A series of concerts, lectures and recitals called the Glastonbury Festivals was established with a summer school in the town of Glastonbury between 1914 and 1926 by classical composer Rutland Boughton (1878–1960), and with their location attracted a bohemian audience by the standards of the time. They featured works by then-contemporary composers, sponsored by the Clark family, and a wide range of traditional works, from Everyman to James Shirley's Cupid and Death.
Pilton Festival 1970
Glastonbury was heavily influenced by hippie ethics and the free festival movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, beginning with the Isle of Wight Festival (1968-1970), which featured performances by The Who, amongst many other artists. Organiser Michael Eavis decided to host the first festival, then called Pilton Festival, after seeing an open-air concert headlined by Led Zeppelin at the 1970 Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music at the nearby Bath and West Showground in 1970. The festival retains vestiges of this tradition such as the Green Fields area, encompassing the Green Futures and Healing Field.
The first festival at Worthy Farm was the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival, mounted by Michael Eavis on Saturday 19 September 1970, and attended by 1,500 people. The original headline acts were The Kinks and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders but these acts were replaced at short notice by Tyrannosaurus Rex, later known as T. Rex. Tickets were £1. Other billed acts of note were Quintessence, Stackridge, and Al Stewart.
Glastonbury Free Festival 1971
The "Glastonbury Fair" of 1971 was instigated by Andrew Kerr after being found and introduced to Michael Eavis by David Trippas and organised with help from Jean Bradbery, Kikan Eriksdotter, John Massara, Jeff Dexter, Arabella Churchill, Thomas Crimble, Bill Harkin, Gilberto Gil,
Mark Irons, John Coleman, and Jytte Klamer. The 1971 festival featured the first incarnation of the "Pyramid Stage". Conceived by Bill Harkin the stage was a one-tenth replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza built from scaffolding and metal sheeting and positioned over a blind spring which was found by dowsing.
Performers included David Bowie, Mighty Baby, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Gong, Hawkwind, Skin Alley, The Worthy Farm Windfuckers and Melanie. It was paid for by its supporters and advocates of its ideal, and embraced a mediaeval tradition of music, dance, poetry, theatre, lights, and spontaneous entertainment. The 1971 festival was filmed by Nicolas Roeg and David Puttnam and was released as a film called simply Glastonbury Fayre.
Glastonbury Festival 1979
There was a small unplanned event in 1978, when the convoy of vehicles from the Stonehenge festival was directed by police to Worthy Farm; the festival was then revived the following year (1979) by Churchill, Crimble, Kerr and Eavis, in an event for the Year of the Child, which lost money.
The 1980s saw the festival become an annual fixture, barring periodic fallow years. In 1981, Michael Eavis took control of the festival, and it was organised in conjunction with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). That year a new Pyramid Stage was constructed from telegraph poles and metal sheeting (repurposed from materials of the Ministry of Defence), a permanent structure which doubled as a hay-barn and cow-shed during the winter.
In the 1980s, the children's area of the festival (which had been organised by Arabella Churchill and others) became the starting point for a new children's charity called Children's World. 1981 was the first year that the festival made profits, and Eavis donated £20,000 of them to CND. In the following years, donations were made to a number of organisations, and since the end of the Cold War the main beneficiaries have been Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid, who all contribute towards the festival by providing features and volunteers, who work at the festival in exchange for free entry.
Since 1983, large festivals have required licences from local authorities. This led to certain restrictions being placed on the festival, including a crowd limit and specified times during which the stages could operate. The crowd limit was initially set at 30,000 but has grown every year to over 100,000.
1984 saw the stage invaded by children during The Smiths set. Weather Report played the main stage, and Elvis Costello headlined the last night for almost three hours.
In 1985, the festival grew too large for Worthy Farm, but neighbouring Cockmill Farm was purchased. That year saw a wet festival with considerable rain; Worthy Farm is a dairy farm and what washed down into the low areas was a mixture of mud and liquefied cow dung. This did not prevent festival-goers from enjoying the knee-deep slurry in front of the pyramid stage.
