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Glastonbury, Mud, Mysticism, Mayhem and Memorable performances over the years
Image by brizzle born and bred
Since it started some 45 years ago it’s now grown to a size of 1200 acres – making Glastonbury the largest greenfield festival in the world.
David Bowie (2000): Described by Michael Eavis himself as the best Glastonbury ever (and he should know), David Bowie’s performance reminded an expectant crowd of just how iconic he is in the British (and worldwide) music scene.
Glastonbury Festival is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts.
Leading pop and rock artists have headlined, alongside thousands of others appearing on smaller stages and performance areas. Films and albums recorded at Glastonbury have been released, and the festival receives extensive television and newspaper coverage.
Glastonbury is the largest greenfield festival in the world, and is now attended by around 175,000 people, requiring extensive infrastructure in terms of security, transport, water, and electricity supply. The majority of staff are volunteers, helping the festival to raise millions of pounds for good causes.
Inspired by the ethos of the hippie, counterculture, and free festival movements, the festival retains vestiges of these traditions, such as the Green Fields area, which includes sections known as the Green Futures and Healing Fields.
After the 1970s, the festival took place almost every year and grew in size, with the number of attendees sometimes being swollen by gate-crashers. Michael Eavis hosted the first festival, then called Pilton Festival, after seeing an open-air Led Zeppelin concert at the 1970 Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music.
Glastonbury Festival was held intermittently from 1970 until 1981, since when it has been held every year, except for "fallow years" intended to give the land, the local population and the organisers a break, usually taken every 5 years.
1970: Michael Eavis sets up the Pilton Pop, Blues and Folk Festival on his farm, charging £1 to get in. T Rex headline the event after the Kinks pull out.
1971: Pilton, Worthy Farm, Renamed Glastonbury Fair, organisers book David Bowie and Hawkwind to play to 12,000 people. A ‘hippie mecca’ full of people high on ‘love, peace and Lebanese gold’ is how critics view the event.
1979: Now a three day event and was still referred to as the Glastonbury Fayre but with the theme of “the year of the child”. Bill Harkin and Arabella Churchill were the instigators on this occasion and turned to Michael Eavis for financial backing. He secured a bank loan against the deeds of the farm. Special provision and entertainment was provided for children and it was at this event that the concept of the Children’s World charity was born which still exists today and works in special schools throughout Somerset and Avon Again, despite the numbers attending, the organisers suffered a huge financial loss and no one wanted to risk another festival in 1980. It was also this summer that Michael’s youngest daughter, Emily was born.
Acts included: Peter Gabriel, Steve Hillage, Alex Harvey Band, Sky and the Footsbarn Theatre. Attendance: 12,000. Tickets: £5.
1981: In an interview, Michael Eavis explains why Glastonbury will donate its profits to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
It was this year that it was decided to build a new Pyramid stage. However, this time it was a permanent structure, doubling as a cowshed and animal food store during the winter months. It took two months to build the permanent Pyramid stage out of telegraph poles and ex-MOD metal sheeting. The CND logo was not present at this Festival, as it was too heavy to lift into position at the apex. Michael Eavis eventually handed over approximately £20,000 to a very grateful CND.
Acts included: New Order, Hawkwind, Taj Mahal, Aswad, Gordon Giltrap.
Attendance: 18,000. Tickets: £8.
1982: Again, there was CND involvement and it was this year that Western Region CND took control of the entrance gates and Mid Somerset CND took charge of all the information.
This year was a muddy year with lots of bad weather. In fact, the highest rainfall for a single day in 45 years was recorded on the Friday but it was also the year of the first laser show backed by Tubeway Army’s "Are friends electric?".
Acts included: Van Morrison, Judie Tzuke, Jackson Browne, Roy Harper, Richie Havens. (U2 were on the poster, but didn’t play.)
Attendance: 25,000. Tickets: £8.
1983: It called for a licence to be obtained for the event since the introduction of the local Government Act became law, giving local authorities the power to regulate such events by stipulating the conditions. Mendip District Council issued a Public Entertainment Licence which set a crowd limit of 30,000 and went into considerable detail about access roads, water supply, hygiene and so on. It was also the first year that the Festival had its own radio station, Radio Avalon. £45,000 was eventually raised for CND and local charities.
Acts included: Marillon, The Beat, UB40, Curtis Mayfield, King Sunny Ade.
Attendance: 30,000. Tickets: £12. Programme price: 80 pence.
