This June, the Glastonbury Festival is making its comeback after a two-year hiatus as a result of the global pandemic. The event has been taking place for over half a century, and has become an integral part of British music and art culture. Glastonbury has featured some of the most celebrated musicians and bands in the world including Lenny Kravitz, Radiohead and The Rolling Stones. We take a look back at the festival’s vibrant history and explore what makes the event so iconic.
Glastonbury Festival History
Beginning in 1970, the first-ever edition of Glastonbury – then called the Pilton Pop Folk & Blues Festival – was held at Worthy Farm, in the town of Pilton, Somerset. It was founded by English dairy farmer Michael Eavis, who was inspired to host a music festival on his own farm after attending the Bath Festival of Blues with his wife Jean and seeing Led Zeppelin perform on an open-aired stage.
The following year, with the help of Andrew Kerr, who was previously working as a personal assistant to British statesman Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill, the event was renamed the Glastonbury Fair. In the same year, the festival featured the first-ever Pyramid Stage, which was inspired by the Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Numerous English rock and folk bands performed – most notably, music legend David Bowie also took to the stage.
In 1999, after the passing of Jean, their youngest daughter Emily began working alongside Eavis to help organise the event. To this day, different renditions of the Pyramid Stage have continued to be constructed as part of the tradition at Glastonbury. The five-day music, culture and art festival has now been around for 52 years, taking place almost every year at the family farm to this day.
Founder of the Glastonbury Music Festival
Since establishing Glastonbury, Michael Eavis has had a long history of supporting different charities and political causes, an approach which is reflected in the ethos of the festival. Due to his tremendous work in music, he was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services in 2007. He was also recognised by Time as one of the most influential people in the world in 2009.
The Ethos of Glastonbury Festival
Conceived during the hippie and counterculture of the 1960s, Eavis was strongly influenced by the free-love movement. In a book by Emily and Michael Eavis, Glastonbury 50: The Official Story of Glastonbury Festival, the founder describes his memorable experience at the Bath Festival of Blues, stating that “they had Led Zeppelin and Moody Blues and all these west coast American bands. It was the whole flower-power era, and all the girls and blokes looked amazing.” This experience would later inspire him to host his own music festival on his dairy farm.
From the 1980s onwards, Glastonbury became affiliated with numerous causes and organisations including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid. Many of the staff are volunteers and work to raise funds for different charities participating at the festival. Since 2019, the event has also banned single-use plastics after estimating that festival-goers used more than 1.3 million plastic bottles in 2017. Attendees are now encouraged to bring their own reusable bottles, which have also been made available for purchase on festival grounds.
Iconic Performances at Glastonbury Festival
Glastonbury has long been known to feature some of the most renowned musicians in the world. The Killers, The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins, Kings of Leon, Nine Inch Nails and Coldplay are among the many famed rock and folk bands that have performed at the festival. In the past two decades, hip-hop and pop acts have also been included in the line-up, including celebrated musicians like Jay-Z, Beyonce, Wu-Tang Clan, Adele, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa.
Many British celebrities have often been spotted attending Glastonbury including festival regular and model Kate Moss, and actors Kit Harrington, Emma Watson, Sienna Miller and Gemma Chan. The event has even attracted stars from around the world like Carrie Fisher, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bradley Cooper and Johnny Depp.
Glastonbury Festival 2022
After a two-year hiatus due to quarantine regulations and restrictions, Glastonbury will be making its return this year and will take place from 22 to 26 June. While the full line-up has yet to be released by organisers, performers confirmed so far are American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and music icon Diana Ross. Other famed musicians that are rumoured to be performing this year include Paul McCartney, Kendrick Lamar, Elton John, Aerosmith and Arctic Monkeys.
Consistent with previous years, Glastonbury will once again be supporting organisations like Oxfam, WaterAid and Greenpeace. It will also be helping to benefit charities like Kiota Women's Health and Development (KIWOHEDE), Small Steps Project, The Bhopal Medical Appeal and SOS Africa.
Tickets for Glastonbury 2022 here: glastonburyfestivals.co.uk
Revisit the tunes from the past Glastonbury Festival!
Cover Credit: James Genchi/Unsplash
Writer | Kristy Or
A fan of indie films and alternative music, Kristy is a writer and producer from Sydney. Tea and coffee are a vital part of her diet.