1989 was the first year that impromptu, unofficial sound systems sprung up around the festival site – a portent of things to come. These sound systems would play loud, electronic acid house music 'round the clock, with the largest, the Hypnosis sound system, rivaling the volume of some of the official stages and running non-stop throughout the festival.
The biggest festival yet was held in 1990; however, the day after the festival ended, violence – between the security guards and new age travellers (the so-called Battle of Yeoman's Bridge) – led to the organisers taking 1991 off to rethink the festival. An expanded festival returned in 1992, and this proved a great success. 1992 was the first year that the new age travellers were not initially allowed onto the site free, and a sturdier fence was designed. This success was carried through to 1993 which, like 1992, was hot and dry.
In 1994, the Pyramid Stage burned down just over a week before the festival; a temporary main stage was erected in time for the festival. The 1994 festival also introduced a 150 kW wind turbine which provided some of the festival power. This festival also included the setting of a new world record on 26 June when 826 people, juggling at least three objects each, kept 2,478 objects in the air. Headliners Levellers set another record when they played to a crowd of as many as 300,000 people on their Friday performance, this is still Glastonbury's biggest ever crowd. This was also the year the festival was first televised by Channel 4; concentrating on the main two music stages, providing a glimpse of the festival for those who knew little of it. Channel 4's 4 Goes to Glastonbury bought widely expanded televised coverage of the festival for the first time in 1994 and also the following year.
The TV broadcast in 1994 was a crucial factor in ensuring that Orbital's performance at the festival achieved legendary status. As a result, living rooms across the country were able to experience what a rave might look like, and suddenly dance music – which had been attacked by the establishment and mainstream press for years – didn't seem so dangerous. Indeed, 1994 was a crucial turning point for dance music's role at the festival. Speaking to The Guardian in 2013 about the Orbital gig, Michael Eavis noted that it marked dance music's appearance on the mainstream agenda. "What was previously underground made it on to one of the big stages, and there was no going back from there. As the police and the council made me very well aware, the buzz had been around the raves and the market sound systems and in the travellers' fields for years. But it needed a showcase to make it legal." The gig opened the way for others such as the Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack and Underworld, who all played high-profile stages in the following years – developments that led to the launch of the festival's Dance Village in 1997.
1995 saw the attendance rise drastically due to the security fence being breached on the Friday of the festival. Estimates suggest there may have been enough fence-jumpers to double the size of the festival. This aside, 1995 proved to be a highly successful year with memorable performances from Oasis, Elastica, Pulp, PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley, Jamiroquai and The Cure. This was also the first year of the festival having a dance tent to cater for the rise in popularity of dance music, following the success of Orbital's headline appearance the previous year. The dance acts of 1995 were led by Massive Attack on the Friday and Carl Cox on the Saturday. The festival took a year off in 1996 to allow the land to recover and give the organisers a break. This would be a pattern which would be followed every five years until 2011, with the gap year moving to 2012. 1996 also saw the release of Glastonbury the Movie which was filmed at the 1993 and 1994 festivals.
The festival returned in 1997 bigger than ever. This time there was major sponsorship from The Guardian and the BBC, who had taken over televising the event from Channel 4. This was also the year of the mud, with the site suffering severe rainfalls which turned the entire site into a muddy bog. However those who stayed for the festival were treated to many memorable performances, including Radiohead's headlining Pyramid Stage set on the Saturday which is said to be one of the greatest ever Glastonbury performances. The live recording of "Paranoid Android" from this performance, as well as others such as "The Day Before Yesterday's Man" by The Supernaturals, were released on a BBC CD entitled Mud For It.
