Glastonbury music festival: Keep Calm and Dance On!

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Glastonbury. The music festival that began with the hippie movement but has stayed current and evergreen. The festival of legends and legendary weather. The festival that is on a million bucket lists. Here are a few reasons why. 

Hippie beginnings

In 1970, a farmer named Michael Eavis attended at Led Zeppelin concert. He was so blown away by the open-air blues festival that he resolved to begin a small musical festival of his own on his farm. On 19th September that year, the first  Pilton Pop, Folk & Blues Festival as it was called then, was held at Eavis’s Worthy Farm near the town of Glastonbury. It was attended by 1500 people who paid a £1 ticket to enter and included free milk from the farm. Today, the cost of a weekend ticket is £250. In its first year, the main act was T. Rex who replaced The Kinks after they pulled out at the last minute – a decision they must have regretted as the festival was a massive hit! The event was held on-and-off in the 70s, but after 1981, it has been held every year. Once every five years, however, there is a ‘fallow’ year, with no festival to give the land and the organisers a break!

The Green Festival 

Glastonbury is the biggest greenfield music festival. As the festival has grown, the number of acts, stages and people visiting have increased as well. Today there are over 25 music areas, but when it began, the festival had one Pyramid Stage that was made with scaffolding, metal and plastic sheeting. A second, more permanent Pyramid stage was built in 1981 using telegraph poles and iron sheets from the Ministry of Defense – early recyclers! Right from the start, Michael Eavis has been championing the environment and sustainability on his farm. It was used as a cow shed in the winter. Unfortunately, it burned down in 1994. The newest stage, built in 2000 had all its materials and designs passed a Greenpeace environmental audit. It is the most coveted stage for performers. 

The festival has adopted the ‘Love the Farm, Leave no Trace’ pledge, urging festival-goers to be as green as they can be. They use steel cups, which can be bought at the festival and reused for drinks to reduce the use of plastic bottles drastically. Public transport to get to the venue is encouraged, biodegradable tent pegs are given free to campers, and there are bins, signs and reminders all over the site to remind people to be earth-friendly! The festival has also raised a lot of money for charities including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid

The Pyramid Stage

Greatest Hits at Glastonbury.

If you read the list of people who have played at Glastonbury, it would make the world’s best greatest hits album! Here are just some of the musical giants who have played on its hallowed stages: David Bowie, Radiohead, Paul McCartney, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Oasis, U2, BB King, Coldplay, Adele and Ed Sheeran. Another ‘player’ at the festival has been the weather. It is almost customary for it to rain at least once during the three-day event. 1985 saw the field become completely sodden with mud, and twenty years later, in 2005, there were thunderstorms and flooding as well. But nothing stopped the fans from sticking with music as they adapted the now-famous motto – Keep Calm and Dance On!

Showstoppers of 2019

  • The main artist of the show was Stormzy. The first-ever black solo artist to headline at Glastonbury, he lived up to his name by ‘storming’ on to stage in a bullet proof jacket with the Union Jack  on the front, designer by none other but Banksy, the famous but unidentified, street artist. He ripped the stage with an electric performance and even did duets with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Dave and Fredo. 
  • Miley Cyrus brought the house down with her hit song On A Roll as well as pulling her dad, legendary country singer Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X to sing Old Town Road.
  • Chris Martin was also a surprise performer with pop queen legend Kylie Minogue. Kylie, was supposed to have performed at Glastonbury in 2005 but after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she withdrew. That year, Martin played her song ‘Cant Get You Out of My Head’ as a tribute to her and this year joined her band on stage to sing the song once more with her. 
  • Years and Years star Olly Alexander stopped between his song and made a powerful speech about LGBT rights as well as discussing difficulties he had faced about being gay. 
  • Actor Jeff Goldblum, delighted his fans by playing the Jurassic Park theme song, the movie that made him a star overnight. Goldblum is also a musician who has a  long-time band called the The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. 
  • Teen sensation Billie Eilish ran through an 11-set song to a crowd 40,000 that flocked to the Other Stage to watch her perform.
  • The non-music showstopper was David Attenborough, multi-award winning naturalist, environmentalist and media personality who praised the organisers for their plastic-free festival

Photo Credit: All pictures from glastonburyfestivals.co.uk


Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant. She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.

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