Bio brilliance

Learn about the pioneering Glastonbury pavilion made from mushroom roots
By Alex James Taylor | Art | 20 June 2023

At this year’s Glastonbury festival, there will be headline sets by Arctic Monkeys, Elton John, and an art pavilion made out of mushrooms. Located in the Silver Hayes area of the festival, the Hayes Pavilion is constructed using the interconnected power of mushroom roots, known as mycelium. Utilising this incredible, biomaterial, the pioneering Pavillion highlights the way we can use natural materials to move away from environmentally impacting materials – improving our sustainability and reducing our footprint. 

Inside, the pavilion will showcase findings from a six-week experiment testing, manipulating and challenging what is possible with mycelium as a practical material, while the space will also host specially commissioned immersive sound compositions by musician Brian d’Souza (Auntie Flo) and rising star Or: la in collaboration with harpist Roísín Berkeley. In the lead-up to Glastonbury’s opening, we spoke to the pavilion’s designer Simon Carroll, director of Temple Design Studio.

Alex James Taylor: How did the idea for the pavilion first come about?
Simon Carroll: Working across the creative and live event industries for twenty years has given me good insight into the challenges we face in becoming sustainable and more importantly circular, without sacrificing the quality of product we want to achieve. In 2016 I came across work being done by Ecovative to disrupt polystyrene packaging use in the US with mycelium. A lot of the work we do to create 3-D detail and embellishment is manufactured from polystyrene or polyurethane resins and foams and it started the cogs turning.

Over time and with further research I eventually discovered and approached European and UK industry leaders in mycelium production, Grown Bio and Biohm, having explained the issues and challenges we face across the creative industry, both seemed keen to see what was possible. With potential working relationships formed, I approached Team Love’s Tom Paine, Dave Harvey and Ben Price in early 2019 about the possibility of creating a piece for Silver Hayes at Glastonbury. We all know what happened then. As the next year or two passed, it allowed us time to develop the concept from not just showcasing mycelium but creating a purpose-built pavilion structure that will over the coming years showcase and demonstrate pioneering new material approaches and concepts we hope will influence people’s choices, change attitudes and stimulate much-needed market adoption and investment. 

AJT: Can you tell us more about the use of mushrooms and mycelium and how this biomaterial works in terms of creating structure?
SC: Mycelium is the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms. Its existence and impact within nature is only just becoming fully understood, but the by-product of its controlled cultivated growth can be used as a binder when combined with organic and synthetic substrates such as agricultural waste streams to produce solid and lightweight material similar to polystyrene. I believe that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of bio-based materials and our ability to work with nature. We are currently seeing disruption in both the textiles and packaging markets from fungal-based products with pioneering work being done globally to further the technology and surrounding product markets. It won’t be long before we see a wider adoption across manufacturing and construction.

“We’re so excited to be bringing this groundbreaking installation to this year’s Festival, and I hope visitors will flock to Silver Hayes to check out the incredible, sustainable potential of mycelium at the Pavilion.” – Emily Eavis, co-organiser of Glastonbury Festival

AJT: Can you tell us about some of the commissions that will take place in the Pavilion and how you hope to engage people?
SC: The exhibition of work you see in the 2023 Hayes Pavilion at Glastonbury’s Silver Hayes is formed through a collective of creative practitioners doing workshops and then a period of design, testing and manipulating the material. Two of the intersectional practitioners I worked closely with through the process were biomaterial specialist Leksi Kostur and scenic sculptor consultant Hannah Morris-Coole, we took a co-design approach to the project and the exhibition is the result of that collaboration. 

The creative learnings from the mycelium project at the Hayes Pavilion, as well as carbon data collection, will be published in a report after Glastonbury, the aim is to give the wider industry the findings and recommendations on best practice for future creatives wanting to interact with the biomaterial. A short film will also be published documenting the journey. 

Over the coming years, we will use the Hayes Pavillion to showcase more pioneering material developments and approaches that we see have the potential to disrupt common practice and better prepare our world for a circular future. 

AJT: Glastonbury is obviously an ideal place to showcase this new biomaterial, how excited are you to be able to have people see it and experience it for themselves – and how did Emily Eavis and the organisers help facilitate it?
SC: It’s the perfect place to showcase new ideas and technologies. We have always seen festivals as micro-cities and trialling new projects in these environments allows you to test for scaling up to society in the future. We are super excited to showcase this project and allow people of all ages to discuss the potential of mycelium in life. The farm and Emily have been hugely supportive of the project and of our vision for The Silver Hayes field’s ten-year anniversary and the potential of this as a returning feature in the field.

Glastonbury Festival’s new Hayes Pavilion marks the tenth anniversary for its Silver Hayes field. Its debut art project, 6 °, will be open to festival goers from 22nd – 25th June 2023.


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