In 1998 the festival was once again struck with severe floods and storms, and again some festival goers departed early – but those who stayed were treated to performances from acts such as Pulp, Robbie Williams and Blur. Tony Bennett, however, overcame the messy environment in an immaculate white suit and tie. 1998 was also the first year that attendance officially broke the 100,000 mark.
Another hot dry year was recorded in 1999, much to the relief of organisers and festival goers. The festival was again overcrowded due to fence-jumpers, but this would not prove to be a major problem until the following year, when an additional 100,000 people gatecrashed the site, increasing the attendance to an estimated 250,000 people total. The 1999 festival is also remembered for the Manic Street Preachers requesting and being given their own backstage toilets; however, it was revealed by the band that this was a joke – the "reserved" sign on the toilet was not at the authorisation of the management.
Techno music is played on a sound-system at dawn, Glastonbury 2000
2000 saw a new Pyramid Stage introduced as well as new features such as The Glade and The Leftfield. The festival was headlined by Chemical Brothers, Travis and David Bowie who played 30 years after his first appearance. The Pyramid Stage also hosted an unusual event on the Saturday morning, with the wedding of two festival-goers, who had written to the organisers asking for permission to get married there, taking place and conducted by actor Keith Allen in front of a small group of friends and any other festival-goers who still happened to be awake. This year also saw an estimated 250,000 people attend the festival (only 100,000 tickets were sold) due to gatecrashers. This led to public safety concerns and the local District Council refused any further licences until the problem was solved. The organisers took 2001 off to devise anti-gatecrashing measures and secure the future of the festival, after the Roskilde Festival 2000 accident (though this was also a scheduled break, one which took place every five years from 1991, the year after the battle of Yeoman's Bridge, until the 2012 Olympics extended the five-year sequence from the planned 2011 rest year). It was at this point that the Mean Fiddler Organisation was invited to help, which was seen by some as a "sell-out" to corporate culture.
In 2002, the festival returned after its planned fallow year, with the controversial Mean Fiddler now handling the logistics and security — especially installing a substantial surrounding fence (dubbed the "superfence") that reduced numbers to the levels of a decade earlier. The lower attendance led to a much more relaxed atmosphere and massively reduced crime levels compared to previous years. There were some incidents outside the fence involving frustrated individuals who arrived at the festival assuming they would be able to simply jump the fence and not pay for the music and performances, but despite this the event was hailed as a great success by the media companies that had taken an interest in the festival. 2002 also saw Coldplay headline the Pyramid Stage for the first time while the show was closed by a set from Rod Stewart on the Sunday night.
There were some criticisms of the 2002 festival that it lacked atmosphere, because of the reduced number of people, which reflected the smaller numbers jumping the fence. The number of tickets was increased to 150,000 for 2003 which sold out within one day of going on sale, in marked contrast to the two months it took to sell 140,000 in 2002. It was also the first year that tickets sold out before the full line-up was announced. This was also the year Radiohead returned to headline the Pyramid Stage. Revenue raised for good causes from ticket and commercial licence sales topped £1 million, half of which went to Oxfam, Greenpeace and Water Aid.
In 2004, tickets sold out within 24 hours amid much controversy over the ticket ordering process, which left potential festival goers trying for hours to connect to the overloaded telephone and internet sites. The website got two million attempted connections within the first five minutes of the tickets going on sale and an average of 2,500 people on the phone lines every minute. The festival was not hit by extreme weather, but high winds on the Wednesday delayed entry, and steady rain throughout Saturday turned some areas of the site to mud. The festival ended with Muse headlining the Pyramid Stage on Sunday, after Oasis had headlined on Friday. Franz Ferdinand and Sir Paul McCartney also performed. In the British press publications appeared about the use of psychedelic drugs by festival visitors. The magazine NME pronounced that 2004 would be "the third summer of love" due to the resurgence of the "shroom" that was praised as a natural alternative to ecstasy, which was said to be declining in popularity (LSD fuelled the first summer of love in 1967; ecstasy and LSD the second in 1988).
