June 2011, Glastonbury Festival, UK
Festivals can make you filthy – physically as well as mentally. To cleanse the muddy revellers of Glastonbury, the UK’s biggest music festival, we created the ‘Decontamination Unit’: a gigantic white cube containing a hidden network of chambers filled with psychiatrists and microbiologists.
At the entrance, Joe Latimer and Sarah Forbes from the University of Manchester introduced music fans (who thought they were entering a nightclub) to their internal “dirt”: the bacteria that call us home. A brightly-lit box, the ‘Microbial Zoo’, displayed one hundred multi-coloured petri dishes.
Those chosen for “moral decontamination” were sent for a private session with psychiatrists Mark Salter, Peter Macrae, Priscilla Kent, and Caroline Methuen from London’s Homerton Hospital. After a soothing moment amid the chaos of the festival, “morally cleansed” guests could then unload a “dirty secret” into a microphone.
Others selected for “physical decontamination” were sent into a darkened room and instructed by an actor backstage to disrobe. Some took off their shoes… others completely stripped. The next chamber: blinding strobe lights surrounding a gleaming white platform. A “decontamination technician”in a hazmat suit donated by the Health Protection Agency capped off the experience with a personal wet-wipe treatment.
The setting, Shangri La, made this scientific experience all the more surreal. A field filled with art installations, raves and bars is aptly known as the “naughty corner” of Glastonbury, where the UK’s bravest performers create their most eccentric productions every year. Guerilla Science were recruited by producers Strong & Co and biomedical research charity the Wellcome Trust to bring science to the place you least expect it.