Since 1970 the Glastonbury Festival has been the scene of some of the most important musical events in history.
In the valley where the Worthy Farm is located, events have occurred such as the shaking of the Tor, that nearby hill crowned by an old roofless tower, where the songs that accompanied Dolly Parton and Paul McCartney in 2014 shook the Earth. Also there, Pulp premiered his single Sorted For E’s And Whizz, when it was a surprise headliner in 1995. David Bowie returned 29 years after headlining the festival’s second edition. In 2015 Pussy Riot invaded the Park Stage with a tank, and it was here that Arctic Monkeys made their triumphant rise as a massive band.
The pandemic, however, ended up canceling the 2020 and 2021 editions, so this year will be the time when the most important mass meeting in the United Kingdom will again receive some 200,000 people throughout its five days. Heading the bill, on the one hand, is veteran ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, who has just turned 80, and on the other, Billie Eilish, who at 20 is the youngest starter in the history of the meeting.
For music fans, Glastonbury is the crown jewel of the British summer. It is heir to the hippie ethic of the early 70s, and this year, moreover, it will belatedly celebrate its 50th anniversary. “It feels like its own world,” says Eilish in the documentary Glastonbury: 50 years and counting…, from BBC Two, produced to commemorate the event.
The documentary covers the history of the festival as a cultural reference. From its hippie roots in the early 1970s to the embrace of indie rock and travel culture in the 1980s, its role in bringing rave and Britpop together is also addressed, as well as its current reflection in the free inclusion of tribes during the age of streaming.
For more than 50 years, Glastonbury has witnessed how music has been no stranger to climate, political and social issues, taking unexpected directions. The 1997 festival is especially remembered for its bad weather and the impending New Labor turbothatcherism that encapsulated Radiohead’s headlines. In 2008, the festival broke new ground when Jay-Z took to the Pyramid stage with an acoustic guitar and sang a snippet of wonder wall to prove to Noel Gallagher that his old-fashioned beliefs about rapping weren’t a problem for the meeting.
So the return of the gathering is not just news of a mega music festival, 200,000 people will head out to the south west of the UK today, which will determine how mass activities are celebrated in a world that has suffered from a long health contingency. Only one thing stands in the way of the massive pilgrimage: the historic strike of train workers that threatens to paralyze transport in that country.
Given the cancellation of more than half of the trains that would provide service during the festival, the organizers indicated the available transportation alternatives. In a publication placed on the festival website, links are provided to arrive by motorcycle or bicycle, share cars or use a bus line, among several others.
Once at the farm, attendees can set up their tents to enjoy five days of music. Among the acts that stand out are those of the Californian rapper Kendrick Lamar, who will close the festival, after the participation of the New Zealand singer Lorde on the main stage, the same place where the disco diva Diana Ross and the king of jazz Herbie Hancock will perform earlier.
Ukrainian musicians will perform to promote a message of peace, such as the folk quartet Dakha Brakha and Jamala, winner of Eurovision 2016. Glastonbury also has an ecological commitment that has led it to go on hiatus approximately every five years, with the intention of giving a break to the valley in which it is celebrated, as well as to the neighbors. In this edition, the organizers have asked attendees to opt for reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic ones.
Most of this year’s tickets, already sold out, were assigned to those who had tickets for the editions that were canceled. Glastonbury takes place from today until June 26.