1984: In January 1984 Michael Eavis successfully defended 5 prosecutions bought against him by Mendip District Council alleging contravention of the previous year’s licence conditions. All five charges were dismissed after a day long hearing at Shepton Mallet Magistrates Court. The local council then announced that the licence for 1984 would cost £2,000. The licence numbers were set at 35,000 and for the first time specific car parking areas were designated with stewards employed to direct the traffic. Messages were also broadcast on the radio to advise people not to turn up unless they had purchased a ticket in advance. 1984 also saw the start of the Green Fields as a separate area within the Festival. £60,000 was raised for CND and other charities.
Acts included: The Waterboys, The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Joan Baez and Ian Drury. Guest speakers included Bruce Kent, the chairman of CND and Paddy Ashdown.
Attendance: 35,000. Tickets: £13. Programme price: 80 pence.
1985: By 1985 Worthy farm was considered too small to accommodate the Festival so the neighbouring Cockmill farm land was purchased to enlarge the site by a further 100 acres. The sheer size of the newly enlarged site meant that communications were stretched to the limit – the ultimate test for any organisation. With tractors the only possible means of towing people off the site in seriously bad weather. Michael Eavis was pleased that, “we have had the mud bath and proved we can still cope with the conditions”. £100,000 was raised for CND and local charities.
Acts included: Echo & The Bunnymen, Aswad, Joe Cocker, Style Council and The Boomtown Rats.
Attendance: 40,000.Tickets: £16. Programme: 90p.
1986: Eavis offers refuge to a hippie convoy banned from celebrating the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. The decision puts further strain on his relationship with locals.
Again, this was a bigger Festival than the preceding year’s event. Due to the growth there were additions to the farm office, communications, welfare and medical teams. The Theatre and Childrens Areas moved to new homes, the first Classical music tent was introduced and the market areas relocated from the top of the site. £130,000 was raised for CND and local charities.
Acts included: The Cure, Madness, Simply Red, The Housemartins, The Waterboys, Pogues and Level 42.
Attendance: 60,000. Tickets:£17. Programme: £1.
1987: The council’s decision to refuse the licence was overturned in court only in May. 1987 saw the introduction of the Womad stage to the Festival. £130,000 was raised for CND and local charities.
Acts included: Elvis Costello, Robert Cray, New Order, Paul Brady, Michelle Shocked and Van Morrison.
Attendance: 60,000. Tickets: £21.
1989: Again there were once again complications with the local council over the granting of the Festival licence. The Police were bought into the organisation and planning of the Festival for the first time. Donations of £100,000 were made to CND.
Acts included: The Wonderstuff, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Pixies and Suzanne Vega who appeared despite a prior death threat.
Attendance: 65,000. Tickets: £28. Programme price: £2.
1990: Performances by the Cure and Happy Mondays are overshadowed by news of clashes between security teams and so called new age travellers, who had been accused of stealing equipment. Eavis cancels the following year’s event.
1992: With fans being charged £49 a ticket, organisers are accused of abandoning the festival’s ‘hippie spirit’.
This was the first year that the donations from the profits of the Festival were made to Greenpeace and Oxfam. Michael Eavis felt that with the ending of the Cold War that people’s concerns had shifted away from the possibility of nuclear war to the concerns of the environment. The Festival was also linked with National Music Day and the surprise guest was Tom Jones. £250,000 was donated to Greenpeace, Oxfam and other local charities.
Acts included: Carter USM, Shakespear’s Sister, Primal Scream, P J Harvey, Sawdoctors and The Levellers.
Attendance:70,000. Tickets:£49. Programme: £4.
1993: The Festival continued to go from strength to strength as it began to get into its stride as a successful and increasingly popular event. The advance only tickets were sold out by mid June. This years big performer and golden oldie was Rolf Harris. More than £250,000 was raised for Greenpeace, Oxfam and many local charities.
Acts included: The Orb, Lenny Kravitz, Velvet Underground, Galliano and Stereo Mcs.
Attendance: 80,000. Tickets: £58. Programme: £4.
1994: Again Glastonbury is in the news for the wrong reasons as a man dies from a suspected drug overdose, the festival’s first fatality.
On 13 June 1994 the famous Pyramid stage burnt down in the early hours of the morning but luckily a replacement was provided by the local company who also provided the stages for the NME and Jazz stages. It was also the first appearance of the wind turbine beside the main stage providing 150 kw of power for the main stage area. Channel 4 televised the event live over the weekend and it increased the appeal of the Festival to a wider audience.
