Glastonbury festival

From Academic Kids

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The site from the stone circle on Thursday afternoon, 2004

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. The festival is best known for its contemporary music, but also features dance and comedy performances, theatre, circus and many other arts. In 2005, the enclosed area of the festival was over 900 acres, had over 385 live performances scheduled ( and a predicted attendance of around 150,000 people. Glastonbury festival has been compared to Woodstock and the burning man festival, and shares some of the spirit of these events but many festival-goers consider Glastonbury to be unique.

Originally Glastonbury was heavily influenced by hippy ethics and the free festival movement in the 1970s, especially the Isle of Wight Festival. Organiser Michael Eavis claims he decided to host the first festival, then called Pilton Festival, after seeing an open air Led Zeppelin concert at the nearby Bath and West showground. The festival retains vestiges of this tradition, including the Green Futures/Healing Fields area and the reputation for drug taking. The festival site also has a megalith circle similar to Stonehenge, although this was constructed specifically for the festival and has no historic interest.

The backstage compound, restricted to normal festivalgoers, is populated almost entirely by bands and their support crews. The backstage bar, Lulu's, is, ironically, the cheapest bar at the festival, and hosts many charity functions and auctions.

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Supergrass playing at the Pyramid stage

The festival takes place at Worthy Farm near the small village of Pilton, but since Glastonbury is a nearby town already associated with mystical happenings it has lent its name to the event. The nearest town to the festival site is Shepton Mallet but there continues to be interaction between the people espousing alternative lifestyles living in Glastonbury and the festival itself.

An example of the many sculptures and other artwork displayed across the site
An example of the many sculptures and other artwork displayed across the site

The festival is organised by local farmer Michael Eavis, who has hosted the event since its inception. More recently, the Mean Fiddler Organisation, now controlled by Clearchannel, a US-based media conglomerate, have taken a 40% stake in the festival. Some sources now report that Michael's daughter Emily Eavis is taking a more proactive role in organising the festival, with Michael increasingly taking a back seat.


Glastonbury over time


The first festival, a smallscale event of 1,500 people called the Pilton Festival, was in 1970, followed by the larger scale Glastonbury Fayre of 1971. The festival was not held again until 1979, and has been an annual fixture since 1981 (albeit with breaks in 1988, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006).


In the 1980s the children's area of the festival (which had been organized by Arabella Churchill and others) became the starting point for a new children's charity called Children's World. The festival makes significant donations to a number of organisations. The main beneficiaries are currently Oxfam, Greenpeace, and WaterAid who all contribute towards the festival by providing features and volunteers who work at the festival in exchange for free entrance. In 2003 these three organisations received around half of more than 1million donated by the festival to "good causes".


In recent years the festival has grown with new tents and stages included a Dance music tent, the Jazz and World music stage, the Glade - an open air dance area which has now spawned an independent festival - and The Leftfield - a tent organised by Trade unions which also appears at a number of other British festivals.

During the 1990s the festival suffered from increased overcrowding and crime due to a culture of gate-crashing. By 2000, a significant proportion of those at the festival gained entrance to the site 'unofficially' (common estimates put the number of 'fence jumpers' at around 100,000, which pushed the total attendance up to 250,000 people).

Glastonbury 2002

Headline acts: Coldplay, Stereophonics, Rod Stewart

In 2002 the festival returned after a break with a substantial surrounding fence (dubbed the 'superfence') that reduced numbers to the levels of a decade earlier. The lower attendance led to a much more relaxed atmosphere and massively reduced crime levels compared to previous years. There were some incidents outside the fence involving frustrated individuals who arrived at the festival assuming they would be able to jump the fence, but despite this the event was hailed as a great success.

Glastonbury 2003

Headline acts: REM, Radiohead, Moby

By 2003 people got the idea that it was no longer possible to crash the festival and hence it is recognised as one of the most successful years to date as well as selling out within hours of tickets going on sale. The number of tickets available to the public was increased slightly over 2002, partially in response to criticism that the 2002 festival was underpopulated and lacked atmosphere.

Glastonbury Festival's "Other Stage"
Glastonbury Festival's "Other Stage"

Glastonbury 2004

Headline acts: Oasis, Paul McCartney, Muse

In 2004 tickets sold out within 24 hours amid much controvesy over the ticket ordering process, which left many potential festival goers trying for hours to connect to the overloaded telephone and internet sites. The website got two million attempted connections within the first five minutes of the tickets going on sale and an average of 2,500 people on the phone lines every minute.

Headline acts: The lineup for the 2004 Festival was officially announced on 2004-06-01. Oasis, Paul McCartney and Muse headlined the Pyramid Stage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively, whilst the Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx and Orbital headlined the Other Stage. Other bands appearing included the Raveonettes (New Tent, to be renamed the John Peel Tent as of 2005 in tribute following the death of the DJ), Simple Kid (Acoustic Tent), Baghdaddies (Avalon Stage) and Sister Sledge (Dance Tent). In addition 2004 was the inaugural year of the festival's Unsigned Performers competition to play main stages. The Subways took the title and played the Other Stage.

After the 2004 festival, Eavis commented that 2006 would be a year off - in keeping with the previous history of taking one "fallow year" in every five to give the villagers and surrounding areas a rest from the yearly disruption. This was confirmed after the licence for 2005 was granted.

Glastonbury 2005

Headline acts: The White Stripes, Coldplay, Basement Jaxx

The dates for the 2005 festival are June 24June 26. The headliners are The White Stripes (Friday) and Coldplay (Saturday). The Sunday headliner was scheduled to be Kylie Minogue, but she pulled out in May to receive treatment for breast cancer. Basement Jaxx were announced as a replacement on June 6. Other notables scheduled to perform include New Order, The Killers, Doves, Kasabian, Interpol, Bloc Party, British Sea Power, Primal Scream, Tori Amos, and Ian Brown. As in previous years, the 112,500 2005 tickets sold out rapidly - in this case in 3 hours 20 minutes, leaving many thousands of potential attendees frustrated.


  • John Shearlaw and Crispin Aubrey Glastonbury Festival Tales ISBN 0091897637
  • Royston Naylor Stone Free: A Photographic Trip Through 10 Years of Glastonbury Festival ISBN 1857411455

See also

External links

de:Glastonbury Festival


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