Picture this: It’s the month of June, summer is firmly in the air and Glastonbury festival is about to begin. Life would’ve been perfect, if you’d been able to secure a ticket, that is. Welcome to the trials and tribulations of “the best place on earth”, as it’s often called, where tickets sell out in record time every year, leaving millions of people around the world disappointed, agitated and composing angry tweets about Ticketmaster. For some, the Glastonbury journey ends there. But for others, it’s only the beginning.
While many have been breaking in of their own accord since the festival’s inception, last year, a secret WhatsApp group was created to aid disgruntled, ticketless vagabonds willing to risk it all. It’s an invite-only affair, but those lurking around on Reddit for tips are sure to find their way in. I used my own cunning means to secure access to members, in a bid to get the low down and set their legacy in stone. Names have been anonymised for privacy reasons and, understandably, many refused to give away specific secrets that could harm their chances of breaking in this year.
The first success story of 2022, and arguably one of the driving forces behind the secret “Glasto Break-in group” comes from a man known only as “Mr K”. Last summer, he took to Glastonbury subreddit r/Glastonbury to document his Tuesday night break in and offer advice and guidance for those who wished to (quite literally) follow his footsteps. “I broke in really early on the Tuesday and laid low around the Stone Circle area until my friends arrived,” Mr K. tells VICE. “I wanted to give everyone as much intelligence as I could, so I marked out my route on the map and sent it to people on Reddit.”
While Mr K. wishes to keep his route secret from you lot, to help the future plight of ticketless Glastonbury goers, it’s safe to say his heroic story provided the group with the thing they needed the most – hope. The Reddit crew who saw the post, quickly formed the WhatsApp group. “We were all swapping ideas and discussing potential break-in options,” says member Lucy, 19, from London. “Telescopic ladders [AKA a compact, foldable ladder] and homemade grapple hooks were quickly purchased and developed.” Some members of the group were even testing out their homemade apparatus and putting themselves through rigorous trials – preparation is key, after all.Tommy, 24, and Sean, 27, both joined the gang after seeing rumours on Reddit a week before the festival in 2022. They were given the WhatsApp group link by an anonymous user and both agreed to meet up to attempt a break-in on the Thursday morning.
“To cut a long story short, we ended up walking round the perimeter of the fence to find a place where the grapple hook would hang on,” says Tommy from Manchester. “As we were hiding out in fields, we found ourselves surrounded by a group of other people trying to break in.” Some were members of the very same WhatsApp group.“Suddenly, it became like something from a zombie apocalypse,” he tells VICE. “I remember heads popping out everywhere, Scouse accents and laughter, quickly followed by flashlights as security caught onto us.”
Tommy and Sean were split up in the chase, with Tommy escaping and Sean getting caught and marched to the notorious “Glastonbury prison”, AKA the security area.“My trousers were ripped so badly you could see my nob, I was soaking wet, and then I got electrocuted by an electric fence,” says Tommy. “It literally couldn’t have got any worse – but then I remembered my ladder backpack.”In preparation for wall-scaling, Tommy had fashioned a telescopic ladder into a backpack using belts and bin bags: “I grabbed it from my car and staked out a place to use it.” As the morning approached, he realised it was now or never.
“I gripped the ladder like a fireman and charged through a bush, launching my ladder against the fence and scrambling up faster than I had ever moved before,” he says. “The ladder made a huge noise, as it hit the fence and by the time I was at the top, security were at the bottom.”But it didn’t end there. Tommy had successfully made it over the fence into a campsite, but the security guards who’d watched him ascend to the Galsto heavens had also called for back-up. “Whenever I tried to leave the campsite, they’d chase me. They even came looking round the tents for me, so I dived in a random changing tent [a tall tent people bring to literally just change clothes in] and laid low for five hours,” he says. Luckily for Tommy, the owners of the tent didn’t stumble upon him, as he lay crouching for five hours. “When I finally re-emerged, it was Friday morning everyone in the campsite was eating bacon sandwiches and drinking tea. I walked around and realised that for the first time in hours, security weren’t chasing me. I was free at last.”
Tommy’s story is perhaps one of the most impressive from the group, but once Sean returned from his stint inside the infamous Glastonbury prison, he went on to reap success, too. “The security team were actually really nice, but they did confiscate my grapple hook,” Sean tells VICE. “I asked them if breaking in would affect my chances of ever returning with a legitimate ticket in the future but, interestingly, they reassured me that nobody caught attempting to break-in would be banned from attending or performing.” Obviously there was only one thing to do next: “I had to try and break-in again, didn’t I?” Sean reconnected with other members upon his release and a couple of them banded together to rush the fence. Through a combination of luck, cunning and determination, he sprinted into Glastonbury, against all odds.It seems that alongside giving each other moral support on the group, members were able to react in real-time to security at the festival and share intelligence to help each other. “It took us about four hours to even get through security to the final fence,” says Kieren, another member of the group. “There were so many close calls with dogs and security – we spent so much time hiding – but the group were giving me updates on when and where to hide, too.” Some of the members, like Mark, have a wealth of experience to share, given the number of successful Glasto break-ins under their belts. His favourite time was when he “rushed the fence with a group, ran into the nearest tent and reemerged dressed as a lobster”, in a costume he’d brought with him.
The best part about the WhatsApp group for Mark?“I felt at home,” he says. “It was nice to be invited into this collective of scheming misfits, eccentrics, oddballs and hedonists from all over the UK. We had a shared purpose and it was our sole purpose for the weeks leading up to the festival to share ideas, theories and, of course, ladders.”
As for what kind of person maketh the invite list: “Only the brave need apply and failure is not an option, because we all know ‘there is always a way.’”Whoever you ask, no Glastonbury break-in story is ever the same. You can never be really sure how you’ll end up doing it – only the Glastonbury gods will know how the stars might align. But, there is perhaps one element of every Glasto break-in story that can be counted on: The appearance of a Scouse guardian angel (or two) to help guide the way. As someone who’s lived in Liverpool for over a decade, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Scousers are less likely to miss out on one of the UK’s greatest festivals, and never – I repeat, never – leave a man behind. In fact, even one of Reddit’s most popular break-in tales has an ode to a group of no less than eight Scousers, who helped other lone Glasto stragglers find a way to storm the super-fence.
Nick, another group member who’s broken-in multiple times, can confirm the presence of Scousers on the curious road to a Glasto break-in. “Look, if you’re breaking in, and you come across Scousers, you’re probably on the right track,” he says.
What will happen to the group this year remains to be seen, but its lasting impact is strong. This band of chancers, daredevils, anarchists and rogues will no doubt continue to break-in for some summers to come. Actually, just as the Glasto resale ends and the fate of those left without a ticket is finally sealed for 2023, a glimmer of hope in the form of a WhatsApp notification may just ping out: “Same again this year, everyone?” @dyaknowwhat