On the Saturday night there was a shooting incident involving five people but no one was badly hurt. But there was the first death in the Festivals history when a young man was found dead from a drugs overdose. £150,000 was donated to Greenpeace, £50,000 to Oxfam and some £100,000 to local charities and good causes.
Acts included: Bjork, Manic St Preachers, Orbital, Van Morrison, Lemonheads, Elvis Costello, Galliano and The Levellers
Attendance: 80,000. Tickets: £59. Programme price: £5.
1995: The 25th anniversary of the first Festival was celebrated and saw the return of the two performers from the first event – Keith Christmas and Al Stewart. Demand for the tickets had never been so intense and the event was completely sold out within four weeks of the ticket release date.
1995 also saw the introduction of a Dance Tent which was a major success and featured Massive Attack, System 7 and Eat Static. The Stone Roses were forced to pull out the week before the event to be replaced by Pulp but did appear at the Pilton Show in September instead. Channel 4 televised the event again. The Greenpeace donation was raised to £200,000, Oxfam to £100,000 with local charities benefiting by another £100,000.
Acts included: The Cure, Oasis, Orbital, P J Harvey, Simple Minds and Portishead.
The event was marred by the perimeter fence being taken down at the top of the site aggravating the problems of trespass for other land owners adjoining the site.
Attendance: 80,000. Tickets: £65. Programme price: £5.
1997: Despite the muddy conditions, festival goers saw Radiohead play arguably the best Glastonbury set in years. Other memorable sets have included Orbital (1994), Blur (2009) and the Rolling Stones (2013). Shirley Bassey was a surprise hit in 2007.
Torrential rain just before the weekend resulted in this being the “Year of the Mud”. Undeterred, festival-goers boogied in their boots to more live performances than ever before. This year’s highlights included a “dubhenge” made from upended VW beetles and campervans and the first ever Greenpeace field with a reconstructed Rainbow Warrior and solar heated showers. The site expanded to 800 acres, a daily newspaper was published by Select and BBC2 broadcast live. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Water Aid and Mid-Somerset CND were the main beneficiaries.
Acts included: The Prodigy, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Ray Davies and Sting.
Attendance: 90,000. Tickets: £75 including official programme.
1998: Rain again turned parts of the site into a brown quagmire, but resilient campers still enjoyed the evergreen mix of entertainment and all night fun. Over 1,000 different performances on 17 stages included a new marquee for up and coming bands. The enlarged Dance Tent was as packed as ever. Theatre highlights included thepunk opera “Kiss my Axe”. Mud surfing proved popular. There were better loos and a proper on-site bank. American singer Tony Bennett rose above the mud in immaculate white suit and tie. Over £500,000 from the Festival’s income went to Greenpeace, Oxfam, water Aid and many local organisations.
AerialActs included Blur, Primal Scream, Robbie Williams, Tori Amos, Pulp, Bob dylan, Roni Size and the Chemical Brothers.
Attendance 100,500. Tickets: £80 including programme.
1999: The sun finally shone on Glastonbury again, bringing a broad smile to the faces and performers alike. £150,000 was still spent on downpour precautions. The widest range of entertainment ever was on offer, with over 300 bands, a kaleidoscope of theatre, comedy and cultural adventures, and more than 250 food stalls – all publicised on a buzzing Glasto web site and broadcast on BBC2. Greenpeace, Water Aid and Oxfam again benefitted. This year’s event was sadly overshadowed by the death of organiser Michael Eavis’s wife Jean. A winged wicker sculpture was ceremonially burned in her honour, whilst fireworks erupted into a moonlit sky.
Acts included REM, Manic Street Preachers, Fatboy Slim, Hole, Blondie, Al Green, Skunk Anansie, Lonnie Donegan, Marianne Faithful and Courtney Pine.
Attendance: 100,500. Tickets £83 including programme.
2000: This year saw the return of the pyramid stage (the third pyramid stage) – 100 feet high and clad in dazzling silver. There was more camping space with the introduction of a special family campsite. A new outdoor dance venue among trees, christened the glade, was introduced and proved a great success. Once again Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid were the major beneficiaries. This year saw a huge influx of gatecrashers – but even so the infrastructure stood up and people were treated to a weekend of diverse entertainment and fun.
Acts included Chemical Brothers, Moby, Travis, Morcheeba, Basement Jaxx and David Bowie. Licensed attendance 100,000.
Tickets £87 including programme.
