Joe Rush was once described by Michael Eavis as ‘The Man Who Saved Glastonbury Festival’. This kind of image is probably part of the reason why – Joe is driving the lead truck during the Mutoid Parade on Saturday as Letmiya jives on top and the Glastonbury crowd parts before the denizens of Mutieland.
I first came across the Mutoid Waste Co. at Glastonbury in 1987. In the mid ’80’s the Mutoids were the only thing in Thatcher led Britain that had any kind of true heart and soul and they inspired me in ways that subsequently resonated through my life. I could totally relate to their aesthetic and lifestyle as I had spent a large part of my childhood hanging out in Charity Shops because my mother didn’t believe it was worth spending money on clothes for kids as they grow out of them so quickly anyway. And in my twenties I found myself in Australia scavenging at rubbish tips with my good friend Jonh Ridley looking for stuff with which he could build his house. These two pictures were taken at the Glastonbury Carhenge in 1987, at dawn on the Longest Day, Summer Solstice.
After Glastonbury I hitch hiked up to Edinburgh, where the Mutoids were part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that year. I stayed up there with them for a couple of weeks before returning to London and spending serious time with them in Ladbroke Grove and Kentish Town. I subsequently co-founded the Mutoids in Australia with Robin Cooke and built Carhenge at Confest over New Year 1990/91, which can be read about here (including videos). I led 3000 people in a mad drumming frenzy from the top of Carhenge. It was a remarkable experience and one that shaped the next few years of my life.
I moved to Sydney the following year and started Regeneration Culture Inc.. The idea was to get a derelict building from the State Government to turn into a multi purpose arts centre using recycled materials and featuring energy efficient technology. We had a Social Agenda as well, but that story can wait for another time. In ’97 I started M.O.R.E. (Ministry Of Random Events) and built a few sculptures around Sydney, including the Recyco Dragon on Bondi Beach and the 30′ x 20′ Recycle which weighs three tons and stands at the entrance to the largest recycling centre in the southern hemisphere.
In 2005 I found myself back in the UK and Joe invited me to return to Glastonbury for the first time since I originally joined the Mutoids in 1987. So I took pictures of his sculptures that year and had a lot of fun.
Late last year Joe came to visit me in NYC and asked me to come back to Glastonbury Festival again this year to document The Unfairground for him. So on the Tuesday before Glastonbury started I found myself driving up the motorway from London. I’d heard all manner of wild stories over the previous couple of weeks and was expecting serious armageddon by the time I got there. And I wasn’t disappointed. The mud was definitely making its presence felt.
As I arrived Joe was running around trying to get everything finished in time and dealing with the French TV Crew who had come to shoot a documentary about him. It was obviously not a good time to ask him where I was supposed to be sleeping, so I made my way to Tatsia’s, the crew canteen. As I was eating I got talking to the girl sitting next to me, who introduced herself as Sam BJ. It turned out that she’d worked Production last year on The Unfairground and this year was working across the road in The Common. We got on well and when I told her I had just arrived and was waiting to see where I was going to sleep, to my surprise she informed me that she had a spare pod in her over large tent and I could sleep there if I wanted. I was extremely grateful and accepted her kind offer with alacrity.
I was very grateful to the Production Office in more ways than one. Sam BJ gave me somewhere to sleep. And Alex and Brita and Emma and Phyllis gave me shelter from the storm and graciously allowed me and my computer to take over a table so I could download and process (read edit/colour correct etc) the 3,500 images I shot at The Unfairground over 8 days. Actually, to be truthful, it was probably slightly under 3,000 images that I shot around The Unfairground as I also took pictures around Glastonbury and shot U2, Paul Simon, Fishermans Friends, DJ Herve and the remarkable Narasirato from the Soloman Islands that are managed by my good friend Jason Mayall.
