Kate Chidley: Creating Glastonbury Festival art – straight from the heart – at Castles in the Sky

THE images will be familiar to thousands and thousands of Glastonbury goers up and down the country.

And each year, artist Kate Chidley’s unique take on the festival map is a must-see for many as they tour the site.

Kate, who works under the Castles In The Sky name, has honed her style during a lifetime of association with Glastonbury.

She has been attending the event since she was a child, her mother a regular from the start.

So we were delighted when she agreed to help us create this supplement.

But how did her life-long association with Glastonbury start?

“I’m not sure where to start,” she says. “My mum was there from the word go, she even borrowed some long-drop loos for a her own festival on our farm in the early 80s.

“So I’ve been there since a baba.

“My earliest memory was a really wet one, 1985, sleeping in the Luton van – which had a Pyramid Stage view.

“My mum was selling second-hand wellies that she’d gathered from charity shops all year and we sold out instantly. Then overnight we left our own wellies outside the van and they were nicked!”

And so it began, a lifetime of experiences.

This is The West Country:
MEMORIES: Kate with her mum

“I remember years that my mum and I fly pitched selling handmade jewellery, we’d go with just a trolley of goodies, no tent, bedding down for the night in homemade sleeping bags in the big top, or under the trailer behind the Cider Bus. And we had our dog, ‘Lucky’, with us too.

“My mum made things to sell at fairs and festivals to avoid farm work at home, so we’d venture to the festival fields every year.

“We’ve always been on the trading side. She sold second-hand wellies, painted pebbles, silk scarves, jewellery, delicious chocolate brownies – which my brother and I munched our way through – and the year we sold fresh rose posies, and it p****d with rain.

“I’ve sold handmade things there since I was a teenager, or even younger. I’ve made things like fimo badges, flower garlands, illustrated knickers and the paintings, prints and books I create today.

“I’ve grown up with it, its part of me.”

Kate works out of a converted chapel in the beautiful Somerset countryside and as happens for so many, her life has become entwined with the festival.

“My late mother and I traded for many years, and as her health declined, I roped in friends to help me on our stall at Glastonbury every June .

“And then, ‘Boom!’, I met my love, and pot luck that he once was market trader.

“So, straight into the deep end, I cornered him to help me run my stall at the festivals.

“And the rest is history.”

This is The West Country:
FAMILY AFFAIR: Kate’s young family at Glastonbury

History is the key word when considering Kate’s work at Glastonbury.

For thousands of people all over the world, her art is at the heart of their festival memories, on countless walls providing a window into their times in the fields of Worthy.

Her work becomes part of family homes and family life – which is just how it is created.

“I scribble away furiously in May creating new illustrations for the festival season, while he loads up the vans with all the necessities to build our gallery under canvas,” Kate explains.

And she said the festival tradition looks set to continue in the family…

“The next generation is there too, our little prince spent his first Glasto in a moses basket on a table in the stall,” she says.

“We are lucky that his village school cherishes his adventures to the festival fields every summer.

“We will miss our festival season this year.”

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HARD AT WORK: In the studio

But what is it that makes Glastonbury stand out from all the other events in the Castle in the Sky calendar?

“The festival is special because of everything that everyone puts into it, such a community of creative people,” says Kate.

“Every year we look forward to reuniting with all our fellow traders. Many of our festival friends also have small children too and its great to get back into the festival fields each summer.

“There are magical things happening in every corner.

“It’s a festival for everyone young and old and every year more people want to be part of it, to make beautiful things for all to see.

“It grows every year, it’s so well run and the infrastructure is mind blowing. It’s like a city in a field.

“I do have memories of a more chaotic Glastonbury Festivals – hours of queuing in and out, old vans overheating and breaking down.”

But you still love it?

“How can you not?

“I love creating new illustrations each year to make people smile and hear people reminisce about Glasto.”

And there’s no doubt, those Kate Chidley pieces are at the heart of many, many positive memories for thousands of people, shining the spirit of the Glastonbury Festival into homes all over the world.

This is The West Country:
GALLERY UNDER CANVAS: Castles in the Sky at Glastonbury. PICTURE: Kate Chidley


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