published: Wed 7th Oct 2009

tipi 1 Tipis have played a part in the festival at Pilton since quite early days. Given the extraordinary power and beauty of these majestic structures they soon established themselves as part of the annual landscape at Worthy Farm, and one that many people would walk a long way to see. Individual tipis have always been dotted throughout the site as people get on with the day to day business of living in what is now the Acoustic Stage Field, over to East Holts, through the Healing Space, and up to the King's Meadow. There in the Sacred Space is the totem that accompanied them for many years, put up each time with attendant ceremonies. There is also usually the Rainbow Circle, a rather exclusive gathering for the Rainbow tribe, who are often so keen to keep an "open" circle that non-Rainbows are not allowed to join it. More recently the Rainbows have concentrated on their own summer camps and been less of a presence at the Festival although they can still be found adjacent to the new Tipi Field.

After some 20 years the tipi camping field was established as a designated space for any lodge that wished to be there. The snag at that time was that only about half the field was intended for this purpose, with the rest given over to Avalon crew and performers camping.

As those familiar with Festival politics will readily pitch camp attempting "real Fesitval spirit" toward their neighbours - the bottom line being that there really was not enough space for all as both fields grew in stature and popularity.

Eventually the tipis were considered worthy of their own complete space, and what had been the Tipi Circle (as you will see it on many old maps and site guides) became the Tipi Field - tipis only - pure and simple. There were some 165 of them in 2 great circles in 1999 and they moved to a new area near The Park in 2008.

Much as everybody loved the concept of a true tipis only field, they all wanted to camp in it - whether they've got a tipi or not - usually not. Every year every excuse in the book was given - "but I've camped here for 15 years..." "but this is my spiritual home - I'll leave in the morning" "but I'm half Red Indian, er, Native American" "there's nowhere else on site left to camp" "but we were told to camp here in the Avalon Field" "the field organizer said we could put up our yurt/dome/Bedouin tent/bender/bus/housetruck/van/Combi/car here" "that's my mother/father/sister/brother/Granny in that tipi over there" "but you can't get a tipi under this bush man..."

tipi 2

In order to keep the Tipi Field as the Festival and Michael Eavis wanted it the tipis are now situated in the Tipi Field near the Stone Circle and adjacent to the Park area of the Festival, and vastly grown in number with an adjacent field offering Festival goers the chance to hire them in the Tipi Park.

The Tipi Field has become the largest annual gathering of tipis in Europe. Certainly the vast array of tipis and their inhabitants involved in cooking, washing, chopping firewood, changing babies, chilling out with friends over tea, has to rate as one of the visual experiences, performance living in fact, of the Festival. The Field brings together an eclectic mix of people and lifestyles; from those committed enough to live full time in a tipi through weekenders and festival outings only, to first timers and those longing to be initiated.

The non-hired tipi interiors on site range from reeds, sheepskins, and traditionally built firepits to purpose made groundsheets, Habitat rugs and Conran picnic sets.

A key activity of the old Tipi Field was the raising of the Totem, the Field's focal point, after days of communal carving and painting. In 1999 a system of ropes, the brute force of 150 people people, and much enthusiastic shouting ensured the safe erection of the 5 ton solid piece of Cornish oak brought from the wilds of North Cornwall to pay tribute in the Vale of Avalon.

There is usually everything from Tai Chi Greeting the Dawn through mid morning Morris Dancing to bands such as South American Chan Chan to Manchester based Substation. Afternoons are often packed with workshops in everything from Medicine Bundle and Dreamcatcher making, to drumming and sacred Native American dance and storytelling later on - many of these workshops are tailored especially for children. Painting and crafts are daily sending children happily to sleep.

Tipi 3

Until recently it was a scene that could only truly be entered into by the elite few who actually owned a tipi. However now it is possible for other people to step into this world for the duration of the Festival, and experience not only living in an authentically made tipi, but the magic of what is undoubtedly the best space on site.

As you may have gathered, the Tipi Area is family friendly, with many children and lots of space for them to run and play freely. It is also a very sociable and secure space with few of the problems associated with some areas on site. Nightime in the Tipi Field is probably more spectacular than day - and sunset/ sunrise across the forest of poles and brightly coloured ribbons.

There are a number of communal fires, and it is very close to The Park area. There are toilets and water points nearby, cafes, solar showers, and a log fired yurt sauna.

Hiring a tipi for the Festival can be surprisingly expensive, but still considered worth it by those who do. Each tipi can house up to 6 adults, and will be available for use from Wednesday until Monday of the Festival. The tipis will cost £820 (in 2010) to hire. Hired tipis come with a groundsheet and rain catcher, Festival goers need to bring their own bedding, camping equipment, etc, and any necessary creature comforts. Tipi dwelling is an incredible and elemental experience, but not a luxury one.

The Tipi Area is also home to the Bimble Inn, a unique structure made from canvas and wood fusing ancient tipi design with modern ideas. The inside is decorated with drapes of colour and lit by strands of LED fairy lights at night and containing a Tipi Stage and licensed bar.

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