WORDS: KATIE CONWAY-FLOOD
Glastonbury Festival has long been a staple amongst British live music culture. From its humble beginnings in 1970, with the birth of the one pound Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival situated in Worthy Farm’s fields as Marc Bolan’s T. Rex took the bills top spot to the pulled out The Kinks to the latest Glastonbury Festival Of Contemporary Performing Arts in 2019, which saw Stormzy, The Killers and The Cure performing on The Pyramid Stage to a sold out Somerset festival. Glastonbury is a legendary five-day festival like no other, as the world’s favourite festival at Worthy Farm has witnessed historic headliners, iconic areas, inspired initiatives, numerous name changes, a fair few fallow years and fences followed in its landmark fifty years. Now five decades down the line proceedings are paused on the 2020 edition of Glastonbury Festival, with artists Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift set for main stage status this year before the global icon of a festival was cancelled due to the current Coronavirus crisis. Whilst Glasto may be temporarily gone it will never be forgotten as the festivals golden celebrations goes virtual, this forced fallow year has given revellers the realisation to ponder how Glastonbury has changed the idea of a festival forever.
From the get go, Glasto has been a family run affair transcending several Eavis’ generations. Starting out in the seventies as a small scale inspired music event
From the get go, Glasto has been a family run affair transcending several Eavis’ generations. Starting out in the seventies as a small scale inspired music event, made off the back of the Bath And West Showground Blues Festival to pull back the farm from the brink, co-founder and father Michalel Eavis and co-founder and the late great mother of Glastonbury Jean Eavis responsible for mounting a movement so embedded in its family legacy. Currently co-organised with daughter Emily Eavis throughout the 2000’s, it’s this dad daughter duo who have an unbreakable blood bond for championing the community feel from the moment Michael magnificently opening the Glasto gates to shaking hands with festival goers, a sight not seen at any other major festival.
The milestone moment 1,500 people set foot in Somerset some fifty years ago signified the success in the festivals formulae. Glastonbury is all about its people power, as goers of Glastonbury make the festival unforgettable. From waking up in close proximity in the campsite field, The Tipi Village or Worthy View to wading through the mud of the 90’s for five straight days, these strangers whether they be peace spreading hippies of the seventies or popular culture fans of the 2010’s become festival friends in the all age inclusive Glastonbury commadery.
Glastonbury also goes above and beyond to contribute charitable deeds to its three main charities, a gesture of goodwill which sets it apart from mainstream money making festivals. Post the financial fall during the seventies, it’s donations to its beneficiaries Greenpeace, Oxfam, WaterAid and the eighties’ Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament receiving millions of pounds per year. With the power of three charities backing Glastonbury, the festival’s halo couldn’t be glinting any more brighter by comparison to other festivals.
Changing the idea of a festival forever is no easy feat, but Glasto’s green ethos is a true trailblazing example of how it’s retained an authentic connection to its environmental roots
Changing the idea of a festival forever is no easy feat, but Glasto’s green ethos is a true trailblazing example of how it’s retained an authentic connection to its environmental roots. “Now this great festival has gone plastic free. That’s more than a million bottles of water that has not been drunk in plastic” announces Sir David Attenborough just short of the Sunday afternoon legends slot of the 2019 festival, three days after Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace joined forces for the procession following the ban of single use plastic bottles after more than a million were sold at Glastonbury 2017. Glastonbury are demonstrating what’s possible to the world as their innovative green initiatives including The Recycling Project and the Love The Farm, Leave No Trace campaign have changed the way campers care for festivals beyond just the music.
Glasto’s line up over the years has deepened its diverse horizons, giving its fellow UK festivals an idea to shift their sound too. It’s vast line up has evolved and adapted to the sonic shift of the times, with the festivals most memorable main stage sets symbolising such a transition. From Bowie, Blur and Beyoncé, Pulp, Radiohead and Metallica to The Smiths And The Stones, not forgetting that bold Jay Z booking in 2008 and despite growing genre lineups, in more recent years people have been purchasing tickets even before the bill is announced relying with the reassurance that whether a Glastonbury goer is into dance, indie or metal, Junes Worthy Farm weekend is where the festival has an unrivalled plethora of performers.
With thousands of acts, arts and activities happening across the Glastonbury weekend, it’s not just the headliners heading to The Pyramid Stage that’s the festival’s focal point. From Silver Hayes, the South East Corner and Strummerville to The Green Fields, The Park and The Other Stage, there are over one hundred areas that actually find the most solitude and solace tucked away from the music, a dynamic not many multiple day festivals focus on.
Glastonbury is a movement that has certainly changed the notion of a festival for all eternity
As a whole the overall experience of going to Glastonbury, a temporary tented city that surpasses the size and scale of any other UK festival in existence, is essential to the Somerset events success. There is no such person as a one time Glastonbury goer, as the festivals vastness and immersiveness from witnessing the opening ceremony on the Glastonbury hill to climbing the ribbon tower and strolling along the Glastonbury on sea pier simply only scratches the surface of the abundance of opportunities Glastonbury has going on, something the ten time festival attendee hasn’t even seen yet.
Ultimately, Glastonbury’s influence has and always will have an enduring legacy looming over other festivals. In its fallow years, festival season feels like it fails to start without the Glastonbury hype and hysteria the globe gets as the last weekend of June creeps ever closer. But when the festival is on, it’s not a money making business as usual for Michael and Emily Eavis who won’t gain big bucks from ticket sales but they spend masses amounts of money going to charity and area expansion, as well as minimal amount booking bands simply because it’s the one show a year artists will play for free or at a reduced rate due to the festivals status. When it comes down to it, Glastonbury is simply the best festival that breaks the mould where others wouldn’t dare to. It’s long lasting legacy cannot be replicated anywhere else in the festival world.
Glastonbury is a movement that has certainly changed the notion of a festival for all eternity. From something that started out as a small scale inspired music event made to pull back Worthy Farm from the brink, to becoming a magical pop up town of dreams like no other greenfield festival on the globe. With Glastonbury Festival 2021 set to be a two in one legendary line up for next year’s return, it seems Glastonbury has not and will never stop changing the idea of a festival forever.