2002: A new perimeter fence, erected at a cost of £1m, tries to keep out fans without tickets.
The most long-awaited and carefully prepared Glastonbury Festival took place in wonderful weather. The ring of steel fence repelled all non ticket holders and 140,000 legitimate festival goers revelled in the space and security created by the widely praised new operational management structure. Tickets were put on sale in February and sold out in weeks.
Acts included, Stereophonics, Coldplay, Manu Chao, Rolf Harris, Kosheen, Mis-teeq, Fat Boy Slim, Roger Walters and Rod Stewart, White Stripes, Orbital and Isaac Hayes. For many the place to be was Lost Vagueness in the Green Fields which bizarrely provided a silver service restaurant and ballroom dancing.
Tickets £97, including programme.
2003: Tickets sold out in under 24 hours making this year the fastest selling Glastonbury Festival. It was widely acclaimed as ‘the best yet’ – the weather was perfect, atmosphere chilled, Pilton was crime free and the line up brilliant. Over a million pounds was paid to local groups and charities. Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid were the main beneficiaries and on site FairTrade led a high profile campaign
Acts included: Love with Arthur Lee, Damien Rice, De la Soul, Flaming Lips, Jimmy Cliff, Moby, Radiohead, REM, The Damned, The Darkness, The Thrills; Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Nightmares on Wax in Lost Vagueness; Bill Bailey, Ross Noble, Black Sky White in the Cabaret areas plus a huge variety of kid’s entertainment and the creative madness that is Lost Vagueness.
Attendance 150.000. Tickets £105, including programme.
2004: A massive over demand for tickets frustrated all concerned. The weather in the run up to the Festival was not on our side. However, the improved drainage and organisation triumphed to contribute to the safest ever Festival. ‘Working together for a greener Glastonbury" paid off – with 32% of all waste recycle including 110 tons of organic waste composted. Streams and hedges remained unpolluted, she-pees were installed. Coffee and chocolate were FairTrade. On top of the £1 million paid to Greenpeace, Water Aid, Oxfam and local good causes, an additional £100,000 was donated to the Sudan appeal. This was the year of The Tower – a massive 70 ft tall moving structure erected adjacent to Leftfield to celebrate working together. The Unsigned Performer’s Competition was launched. The Pyramid Stage had its normal eclectic range of performances, including The English National Opera playing to an audience of 15,000 and a larger crowd watching England play (estimate 65,000) than actually attended the World Cup Stadium in person.
Acts included: Paul McCartney, Muse, Oasis, James Brown, Joss Stone, Toots and the Maytals, Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, Black Eyed Peas, Sister Sledge, Television, Michael Franti and Spearhead. The Greenfields and particularly Lost Vagueness, were a mass of innovative, creative and amazing sights and sounds. Over 1200 acts in The Cabaret, Theatre and Circus Fields included The Generating Company, Helios – The Saga of a 1000 Suns and Albatross while the Kidz Field was a profusion of fun and colour, workshops and parades.
Attendance 150,000. Tickets £112 including programme.
2005: Lightning strikes!!! Two months worth of rain in several hours! A once in a hundred year occurrence! For those unfortunate enough to get swamped, Welfare were there to give a helping hand. All in all, everyone pulled through – dinghy’s n’all – and thoroughly enjoyed themselves whatever the weather. Sure enough the sun came out to greet us by Sunday turning it into the happiest festival yet.
The huge success of the Make Poverty History campaign was echoed at the Festival, with Michael Eavis making a very rare appearance on the Pyramid Stage with Bob Geldof.
Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid worked together declaring “…this year, let’s make poverty history and clean energy our future…” A remarkable £1,350,000 was paid to charities and good causes.
Tickets sold out in under 3 hours and 50% of all waste was recycled!
We said farewell to the Dance Tent and welcomed the new, vibrant, colourful Dance Village with eight different venues, all playing different types of dance music – including the Silent Disco. The Midnight Cabaret and The Ghost Train in the Circus Field were fun new additions that had everyone talking, along with all the fantastic sculptures around the site.
The New Tent was re-launched as The John Peel Stage, in memory of all this late, great supporter of the Festival did to promote emerging talent. The Unsigned Performers Competition generated thousands of entrants, with over 35 acts performing in various venues, including the new, rockin’ Late ‘n Live marquee in the markets.
