From Glasto with Love

Luke’s just got back from Glastonbury, where he helped launch the ‘Love Syria’ campaign he created for Oxfam with Jon. See below for what he thought about it.


Last weekend saw the proper launch of Oxfam’s ‘Love Syria’ festivals campaign, after a trial run at the Isle of Wight. Inhouse had been involved in developing and designing the materials, badges, placards and branding and it was a privilege to see the campaign in action. 55 volunteers and 5 staff took on the task of engaging almost a quarter of a million revellers. The romance took place over 6 days and was a formidable experience: the highs and lows of seduction and rejection were extreme. We all had moments of gaining and losing form. My pal’s bottom lip wobbled during the day 2 breakfast shift. ‘I just had 5 no’s in a row.’ It was fascinating how contextual the challenge was. Given the right conditions – punters loitering in the sun, not busy or spectating – were nearly always willing to sign the petition. ‘It’s a no brainer’ one supporter said ‘of course we need to get more aid out there.’


We were several times asked why love Syria? But people soon realised it wasn’t about taking sides. We explained Oxfam’s campaign was humanitarian; calling for more aid and a peaceful, political end to the conflict. The issue of getting access to Syria to deliver aid inside the country was more contentious – several were dubious. It was impressive how many people wanted to sign a petition for Oxfam generally though, whatever the campaign. They just trust Oxfam. The most enamoured punter was a young 20-year-old man who enlisted 8 of his friends and angrily made every one of them sign. “Guys! Oi Marcus! And you! Do it now!” I didn’t ask why he was personally so passionate but respected his reasons.


The most moving response? A Syrian food stall-holder who had fled the country a year previously after waking up to find militants in his house. He followed our placard to find out why we were campaigning and thanked us for our support. “It’s outrageous that the country has been forgotten by the international community until now.”


Possibly the most irritating response came from a performer. “Not now mate, my helicopter just landed”. I’m not sure you really get chopper-lag? From London to Somerset?


The pitfalls included the usual festival trolls of welly blisters, mud sluggishness and sun-induced delirium. We lost a few punters to GreenPeace’s indomitable Polar bear and WaterAid’s toilet clad campaigners, but they sent as many people our way.


Highlights included an exclusive backstage audience with Michael Eavis for all the charity campaigners (see blurry photo), followed by an acoustic Stornoway gig. It was a great way of enlivening the spirits of all the volunteers and making them feel part of something special, which they undoubtedly were.


It was hard not to smile at the impressive number of badge-branded supporters by the time Jagger belted out ‘You can’t always get what you want’ – we’ve yet to get the mud out of our belly buttons or fully count the vast number of petition slips, but as a rough estimate is 10,000 names, we’re quietly confident we got what we need.