How Glastonbury went from a £1 party with free milk to £82m mega-festival

When it comes to British music festivals (or worldwide music festivals for that matter) nothing quite lives up to the phenomenon that is Glastonbury.

People travel from around the world to watch some of the biggest music superstars take to Pyramid Stage and utter those famous words – "Hello Glastonbury".

The relaxed atmosphere, vast size and incredible line up makes it a highlight of the entertainment calender every year and the 2019 event – which kicks off today – is set to be no different.

But unlike many new festivals it didn't start off a huge mainstream event, and it has slowly grown from a small local fair which cost just £1 a ticket including free milk.

The first Glastonbury Festival was held the day after Jimi Hendrix died in September 1970 .

Without mobile phones and social media, it took a few days for everyone to hear the heartbreaking news.

It was a one day event called Pop, Folk & Blues, attended by 1,500 people.

The Kinks headlined the bill and Marc Bolan, Keith Christmas, Stackridge, Al Stewart, Quintessence also took to the stage.

The following year organisers Bill Harkin and Arabella Churchill moved the festival to June, renamed it Glastonbury Fair and the Pyramid Stage made its debut.

It was funded by people who thought other festivals had become too commercial, meaning it was free to attend. 12,000 people went.

In 1979 the festival became a three-day event with its first theme – The Year of the Child.

Bill and Arabella needed cash to run the event so turned to Michael Eavis, who secured a bank loan against the deeds of his farm. 

Despite 12,000 people turning up, each paying £5 for their ticket, the event suffered a huge financial loss.

This meant there wasn't an event in 1980, but the following year Eavis took over the role of organiser again and named it Glastonbury Festival.

It became the first Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament festival and New Order, Hawkwind, Taj Mahal, Aswad, Gordon Giltrap headlined.

One of the big changes was to make the Pyramid Stage a permanent structure, doubling up as a cow shed for the rest of the year.

Tickets were still incredibly cheap at just £8 and 18,000 people attended.

1982 was the first very, very muddy Glastonbury with the highest rainfall in in a single day for 45 years.

But this didn't stop people from getting into the party mood and attendance increased to 25,000.

The following year a local government law change meant organisers needed to get a licence. This meant certain aspects of the festival, including hygiene, access and crowd size were officially regulated for the first time.

However things didn't quite go to plan and Eavis spent the following year fighting five prosecutions for allegedly breaking the terms. He won them all.

The festival's radio station, Radio Avalon, was launched raising £45,000 for local charities and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In 1984 The Waterboys, The Smiths, Elvis Costello and Ian Drury took the Green Fields area was launched.


Bruce Kent, the chairman of CND and Paddy Ashdown, also took to the stage as guest speakers.

By 1985 Eavis knew his farm was getting too small to host the growing festival, so he bought 100 acres of extra land from the neighbouring Cockmill farm.

Tickets were still just £16 and 40,000 people attended. The event raised £100,000 for charity.

As the festival was growing every year, in 1986 the team made a few changes including a communications office and welfare and medical teams.

The Children's Area was moved and a classical music tent was set up.

The Cure, Madness, Pogues and Simply Red were among the acts to take to the stage, entertaining 60,000 guests.

In 1987 the council tried to refuse the festival's licence, but the decision was overturned in court. However the final decision was made in May, just a month before the event.

There were more issues with the licence in 1989 and the police were brought in to help organise and run the festival for the first time.

Attendance was 65,000 with ticket prices rising to £28.

There was another name change in 1990 , with the event becoming Glastonbury Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts to reflect the variety of things on offer.

The Cure, Happy Mondays and Sinead O'Connor took to the stage for the 20th anniversary.

However the celebrations were overshadowed by a confrontation between security teams and travellers who were allegedly trying to loot the site as guests were leaving.

235 people were arrested and there was £50,000 worth of damage.

in 1992 Eavis changed the charities the festival raised money from to Greenpeace and Oxfam.

He believed that people's concerns had shifted away from nuclear war and onto the environment.

Tom Jones was a surprise guest, and £250,000 was raised for the two new charities.

Tickets passed the £50 for the first time in 1993 , costing £53, and the increasingly popularity meant they were completely sold out weeks before the event.

1994 was a sad year for the festival, with a number of tragic events.

A young man was found dead from a drugs overdose, the first death in the festival's history.

There was a shooting on the Saturday night but nobody was seriously hurt.

In the lead up to the festival the Pyramid stage burnt down, but thankfully a local company stepped in to replace it in time for the event.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary in 1995 organisers invited two of the first performers back – Keith Christmas and Al Stewart.

The 80,000 tickets sold out within four weeks of going on sale, each priced at £65.

The Stone Roses pulled out at the last minute and were replaced by Pulp, with The Cure, Oasis and P J Harvey also taking to the stage.

The Dance tent was introduced this year, and went on to become a massive success.

1997 became known as 'The Year of the Mud' thanks to torrential rain and the site was extended to 800 acres.

In 1998 attendance passed 100,000 with 100,500 people getting tickets to watch Blur, Primal Scream, Robbie Williams, Tori Amos, Bob Dylan and the Chemical Brothers.

By 1999 , more than 300 bands were performing at the event, and other entertainment included theatre, comedy. There were also more than 250 food stalls.

The third Pyramid stage made its debut in 2000 , this time silver and 100ft high.

A huge number of gatecrashers managed to get in to the event, but luckily the infrastructure was strong enough so everything went ahead as planned. Tickers were £87.

In 2003 tickets for the festival sold out in less than 24 hours, which was a new record. They costs £150, with 150,000 up for grabs.

It was considered the 'best yet', with no crime, perfect weather and more than £1m raised for charity.

In 2004 the organisers turned their attentions to making the festival as green as possible.

32 per cent of all waste was recycled and all coffee and chocolate had to be FairTrade.

The Tower also made its debut this year, and 65,000 watched England play in the Euros on big TV screens – more than were actually in the stadium.

in 2005 , two months of rain fell in just a few hours leaving the festival completely swamped.

Photos from the event showed people floating around on their blow-up beds and tents were completely flooded.

But this didn't dampen people's spirits and it was named the "happiest festival yet" – and the sun finally came out on Sunday.

The Dance Tent was replaced with a Dance Village, offering festival-goers either different party venues.

The Ghost Train and Silent Disco were introduced, both of which were a massive hit.

Eavis's daughter Emily set up her own stage in 2007 – the Park Stage – and there was also an unsigned talent competition.

The festival promoted the climate change campaign I Count and more than 70,000 people signed up over the weekend.

135,000 weekend tickets were sold with an additional 37,500 passes for crew, performers, and staff. There were also 5,000 Sunday tickets.

There was controversy in 2008 when Eavis announced that Jay Z would headline the Pyramid Stage.

Many thought the festival shouldn't have a rapper so high on the bill, but he proved everyone wrong with an incredible set.

It was the first time in years that tickets didn't sell out straight away, but there was a last minute flurry in the weeks before the event.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, a Hollywood-style Glastonbury 40 was added on the site.

A second permanent reservoir was built, and the two together could hold 2m litres of drinking water.

Since then even more incredible acts have taken to the stage, including Dolly Parton, Kayne West, Metallica, The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys and Chase & Status.

We can't wait to see what this year's festival has in store…

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