The boss of the tipi pitch at Glastonbury Festival has revealed how pandemic restrictions have left the festival industry “on its knees”.
Hearthworks, the coordinators of the Glastonbury Festival Tipi Field, is a tipi and yurt maker with a small country workshop in the heart of Pilton.
The site is a hive of year-round activity, with the company employing canvas sewers, carpenters, builders and office staff – a small but thriving community of artisans – but they are one of many businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
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Despite this, the local business has adapted and diversified in an effort to stay afloat during the pandemic.
A statement from Hearthworks reads: “With the lack of government-backed cancellation insurance, the pandemic has hit the events industry harder than most.
“A small, selective financial aid has been received and calls for help from festival organizers have fallen on deaf ears.
“This ambivalence about the survival of an entire industry means that most events cannot take the risk of putting months and months of hard work and financial expense, the possibility of a cancellation of last minute being a very real threat.
“2021 is the second year most of our festivals have been unable to continue – no revenue for two years would have no business on its knees.”
Hearthworks, which not only supplies structures to Glastonbury Festival but also many of the UK’s favorite independent festivals, has had to reshape its business model to stay alive.
A company statement explains: “The lockdown has seen a boom in people investing in their home spaces. Throughout the winter, the team has been busy making yurts and teepees.
“From the crafting of the wooden yurt frames from kiln-dried ash to the custom hand-sewn canvas covers and the stripped and shaped tipi poles, everything is done on-site at the workshop.”
The company has manufactured, delivered and built structures for Liam Gallagher and Roger Waters, as well as schools, retreat centers, fashion shoots and charities.
Hearthworks has also been able to adapt thanks to the growing popularity of staycation due to the inability of most to vacation abroad.
With many traditional B&Bs and holiday parks booked months in advance, the market for boutique camping and glamping is booming.
New campsites are popping up across the country and Hearthworks has partnered with a number of them to create unique vacations in ‘covid-safe’ environments.
Tara Weightman, who founded Hearthworks in 1999, said: “Lockdown allowed us to survive as a business. We had to be nimble with the quicksand of government policy. There were times when we were on very fragile ground.
“Our business has always been about connection, people connecting in these beautiful outdoor spaces around campfires and under canvas.
“While most people would have had their first teepee experience at a festival, things are changing now.
“We’ve had to branch out into more intimate camping experiences. Although we miss the big festivals, we think it’s great that people have these new opportunities to experience a magical stay in a tipi or yurt – you get that festival feel without having to go to a big event.”