Fieldwork Week 1 Review

This week was my first full week of fieldwork here in Glastonbury. It was a week full of ups and downs, as was expected. Sunday, the day after Mike left, I forced myself to stay busy to distract myself from being quite lonely and homesick. Monday was the day I returned the rental car to Bristol, so I didn’t get much done that day but the rest of the week was quite productive.

Tuesday I made a point of trying to wrap my brain around all the different shops and sections of the High Street (aka Main Street) in Glastonbury. I made a list of all the establishments and noted those with names that are clearly geared toward the tourism industry like, for example: The Gauntlet, Cat and Cauldron, The Goddess and the Green Man and Man/Myth/Magik. I visited most of the shops and picked up flyers/business cards when I could. I used that contact information that evening to send a slew of emails trying to recruit people for interviews.

Wednesday I met with one of the rangers for the National Trust in the county of Somerset for coffee in Wells. He was very friendly and seemed quite interested in helping me since the information I was trying to gather would also be useful for the National Trust. One of the sites he manages is Glastonbury Tor and they’re actually interested in making it more connected to the city itself for tourists. After the meeting I took the bus to Glastonbury and went straight up the Tor. I am reminded every time I do it that it is no easy task and I’m tired and winded every time I do it. But this means that visitors have to want to go. The top of the Tor is not something you stumble upon. It has to be a deliberate choice.

After the Tor I visited the Abbey. The woman I’d been communicating with had stopped responding to my emails and that morning one had bounced back so I wanted to inquire in person about what might be happening. Turns out they were switching servers and everything was a bit of a mess. The woman at the front desk told me to resend me email later that day. I’m getting a little anxious about the Abbey and whether or not they’ll actually end up deciding to let me interview staff and volunteers. That is a critical part of the data I want/need to collect so if that falls through I’ll need a Plan B. But, I also keep telling myself, I still have three weeks here before I head down to Exeter.


The cloaked man is one of the “living history” guide that gives tours of the Abbey grounds.

Thursday I spent most of the morning at home before heading into Glastonbury to meet with the owners of the aforementioned Cat and Cauldron. They were very receptive of my request and mentioned they’d spoken to many a PhD student before and were used to it. I spent a good hour and a half with them inside the George and Pilgrim, a pub just across the street from their shop, and did an informal interview to get to know them. They agreed to do a formal interview next week which will be very helpful.

Friday was a disappointing day. My energy was low and no one seemed to want  to talk to me. I approached several store owners and was rejected by all of them in some way or another. It was also a few days after the March 22nd attacks in London and I started wondering what role, if any, that event might play in my project alongside Brexit.

Saturday was a wonderful day in the field. The weather was absolutely beautiful and the sun shone all day. It became clear very quickly that when the sun is out, the British go outside too. From the bus I saw people on the public foot paths in groups and with their dogs. Families were picnicking. I arrived in Glastonbury and went straight to the Abbey which was remarkably busy. The unique thing about the Abbey is that it is really part heritage tourist site and part community/neighborhood park. So the split between locals and visitors was roughly 50/50.


It’s hard to tell but there are families roaming around the grounds.


I really wanted to yell at this young man climbing on the ruins. Like, in what place is that ever ok?


A pretty common sight: Someone taking a photo of the sign marking the former site of King Arthur’s tomb.

I took a ton of field notes throughout the day, at the Abbey and around town. Overall I felt like I was making strides and reread some of my ethnographic methods textbook over tea to assure myself I was doing this correctly… if there is a “right” way.


A fairly standard sight on the High Street. Here, a man plays the harp on one of the stoops.


In addition to busking musicians, there was a street artist making this chalk image on the sidewalk.

And then today (Sunday) I slept in, spent a good hour or so catching up on typing my field notes and then went into Wells to do my weekly grocery shopping. Again, the beautiful weather brought everyone outside so I explored the town a bit on my own before doing my shopping and heading home. Below you’ll see photos I took. The first two are of the moat surrounding the old Bishop’s Palace just behind Wells Cathedral. Then the second two are from a public footpath that runs between Wells and the next village, Dulcote. I had been seeing people on the foot path from the bus and wondered where it started. Now I know. And how neat it is that some people get to walk from their village, through some beautiful fields, into town for lunch or shopping? The third set is from another part of the walled area around the cathedral and then of course in the inside of the cathedral itself.


Inside Wells Cathedral.

Looking ahead, I have my first formal interview scheduled for tomorrow morning with a pair that run a tour guiding company in the area. Tuesday I’m heading down to Exeter for a lunch date with my advisor and some other professors. Wednesday and Thursday will be cloudy and rainy again but I’m hoping I’ll hear back from both the Abbey and the Chalice Well by then. And Friday is my formal interview with the owners of the Cat and Cauldron. I hope that the interviews, combined with participant observation notes, the photos I’ve taken (or people, events and also all the interpretation at the sites) and the random flyers/brochures I’ve collected will give me enough to work with for Phase I of the project. Fingers crossed. Now time for dinner!


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