Acts included: Basement Jaxx, White Stripes, Magic Numbers, Coldplay, The Belly Dance Superstars, Razorlight, New Order, Brian Wilson, The Wailers, James Blunt, Beautiful South, Baaba Maal, Babyshambles, The Killers, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Ska Cubano, K.T Tunstall, Kaiser Chiefs, The Subways, Chas n Dave, The La’s, Elvis Costello, Taj Mahal & Royksopp.
Attendance 153,000. Tickets £125 including programme.
2007: It may have been another year of mud and rain, but it was nothing that Glastonbury Festival-goers couldn’t handle, thanks to a strong line up, continually improving drainage and an indomitable collective will to enjoy, that held off the worst effects of the wet and mud like a matching rainbow umbrella and welly set.
The worthwhile causes supported by the Festival joined forces for the I Count campaign, which highlighted the need to address climate change, and signed up 70,000 people to the campaign over the weekend, an impressive 46% of all 153,000 ticket holders on site. Glastonbury 2007 also strove to be the greenest one so far, with Bags for Life given out and Festival-goers encouraged not to bring loo roll as recycled rolls were provided at the Festival
This year saw the introduction of Emily Eavis’s Park Stage, bringing a whole new section of the Festival site to life, whilst the Dance Village cemented its reputation in its second year. The Unsigned Bands competition became the Emerging Talent Competition, which again generated thousands of entries and a host of worthy winners playing on many of the Festival stages. Also introduced this year was the award winning anti-touting registration system for ticket buyers.
The Arctic Monkeys played their first Glastonbury set headlining the Pyramid Stage on the Friday night and The Who pulled out all the stops as the closing band on Sunday. Other acts to play included Bjork, Shirley Bassey, Iggy Pop, CSS, The Go Team, Amy Winehouse, MIA, Kate Nash, Billy Bragg (it wouldn’t feel like Glastonbury without him), Corinne Bailey Rae, Damian Marley, Lily Allen and The Chemical Brothers.
Attendance 135,000 Weekend Tickets, 37,500 passes(for crew, performers, stewards,traders etc,) and 5,000 Sunday Tickets. Tickets were £145 including programme.
2008: Oasis’ Noel Gallagher hits out at Glastonbury for booking hip-hop megastar Jay-Z as a headline act.
After two years of mud and rain, Glastonbury 2008 bounced back with a weekend of fine weather and fabulous music, performance art and ever so much more. A little rain prior to the event saw the attending masses draw in a sharp, nervous breath, but all the smattering of rain did was keep down the dust as the Festival got underway.
For the first time in many years, the tickets didn’t sell out immediately, but all was not lost – the fine weather brought about a flurry of purchases at the last minute and all places were taken by the time the Festival got going, meaning that the good causes Glastonbury supports were all guaranteed another large donation.
This was a year of pre-Festival hoo-ha about the inclusion of rap megastar Jay-Z as Saturday night’s headline act, the suggestion being that rap had no place at Glastonbury. Jay-Z disproved this with enormous style and some wit, delivering a storming show that drew a vast and enthusiastic crowd. The Kings of Leon headlined on the Friday night and Sunday night’s electrifying Verve reunion sent shivers down the spine.
2009: After the triumph over adversity that was Glastonbury 2008, expectations were running high for the 2009 Festival. The ticket deposit scheme proved to be a successful and popular initiative, helping the Festival to sell out eight weeks before gates opened. When they did, the crowds flooded through them in droves: by the Thursday morning, a record number of Festival-goers (90,396) had already set up camp on Worthy Farm’s rolling hills. Excitement and anticipation fizzed throughout the site, and this year’s event certainly lived up to it.
With no main stage acts until Friday, markets heaved and lush green fields teemed with cider-sipping sunbathers. But gloomy forecasts predicted a monsoon to engulf the Mendip Hills and, sure enough, Thursday evening saw the day’s clear sky darken with some ominous-looking storm clouds. Lightning strobe-lit the valley and a torrential downpour did its best to drench fairy wings and dampen spirits. But umbrellas were opened and spirits remained impenetrable. The clouds moved on for good, leaving only some muddy puddles and smug welly wearers in their wake.
Music-wise, Maximo Park kicked things off with sweaty panache in the Queen’s Head in the new William’s Green area on Thursday afternoon, while East 17 got the party started in the Dance Lounge in a rabble-rousing, mass tear-inducing rendition of Stay Another Day. That evening, though, news of Michael Jackson’s untimely death swept through the crowd and tributes celebrated his music throughout the weekend; Friday saw Lily Allen perform her brilliant Pyramid Stage set wearing one white glove while The Streets’ Mike Skinner covered Billie Jean in homage on the Jazz/World Stage.