The view from the stone circle on Thursday afternoon, 2004
After the 2004 festival, Michael Eavis commented that 2006 would be a year off — in keeping with the previous history of taking one "fallow year" in every five to give the villagers and surrounding areas a rest from the yearly disruption. This was confirmed after the licence for 2005 was granted.
A stream runs through a tent after two inches of rain fell in an hour on Friday morning of the 2005 festival
In 2005 the 112,500 ticket quota sold out rapidly — in this case in 3 hours 20 minutes. For 2005, the enclosed area of the festival was over 900 acres (3.6 km2), had over 385 live performances, and was attended by around 150,000 people. The Sunday headliner was originally scheduled to be Kylie Minogue, who instead pulled out in May to receive treatment for breast cancer. Basement Jaxx were announced as a replacement on 6 June. Both Coldplay and Basement Jaxx performed a cover of Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" during their concert. 2005 saw a big increase in the number of dance music attractions, with the multiple tents of the Dance Village replacing the solitary dance tent of previous years. This new area contained the East and West dance tents, the Dance Lounge, Roots Stage, and Pussy Parlour, as well as a relocated G Stage, formerly situated in the Glade. The introduction of the innovative silent disco by Emily Eavis allowed revellers to party into the early hours without disturbing the locals — a requirement of the festival's licensing. Following the death of DJ John Peel in the autumn of 2004, the New Tent was renamed the John Peel Tent, in homage to his encouragement and love of new bands at Glastonbury. The opening day of the 2005 festival was delayed by heavy rain and thunderstorms: Several stages, including the Acoustic Tent (and one of the bars), were struck by lightning, and the valley was hit with flash floods that left some areas of the site under more than four feet of water. The severity of the weather flooded several campsites, the worst affected being the base of Pennard Hill, and seriously disrupted site services. However Mendip District Council's review of the festival called it one of the "safest ever" and gives the festival a glowing report in how it dealt with the floods.
There was no festival in 2006. Instead, a documentary film directed by Julien Temple was released to make up for the lack of a festival. The film consists of specially shot footage by Temple at the festival, as well as footage sent in by fans and archive footage. Glastonbury was released in the UK on 14 April 2006.
Mud at the "Other Stage" 2007
Glastonbury 2007 (20–24 June) was headlined by Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, and The Who on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Dame Shirley Bassey was also featured. In 2007, over 700 acts played on over 80 stages and the capacity expanded by 20,000 to 177,000. This was the first year that "The Park" area opened. Designed by Emily Eavis, its main stage featured extra sets by several artists playing on the main stages including Spinal Tap, Pete Doherty and Gruff Rhys, whilst the BBC launched their new "Introducing" stage in the area. The festival had the largest attendance since the construction of the security fence, and the largest legitimate attendance to date: ticket allocation was raised by 27,500 to 137,500, which were charged at £145 and sold out in 1 hour 45 minutes. As an extra precaution against touts (scalpers), purchasers had to pre-register, including submission of a passport photo which was security printed into the ticket. Continued periods of rain throughout much of the festival caused muddy conditions, though without the flooding of 2005, in part due to the new £750,000 flood defences. However this constant rain made the general conditions within the site worse than 2 years before and more like the mud plains of 1998. It was difficult to find anywhere to sit down that had not turned to mud and key choke points, such as the thoroughfare at the front right of the Pyramid stage, turned into a quagmire. Muddy conditions on the temporary roads on the periphery of the site led to delays for people leaving the site. On 25 June, when the vast majority of festival goers were attempting to leave the festival, cars in the western car parks took over nine hours to exit the site. There was no stewarding provision in these areas, no information was disseminated regarding the delays, no organised marshalling of traffic was undertaken by the festival organisers, and no provision of drinking water was made to people stranded in their vehicles. Verbal and physical violence was witnessed between festival goers. When cars were finally allowed to leave the site the surrounding roads were found to be clear. Reported crime was down from 2005 but the number of arrests were "well up", after a proactive operation of the police and security on site. There were 236 reported crimes, down from 267 in 2005; of these, 158 were drug related (183 in 2005). 1,200 people required medical aid with 32 hospitalised, most of which were accidents caused by the mud. There was one fatality: a West Midlands man found unconscious early on the Saturday morning died in Yeovil District Hospital of a suspected drugs overdose.
