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A Brief History of the Glastonbury Festival

The Glastonbury Festival is probably the most famous music festival in Europe, but it is more than just about music. It is reputed to be the largest performing arts festival in the world, growing from the shambolic beginnings of the first festival in 1970.

Held at Worthy Farm, in Pilton, Somerset, normally in early summer in June, and organised by dairy farmer cum promoter Michael Eavis, the first festival in 1970 had only a handful of music artists performing, including folk rock singer Al Stewart, and budding superstar group T-Rex. The next year saw the festival have a more impressive line-up, including David Bowie, Traffic, Joan Baez, Hawkwind, Fairport Convention, and Melanie. Still a bit chaotic at this stage, Pink Floyd were due to appear, but didn't show due to technical problems.

There was a lull of around 7 years, before the Glastonbury Festival started up again, and from 1978 it began to build in stature, and with the inception of the Pyramid stage for the 1992 event, the Glastonbury Festival's status as a premier music festival was firmly established.

As well as music, other events at the Glastonbury Festival include dance, theatre, and poetry, and various weird and wacky events attracting audiences as they mill around the festival site. The rather notorious and unpredictable British weather has often turned the festival site into a mudbath, which has rarely seemed to dampen the sense of fun of festival goers.

To give its rather grand full title of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, the festival has several sites for musicians. The Pyramid stage is normally where the biggest names perform, but not always. The John Peel stage, named in honour of legendary BBC DJ John Peel, hosts up and coming bands, then there is the Jazzworld stage, Acoustic stage, and Dance Village, among others.

Affectionately called Glasto, the festival supports the charities Greenpeace, WaterAid, and Oxfam. These three charities supply volunteers at the festival, in return.

Over the years, acts that have appeared at the Glastonbury Festival have varied from Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, and Shirley Bassey, to The Prodigy and U2. Legendary music stars to appear have included Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Morrissey, Lou Reed, Paul Weller, Coldplay, Radiohead, Donovan, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Al Green, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, R.E.M., Oasis, The Black Eyed Peas, Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Blur, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Moby, B.B. King, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Cliff, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Stevie Wonder, Leonard Cohen, Iggy & The Stooges, New Order, James Brown, The Pretenders, and Blondie.

- Paul Rance/

Glastonbury Fayre DVD

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