Gatecrashers, drugs and a shooting - Glastonbury Festival's biggest controversies

  • Take a look at some of the biggest controversies at Glastonbury Festival


"Somebody has to take a stand against these very dirty, very unwashed people."

Those were the words of one Glastonbury resident in the 1970s as festival-goers travelled to Pilton for the annual gathering on the Eavis farm.

Glastonbury Festival is now famous around the world, having become the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival on the planet.

But while the past 50 years have seen some incredible highs on Worthy Farm, the festival has also brought with it its fair share of controversy.

From gate-crashers breaking into the festival site to drug dealing and security measures on site - these are some of Glastonbury Festival's most controversial moments from the past 50 years.

1983: The start of licensing restrictions

The introduction of the Local Government Act meant that in 1983 Glastonbury Festival had to have a licence to operate for the first time.

Mendip District Council issued a Public Entertainment Licence which set a crowd limit of 30,000 and went into considerable detail about access roads, water supply, hygiene and so on. 

But locals remained unhappy, complaining of crowds swarming local villages and cars blocking the road.

Among other complaints, residents in Pilton spoke about a "hippie invasion" as well as people's "unusual" appearances.

One nearby resident said the festival was "totally out of control" while another said he had people "invading" his land for five days.

He added: "I had 1,000 people breaking through fences, walls, damaging property, defecting all over the land."

After the festival, Michael Eavis was prosecuted for alleged licence breaches. He successfully defended the five prosecutions brought against him by Mendip District Council.

The following year, organisers paid £2,000 for the festival's licence with numbers set at 35,000.

1987: Glastonbury Festival organisers have licence application refused

After issues in previous years, 1987 saw Mendip District Council refuse to grant organisers a licence.

But Michael Eavis was undeterred, saying: "I'm going to appeal to the magistrates court and at the end of the day if we lose at the magistrates we go to the high court.

"If we lose there we do the festival anyway and pay the fine."

The refusal was overturned in court in May meaning the festival could go ahead lawfully the following month.

1989: Police move onto the Glastonbury Festival site

A makeshift police station was set up just off the site in 1989 Credit: ITV

The 1989 festival brought with it more complications with the local council over the granting of the festival's licence.

In a bid to ease concerns from locals, police were brought into the organisation and planning of the festival for the first time.

A makeshift police station was set up just a few miles away from the site, with a fresh crackdown launched on drug dealing.

Michael Eavis said: "There's probably 100 or so in the main avenues flogging the drugs, banding them about trying to sell them all the time - it's a real nuisance. But what we can do about it, I don't know."

Police started working with festival organisers in 1989

1994: The festival sees its first drugs death and a shooting in the crowd

On the Saturday night of the 1994 festival there was a shooting incident among the crowd.

A man shot indiscriminately at the crowd and three men and two women were taken to hospital in Bath. No-one was badly hurt and they all fully recovered.

This year also saw the festival's first death when a man was found dead from a drugs overdose.

2002: The £1million 'ring of steel' superfence goes up at Glastonbury Festival

The £1million fence was set up in 2002 in a bid to deter gatecrashers Credit: PA

After a huge influx of gatecrashes in 2000 before a fallow year in 2001, the festival's organisers announced they would be putting up a "ring of steel" fence to deter non ticket-holders from turning up on site.

While the £1million fence did the trick, ensuring the 140,000 festival-goers had plenty of space, it proved controversial for some who said it took away the spirit of Glastonbury.

Michael Eavis had previously said it never bothered him that people used to sneak in.

"In the '80s it was like Robin Hood with the rich paying to help the poor, who had crept in to see bands," he said.

"I think at one stage we had more who hadn't paid than had."

But in 2002, when the super fence went up for safety reasons, he said things had to change for good.

Eavis said: "For years, a lot of people have been getting into Glastonbury without tickets - over or under the fence, forgery, scams, whatever. This year things have to change for good."