Jazz World field on the opening Wednesday afternoon of the festival
On 20 December 2007, Arabella Churchill, an instrumental figure in the conception of the 1971 festival and since the 1980s area coordinator of the Theatre Field, died at St Edmund's Cottages, Bove Town, Glastonbury at the age of 58. She had suffered a short illness due to pancreatic cancer, for which she had refused chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She was a convert to Buddhism, and arrangements following her death respected her belief. Michael Eavis, paying tribute to her after her death, said "Her vitality and great sense of morality and social responsibility have given her a place in our festival history second to none".
The Glastonbury Festival 2008 was held on 27, 28 and 29 June, headlined by Kings of Leon, Jay-Z and The Verve on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, with other notable acts including Neil Diamond, Shakin' Stevens, Levellers, and Stackridge, who opened the first festival in 1970. Continuing the procedure introduced in 2007, ticket buyers had to pre-register and submit a passport photo between 1 February and 14 March in order to buy tickets which went on sale at 9 am on Sunday 6 April. Following 40,000 tickets not being sold, the pre-registration process was reopened on 8 April. Several reasons have been cited for this, including the poor weather of the previous four years and the controversial choice of featuring the hip hop artist, Jay-Z, as a headlining act. A day before the festival began, Michael Eavis announced that there were still around 3,000 tickets remaining, making it possible that it would be the first festival in 15 years not to sell out in advance. It had also been announced that any remaining tickets would be sold from major branches of HMV. This year saw the introduction of a new field adjacent to the Sacred space and Park Stage. Not named by the organisers, the festival goers themselves called it "Flagtopia" in reference to the flags located there. After the huge number of tents left behind in 2007 and when one of Michael Eavis's cows died after ingesting a metal tent-peg left in the soil, the Festival devised its Love the Farm, Leave No Trace campaign which gently pushed revellers to respect the environment and clear up after themselves. The Festival had always pushed a green agenda and new initiatives in 2008 included biodegradable tent pegs handed out free to all campers and biotractors running on waste vegetable oil. These new efforts were rewarded with The Greener Festival Award for 2008 alongside a number of other festivals also committed to environmentally friendly music festivals. The 2008 festival was reported to have cost £22 million to produce.
View over the Glastonbury Festival, 2009
The Glastonbury Festival 2009 took place between 24 and 28 June 2009. In marked contrast with previous years, the 137,500 tickets went on sale on 5 October 2008, earlier than ever before, with pre-registered customers able either to pay in full, or place a £50 reserve deposit to be paid by 1 February. Tickets for the festival sold out. The full line up was released on 25 May 2009 and included headliners Blur, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young on the Pyramid stage. The Other stage was headlined by The Prodigy, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. Other notable performers included Jarvis Cocker, Fairport Convention (who played at the first Glastonbury Festival), Tom Jones, Steel Pulse, Doves, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, Nick Cave, Pete Doherty, Hugh Cornwell, Status Quo, The Gaslight Anthem (in which Springsteen appeared on stage during their song "The '59 Sound"), Madness, Dizzee Rascal, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Lily Allen, Kasabian and Florence and the Machine.
