Ah, Glastonbury. Escape for the few, home for the thousands.
A festival like no other, it seems. The pinnacle of British culture.
Spanning the size of 27 farms, it glorifies everything great about Music and The Arts. Defined as nothing short as a “mecca” to some, it becomes embossed within our very lives.
It seems that when Glastonbury takes a year off to recuperate for the cows, the whole of the UK seems to stand still too, often reminiscing over past years. The lead-up is just as impactful as the festival itself. The speed of ticket sales; the groundbreaking headline artists; and of course, the controversial stunts that the festival pulls just to taunt us that little bit extra.
It has certainly come a long way from its huge hippie diversity, radical politics and their inexplicable desire for security at the gates, but it will always hold its roots firmly in the underground, holding its middle finger up to the corporates structure, and I think that’s great.
From the 2,000 people that trudged over at Worthy Farm in the 1970s for a £1 ticket – – – to the 203,500 people that entered the magical city in 2019 for a ticket worth £248, it has surpassed anything that anybody wanted for a festival and is now celebrating its 50 year anniversary in 2020.
“It’s also countercultural in the broadest sense – a weekend when the prevailing social values we all live with are inverted, when the things we are often told are unimportant or ephemeral (especially music and the arts) take their rightful place centre stage.”
Lauren Laverne, Writer & BBC Broadcaster
Regardless of the profits the festival receive, they stick to exactly what they’ve always stuck too. Simply because they know they’re good at it. The funny thing is, you simply cannot replicate Glastonbury’s workforce with money – they will only work for love.
Many local authorities have tried to stop it ever happening, often not granting the festival a licence suitable for them to set up the magical city. The media have not been much better, often questioning every decision Michael and Emily Eavis makes for the headline acts. But, it still stands and is stronger than ever.
In the 1970s, the amount of fear the Thatcher’s government spread allowed people to come to Glastonbury to escape and have such a freedom just for a few days without anyone telling anyone what to do.
The festival’s strong views on politics grew further when the festival took a new name in the 1980s. As membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament grew, Glastonbury became ‘Glastonbury CND Festival,’ where the famous peace sign was donned on the Pyramid Stage.
Glastonbury festival took the first for everything. They were one of the first festivals to prevent ticket touting via their new system of pre-registration with photo ID in 2007. In 2019, Glastonbury was also the first to ban single-use plastic drinking bottles on site – after more than a million was sold in 2017 – and so, festival-goers were asked to bring or buy reusable water bottles to refill at the 37 WaterAid kiosks and hundreds of water taps on site.
With Oxfam and Greenpeace becoming Glastonbury’s main beneficiaries since the 90s, it has given over £3 million of their profitable takings to charity. Often, being the first festival to choose charitable causes instead of lining their own pockets.
With the biggest array of contemporary art spanning across over 100 stages, from theatre, drama, progressive spoken word, rituals, collectives and of course, music, it is only believable until it is seen with your very own two eyes. Although pretty impactful, the BBC coverage simply doesn’t cover it.
“Glastonbury was the most auspicious gig we have ever and will ever do. It is our spiritual home and a place where we can all just be, come together and celebrate being a human being on this beautiful planet.”
Ed O’Brien, Radiohead
It is important to note however, that I have never been. Odd as it may seem for me to glorify the festival by declaring a tribute blog, in some sorts. But yes, I’ve never been, but it is and always will be a place that I would love to go. The amount of stuff there is to learn, explore, listen, practice, befriend and enjoy is overwhelming. The majority of us would spend their money to go on weekend-bender rather than going on a week all-inclusive holiday to Greece.
“Glastonbury is whatever you want it to be. Glastonbury will change your life … and if it doesn’t, then I suggest you get a f*cking life!”
Noel Gallagher, Oasis
There you are, I will leave you with a quote from one of the Gallagher brothers. The worse one out of the two, but there you are.
Here is to the next 50 years that Glastonbury will put on at Worthy Farm. As much as I dare to say it, that Michael Eavis may not make it to the next 50. There is strength in knowing that he can easily pass the festival gauntlet to his daughter.
Glastonbury: Truly putting the worth into worthy farm.