The 405 meets Glastonbury’s Shangri La

http://thefourohfive.com/news/article/the-405-meets-glastonbury-s-shangri-la

Glastonbury. Where to even start? The long history of the festival is one of wild opulence, entrenched political freedoms and hedonistic pleasures; these ideologies are summed up currently in a microcosm via one specific part of Glastonbury’s site. Shangri-La.

2013 sees the birth of a new narrative that sets up the next four years, following the successful four years that began in 2008 as a sort of Blade Runner style pleasure city before the story ended spectacularly in 2011’s epic pre-apocalyptic show – 2012 being the year off where the Mayan-predicted total apocalypse took place. And this neatly leads on to 2013’s edition of the afterlife, or as it’s been labelled, the ‘Shafterlife’.

The organisers have once again gone to town in the design and new zones for the area with almost a year’s worth of work behind it all. Additions to Shangri La include is ‘The Hell Stage’, ‘The Seven Circles of Hell’ and ‘Heaven’. How you get into Heaven is something of a mystery, a series of Admin Angels will be around who have the authority to let you in. If you’re judged holy enough to be granted entry, you can expect to “take off your welly-boots, get cleaned and glittered at one of the booths and enjoy the luxury inside our Heavenly Lounge. At the center of Heaven is the Garden of Eaden, where the angelic elite are chosen to drink from the waterfall bar, lounge on luxury beds and experience the mythical surprises inside.”

The 405 are to spend much of our time investigating Shangri-La, so we thought it apt to talk to creative director of the area, Deborah Armstrong. And of course to see if we can blag ourselves into Heaven. For more details on what to expect, head over to their website

Tell us about the Shafterlife theme of this year, and what stages are on offer. Walk us through… 

Last year the story ended with the apocalypse – now everyone’s dead, everyone’s troubles are over. So, this year, we welcome the Shafterlife – it’s Shangri-heaven and Shangri-hell. Right at the flaming epicentre is The Hell Stage, and then surrounding it the allies and nano-venues make a reappearance. We’ll have the Cult of Eavis back, and the Eavis overloads all making sure you’re on your worst behaviour – and that’s without even mentioning heaven. 

Heaven will be a complex of venues – with two waiting rooms, and a Admin Angels who’ll be ready and waiting upon the Desk of Judgement. This year, we want to interact with our audiences more than ever before as punters go through the test whether they’re worthy of heaven. The angels all worship Eavis – and they hate mud. They’ll be cheeky – but if you’re not ready to talk, you can fast-track your way into absolution buy buying a wellie bag for a couple of quid. But your mission, as the audience this year, is to buy, bribe, plead and grab – some of the angels are looking for favours, others just want you to be clean, each one has been briefed with a different thing to trigger entry. 

What’s the politics of Shangri-La? 

The way we see it, our theme this year is ‘one man’s heaven but another mans hell. Heaven at Shangri La has corporate identity it has rule and guidelines. It’s up for the audience to choose which life they want to live this time. We have things we want to say about society – all the seven circles are based on Dante’s, but they’re contemporary hates. From bankers, and Chanel and the bling – the nano-venues each has it’s own theme – there’s a lot on advertising this year.

Shangri La has always had a sense of humour; but a political stance too. It’s always had a point to make. Both heaven and hell are corporations – for businesses, it’s about getting the most amounts of sales, to become the most powerful shareholder, and those are messages we’ll explore over the next four years.

What about the history of the festival – how did Shangri La all start it’s relationship with Glastonbury? And what’s it like for a punter experiencing it?

In terms of larger festival settings, as a punter you’ve got a certain sense of being able to escape, and become who you really are.

It all started with Lost Vagueness, and Shangri La was the development and the re-creation of that. Years back, we acted as if Shangri La was a film set, and every time an audience member entered that environment they became part of that world, so we acted in a way that brought them into the picture. In Shangri La, all these factors play off each other. This year it’s just about us taking the piss out of corporate festival culture. You should think of the whole thing as a massive artistic installation – where masses of different work come together. The first year was quite utopian, because we were all free to try new ideas, but there was no proper art direction for it. It was difficult. So that’s where the Bladerunner part from it.

What about the planning?

We’ve been working on this concept since August of last year – working with a big team, with a load of different departments. With lighting and sound, there are over 1500 people involved in this entire project. For us, it’s about spinning ideas and going with one – anything that makes us laugh our heads off gets us going and excited. We’ve always been about putting stuff forward that’s never before seen at festivals. It’s the crisp lines of it that I’ve never seen. There’s a maze made of gold this year.

Timmy Wobble – and me and Kaye Dunnings, the art director, we develop the concept and then spread that out. Then we invite the artists to intervene and create what they want onto it. We think that’s what makes it. We set the story, and they make the real ideas – they interrelate so you get a really deeply textured world.

Heaven and hell has so much breadth over the next few years – it’s so deeply rooted in everyone’s conscious, they’re old concepts.

Our one brief is to keep the festival fresh. It’s about doing new creative work that hasn’t been copied yet – what we do is influential. I’m happy for the influence that it has, but things like Boomtown has always driven us to do new stuff. We get off on new things – it’s always an idea of what we can develop. 

There were already so many faces to Glastonbury – what it’s had is you could always explore it. But it’s the south east corner is what gives it it’s really quality. Nowhere else is funding this artistry.

Is there any secret artist you’d love to have play in heaven?

I’ve got my secret act this year – but I can’t say anything. He, specifically, he’ll be playing twice. There’s loads more people I’d love to have in heaven – imagine Robbie William’s singing ‘Angel’, Robbie Williams really gone on and then have him ranting, that’s what we’d love 

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