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.
Organizers decided to take another break from the festival for a year and came back with a bang, boasting a ‘special guest’ on their return. This news enticed even more festival-goers down to the farm and security became heightened as the numbers soared. The ‘special guest’ turned out to be Tom Jones – lucky.
This year, Glastonbury kept up with their tradition of the inclusion of the arts and introduced a new Comedy Tent. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers were meant to be headlining the Pyramid Stage and the Festival – but failed to turn up even though they had confirmed their spot. Lenny Kravitz filled in as a replacement.
1994 saw Glastonbury Festival rise from the ashes after the Pyramid Stage was burnt down. However, nothing would stop the festival-goers and a makeshift tent was erected for the performers. This was also the first year where the festival was broadcast on television, on Channel 4. This only helped Glastonbury’s growing reputation as the festival to be at. However, 1994 saw the first death in 24 years after someone died from a drug overdose.
1995 saw the festival in full celebration mode as they celebrated their Silver anniversary, and they pulled out all of the stops. Tickets for the three-day festival sold out in four weeks, faster than they ever had before, so they lineup had to be worth it. And it was. Glastonbury alum Keith Christmas and Al Stewart returned to the festival and there was even a new Dance Stage which featured stars like Eat Statis, Massive Attack and System 7.
In true Glastonbury form, 1997 was another muddy one. But attendees had begun to expect this from the festival, and had learned to embrace it – like these guys. It didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the music. But if they did get muddy, it was okay…because it was the first year they introduced their new solar-heated showers.
1998 was even muddier than the last year – but it was also the largest one yet. Glastonbury welcomed over 100,000 visitors onto the farm, and boasted over 1000 musical and art-focused acts across their 17 stages including Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters and Robbie Williams. It was also the first year that mud surfing became a ‘thing’…
In 1999, the sun shone on Glastonbury Festival and welcomed back their musical lovers. This year was also held in memory of ‘Mother Glastonbury’ – Michael Eavis’ wife, Jean. They celebrated her life with a wicker structure and a fireworks display. This years lineup included the likes of Manic Street Preachers, REM and Blondie.
A new millennium brought new fans to Glastonbury Festival – so many, in fact, that the crowds broke the outer fence. There were also many more stages added to the event, including a brand new Pyramid Stage, Leftfield the left-wing political stage and The Glade, the outdoor dance venue.
Because the festival had previously struggled with gatecrashers, the 2002 festival now featured a steel fence – with 140,000 ticketed attendees being let into the boundaries of Glastonbury. This year, Coldplay headlined the festival and the crowd singing along to Chris Martin made him overcome with emotion.
2003 will go down in history as being one of the best Glastonbury Festivals EVER. It was relatively free of gatecrashers, the sun was out, there were no reported crimes, the lineup was second to none, and the festival-goers raised over £1 million for charity. And this year, people took it upon themselves to dress up!
2004 saw the inclusion of a new Glastonbury favorite – the Unsigned Performance Competition. This competition gave smaller, unsigned bands the chance to perform at the festival. They also gave into temptation and screened the England vs Portugal Euro Cup match, which saw over 65,000 people at the festival watching it.
2005 Glastonbury Festival was also known as the Great Flood – where two months of rain fell on the festival in two hours. However, the party kept going, and this year they celebrated the Make Poverty History Campaign with Bob Geldof and Greenpeace.
2007 was the year that Glastonbury festival got even bigger and better than it already was, and they opened up another tent for their fans – the Park Stage. The Who performed at the festival, and headlined the festival on the Sunday Night, to festival revelers’ delight.
Glastonbury seemed to have a blip this year, and their tickets didn’t sell out as quickly as they had previous years. But when the weather became sunny again, more and more people bought the tickets to see their favorite performers – including Jay-Z who had previously been criticized for playing at the festival.
2009 was a sad year for music, after the death of the King of Pop – Michael Jackson. The festival paid homage to the musical legend, and artist Lily Allen performed her set while wearing Jackson’s signature white glove on her hand.
2010 celebrated Glastonbury Festival’s 40th anniversary with a bang. To honor their anniversary Stevie Wonder joined Michael Eavis onto the Pyramid Stage to sing the festival a happy birthday.
2011 was a weird year in terms of the festival. When the lineup announced that Beyonce was headlining the Pyramid Stage, she was met with criticism. But she rocked it. On the other hand, people were really excited when U2 was announced – but festival goers left disappointed by their performance. Funny how things work out, huh?
2013 saw the festival’s biggest crowd ever – and the lineup hasn’t been beaten yet. The likes of the Arctic Monkeys, The Rolling Stones, and Mumford and Stones rocked the stage over the three days. Everyone who attended said it was unlike anything they’d ever been to! We’re not jealous at all…
Before the festival in 2014, there were huge rumors of the likes of Foo Fighters, Prince and Fleetwood Mac headlining the stage – which only disappointed fans when they didn’t turn up. Nevertheless, Arcade Fire, Metallica and Kasabian rocked the Pyramid Stage on the Saturday night.
Tickets for Glastonbury Festival in 2015 sold out in record time – 26 minutes. Rumors surrounded the performers again, but the official lineup starred The Who, Foo Fighters and Kanye West. However, the latter didn’t go down well, and there was even a petition started to ban him from playing at the festival. But it all went ahead, and the show was a success.
As the years go on, Glastonbury just grows stronger and stronger and bigger and bigger. The lineups are constantly growing, and supporting some of the biggest artists in the world. 2016’s festival featured the likes of Adele, Coldplay, Muse and so much more. What will 2017 bring?