Ever since Glastonbury Festival began in 1970 – when tickets were only £1 and included free milk from the farm – it has grown into something of a phenomenon. It’s the UK’s biggest music festival, one of the world’s favourites and – barring its ‘fallow years’, when the grounds of Worthy Farm are allowed to recover – it’s arguably the number one event on the nation’s cultural calendar.
The festival actually takes place just outside the town of Glastonbury, at Worthy Farm in the little village of Pilton, which is just under 45 minutes away from our Bristol Sidcot (A38) hotel. It’s first iteration was as the Pilton Festival, and was organised by Michael Eavis after he saw Led Zeppelin perform at the open-air Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music – it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like Glastonbury, does it?
Astonishingly, Led Zep have never played at the festival over its more than 40 years of existence. However, it’s not like it’s ever lacked in quality. The Kinks were booked to play its inaugural year (although it fell through and had to be replaced by T.Rex), and David Bowie headlined the year after.
Since then, we’ve seen the world’s superstars grace the Pyramid Stage – The Smiths, The Cure, New Order, Lou Reed, Blur, Primal Scream, The Velvet Underground, Johnny Cash, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, Oasis, Pulp, The Prodigy, Blondie, James Brown, Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, The Who, Jay Z, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Status Quo, Gorillaz, Metallica, Beyoncé and The Rolling Stones.
But, the bands and artists have never been the be-all and end-all of Glastonbury. Yes, it is a music festival, but it also hosts dance, comedy, theatre and cabaret acts, as well as art installations. And while the bohemian air of counterculture always runs through British festivals, Glastonbury takes it to an entirely different level. People use Glastonbury to escape, experiment and to just have five days of fun in the sun - or maybe mud.
More than 125,000 people attend the festival, and a great many more are left disappointed that they can’t. In fact, it’s so popular that tickets tend to sell out in a matter of minutes. Part of the appeal and beauty of Glastonbury is that it’s a festival for everyone of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs. There are different stages for all genres of music, and the campsite is split into different areas, each one with its own look and feel. Some are family only, while some have a reputation for being on the wilder side.
All in all, Glastonbury is an incredible experience. It’s one that many people want to tick off their bucket lists. If you find yourself with a ticket, come and stay at one of our hotels in Bristol afterwards. You can relax with all of the creature comforts you’ll have missed on the campsite, and be sure to use the rest of our local guide to explore some of the best that Bristol has to offer.