The Glastonbury Festival has grown from humble beginnings in a field in 1970 to become an astonishing, diverse and hugely successful event attracting well over 150,000 music lovers to this otherwise quite corner of the country.
What is Glastonbury?
To categorise the Glastonbury Festival simply as a ‘music’ event would be doing it a tremendous disservice; it is so much more than that. Whilst all types of contemporary music are undeniably at the heart of the weekend, there is also a wide variety of other activities on the 900 acre site.
Undoubtedly the largest and most prestigious greenfield music and performing arts festival there is, Glastonbury music is more than headline acts. Whilst it is undeniable that most of the world’s leading bands and singers have played Glastonbury at least once during the last 30 odd years, there are also jazz, dance, beat and acoustic areas amongst the eight major arenas that visitors can attend in addition to the main Pyramid Stage.
As well as the music, there is a kids’ field; a field full of circus, theatre and cabaret acts; in excess of 600 stalls selling an enormous variety of clothes, handmade crafts, ecological gadgets, and books; and some absolutely fantastic food outlets – sushi, vegetarian, Moroccan, pizza, Caribbean, Turkish and even Argentinian steak barbeques.
For most Glastonbury people, however, although all of the above elements are important, what is most compelling about the Glastonbury experience is that indefinable atmosphere and ambience that makes Glastonbury an almost idyllic weekend away from the ‘normal’ everyday world. Even when the weather is not kind and you have to traipse through mud in your wellington boots, Glastonbury is still special.
It’s all come a long way from the very first festival – held two days after the death of Jimi Hendrix – in September, 1970 when Michael Eavis was inspired by a blues festival in Bath to attempt something similar on his farm and 1,500 people paid £1 each to get in. Mind you, they did get free milk from the farm along with the ticket!
Where is Glastonbury?
Although the festival is known as the Glastonbury Festival, it actually takes place between two small villages, Pilton and Pylle, six miles east of the town itself – on the now world famous Worthy Farm. The farm is situated between the main A37 and A367 roads, just three miles from Shepton Mallet.
During recent years, the festival has managed to considerably cut the number of people driving to this area by a variety of imaginative measures. National Express coaches run services from all over the country directly to their own Festival Coach station. In addition, other organisations arrange various coaches, such as the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre in the Brighton area. The nearest rail station to the site is at Castle Cary, just under 5 miles away, from where coaches can take people to the festival. There is even a thriving car-sharing scheme to try to cut down the number of cars attending. All these measures have resulted in a 50% reduction in vehicles since the 2000 festival.
It was the festival of 1971 that was first held at the time of the Summer Solstice in the latter half of June. Since then, the nearest weekend has been established date for the Glastonbury Festival. It has always been customary for, every few years, the Festival to have a break for a year – to allow the fields to fully recover. Tickets are available from the Festival Website but you should book well in advance. Up to 90% of tickets are sold some six months before the event.