Glastonbury 2023 is awash with buzz. For its second successful year following Covid-induced cancellations in 2020 and 2021, spirits are high and creative energy is erupting from every tent-covered corner.
Beyond this year’s headline musical offerings, among them, Elton John, The Arctic Monkeys, Lizzo, Blondie and Max Richter, Glastonbury 2023 is also debuting a new breed of magic mushroom (no, not those kinds, well, none that this wide-eyed writer encountered). The hub of mushroom action (more specifically, mycelium action, mycelium being the plant’s underground root network) has been erected in the Silver Hayes area of the festival (a tent’s throw from the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury’s crown jewel).
Silver Hayes at Glastonbury 2023
This year, the legendary electronic music field Silver Hayes celebrates its tenth anniversary. To mark the occasion, the site has commissioned its debut pavilion for the festival, titled 6° – a curious blend of art, music, design and the power of fungi in the creative industries.
6°, whose title was inspired by the concept of society being connected by ‘six degrees of separation’, has been spearheaded by Silver Hayes’ Team Love and designed by Simon Carroll of Temple Design Studio in collaboration with Big Team CIC, Glastonbury Festival, manufacturer Biohm, and biotechnology company Grown Bio.
Carroll, who has worked across the creative and live event industries for 20 years, first approached Team Love with the fungi-focused project concept in 2019. ‘As the next year or two passed, it allowed us time to develop the concept, not just showcasing mycelium but creating a purpose-built pavilion structure that will over the coming years demonstrate pioneering new material approaches and concepts that we hope will influence people’s choices, change attitudes and stimulate much-needed market adoption and investment,’ he says, going on to explain how his experience has ‘given me good insight into the challenges we face in becoming sustainable and more importantly circular, without sacrificing the quality of product we want to achieve’.
During Glastonbury 2023, the pavilion, which is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, will play host to specially commissioned sound art compositions by academic and musician Brian d'Souza (Auntie Flo) and rising star DJ Or:la in collaboration with harpist Roísín Berkeley, creating a space for reflection on the potential harmony of humanity and nature.
Demonstrating the potential of mycelium
Silver Hayes also enlisted the expertise of biomaterial specialist Leksi Kostur, who has a background in psychology and anthropology. ‘Creative industries rely heavily on polystyrene – a wasteful and environmentally damaging material – due to its great versatility,’ Kostur explains. ‘The 6° project aims to challenge this practice by showing the potential of mycelium as an alternative, in-situation. Through the construction of this sculptural installation, we have discovered numerous ways of manipulating mycelium to achieve varying creative results, from abstract to hyper-realistic.’
Inside the pavilion, an exhibition highlights a variety of mycelium applications, ranging from simple 2D forms to experimental 3D approaches. Visitors enter Silver Hayes’ snail-shell-shaped pavilion up a sloped ramp leading them to the mushroom magic within. Hexagonal, circular and triangular-shaped mycelium blocks in a constellation of colours line the walls in tessellating patterns, demonstrating the material’s versatility and surprising aesthetic appeal.
To bring the project to life, a team of multidisciplinary professionals – from those in film and TV to set designers and educational institutes – coalesced over a shared commitment to sustainable practice. ‘6° embodies our collective effort,’ says Kostur, ‘drawing upon Simon’s expertise in design and construction, [set builder] Hannah Morris-Coole’s experience in scenic sculpting, and my knowledge of material science and biodesign.’
The Hayes Pavilion will be a returning platform for creative research and development at Glastonbury each year, highlighting how festivals can be at the cutting edge of not only music but the materials and products that can help society evolve towards a more sustainable future. ‘We're so excited to be bringing this groundbreaking installation to this year's festival, and I hope visitors will flock to Silver Hayes to check out the incredible, sustainable potential of mycelium at the Pavilion,’ says Emily Eavis, co-organiser of Glastonbury Festival.
But how do the design team hope festival attendees will respond to the pavilion? ‘Materials like polystyrene are non-biodegradable, which means they break the life cycle. In contrast, using biodegradable materials such as mycelium allows our creative endeavours to be part of nature’s inherently circular systems.’ says Kostur. ‘I hope that the pavilion shows festival-goers that we can achieve beautiful and captivating results without relying on linear materials.’
6° will also have life after Glastonbury 2023, with carbon data collected from the pavilion published in a recommendations report to help creatives looking to harness the power of the biomaterial. To offer wider reach to the project, a short film, directed by Phoebe Holman, has been commissioned to document the project’s development, while Carroll explains how the team would like to ‘tour the project beyond the fields of Pilton to give more people access to this incredible material's potential’.
6 ° is open to festival goers from 22 - 25 June 2023 in the Silver Hayes field of Glastonbury Festival
Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.
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