In 1970 Michael Eavis, inspired by the Blues festival at the Bath and West Show, opened his own festival of music on his own Worthy Farm near Pilton in Somerset. This was followed in 1971 by the Glastonbury Free Festival which included a temporary pyramid stage. The artists playing included David Bowie, Hawkwind, and Fairport Convention.
This was the start of Glastonbury, but it did not become a regular annual event until 1981 when Eavis, in conjuncture with CND, set it up organizing the festival on a regular basis. CND gave the 3-day event the advertising while Eavis provided the site and the financial backing. A more permanent pyramid stage was now constructed which doubled in the winter as a cow shed and animal food store.
In 1983 the event required a license from Mendip District Council which set the crowd limit to 30,000, who enjoyed Marillion, UB40 and The Beat. The event raised 45,000 pounds for CND and local charities. As Glastonbury grew nearby Cockmill farm was purchased in 1985 as more room was needed.
The music festival continued to grow and when it came to celebrate its 25th anniversary a special event was planned with performances from the Cure, Oasis and Simple Minds mixed with appearances from Al Stewart and Keith Christmas who had been at the first event.
The official attendance was 80,000 but this is rather a speculative figure as a perimeter fence was breached and many thousands entered the festival unaccounted for. The size of the event has now grown to where the official attendance is 150,000 over the three days with tickets being purchased as soon as they have been released and demand in excess of 1 million.
Glastonbury is a huge operation and the vast majority of attendees spend the three days camping in wide variety of tented options that can be as attractive to the least wealthy student as it can to the wealthiest trader. A transient city is created in the centre of the Somerset countryside, and people of all ages and from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds merge together to enjoy the festival.
Glastonbury undoubtedly has that special edge that makes it so unique. It has always been seen as a festival of contemporary performing arts and not just music. Dance, comedy, theatre, circus and cabaret acts have always performed at the festival.
The timing of the event in June so close to the summer solstice and in a region not far from Stonehenge gives an atmospheric feel to the festival. With the surrounding tors in view it is hardly surprising that there is a huge hippie presence at Glastonbury and is so attractive to druids.
There are now 30 different stages where music can be heard. The serious music follower will come prepared and have an expert knowledge of who is playing when and where. Of course, the majority will want to see the headline acts on the main pyramid stage on the Friday and Evening slots.
The beauty of Glastonbury is that it really grew in the 80s when British rock was having its own revolution with Punk shaking it to its foundations. Alternative styles of rock have always been encouraged and catered for, and this wide eclectic mixture just adds to the beauty of the festival.
Glastonbury has turned into a major attraction in the British social calendar along with so many other popular events. The beauty of this festival is that it attracts so many people from such a wide variety of background and status.