From planning rows to a blazing inferno - the history of Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage
When you picture Glastonbury Festival, it is likely the first thing that comes to mind is the Pyramid Stage.
Standing at almost 100ft tall, the imposing structure is synonymous with the Somerset festival having been at the event for almost its entire 50-year run.
The first iteration of the Pyramid was built in 1971, on the second year of the festival which was then known as “Glastonbury Fayre".
The festival was held at the same time as the summer solstice, with the Pyramid Stage sitting on the same ley line as Stonehenge and Glastonbury Abbey.
Since then hundreds of thousands of people have stood in huge crowds at the Pyramid to watch icons like David Bowie and Dolly Parton perform, with huge names such as Jay Z, Beyonce, Stormzy, Adele and Ed Sheeran wowing festival-goers.
But it has not been an easy journey for the stage to become what it is today. Glastonbury Festival’s founder Michael Eavis faced fierce opposition from planning officers when trying to build a permanent stage - and a fire in the 1990s later destroyed it entirely.
When was the first Pyramid Stage built at Glastonbury Festival?
The first Pyramid Stage was built out of scaffolding, metal and plastic sheeting in 1971.
It was created by theatre designer Bill Harkin, with the pyramid shape chosen due to its ‘powerful’ structure projecting energy upwards while drawing down energy from the stars and sun.
The second iteration of the Pyramid Stage was then constructed a decade later, in 1981.
Michael Eavis set out to build a stage which would double up as a cow shed when the festival wasn’t on.
“You don’t need planning permission for a farm building,” he told ITV News at the time. “We’re going to use it for cows in the winter.”
But Mendip District Council told him to build a fire wall through the centre of the stage, meaning he could no longer avoid securing planning permission.
“Cows underneath the stage was the plan,” he said. “But I think it is going to be a problem… because Mendip have made us build a fire wall all the way across to prevent any spread of flame.”
Planning permission was eventually granted - but only after 20,000 people attended the festival.
When did the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival burn to the ground?
Just days before the festival gates were due to open in 1994, the Pyramid Stage was reduced to rubble in a huge fire.
It was the first year the event was due to be televised, with Channel 4 having bought the rights, but a make-shift stage had to be built at the last minute.
Micahel Eavis described it as an “inferno” of fire, telling ITV News “the whole thing was ablaze”.
He said: “There was 50ft high of pure flame and there was a plume of smoke high into the sky - it was horrendous.”
The stage rose from the ashes in 2000 with designs based on the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
Pilton villager Bill Burroughs constructed a Pyramid Stage four times the size of the original - sitting at 30 metres high.
It uses four kilometres of steel tubing and weighs over 40 tonnes.