The night after I arrived The Bloodsucker Bar opened for business. Run by Charlie, it was the first bar to open at Glastonbury this year and so the night was one long celebration because despite the adverse conditions created by the mud and rain, The Unfairground had opened before everyone else and was ready for the punters to arrive. The bar was packed and Charlie and Joe were both delighted. Charlie told me he’d spent months preparing all the paperwork and it had all paid off that day when the local council inspectors had shown up and were very happy with how prepared he was for everything.
Joe built an amazing sculpture of a mosquito sucking blood from a hand as the motif for the Bloodsucker Bar.
One of the coolest scrap sculptures I’ve seen in ages was the Head built by Crusty Mark. I was totally blown away by the scale and inventiveness of this amazing piece.
Eddie Egal came out from Berlin and set up the Head with fire. I first met Eddie in 1996 when I was spending time at Tacheles and he was working with DNTT (Do Not Trust Them) on a show at Arena in Treptow. He has created some amazing fire work over the years and started the Arson Art Association (AAA) and The Office For Burning Matters.
Alex aka ‘Wreckage’ is a very sweet character who has been around since the beginning of the Mutoids, but we only met properly for the first time this year. One of those multi talented individuals who make the rest of us feel inadequate he builds sculptures, creates artwork and makes music. His amazing Triceratops Dinosaur was one of the highlights of the Parade and it was great to see the positive way kids responded to it.
Mad Alan and his cohorts had an edge that was somewhere way past what might be considered the Fringe of Society. The tattoos are all very real, as is the split tongue. For all the crazy appearance, I found Alan and his crew to be very cool people and easy to get on with.
The Unfairground was definitely the place to be on Saturday night. Mumford & Sons played a secret show on the Strummerville Stage at 7pm to 200 people following their headlining spot on the Other Stage to tens of thousands on Friday night.
Thom Yorke from Radiohead played a very cool dubstep and hip hop DJ set to 35 people in the crashed airplane bar at 2am which did not go out on Twitter, so at most there was a line of 15 people trying to get into the plane instead of the thousands that would have been there if they’d realised. As there was sensitivity with Thom playing in the plane, after the festival I got in touch with Radioheads management to see if he’d approve any of the images I shot of him there and he agreed to allow this picture to be published. It’s the first picture I’ve seen of him smiling and is currently running in the Random Notes section of Rolling Stone.
Whilst Thom Yorke was playing his grooves, Fatboy Slim was sending the crowd wild in Sharkey’s before Carl Cox showed up with his own brand of magical mayhem.
I had an amazing time at Glastonbury and everybody working on The Unfairground was very cool and easy to get on with. Apart from one incident with someone who was obviously suffering from lack of sleep.
Joe Rush has good reason to be proud of his achievements as the Mutoid Waste Co. has grown over the last thirty years to be enormously influential on contemporary art as well as a cultural touchstone and leading light of the alternative underground. In many ways Michael Eavis was right with his observation as Glastonbury Festival has grown into a serious behemoth with over 177,000 people attending this year and its hard for what has become such a mainstream event to keep its alternative credibility intact. Joe Rush has curated the South East Corner of Glastonbury Festival over the last few years and so is responsible for introducing The Unfairground, Block 9, Shangri-La and his younger brother Pip’s incredible Arcadia.
These all give Glastonbury a much needed edge and credibility that it needs to keep growing in a constructive direction. It’s not all about the money. With Joe there it is also about the Art and the Inspiration. And that is his remarkable legacy. He has worked hard on his vision for the last thirty years and he deserves all the recognition he gets. And the next generation is already on the move. Both of Joe’s teenage sons were at Glastonbury and loved it. This last picture features Joe walking past his truck whilst his youngest son sits inside waiting for the Parade to begin. Glastonbury is taking a year off next year. See you all there in two years time for the next Parade of the Princes of Scrap.
Its taken me a while to edit all the pictures but I’ve now posted two galleries of images in the M.O.R.E. section of this website. One gallery features what I consider to be the Top 50 and the other gallery features the Top 100 pictures of The Unfairground at this years Glastonbury Festival.