The Glastonbury Festival has been held in Somerset, England on and off since 1970. Inspired by the classic hippie ideals of the seventies the festival has played host to such artists as David Bowie, The Smiths and Oasis. Over the years, the Glastonbury Festival has featured nearly every style of music as well as comedy, theater, circus acts and many other types of performances playing on multiple stages. Since 1971, each festival has included a pyramid stage that is a scaled down replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Despite its ever-increasing creativity and popularity, however, the five-day concert series is not without controversy.
Even before storms caused the festival to halt temporarily, two attendees died, a 67-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man. The woman reportedly died of natural causes, but the man’s death was linked to an overdose of Ketamine, a popular drug at festivals and raves. After the man’s adverse reaction to the drug, he was taken to a nearby medical facility where he later died. Despite the twin tragedies, the show continued on as planned.
On Friday, June 27, the weather became severe enough, with lightning striking near the festival grounds that performances had to be stopped and musicians were led off stage to a safer area. After the skies cleared, fans were treated to performances by Arcade Fire and Lilly Allen. Still to play in the days after the storm were Metallica and Jack White, some of the biggest draws on the Glastonbury Festival bill.
For Americans, the Glastonbury Festival is comparable to Bonnaroo. In many ways, it could even be considered the successor of Woodstock. Attendees, in the early years, danced in a mix of mud and cow feces, in front of the stage, on the festival grounds that encompass two farms. Similar to American events like Burning Man, Glastonbury features a wide variety of art aside from the music. The landscape is littered with tents and sculptures, and in keeping with the hippie theme, most of the festival workers are in fact volunteers. Attendees stay almost exclusively in tents, as camping vehicles are not allowed on the actual festival grounds. There are accommodations that are more comfortable available in the surrounding area, but staying in tents is generally considered a vital part of the festival experience.
The Glastonbury Festival is a significant cultural fixture in the UK, with artists like U2 and Joe Strummer penning songs about the experience. The festival is one of the longest running musical events, though it is not technically continuous due to the “fallow years” without festivals, in order to give the local farmers and their land a relief from the massive undertaking. Fallow years occur every five years with very few changes to the formula.
When the huge festival first began, it was a humble effort by Michael Eavis and other like-minded individuals. It has only continued to grow in the decades since its inception. Since the early days, the event has had a close connection to the New Age movement, but concertgoers certainly do not have to be a part of the hippie style philosophy to enjoy the show. The stages are populated by world famous mainstream artists as well as up and comers. The Glastonbury Festival has had its share of setbacks over the years, but with the coming of each summer the music still plays on.
By Matt Isaacs