Engineers have designed what they hope is a gatecrasher-proof fence to help preserve the future of Glastonbury's music festival.
Nina Lovelace investigates.
Glastonbury Festival is probably the largest and most famous of Britain's summer music festivals. Since the kaftan years of 1970s it has brought hundreds of the world's best live bands to a dairy farm in Pilton, Somerset on an almost annual basis. The event draws crowds of thousands, lending the long weekend the reputation of a music-lover's Mecca.
But in 2000, the Glastonbury Festival acquired a less desirable reputation - as a gatecrasher's paradise. That summer the site's 7km long, 3m high perimeter fence was breached by thousands of partygoers determined not to pay the £87 entry fee.
This left the 105,000 capacity site heaving with up to 200,000 revellers, causing unexpected, potentially dangerous overcrowding and pushing water and sanitation facilities to their limits.
The police and local Mendip District Council, which issues the yearly festival license to site owner and organiser Michael Eavis, were worried. Their concerns were heightened when later that year nine people were trampled to death at the Danish Roskilde festival. Eavis was given two choices: control the crowds or stop holding the festival.
Eavis chose the former. He called off the festival for 2001, roped in professional festival organiser Mean Fiddler to provide improved security, and started to search for an improved fence. He needed a fence that would be easy to remove after the event to reduce the impact on his working farm. But crucially it would have to be robust enough to keep out even the most determined gatecrasher.
Festival infrastructure manager Bob St Barbe says that it was equally important that the fence did not turn the 324ha 2002 festival site into something resembling a concentration camp. Glastonbury is meant to celebrate music and freedom, so barbed wire was definitely out.
The search included looking at prison fences and those reserved for nuclear facilities.
Eventually Eavis' team chose a custom built £1M, 3.6m high aluminium alloy fence designed and installed by access specialist Eve Trakway, part of infrastructure group Certas.
Construction began in midMay, and has progressed rapidly thanks to the fence's light weight, easy-assemble design and the use of two teams. It is now expected to be finished next week - a week before the festival begins.
The fence takes much of its effectiveness from its height, explains St Barbe. It also incorporates extra measures to prevent people from getting over or under it.
'In 2000 we had an inordinate number of people burrowing under the fence, through heavy duty clay and gravels, ' says St Barbe, 'It really resembled a rabbit warren.'
As a result, this year's fence will see a 3m wide steel track bolted down at the face of the fence, forcing would be tunnelers back from its base and making it more difficult to burrow underneath. Tamper-proof bolts will scupper attempts to lever the track, or at least delay them long enough for one of the 800 security guards to catch them in the act.
Efforts to get over the fence will also be thwarted by a 400mm sharp-edged aluminium alloy cantilever at the top of the fence, adds St Barbe.
Eve Trakway is drawing on the construction expertise of sister company, contractor Jackson, at the Glastonbury site.
Jackson project manager Stephen Christian points out that anyone hoping to lever the 3m wide fence panels apart will also struggle. In 2000, the sheet steel panels were easily separated as each was only held in place with eight bolts. People removed them, turned the panels into makeshift gates, and then set about charging other revellers a £10 entry fee.
This year each panel is constructed of aluminium alloy planks slotted tightly into posts driven into the ground at 3m centres. The planks interlock, removing the potential to lever them apart. Each plank slots into the one below to form a smooth, flat surface. The posts are bedded into steel baseplates held in place with two, 1m long micropiles.
The panels are supported on the inside by struts, one at each post, to protect against the strong winds that whip across the vast and undulating site. The struts are also designed to withstand pushing from a large crowd or from any attempted ram-raids using a vehicle.
Each of the struts is also held in place with two 1m deep micropiles. These are adjustable to ensure the fence is perfectly vertical to the undulating ground.
Bolts attaching them to the fence are also tamper-proof, preventing anyone dismantling them from inside the festival site.
In any case, the back of the fence inside the site will be protected by a 5m wide 'no-man's land, ' says Christian. A stretch of Herris fencing will also give Eve Trakway clear access to carry out 24 hour maintenance work on the fence during the four day festivities.
'We'll be on 24 hour standby eight days prior to the festival, ' says Christian, adding that this run-up period is the most vulnerable time, as the public begins to congregate, eager to get in.
'Maintaining it will be a big job, ' he adds.
He is under no illusions and expects more attempted breakins this year. The only unknown quantity is the number and ferocity of the attempts. As a result Eve Trakway is keen to ensure the fence is well monitored and that repairs are swiftly carried out. As well as ensuring Glastonbury Festival's future, Christian hopes that if the fence holds up as expected, his company and the fence will be pressed into services again next time.