Leonard Cohen, 2008. The gravel-voiced 73-year-old songsmith’s greatest hits set, performed with wonderful graciousness under a balmy Sunday evening sun – and including ’Hallelujah’ with crowd-sung choruses – was sheer, unadulterated bliss.
2010: Glastonbury celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010, a milestone that brought a fresh buzz of excitement to the Worthy Farm valley. The weather was also suitably celebratory, with warm days and balmy starlit nights.
Car parks opened up on the Tuesday night for the first time prior to the pedestrian gates opening on the Wednesday morning. From 2100 on Tuesday night to around midnight vehicles flowed into carparks with no problems. From 0600 traffic levels increased dramatically with major queues developing on all routes by 0730 as many people tried to arrive for the 0800 pedestrian gate opening. Between 0800 and 1400 there were delays on all routes to the site with the longest being on the route from the M5. The vast majority of ticket holders arrived on site on the Wednesday, earlier than in any previous year.
With the sun beating down relentlessly the demand for water was enormous, so the decision to build a second new permanent reservoir this year was more than vindicated. Both reservoirs hold about a million litres of drinking water each. Just over 800 taps were installed across site as were 600 basins, but there were still queues for water. In 2010, there were also some 4,600 toliets (a mix of longdrops, African, polyjohns and flushing) and 670 metres of urinals for the guys and much more modest 100 metres of "she pees" for women.
Visually, the anniversary was recognised by two giant dates on either side of the Pyramid stage and a Hollywood-style display of letters that spelled out “Glastonbury 40” across the site’s southern grassy slopes. Classic photos taken by local Somerset photographers across the decades were exhibited in the main backstage area. Several performers from the original 1970 event appeared, including DJ Mad Mick, who dropped the Festival’s very first tune.
The Leftfield stage returned in a different position (close to the Glade) and with a new curator, Billy Bragg. More music was mixed with the usual wide range of political discussion and debate. For the second year running a giant screen of painted and embroidered banners broadcast messages such as “Give Bees a Chance”.
Two new areas were created in the late night corner of the festival – The Common and the Unfair Ground. Arcadia shot bursts of fire into the sky from its temple-like structures as dance music pumped through the night. Shangri-la’s casbah of the weird and wonderful was as rammed as ever.
A new bridge flanked with local Mendip stone was erected over the Whitelake stream, and named Bella’s Bridge after theatre fields founder Arabella Churchill, who died in 2007. This year’s theatre and circus highlights included Colombia’s Circo Para Todos, the Russian troupe BlackSkyWhite and slack-rope walker Kwabana Lindsay cutting a hornpipe between the tent tops.
The JazzWorld stage was given a new identity as West Holts. This was the original name of a “halt” on the railway line which once ran through Worthy Farm; Michael Eavis could remember driving cattle across it before the next train arrived.
Sunday was given a downside by the defeat of England’s footballers in the World Cup, an event for which two special fields were allocated with their own giant screens. 80,000 fans watched the match. More successful was a game played out in front of the Pyramid stage on Thursday, when Festival-goers representing England beat the Rest of the World and raised £9,000 for charity.
As ever, there were many musical highlights. Gorillaz filled the Friday night Pyramid headline slot with grooves and guests, following U2’s enforced cancellation, although that band’s guitarist, the Edge, did turn up do a song with Muse for their storming Saturday night slot. The final headliner, Stevie Wonder, brought things to a close on Sunday night with a wonderful, hit-filled set, which memorably also featured a duet of Happy Birthday with Michael Eavis.
Aside from the headliners, Shakira and Scissor Sisters lit up the Pyramid Stage on Saturday with suitably exuberant pop (the latter featured a guest performance from Kylie Minogue), while Biffy Clyro and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke/Jonny Greenwood played warmly-received surprise slots in The Park.
Other Stage highlights included a rousing Pet Shop Boys set, a huge turnout for Florence and the Machine and a guest appearance from Doctor Who for Orbital’s Sunday night set. Meanwhile, at the John Peel Stage, Groove Armada, Mumford & Sons and The xx were among the acts who attracted big crowds and warm reviews.
Over in the Dance Village, Glastonbury veterans The Orb and Fatboy Slim once again whipped up a storm, while the rise in urban pop music was reflected with blistering sets from acts including N-Dubz, Chipmunk, Plan B, Kelis and Tinie Tempah.
