There is no music festival more iconic than Glastonbury, by bringing together hundreds of thousands of music fans from all around the world for one big weekend-long party, it has achieved legendary status. This, however, hasn’t always been the case. With 2020 marking the 50th anniversary of the iconic event, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane, and go back to where it all began.
Glastonbury Festival, or Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival as it was originally known, started in 1970 when organiser Michael Eavis decided to throw his own festival at Worthy Farm after being inspired by an open-air festival he recently attended.
Tickets for the original festival were priced at just £1 and included a free bottle of milk and an Ox roast, quite a difference from ticket prices today which cost over £250 for the weekend. Tickets were personally posted to all of the 1,500 in attendance by Michael Eavis himself.
The first-ever lineup included The Kinks who were set to headline the event, however, they were replaced by rising stars T. Rex after they dropped out at the last minute. Can you just imagine rocking out to Ride a White Swan in the twilight of the UK hippie scene? Pure magic.
1970 saw the first and last instalment of Pilton Pop, folk & Blues Festival as the year after it was known as Glastonbury Fair when it was a free event. This year was a standout moment in the history of the festival as it saw the first appearance of the world-famous Pyramid Stage. Built from scaffolding and expanded metal covered with plastic sheeting, it was world’s away from the infamous stage we see today, but every legend has to have a humble beginning.
The festival was hosted sporadically between 1970 and 1981, where after it has been hosted annually. Although it does have a ‘fallow year’ ever five years to allow the land, and locals, to recover before the next four years of illustrious partying, celebrating, and exploring begins.
In 1981, Michael Eavis took control of the festival once again after a few years of smaller unplanned events taking place on the site previously. This year also saw the name changed to Glastonbury Festival and the fabrication of a new Pyramid Stage which became a permanent structure on the farm – providing shelter to the Worthy Farm cow herd and becoming a food store in the harsh winter months.
The event was organised in conjunction with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), in order to help push the peace movement at the time. Michael Eavis convinced the CND that the event would be profitable in order to gain their support, this turned out to be true as he handed over approximately £20,000 to the cause. This connection between people and the Earth has continued to ripple throughout Glastonbury’s history, just last year David Attenborough was celebrated as Glastonbury’s mystery guest
Glastonbury Festival continued to grow throughout the 80s with headline sets from acts including The Smiths, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Madness, and many, many more. In 1985 the festival grew too big for Worthy Farm and the neighbouring Cockmill Farm was purchased to expand the site, enabling Glastonbury to grow ever closer to the capacity we see today.
1985 was also famous for being a particular wet festival. The site was transformed into a brown flood of squelching mud however, that didn’t stop people attending and so began the years of mud sliding- it’s good to see that somethings don’t change!
The 90s saw the popular festival grow meteorically as it’s legendary status attracted more and more festival-goers each year. The Levellers headline performance in 1994 still holds the record for Glasontbury’s largest-ever crowd with as many of 300,000 people in attendance. You didn’t have to attend to appreciate the magnitude of this performance, watching it back you can feel the electric and emotional atmosphere of the crowd.
This year was also the first year the festival was broadcast on TV with Channel 4 providing coverage of the two main stages.
In 2000, the modern Pyramid Stage was built, standing at 100ft high and covered in dazzling silver it became the iconic landmark for the festival that we all love. The following year saw the start of the infamous rush for tickets. In 2002 they sold out in two months, 2003 in one day, 2004 in under 24 hours, and 2005 in just 3 hours. This trend only continued with tickets for the 2020 edition of the festival selling out in just 30 minutes.
The 90s was the decade where the festival saw it’s mammoth rise to fame, while the 2000s and 2010s were the decades where it was moulded and refined into the spectacle it is today.
Glastonbury Festival is rich in music history with the biggest names headlining the event year after year. As a result of this, there have been some rather special moments at Worthy Farm that will always hold a special place in the hearts of those who can say they were there. With performances from Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Radiohead, Oasis, and Jay Z, just to name a few it’s almost impossible to pick out the best moments from Glasontbury’s past.
One moment that will certainly remain in beloved Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis’ memory forever will be when Stevie Wonder invited him on stage to sing Happy Birthday for the 40th anniversary of the festival. Could something like this happen again at the 50th anniversary?
Glastonbury is the pinnacle of music festivals, with millions of people from around the world trying to get their hands on the elusive tickets. With that in mind, the future can only be bright for the international phenomena. Reducing the impact that the festival has on the local area, and the planet, has always been a core value, however Glasontbury has been taking big strides to ensure they leave no trace – something we reflect at Portobello Farm. On top of the advice they give to festival goers Glastonbury Festival also supports a number of organisations including Greenpeace, Oxfam, and WaterAid. This year is set to be another huge event with fantastic acts already being announced and who knows what they have in store for the 50th year of the best festival on the planet.
We look forward to partying the weekend away with you all.
Remember there are only XXX days to go!
The Portobello Team