The highs and lows of 40 years at Glastonbury

Rhian Daly looks back through the festival's history books

The highs and lows of 40 years at Glastonbury

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Rhian Daly - 18 June 2010

Since 1970, Glastonbury has grown into the most recognised and infamous festival in the world and while there has been some truly magical and unforgettable moments, there have been a few - often muddy - lows too.

Let’s turn back the clock - to a time when even Michael Eavis had hair – to see the peaks and troughs of the last 40 years.

High!
What: Glastonbury is first held (then known as Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival) in September 1970.
Why so great? Um, it’s the event that kick started the whole thing, plus Marc Bolan’s T.Rex played. Need any more reasons?  

High!
What:
The festival becomes an annual event in 1980.
Why so great? A yearly excuse to gather the best bands in a field and have the best time of your life? Yes please.

Low!
What:
The Band are unable to play in 1984 due to Levon Helm shooting himself in the leg.
Why so bad? For starters it has to be pretty painful for Helm himself but you have to feel for the poor festival-goers that missed out too, even if it was after the group had reunited without Robbie Robertson.  

Low!
What:
As a pre-cursor to all the wet Glastonbury Festivals to come, 1985 sees torrential rain create a pleasant mix of mud and cow dung that revellers had to traipse through.
Why so bad: Do we really need to explain this one?

Low!
What:
In 1990 the festival expands but it is marred by violence between travellers and security come the end of the weekend. As a result, 1991 is Glastonbury-less.
Why so bad? A whole 12 months without a Glastonbury is bad enough but the violence is just not in keeping with the festival’s whole spirit.

Low!
What:
The Pyramid Stage burns down just weeks before the festival is due to be held in 1994.
Why so bad? The iconic main stage going up in flames put question marks over what would happen with the event. Luckily, some quick building meant a new, temporary stage was constructed in the nick of time. Phew!

High!?
What:
1995 sees The Stone Roses forced to pull out of their headlining slot and rising Britpop stars Pulp step in at the last minute.
Why so great? By all accounts it was a great show and a defining Glastonbury moment, not least for Pulp.

High!
What:
Attendance figures exceed 100,000 for the first time in 1998 and a year later it remains hot and dry all weekend.
Why so great? A continued interest from the public in the festival means more chance of it running for longer and a rain-free weekend? Pah - a true Glastonbury rarity.

Low!
What:
The dance tent is sprayed with faeces by a poo truck.
Why so bad? With torrential rain over the weekend, a poo truck attempts to suck the water out of the dance tent but the setting is on ‘blow’ rather than ‘suck’, leaving a very smelly mess afterwards.

High!
What:
The superfence is introduced in 2002
Why so great? Not so fun for freeloading fence jumpers, but the ‘superfence’ allows attendance figures to be controlled and see in turn crime reduced, creating a much nicer festival for all involved.  

Low!
What:
2004 and 2005 both see tickets sell out too quickly for some, within 24 hours and three and a half hours respectively.
Why so bad: Many potential festival-goers are left disappointed and ticketless, whilst touts reap the rewards.  

Low!
What:
Even though new flood defences have been put in place, Glastonbury experiences some of its worst flooding during 2007.
Why so bad? Fancy waking up to find your tent resemble something more like a muddy swimming pool? The mud even affected people’s attempts to get home with some poor drivers stuck in the car parks for nine long hours.  

?
What: U2 pull out with Gorillaz announced as their replacement.
Which way is it going to go? We’re hoping Damon Albarn’s second year in a row headlining the Pyramid Stage is going to be as triumphant as last year’s but, equally, it’s hard to deny Gorillaz aren’t exactly on the same level as U2 when it comes to no-holds-barred stadium rock pomp. We’ll just have to wait and see...


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