It was, all would agree, a vintage year. Michael Eavis told the world’s media at his traditional Sunday morning press conference: “It has been the best party for me – the weather, the full moon and last night a crowd of 100,000 people, every single one enjoying themselves.”
2010 – Attendance 135,000 Weekend Tickets, 37,500 passes (for crew, performers, stewards,traders etc,) and 5,000 Sunday Tickets. Ticket price was £185.
2011: With a fallow year scheduled for 2012, this was the last Festival for two years. Tickets sold-out the day they went on sale and when gates opened on Wednesday morning, tens of thousands of revellers made their way in – a full two days before main stage music action kicked off. Traffic ran smoothly with no particular delays to the site. However, sheer numbers meant there were some queues at the pedestrian gates.
After the scorching heat of 2010, showers painted the air during the opening days of the festival. Umbrellas were opened and wellies were thanked. At least it had been worth hauling them cross-country.
2013: Prince Harry turns up at Worthy Farm to see the Rolling Stones, adding lustre to a fine Glastonbury. Michael Eavis hails the event as the ‘best one yet’.
2014: Heavy rockers Metallica are confirmed as the final headliner for this year’s sold-out Glastonbury.
Expectations are always high after a fallow year…but 2013 surpassed all expectations. A record was set for the fastest ticket sell out at the beginning (in October 2012), while at the end the BBC announced all-time record viewing figures – both at home and internationally – since they began broadcasting live from the site in 1997. The outside broadcast operation was even nominated for a prestigious BAFTA award! It had to be a big year after a year off…and it was. The final confirmation on the Rolling Stones first ever appearance at Glastonbury Festival came through on March 27, a phone call witnessed by John Humphrys of the Today programme following a tour of the farm with Michael Eavis. Humphrys later became the only UK journalist to be granted an interview with Sir Mick Jagger, two days before the Festival, in which the singer revealed he had once dreamed of becoming…a journalist.
It was also the year of the Arctic Monkeys, playing an exclusive UK set on the Friday night featuring their multi-award winning new album; and also Mumford & Sons. Marcus and co began their Glastonbury career playing to an audience of 50 at the Greenpeace Airport Lounge in 2009. By the end of 2013 their set closer, a rendition of the Beatles’ ‘A Little Help From My Friends’, became the only music video to make the YouTube year end Top Ten.
Linking both The Rolling Stones’ and Mumford & Sons’ performances was the mighty flame spewing Phoenix; a fantastic contraption designed by artist Joe Rush from the Mutoid Waste Company (a long term Glastonbury collaborator); sitting atop the Pyramid during the day and bursting into life to add to the night time spectacle on one of the world’s most famous stages.
As is so often the case with a ‘comeback’ year, 2013 was also a year of dramatic improvements and additions all over Worthy Farm. Hugely improved drainage and water provision, a dramatic increase in the number of ‘long drop’ toilets, improved roads and trackway. On the ‘green’ side there was a hugely welcome decrease in the number of people travelling by car; for a the first time, 35 per cent of festival goers opted to come by bus or coach. Meanwhile up the hill and away from the stages, Glastonbury Festival’s crack recycling team managed to recycle over 39 per cent of the Festival’s waste. In the camp sites too, there were noticeable improvements, not least with the arrival of a whole new camping field – Worthy View – outside the fence above King’s Meadow.
Out and about in the all night city, 2013 will also be remembered for a host of other highlights. The first appearance of Rastamouse in the legendary Kidz Field; and possibly 20 (at the last count) incredible impromptu sets from US producer Skrillex (so good he was booked to headline on the Other Stage in 2014!). The launch of both the Gully and the Sonic stages at Silver Hayes, part of a brand new incarnation for the dance area. The inspired resitting of Arcadia – to a corner of the Other Stage field – which allowed Chase & Status to headline the Other, then DJ in the Spider straight afterwards. The birth of the Hell Stage in Shangri-La just a taster of all the late night madness in SE Corner, which also included a waterfall, The Temple, christened by DJs/producers Dusky, and all the revels of the Unfairground and the Common.
2013 began with the Green Fields celebrating the summer solstice with a truly astounding bonfire and firework display on opening night – while for many Sunday night ended on Monday morning outside the towering Gen-0-Sys installation in Block 9, one of the most powerful amalgams of art and light and sound that the Festival has ever witnessed.
