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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

Glastonbury Fayre 1971 DVD

TV memories of the 1994 Glastonbury Festival!

Paul Rance sits down with a shandy, in a comfy chair, to give you a guided tour of...
JUNE 24, 25 & 26th

Interesting, very interesting, as BARRY DAVIES might say.

Not the ace French side of MICHEL PLATINI, but the group, ST. ETIENNE, made the first impression - babacious blonde and backing singers, and the old ethereal vocals. MADDER ROSE were lively.

The cutting off of the music and switches to the edible KATIE PUCKRICK and those dead-funny Yorkie ERICS was irritating, but they have personalities we could all buy.

Friday night saw a rousing set by THE LEVELLERS, and so to bed.

Saturday a'noon saw a disappointing set by RIDE, but a vibrantly entertaining one by BUFFALO TOM.

Later caught a glimpse of ORBITAL, who did me eyes in. PAUL WELLER I also caught - sort of hippie music. Missed ELVIS COSTELLO and BJORK - don't know how... and everyone said how good ELVIS was - it's always the way.

Sunday was THE day. Lovely little acoustic set by REG “rubber neck” PRESLEY, and his TROGG Friends - "Wild Thing" and "Love Is All Around". REG had his crop circle T-shirt on, a cause he supports. Groovy acoustic set by Female duo POOKA.

CHUMBAWAMBA had a resplendent ALICE NUTTER in boxing gear, looking genuinely menacing, and the old drawler, JOHNNY CASH, was on around this time - later to spill the beans to JOHNNIE WALKER about the beast within him. What a great guy JOHNNY always seems. He's still got it, even if the voice is croakier than ever.

Missed BLUR and INSPIRAL CARPETS, but caught PULP. Loved all the babes on their guys shoulders singing along here. Understanding blokes, they were only surrogate boyfriends! Best “newish” band at the festival. The JAMES frontman did strange things with his loudhailer, and JAH WOBBLE brought a UNITED NATIONS touch. SPIRUTALIZED - mind blowing as always.

KEITH ALLEN did a balloon dance, and caught a glimpse of THE TREE SPIRIT stall, and campaigners to save SOLSBURY HILL. Lots of ethnic stuff on sale. Lots of wood carving, rain pipes.

Still think MICHAEL HOWARD should have been there - tied to a pole and made to listen to SENSER. The spirit of freedom is the thing about GLASTONBURY, the gentle people creeps like HOWARD want to crush.

This article originally appeared in a 1994 issue of Peace &
Freedom - Volume 10, Number 1. Thanks to Andy 'Poseidon' Bruce for retrieving this archive! - P.R.

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