Today marks the anniversary of the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, first held on this day in 1970 on Michael Eavis’s family farm in Pilton, Somerset.
Along with the utopian idealism of the time came an invention of the “free” music festival, a social movement based on collaboration and responsibility for one’s own expectations. Admission to these festivals was free with the idea that concert-goers would be concert-participants, helping out in some way by working, bringing equipment and/or amenities, and contributing to any number of big chores made smaller by a collective.
Eavis, a former naval officer and dairy farmer, was inspired by hippie sightings around the town (an area that has historically attracted bohemians with its “mystical vibes” since the medieval construction of a monk’s hermitage at Glastonbury Tor), his own personal Methodist ideologies, and a particularly impressive Led Zeppelin outdoor performance.
Eavis got together with friends to invest in the stage and managed to bill The Kinks as headliner, who ended up being replaced at the last minute by Tyrannosaurus Rex—both Insomnia favorites. Tickets were a nominal £1, and it was such a success that they tried a free festival the next year. Official attendance jumped from 1,500 to 12,000—an apparently less manageable volume. Prices and sales have been climbing ever since. While it’s no longer free or cheap, it’s still organized by the Eavis family who divide the profits for local and worldwide charities, and it’s still held at their aptly named Worthy Farm.
Here’s Eavis himself talking about the beginnings of the fest and his mindset at the time, along with some great (possibly NSFW at times) footage: