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An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim

When a music festival is more than just a music festival. 

Dear the Eavis family, and all who make Glastonbury happen,

So I write a lot of letters, but I promise this one will be worth reading – stick with it. This isn’t complaining about the crowds or the headliners, or telling the world how life-changing the week was for me to provoke envy-inducing angry faces all over Facebook. This is a story about a girl who contacted a giant festival who cater for hundreds of thousands with a request for help and was met with compassion, love and overwhelming acts of kindness.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to Glastonbury for the first year ever, with a group of friends who were equally as excited as I was – WhatsApp groups sharing outfits and line-up rumours sprung up within minutes of receiving the golden tickets, and June 2017 could not come soon enough.

Unfortunately for me, something horrible happened in April 2017, months before we were due to jump on the 2am coach down south. I was sexually assaulted by two of these "friends" after a night where I had mistakenly put my drunken trust in these guys at an after-party. My memories of the night were hazy; the drunken texts with other friends to come and save me, coupled with the injuries I sustained, were not. 

At the crisis centre the next day, as I lay sobbing on the table being photographed and probed by four nurses, I received a barrage of phone calls and threats from certain friends telling me to go home, to not report it. Telling me that no it wasn’t consensual but "don’t ruin the group" and "don’t ruin Glastonbury for us all". The nurses were asking me to report it to the police, but I was receiving 15 voicemails a day with threats from these friends, and with every threat received, another inch of my fight would disappear. 

Eventually, the harassment got worse. I couldn’t turn my phone on without getting more. I blocked the numbers, the contacts on Facebook, the accounts on Instagram, but they’d find more ways to get to me. This is the point I went to the police. 

After a harrowing three-hour video interview, I still couldn’t feel relieved. I had taken time off work, I was barely surviving on two months' worth of statutory sick pay and I was receiving threats not to attend the festival that I had been looking forward to for months.

The police officer recommended I get in touch with the festival, and try and ask for a refund to help my money troubles. I was gutted, but we agreed for my own personal safety whilst investigations were ongoing, it was the best route to take.

I couldn’t find a number, nor an email to contact, so I filled out a 500-word enquiry form on the website, assuming that with a festival that size receiving hundreds of enquiries per day, my plea for support may get overlooked.

It didn’t.

Instantly I received an email from an amazing human being – Marianna – who told me the Events Operations Lead would give me a call.

I received a call off Adrian a few days later. Adrian is an ex-police officer, and asked me to tell him what happened. It felt difficult disclosing the details over the phone to a stranger, but he made me feel at ease. 

Instantly he set to work. He told me he would do everything in his power to make sure I could attend the festival, and would put a safeguarding procedure in place to ensure I could. He contacted the detective constable at the police station dealing with my case, and together they devised a plan. Despite the fact he – as the Events Operations Lead – had one of the busiest jobs in the world weeks before the festival, he dedicated himself personally to me. I was overwhelmed (I had cried at least five times by this point – this will be a recurring theme in the next few paragraphs I’m afraid – stay with me).

He sent me a car parking pass in the post, so I wouldn’t have to get the coach with the friends who had been threatening me. 

(Side note: I called National Express, despite my ticket being non-refundable – to try and wangle a refund for the tickets I had bought. She asked why I was no longer going to Glastonbury. I reluctantly told the lady the story, she cried, I cried, she spoke to her boss, I got a refund. Humans are exceptional.)

I arrived at the festival with Tom at 8am on the Wednesday, and pulled into the staff car park, far away from where the rest of the revellers would be arriving. I was asked to call Marianna at this point and let her know I had arrived, so we started to attempt to load all of our belongings for five days, plus three crates and a shocking tent onto our backs. Marianna arrived, with a beautiful girl named Kerry driving a security vehicle, and both greeted me with the loveliest hug someone driving through the night could ever ask for. They were so unbelievably sweet and welcoming it was like meeting old friends again. They helped us load our stuff into the van and told us to jump in. We had no idea they were going to take us anywhere, we were prepared for the long, sweaty trek to the queue like the rest. They drove us up the the gate, and got out with us, with all of our things. At this point my anxiety was through the roof, I was looking over my shoulder frightened of catching glimpse of the perpetrator and their friends. Marianna noticed my worry, took my hand and walked us up to the security guard at the front of the queue. They had a quick chat and he ushered us right through, Marianna making sure she didn’t let go of me the whole time. 

We jumped through security in minutes, and climbed right back into the van that had been brought to the other side for us. Back in the van, they passed me an envelope. In the envelope contained a letter. The letter was from Adrian addressing whomever received it that "the bearer of the letter must have her requests for her safety taken seriously and she must be taken to safety immediately". I was asked to carry this letter, along with a list of numbers, with me throughout the whole festival, just in case. I was also passed two hospitality wrist bands, one for Tom and one for me. These offered us a space behind the Pyramid and Other stage which had quieter bars only accessible to hospitality wrist band holders, so in case I became overwhelmed or needed a place to clear my head a bit, I had it. 

I broke down in the back of the van. Marianna came round to the door and gave me a huge hug. I had asked for none of this, and yet these incredible humans had come together to make sure for the next five days I wouldn’t have to feel like a victim – I could actually enjoy the festival. In a festival catering for so many, they really gave a shit. They gave a million shits. More shits than I could ever have expected or asked for. 

They dropped us off at a camp where they wouldn’t expect our friends to be, and took us to our reserved spot behind the stewards, who were all briefed about the circumstances. They all greeted me with hugs and helped us carry all of our things from the van and get ourselves set up. Saying goodbye to Marianna and Kerry, I handed over THE WORST thank you card ever – like, how on earth can a thank you card ever be enough? Especially when it said "you are a good egg" with a picture of an egg on the front (my card buying skills need work) and we all hoped to find each other again in the midst of the crazy. Kerry came to our camp once the next day to check in (hugs aplenty) but we never did see the others again.

And the festival was amazing. 

Yeah, there were places I didn’t feel comfortable going (I knew where they were camped) and favourite bands I opted out of seeing in smaller tents (I knew they’d be there) but I can thankfully say I never had to use the letter. 

I mean, there were times with my new friends we had made (Kitty, Sean, Catherine <3) when we were waiting in big queues and they were jokingly like "USE THE MAGIC LETTER" but I didn’t. I was safe. I was really really safe.

I made some new great friends, I saw some incredible acts, my tan lines are ridiculous, my hangovers were unreal and at the end of it all, I didn’t feel like a victim, I felt like someone who had finally been to Glastonbury. 

So, this letter is to say, thank you. God I wish there were a stronger sentiment. Not many people would be aware of the amazing work you did for me – you didn’t do it so you could write about it, or get a pay rise, or for glory, you did it because you really cared. And I doubt my minimal blog readers would make this reach the heady heights of Michael Eavis (but please do share away, yeah?), but on a deeper level, I am writing this to say that people really care. Sometimes when you lose all hope, the unbelievable and altruistic kindness of strangers can help give you the strength to keep fighting. 

I have met some really awful humans in my life, who have killed my spirit and, in all honesty, made me feel life wasn’t worth living anymore. To me it wasn’t just a festival, it was genuinely restoring my faith in people again. People that really fucking care.

So, Adrian, Marianna, Kerry and the rest of the team, I hope you see this. If you don’t, I hope you know that you made a difference, and you made me feel like a survivor again. 

Lots of love,

Laura x

This letter was originally published on Laura's blog, Life on Laura Lane. It is republished with permission from the writer

Photo: Channel 4
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Who will win Great British Bake Off 2017 based on the contestants’ Twitters

An extremely serious and damning investigation. 

It was morning but the sky was as dark as the night – and the night was as dark as a quite dark rat. He walked in. A real smooth gent with legs for seconds. His pins were draped in the finest boot-cut jeans money could buy, and bad news was written all over his face. “I’m Paul,” he said. “I know”. My hooch ran dry that night – but the conversation never did. By nightfall, it was clear as a see-through rat.   

Some might say that going amateur detective to figure out which contestants win and lose in this year’s Great British Bake Off is spoiling the fun faster than a Baked Alaska left out of the freezer. To those people I’d say: yes. The following article is not fun. It is a serious and intense week-by-week breakdown of who will leave GBBO in 2017. How? Using the contestants’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, of course.

The clues are simple but manifold, like a rat with cousins. They include:

  • The date a contestant signed up for social media (was it during, or after, the competition?)
  • Whether a contestant follows any of the others (indicating they had a chance to bond)
  • A contestant’s personal blog and headshots (has the contestant already snaffled a PR?)
  • Pictures of the contestant's baking.
  • Whether a baker refers to themselves as a “baker” or “contestant” (I still haven’t figured this one out but FOR GOD’S SAKE WATSON, THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT)

Using these and other damning, damning, damning clues, I have broken down the contestants into early leavers, mid-season departures, and finalists. I apologise for what I have done.

Early leavers

Kate

Kate appears not to have a Twitter – or at least not one that the other contestants fancy following. This means she likely doesn’t have a book deal on the way, as she’d need to start building her social media presence now. Plus, look at how she’s holding that fork. That’s not how you hold a fork, Kate.

Estimated departure: Week 1

Julia

This year’s Bake Off began filming on 30 April and each series has ten episodes, meaning filming ran until at least 9 July. Julia first tweeted on 8 May – a Monday, presumably after a Sunday of filming. Her Instagram shows she baked throughout June and then – aha! – went on holiday. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

Estimated departure: Week 2

James

James has a swish blog that could indicate a PR pal (and a marketing agency recently followed him on Twitter). That said, after an April and May hiatus, James began tweeting regularly in June – DID HE PERHAPS HAVE A SUDDEN INFLUX OF FREE TIME? No one can say. Except me. I can and I am.

Estimated departure: Week 3

Tom

Token-hottie Tom is a real trickster, as a social media-savvy youngster. That said, he tweeted about being distracted at work today, indicating he is still in his old job as opposed to working on his latest range of wooden spoons. His Instagram is suspiciously private and his Twitter sparked into activity in June. What secrets lurk behind that mysteriously hot face? What is he trying to tell me, and only me, at this time?

Estimated departure: Week 4

Peter

Peter’s blog is EXCEPTIONALLY swish, but he does work in IT, meaning this isn’t a huge clue about any potential managers. Although Peter’s bakes look as beautiful as the moon itself, he joined Twitter in May and started blogging then too, suggesting he had a wee bit of spare time on his hands. What’s more, his blog says he likes to incorporate coconut as an ingredient in “everything” he bakes, and there is absolutely no bread-baking way Paul Hollywood will stand for that.

Estimated departure: Week 5

Mid-season departures

Stacey

Stacey’s buns ain’t got it going on. The mum of three only started tweeting today – and this was simply to retweet GBBO’s official announcements. That said, Stacey appears to have cooked a courgette cake on 9 June, indicating she stays in the competition until at least free-from week (or she’s just a massive sadist).

Estimated departure: Week 6

Chris

Chris is a tricky one, as he’s already verified on Twitter and was already solidly social media famous before GBBO. The one stinker of a clue he did leave, however, was tweeting about baking a cake without sugar on 5 June. As he was in London on 18 June (a Sunday, and therefore a GBBO filming day) and between the free-from week and this date he tweeted about bread and biscuits (which are traditionally filmed before free-from week in Bake Off history) I suspect he left just before, or slap bang on, Week 7. ARE YOU PROUD NOW, MOTHER?

Estimated departure: Week 7

Flo

Flo’s personal motto is “Flo leaves no clues”, or at least I assume it is because truly, the lady doesn’t. She’s the oldest Bake Off contestant ever, meaning we can forgive her for not logging onto the WWWs. I am certain she’ll join Twitter once she realises how many people love her, a bit like Val of seasons past. See you soon, Flo. See you soon.

Estimated departure: Week 8

Liam

Liam either left in Week 1 or Week 9 – with 0 percent chance it was any of the weeks in between. The boy is an enigma – a cupcake conundrum, a macaron mystery. His bagel-eyed Twitter profile picture could realistically either be a professional shot OR taken by an A-Level mate with his dad’s camera. He tweeted calling his other contestants “family”, but he also only follows ONE of them on the site. Oh, oh, oh, mysterious boy, I want to get close to you. Move your baking next to mine.

Estimated departure: Week 9

Finalists

Steven

Twitter bios are laden with hidden meanings and Steven Carter-Bailey’s doesn’t disappoint. His bio tells people to tune in “every” (every!) Tuesday and he has started his own hashtag, #StevenGBBO. As he only started tweeting 4 August (indicating he was a busy lil baker before this point) AND his cakes look exceptionally lovely, this boy stinks of finalist.  

(That said, he has never tweeted about bread, meaning he potentially got chucked out on week three, Paul Hollywood’s reckoning.)

Sophie

Sophie’s Twitter trail is the most revealing of the lot, as the bike-loving baker recently followed a talent agency on the site. This agency represents one of last year’s GBBO bakers who left just before the finale. It’s clear Sophie’s rising faster than some saffron-infused sourdough left overnight in Mary’s proving drawer. Either that or she's bolder than Candice's lipstick. 

Chuen-Yan

Since joining Twitter in April 2017, Yan has been remarkably silent. Does this indicate an early departure? Yes, probably. Despite this, I’m going to put her as a finalist. She looks really nice. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.