Lest it be forgotten, Public Enemy really did play a blinder at West Holts at the same time as the Stones were filling the Pyramid. And as ever, the last words on 2013 must go to Michael and Emily, posted on the website as the sun rose on Monday: "Thank you for making it a truly vintage year for Glastonbury. It really was one of the best."
2014: As the official crew t-shirt made clear, 2014 was the year of four headliners. Arcade Fire (first revealed at the end of 2013), Metallica, Kasabian and of course, Dolly Parton, who graced the front page of every national newspaper in the UK (and thousands more around the world) on the Monday morning as everybody made their way home.
News of Dolly’s first ever Worthy Farm appearance leaked out on the same night as Glastonbury scooped the Best Festival gong at the NME Awards in London in February. From there it was rhinestones all the way to the Pyramid, as she charmed an enormous afternoon crowd in the Sunday sunshine and also found time to welcome Michael and the grandchildren onto the Dolly tourbus. The BBC’s Jo Whiley interviewed a breathless Dolly straight after the show, coincidentally right in front of a print of Stanley Donwood’s ‘Nether’ illustration (as featured on our website). At 3-million plus, that clip became the most viewed item of the entire weekend’s coverage.
Meanwhile records were broken – again – both in front of and behind the scenes. Another record ticket sell out, in October 2013. A production record for Pyramid changeover, taking in Friday’s Arcade Fire lighting spectacular, Metallica’s Saturday mighty sub bass and Sunday’s anthemic close out from returning heroes Kasabian. And more records set by the BBC’s viewing and listening figures, both at home and abroad.
As always, preparation for 2014’s Festival began not long after the Rolling Stones left site in June the year before. Infrastructure’s ambitious plans included more than 20 new long drop sites and a much needed new million litre on site water reservoir, as well as a trial of the revolutionary new compost toilets provided for most crew areas for the first time. Roads were improved, bridges strengthened and work continued on the Pilton village social housing project, with over 20 houses completed by May.
Just a month later Glastonbury 2014 opened with the traditional Green Field’s bonfire high up in King’s Meadow on Wednesday night, crackling 30 feet in the air behind the ‘All You Need Is Love’ banner. The next day Banksy was back in Glastonbury, with his ‘factory farming’ installation parading noisily through the markets; legendary DJ David Morales flew in to pay tribute to the late Frankie Knuckles in a roadblocked NYC Downlow and Arcadia settled noisily into their new home below the Park.
Random highlights included a ‘Beatle visit’ from Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, a dramatic lightning enhanced debut set from Rudimental on the Pyramid, a breathtaking solo show party from Skrillex on the Other Stage and one of the greatest closing sets ever seen at Glastonbury courtesy of Disclosure on the West Holts stage.
Along the way, the Festival churned out two editions of the official ‘Glastonbury Free Press’ newspaper, Worthy Farm made it to the final six farms in the judging of the Dairy Gold Cup – and actually won it the week after the show – and relatively kind weather (note: 2014 was NOT a wet one!) helped us record our highest ever direct donations to our partner charities, Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid
“We had it all,” said Emily Eavis as the clean up crews moved into the Pyramid field on Monday morning. “But everyone pulled together and I think that spirit is what helped make it so special.
“And I think people really noticed the detail of what we do this year, from the political banners to flags and the fence coverings all over site. Music aside, the art and installations were by far the best we’ve ever had.”
During the 2014 festival, a 26-year-old Berkshire man suffered from a suspected reaction to Ketamine and later died in Bristol Royal Infirmary. Despite this, police reported that crime was down 30% from last year but reminded festival goers to look after their possessions.
Before the 2015 festival Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl fell off a stage during a show in Gothenburg a few weeks before and broke his leg, forcing their late withdrawal from the line-up.
Florence and the Machine were moved from second-top on the bill to Friday’s headliner, while Florence’s vacant gap was filled by Reading & Leeds headliners The Libertines, and their performance was well received.
Kanye West and The Who were the headliners for the Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Other notable acts who performed included Motorhead, Pharrell Williams, Deadmau5, Patti Smith, the Strypes, Lionel Richie, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Enter Shikari, the Chemical Brothers, Alt-J, Paloma Faith, Mary J. Blige and Paul Weller, as well as an appearance by the 14th Dalai Lama.
On 28 August 2015 it was announced that hundreds of pairs of discarded wellington boots from the 2015 festival were donated to the migrant camp at Calais.
The biggest crowd of the weekend was drawn by Lionel Richie, who drew 100,000-120,000 for the "Legend" slot on Sunday afternoon.