On 27 May 2015 the V&A’s installation on the Glastonbury Festival will open in the Jaroslav Fragner Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic. This will be the V&A’s contribution to the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, taking place between 18 and 28 June 2015.
The themes of this year’s Quadrennial are music, weather and politics; all three are, for different reasons, central to the Glastonbury experience. This is the first article of our new mini-series looking at each of those three themes. On Monday 3 November, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, Michael Eavis, was awarded the 23rd Music Industry Trusts Award, given every year to honour a leading figure in the UK music industry. It seems appropriate, then, to start with music.
The Early Years
The first festival took place in 1970, just one day after the death of Jimi Hendrix. It had a stellar line-up, boasting appearances from The Kinks, Al Stewart, Keith Christmas, T Rex and Stackridge. Tickets were £1 each – which included free milk from the Worthy Farm cows – and the festival was attended by around 2,000 people.
In the early years the festival had a bumpy ride, its existence threatened by new licensing laws, security breaches and reluctance from the local council. However, from 1979 onwards, and despite a few ongoing glitches, the festival became firmly established and has continued to grow ever since. In 1979 there were some 12,000 people; ten years later it was 60,000. This year, on October 5th, tickets for Glastonbury 2015 went on sale at 9am. Within a record 29 minutes, all 150,000 had sold out.
‘Just Rock Bands Playing in Fields’
As Noel Gallagher said, there is something about the festival that makes it more than ‘just rock bands playing in fields.’ What is it about Glastonbury that draws people back year after year? It is not only a festival with a tangible sense of its own history, from its mystical, hippie beginnings in the 1970s and its on-going association with myths, legends and leylines. It is a trailblazer of the ‘ethical’ festival, with its roots firmly in all things Green and its present-day ‘Love the Farm. Leave No Trace’ campaign. It also has a history of supporting many, ahem, Worthy causes. Puns aside, the festival proceeds go to Greenpeace, Oxfam, Wateraid and to the local community.
This strongly ethical, deeply historical ethos heightens the music experience, so much so that most bands charge a tenth of their normal fee. Performing at Glastonbury is a historic moment in any musician’s career, and many performers are thrilled by the sense of sharing the stage with a lineage of legendary bands. In 2000, David Bowie performed this sense of shared time and space by wearing the same style of flowing coat he had worn for his last performance in 1971.
Today, Glastonbury has become a British institution, with a community who are consciously united by their collective memories and experiences in the shared space of Worthy Farm. Year in and year out people await the headliner announcements with bated breath, and next year is no exception…
Rumours about the potential 2015 headliners are spreading like wildfire. Current bookies favourites include Morrissey, Prince, Iron Maiden, and Muse, among others; the guessing game continues… Headliners will be announced in Spring 2015.
The 2014 festival was attended by 135,000 lucky people – more than the population of Cambridge – and boasted three brilliant, and eclectic, headlining acts: Dolly Parton, Metallica and Arcade Fire.
In a white, rhinestone-studded trouser suit, the queen of country music, Dolly Parton, performed a rousing and crowd-pleasing set including classics such as Jolene, 9 to 5 and Coat of Many Colours:
Metallica performed on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night and became the first metal act to headline the festival since its inception in 1970. Highlights included One, Cyanide and an extended version of Master of Puppets. On Monday 3rd November, the drummer, Lars Ulrich, presented Michael Eavis with his Music Industry Trusts Award and played tribute to the festival and its founder, saying ‘I have played almost every single festival on this beautiful planet, and I can tell you that there’s no other experience like Glastonbury … both from a fan’s point of view and a musician’s point of view.’ You can read Lars’ speech in full on the Guardian website.
Vojtech Lindaur is one of the Czech Republic’s most colourful and prolific music journalists. In 1990, when the Iron Curtain was torn down, Lindaur was suddenly able to make the 1,712 kilometre journey from Prague to Glastonbury in order to attend the festival. To this day, he makes the annual pilgrimage to Worthy Farm. Why does he enjoy the festival so much? Lindaur says that what draws him back is ‘the spirit of Glastonbury, the spirit of common sharing and feeling.’ And now, Glastonbury will be making its own pilgrimage of sorts, with our exhibition heading to Prague to become part of the SharedSpace at PQ2015.
Unless otherwise stated, citations are from Crispin Aubrey and John Shearlaw’s ‘Glastonbury: An Oral History of the Music, Mud and Magic’. (London: Ebury Press, 2005)