Glastonbury Festival: how one couple’s attempt to save their family farm changed the world of live music forever

  • ITV News has taken a look back at five decades of music and mud.

The cancellation of the 50th Glastonbury Festival due to the coronavirus pandemic shattered the hearts of ticket holders all over the world.

In the decades following the summer of 1970, when Michael Eavis hosted the first Pilton Pop Festival, millions of people have attended Worthy Farm for what has become the world's favourite festival.

What originally started as an idea to save the Eavis' family farm in Somerset quickly turned into a movement that changed the world of music forever.

Summer 1970 - Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival

Needing to think of other ways to make money on the family's dairy farm, Michael and Jean Eavis hosted the first festival in September 1970.

Attended by approximately a couple of thousand people, the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival was heavily inspired by the Bath Festival of Blues with its hippie theme and psychedelic spectacles.

You could grab a ticket for just £1 - and that came with the promise of unlimited free milk for the whole weekend.

The original headliners were The Kinks, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders but they were replaced by Tyrannosaurus Rex (T. Rex) formed by folk-duo Marc Bolan and Mickey Finn.

After losing money, Michael was unsure whether or not the festival had a future - little did he know its humble beginning was the start of something revolutionary.


Summer 1971 - The future of the festival looks uncertain

Michael and Jean Eavis returned with a second edition of the festival one year later.

It was this summer that the world was introduced to what would soon turn into a global music icon - the Pyramid Stage.

The free festival, known as ‘Glastonbury Fair’, saw David Bowie perform to more than 10,000 people alongside acts including Joan Baez and Fairport Convention.

Newspaper coverage from the time described it as “a celebration of the summer solstice” attended by “gentle misfits, living life in its margins”.

READ: Why Glastonbury is so much more than a music festival

“Why should they bring it to our little village?”

While popular among those who attended - and on track to become a global phenomenon - the festival wasn’t welcomed by people who lived nearby.

Fifty years later and Pilton residents now brace themselves every summer for more than 100,000 visitors, an onslaught of famous faces and the interrogation of the world’s media.

Michael Eavis has always ensured he gives back to his local community, though.

Alongside charity work, residents living nearby are given special access to festival tickets every year for the ‘inconvenience’ it causes.

Glastonbury in the 1980s

Now an official listing in the music calendar - with a newly built Pyramid Stage - Glastonbury Festival was attracting acts from all over the world.

Headliners in the ‘80s included Van Morrison, The Smiths, The Boomtown Rats and The Cure.

But the growing appetite to attend the annual event on Worthy Farm brought its challenges.

Thousands of people without tickets started to invade the site and a growing number of festival goers turned up with illegal drugs.

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The 1990s

Scenes of people wading through thick mud come to mind when reflecting on the festival in the ‘90s, but its attraction nevertheless continued to reach new heights.

The final decade of the 20th century also saw the Pyramid Stage burn to the ground shortly before the festival in 1994 - fortunately a temporary one was built so attendees could get their fix that summer.

Now running for more than two decades, Glastonbury was spanning generations - but was still to reach its peak.


1999 - Jean Eavis dies

Jean died just one month before the festival in 1999. Credit: Glastonbury Festival

Tragedy struck the family in 1999 when Jean Eavis died from cancer just a month before the festival.

Michael overturned his plans to retire from organising the event in 2000 and reinvented it with the help of his daughter, Emily.

2000s - It's a father and daughter team

The Pyramid Stage saw the return of music legend David Bowie to kick off the millennium edition of Glastonbury.

Three years later Michael and Emily hosted what has been widely hailed ‘the best yet’ with tickets for the 2003 festival selling out in less than 24 hours.

As well as the scorching heat and star-studded line up, more than £1 million was paid to local charities.

Since then memories have been made at Glastonbury by people of all ages and backgrounds.

The Eavis’ are asking people not to visit Worthy Farm as the coronavirus pandemic continues, but it is guaranteed that the ‘welcome back’ in 2021 will be worth the wait.