Glastonbury Festival is a force to be reckoned with. The five-day festival showcases some of the best talents in the art world, and welcomes thousands of festival-goers every year. But it hasn’t always been like that. From a makeshift Pyramid Stage, through to fires and floods, check out the photos that show how Glastonbury has changed over the last (nearly) 50 years…
1970 saw the first ever Glastonbury Festival – where it was originally called the Glastonbury Fayre. The festival only attracted 1500 people, with the tickets selling at £1 each (and you even got free milk with that price). The fayre was supposed to be headlined by the Kinks, but they didn’t turn up. Instead, the fayre was headlined by Tyrannosaurus Rex in replacement.
The Fayre returned for a second year in 1971 and introduced the famous Pyramid Stage to its attendees. This time, they’d managed to blag themselves even bigger and better musicians, and starred the likes of David Bowie and Hawkwind and Traffic onto the farm. You’ve got to admit that’s a pretty epic line-up.
The third Glastonbury Fayre was never really planned or set in stone. Instead, people just made their way over to the farm after visiting Stonehenge because they had heard rumors the fayre might take place. After these people showed up, the organizers gave them what they wanted and they set up a makeshift stage and a caravan. There were no set headlining acts, and it was more of a free for all.
The fourth Glastonbury Fayre came back with a bang and lengthened out the event to three days. The owner of Worthy Farm, Michael Eavis, decided to secure a loan from the bank against the deeds to the farm, and managed to secure Peter Gabriel as a headliner. Despite this, Eavis lost a huge amount of money from the festival, meaning he could not afford to host Glastonbury in 1980.
Eavis enlisted new management in 1981, meaning Glastonbury Festival could really take off. The new festival attracted thousands of new visitors and campers, and the Pyramid Stage became a permanent aspect of the three-day event. Hawkwind, among with other bands, played on that stage.
In 1982, Glastonbury Festival teamed up with the Mid-Somerset and Western Regions ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’ and began to embrace the hippie culture by which we now know Glastonbury to be. Michael Eavis even fired a firework at an anti-CND airplane, and they also performed their first laser light show.
1983 saw a big breakthrough in the history of Glastonbury Festival. They had their first set of proper toilets! As the popularity of the festival grew, so did the demand for tickets. And more people meant more waste. This year also saw the first broadcast from Radio Avalon, Glastonbury’s radio station which broadcast the music across the country.
In 1984, the concept of Glastonbury Festival was called into question when The Smiths headlined the festival. Fans of the festival questioned the motives of the organizers, and disagreed with the fact that they chose to include ‘popular bands onto the Pyramid Stage. Johnny Marr later said that they were ‘out of our depth.’
By 1985, Glastonbury festival had grown so much and become so popular that they simply didn’t have enough space on Worthy Farm. Organizers decided to buy the neighboring Cockmill Farm, which added another 100 acres to their site. This was also the first year that the festival was hit with its infamous bad weather and rain – and the rain turned the fields into a mud bath.
By 1986, the camping quarters had got pretty cramped. But it was all part of the fun and worth it to watch The Cure perform on the Pyramid Stage. This year’s organizers also wanted to show off the spectrum of musical talents and genres, and 1986 saw the first run of the popular Classical Tent at the festival.
By 1987, Glastonbury Festival had become a worldwide phenomenon, and people from across the globe starting traveling the fields of Somerset to watch some of their favorite bands. This years festival gathered a crowd of 60,000 attendees – and they had come such a long way since their 1,500 attendees in their first year that organizers felt like they, and the surrounding towns needed a break.
If anything, the yearlong break had done the festival a world of good, and the wait had made people even more eager to get back to the farm. Suzanne Vega headlined the Friday night, but had to wear a bulletproof vest after she and her band received death threats. But nothing happened, and she and the crowd had the best time.
Twenty years after the first Glastonbury Fayre, Glastonbury Festival had become one of the most popular musical events in the world. They used this year to expand their repertoire even more, and they included other theater and arts. They decided to cater to this new addition by changing their name to Glastonbury Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts. The festival boasted a French theater troupe on the Pyramid stage and the 70,000 strong audience lapped it up.