punters’ vehicles. We got dropped as close as possible and set off on foot around the site.
First off, we tried the route in where our predecessors had so nearly found success – the VIP “glamping” area. After vaulting the fence, we saw a figure ahead of us.
A security guard. Built. He smiled at us.
“You alright lads? You look lost…”
“How come you’ve got your bags on you?”
“We’re heading to the Motel area,” I cut in.
“Oh, I see…you fellas picked up your wristbands yet?”
“No, not yet.”
We are about to bolt at this point.
”Right then, I’ll show you where you can get them. Come along!”
Somehow this gent doesn’t twig that we’ve just cleared the fence. Somehow we get away with it and find ourselves back at the entrance, ready for our next assault.
We start to seek another way in. Suddenly, we hear rushed footsteps behind us. We run. After thirty yards or so, we vault a fence, jump into the bushes and look back. The security guard we pictured has four legs and is black and white. It was a fucking cow.
We spent much of the night on reconnaissance – gauging each checkpoint, seeing which ones are checking wristbands the most diligently.
It’s at this stage of the night when Clint lets slip that he’s got a bag of pingers on him for the weekend. Suddenly the stakes are much higher – it’s getting caught with those that now scares me more than anything else.
As Tim said earlier, we were far from the only people trying to sneak in. We bumped into two other chaps and exchanged intel on what can and can’t be done. Then, later still, we found ourselves army-crawling through an open field, with a stream running to one side and some beautiful old trees lining the other.
It was in this field that we came across three Essex boys, attempting the same feat as us. These chaps had evidently not indulged in the same amount of research and resource management as we had.
They had no ladder – “we’ll just give each other a leg-up,” one said – no map, and they were all absolutely snookered. One of them was incredibly flatulent. All of them were making substantially more noise than us – stealth is evidently not in the Essex repertoire.
However, palming off strangers is simply not in the Glastonbury spirit – and so our twosome became a fivesome. From then on, our adventure became all the more arduous.
We’d get within 50 metres of the fence and the Essex boys fucked it for us, by farting, giggling or shouting. They’d provoke vans and shouting, and force us to retreat and re-plot our route.
It’s now 3am on Saturday. Clint Dempsey is flagging dangerously, a lethal combination of tiredness and the early onset of a hangover that was taking no prisoners. He wants to go back to the car. I convince him to press on. Through the undergrowth we go.
We find ourselves at the edge of the campervan campsite, which understandably is fenced off. We follow the fence one way. Nothing. We turn back the way we came and follow it the other way.
And it’s here that we met the most incredible gentleman. He is high as a kite, and claims that he has already broken in and out three times that day – to get in, and then to see his mates who were waiting for the opportune moment back in the woods. He points us in the right direction. The spot he’s indicating is further along the edge of the campervan enclosure.
Here the fence is a mere ten metres from the hedges. It’s directly between two watch towers – but the unevenness of the ground obscures one of the tower’s view, effectively putting it out of action for this stretch of fence. The other watch tower is 150 metres away.
We’re ten metres from the fence and we’ve got a ladder. The nearest guard is three Olympic swiming pools away. Can you blame us for fancying our chances?
We wait for the patrol cars to do their rounds, reading their pulse. They work their beat very systematically – one passes from the left and minutes later another passes from the right. We click the ladder into place and make our approach. The ladder doesn’t reach anywhere near as high as Clint and I were expecting, but it doesn’t matter – we’ve begun our ascent.
We’re halfway up the first fence when security clock us. Suddenly the adrenaline really kicks in, and we motor upwards and over the incline.
An hour beforehand we were lagging and thought we were getting nowhere. Now we’re at the top of the super-fence, Glastonbury Festival sprawled before us. The rush was better than anything any drug had made me feel, better than anything I’d ever felt before.
On the inside of the super-fence, evenly spaced about every two metres, there are support beams that give it its structural integrity. We use them as rungs on our way into the festival. We head straight for the second fence, wary of the threat from behind.
It collapses under our weight as we climb. It doesn’t matter. We are in. We run. My travelling companion and I split up. I have no idea where the Essex boys are at this point. It doesn’t matter. I am in. I run.
I make it to the next camping field and hastily befriend a group of campers. They let me change clothes in their camp. I make for where the rest of the group are situated, and am immediately offered a glass of gin, a joint and a NOS balloon. It’s 4.30am on Saturday, and I’ve broken into Glastonbury.
Not having a wristband, I confess, I was slightly on edge throughout the festival. Yes, there are patrols checking bands throughout the campsite, but to be honest I either just avoided them or was too fucked to notice. By Sunday night I was going around with my sleeves rolled up.
After retrieving my car from the Mormon church on the Monday (it was fine), I picked up a couple of guys who were trying to hitch-hike back from the festival.
One of them said he’d worked on security for the last two years purely with the intention of learning the site well enough to plan a break-in.
He dissuaded some of the myths I’d heard about the Glasto security over the years. The normal guards aren’t allowed to touch you if you’re on a ladder. They can’t also can’t touch you if you’re more than ten metres from the outside of the fence.
It’s the so-called “black-ops” guards you want to be on the look-out for, he said. They’re the ones who can get to any part of the immense site within five minutes. And they’re the ones who’ll drop you in the middle of nowhere if they catch you.
Would I break in again? Not over the fence. There were so many points when we should have been caught but we weren’t. It was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life – but I’d only want to do it once.
THIS IS A TRUE STORY. The events depicted in this article took place in Somerset in 2014. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.