The Glastonbury Festival
- SWATHI RAMASWAMY
- UPDATED Sep 21, 2018
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A significant event in the British music and art culture, the Glastonbury Festival is a celebration of the freeform art movement, which most people like to refer to as hippie counterculture. It all began in 1970 with a pound each worth of tickets in the grounds of Worthy Farm thanks to Michael Eavis, who almost single-handedly organised the first festival for a crowd of 1500.
2018 is going to be one of the fallow years, on which the locality and the fields are given a break from the cacophony and crowd of the festival. It will be back with its entire spectacle again in June 2019.
What all takes place during the Glastonbury Festival?
Within the next few years, it brought some of the biggest names of European and American music, sealing itself as one of the most important cultural fests in all of UK. It is one of the biggest Greenfield festivals and is now hosting almost 175,000 people every year. The visitors set their tent in the designated camping sites around the festival grounds. There are multiple stages and other smaller areas where performances go on throughout the weekend.
The Glastonbury Festival is associated with quite a few charities, to which a good amount of the proceeds from the tickets go. In 2017, Oxfam, WaterAid and Greenpeace worked together to make a difference.
How did it all begin?
The first ever Glastonbury festival was held in 1970, and even though it was nowhere near the current extravaganza it is now, the Glastonbury Festival had its own charm back in the day. A certain Michael Eavis of Pilton, Somerset took up the challenge to host the festival after being inspired by the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. The open-air concert, headlined by Led Zeppelin at their absolute peak, motivated Eavis to organise a similar musical celebration and thus the first ever Glastonbury Festival was held in September 1970. The date of the first festival is very significant since it was organised a day after legendary musician Jimi Hendrix passed away. This is the poster made for the event, though some of the artists were replaced later.
However, the festival was not named Glastonbury back then. In the maiden year, it was named the ‘Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival’, and was graced by the then-popular rock bands Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stackridge and Quintessence. Around 1500 people attended the event in the first year, and thus the foundation of an extraordinary music festival was laid.
How do find your area in the Glastonbury festival?
The Glastonbury Festival is spread on acres and acres of green lands in Pilton. It goes on simultaneously on a number of areas in the locality, celebrating not only music but dance, theatre, circus and all other forms of performing arts. But the showstopper of the event has always been the Pyramid Stage.
The Pyramid Stage
It was first built in 1971, resembling a giant diamond, when the show was headlined by David Bowie and sold out 12,000 tickets. Unfortunately, in 1994, the stage burnt down a few weeks before the festival. But like a phoenix from the ashes, it was built back into a four times larger structure from scratch in 2000, resembling the Pyramid of Giza.
This area has witnessed some of the best performances in the history of the festival. Artists and bands like The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Jay Z, Johnny Cash, Beyonce, Shakira, Metallica, Black Eyed Peas, Pink Floyd, Coldplay – all have performed in this magical stage in this half a decade run of the Glastonbury Festival.
Shangri La is another huge attraction of the Glastonbury Festival. It hosts the biggest names in the underground music world, and every year they outdo themselves with an out-of-the-world theme. The best part about the events in Shangri La is that they always keep a social cause in mind in planning the whole theme and deciding the line-ups. In 2017, the theme was ‘Environ-mental’. The area was dominated by Towers of Trash – structures made out of non-biodegradable waste matters.
The Glade Area
The Glade Area is an inseparable part of the Glastonbury Festival. Originally named after a wooden glade sound system of the late 90’s, it soon became big enough to be a dance and music festival of its own. But it has always been a part of the Glastonbury fest, hosting some of the leading bands and underground electronics over the years.
There are many other stages spread all-over the area with back to back mindblowing performances listed every year.
The Glastonbury Festival has seen many world-class performances in these 48 years. Leaving a few fallow years in between, every year Pilton has seen top artists from across the world putting their best feet forward on the many stages and areas. The David Bowie performance in its second year is among the very best the festival has seen.
The Smiths in 1984 and the Radiohead in 1997 will also be among the all-time greats. For the millennials at Glastonbury, Jay Z and his opening rap cover of Wonderwall in 2008 will always be something to remember. The anticipation for Rolling Stones and the Arctic Monkeys’ performances in 2013 sold around 135,000 tickets and the two British bands did not disappoint the crowd at all. In 2016, Adele and in 2017, Ed Sheeran is also among the notable performers.
But Coldplay probably pulled off the most heart-touching performance of all time on the Pyramid Stage in 2016. They opened their set with a cover of Boys That Sing – a track by the Viola Beach, instead of one of their own. It was a tribute to the young band, which died in a car crash earlier that year. Needless to say, the performance strung chords among the crowd, making it among the top five of all times.