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Fields of tents at Glastonbury overlooking a stage

The history of Glastonbury

Glastonbury Festival has been an essential date in any music lover’s calendar for over 50 years. Here we’re exploring the history of this much-loved musical event and how it's evolved since 1970.

Image: Raggedstone /

When is Glastonbury 2024?

This year, Glastonbury is taking place at Worthy Farm in Somerset from 26th to 30th June 2024. Attracting hundreds of artists and hundreds of thousands of attendees, this year will see SZA, Dua Lipa and Coldplay headlining the Pyramid Stage.

Hundreds of other acts will grace the main stage as well as additional tents and stages around the huge festival site.

The origins of Glastonbury

The first festival held at Worthy Farm took place in 1970 and was called the Pilton Pop, Folk and Blues Festival. There were just 1,500 attendees and rock band T. Rex headlined. Tickets cost just a single pound. Michael and Jean Eavis founded the festival after being inspired by the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music and the Isle of Wight Festival.

By 1971, the festival was renamed The Glastonbury Fayre and the date was moved to coincide with the summer solstice. It became an event to celebrate free-thinking people and 1971 also saw the erection of the first Pyramid Stage, the main stage inspired by the Great Pyramid of Giza.

1980s bust-ups and battles

As the festival became more popular, it also became more political, with proceeds going to leading charities including the 'Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament'.

The size of the festival meant it was more important to get support from the local authorities and in 1981, the festival received its first festival licence from Mendip District Council. The need for a licence meant the Eavis family faced several prosecutions and defended five of these in 1984.

The festival owners and managers were able to overturn court decisions to refuse their licence and it began to grow in size and reputation, attracting acts including Van Morrison, The Cure and The Boomtown Rats throughout the 1980s.

Television era

As Britpop arrived so did a new wave of artists taking their turn on the main stage at Glastonbury. Oasis, Pulp, Blur and Radiohead all made their festival debuts at Glastonbury in 1994 and the same year also saw the festival broadcast on television on Channel 4.

1998 saw the first 'Legends' slot announced so big names like Tony Bennett could offer something a little more traditional to the usual Glastonbury slate. It marked the beginning of a change in the festival and a move towards more mainstream music.

Mainstream popularity and the festival of the future

By the 2010s, Glastonbury’s popularity was unparalleled. Tickets began to sell out within 30 minutes and this was long before the lineup was even announced. In 2019, the Festival capacity reached 203,500 and the infrastructure required was similar to a small urban development or city.

It’s an amazing feat that festival organisers can turn green farmer’s fields into a thriving festival town for attendees to call home for five days.

Globally renowned artists often grace the stage at Glastonbury in more recent festivals with acts like The Rolling Stones, Beyonce and Adele performing on the Pyramid Stage.

Beyond the main stage, the festival has also expanded to incorporate all aspects of music, art and culture, with interdisciplinary spaces and stages to allow for all kinds of freedom of expression, the original goal and focus of the festival still being enjoyed and celebrated to this day.

Five facts about Glastonbury Festival

1. Jimi Hendrix missed out by a single day

The first Glastonbury Festival took place the day after the death of Jimi Hendrix. While Hendrix was not down to play the festival it’s a certainty that he would have been involved in the coming years had he not sadly died so young.

2. Pilton residents get free tickets

Residents of the nearby village of Pilton have traditionally been given free tickets to the festival. It’s a nice touch for locals who have to live with five days of the festival and of course all the lead up and tidy up.

3. Court trials have been put on hold for the festival

Unbelievably, a murder trial in London was put on hold to allow a member of the jury to attend the festival. The case was halted in 2009 so the juror could benefit from the £200+ they spent on the ticket.

4. 1987 will forever be known as the year of the trouser thieves

Many strange things have happened at Glastonbury but nothing tops 1987, when hundreds of pairs of trousers were stolen from tents. Michael Eavis said at the time, ‘large numbers of trouserless men and women were wandering about, quite embarrassed – until we found their clothes dumped in a muddy ditch.’

5. Glastonbury costs around £22m every year

The cost of getting Glastonbury off the ground and the infrastructure necessary to make it a success is around £22 million every year. There are many different considerations to keep in mind from the security to the stalls, the staging to roads and this all comes at a huge price tag. The organisers state they need to sell out to cover the costs.