performing during Glastonbury Festival in 2011
The Glastonbury Festival 2010 took place between 23 and 28 June. On the last night, Michael Eavis appeared on the main stage with headline artist Stevie Wonder to sing the chorus of the latter's "Happy Birthday", marking the festival's 40th year. Tickets went on sale on 4 October 2009, using the same £50 deposit scheme introduced the previous year; unlike the previous two years, and more in common with earlier festivals, the tickets for the 2010 edition sold out in less than 24 hours. U2 were due to headline the Pyramid Stage on Friday night at Glastonbury 2010, but due to frontman Bono sustaining a back injury they were forced to pull out. According to the media, Bono was "gutted", even having written a song especially for the festival. Damon Albarn's Gorillaz replaced U2, and joined Muse and Stevie Wonder for the Saturday and Sunday headline slots respectively. It was Albarn's second headlining act in two years. Pet Shop Boys returned after 10 years to headline the Other Stage on the Saturday Night. The entire stage set from their Pandemonium Tour was brought in for the performance which was extremely well received. Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood made a surprise appearance with a nine-song set. The weather at the festival was among some of the best ever, the festival-goers enjoying 3 days of abundant sunshine and very warm to hot temperatures, which reached close to 30 degrees on the Sunday; it was the first rain-free festival since 2002 and the hottest since the festival began.
During 2010 Michael Eavis received a donation from British Waterways of timber from the old gates at Caen Hill Locks in Wiltshire. This was used to construct a new bridge which was dedicated to the memory of Arabella Churchill. The following year more of the redundant lock gates were used to build the Campo Pequeno amphitheatre.
The Glastonbury Festival 2011 took place from Wednesday 22 until Sunday 26 June 2011. The tickets were sold out within 4 hours of going on sale on Sunday 3 October 2010. Headline acts for 2011 were U2 on the Friday night, Coldplay on the Saturday and Beyoncé on Sunday. This made Beyoncé the first woman to headline at the festival since 1999.
The festival was not held in 2012, giving the site and organisers a "fallow year" which originally would have been in 2011, in keeping with the tradition of taking a break every fifth year. Michael Eavis cited the shortage and likely cost of portable toilets and policing, due to the needs of the 2012 Summer Olympics, as being amongst the reasons. The decision to move the fallow year to 2012 also proved to be a fortunate one, as Somerset experienced spells of persistent heavy rain in the period up to and including the week that the festival would normally have been held. Indeed, Emily Eavis suggested that the festival itself might have been called off, such was the severity of the weather. Registration for tickets to the 2013 festival began in June 2011 and ticket booking opened at 9 am on Sunday 7 October 2012, with 135,000 selling out in a record time of one hour and forty minutes. To mark the 2012 Glastonbury weekend, Eavis was invited to guest edit the local paper, the Western Daily Press, on Saturday 23 June.
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. In 2014 Mendip District Council issued a licence for 10 years up until 2024.
A few weeks before the 2015 festival Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl fell off a stage during a show in Gothenburg 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 Motörhead (their final festival appearance in the UK before Lemmy's death), Pharrell Williams, Deadmau5, Patti Smith, the Strypes, Lionel Richie, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Enter Shikari, the Chemical Brothers, Thee Faction, 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.
On 3 April 2017, it was announced the BBC had renewed its exclusive national rights to broadcast the event until 2022. On 24 June 2017 reggae group Toots and the Maytals were slotted for 17:30, with BBC Four scheduled to show highlights from their set. When they did not show it was suspected they missed their time slot, and BBC broadcaster Mark Radcliffe apologized on their behalf stating, "If you were expecting Toots and the Maytals – and, frankly, we all were – it seems like they were on Jamaican time or something because they didn't make it to the site on time." The group credited with coining the term "reggae" in song was subsequently rescheduled by the Glastonbury Festival organizers giving Toots and the Maytals the midnight slot, with all other acts being shifted by one hour.
In February 2018, festival organiser Emily Eavis confirmed in a BBC interview that a plastic bottle ban could be enforced at the 2019 event for environmental reasons. Water kiosks, where festival-goers could get any type of bottle refilled, had been introduced in 2014.
The festival had a "fallow year" in 2018 to allow the ground to recover. It is due to return in 2019.