When I set out on this crazy hippy trip 44 years ago, little did I know how this roller coaster would run. But now I have to pinch myself every morning when I wake up to the excitement of another day – heading up a team of the most creative artists anywhere in the world. The V&A is an inspirational space and feels like the natural ‘home’ for our ever-evolving archive so we can really show everyone, not just festival-goers, what we really do.
In 2014 the V&A became home to the Glastonbury Festival Archive. This is a growing collection of materials tracing the cultural importance of the festival and safeguarding it for posterity. The V&A is collaborating with the Glastonbury Festival to archive the past, collect the present and work together on ways of documenting future festivals.
Since 2014 the V&A’s National Collection of the Performing Arts has been active at the festival, collecting and documenting one of the biggest cultural phenomena of our times. Glastonbury: Land and Legend showcases footage, never seen before in the UK, which was captured at the festival by the V&A in 2014.
In 2016 we asked festival-goers to record and map their memories, helping the Museum build an archive of memories rooted in a moment in time and place that connects the festival’s past with its present and its future. These are interwoven into the display and visitors are also invited to contribute their memories and become part of the story.
The Glastonbury Festival Archive
The festival presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Museum to consider ways to collect and capture a living performance archive. The biggest challenges for V&A archivists are the scale and the ephemerality of what is one of the biggest annual events worldwide. Each area of the festival site has a dedicated team, who work together to transform Michael Eavis’ dairy farm into a Festival wonderland for a brief but glorious few days. Establishing contacts across the Glastonbury Festival team and with the area organisers was the first step towards acquiring relevant material, which sheds light on the working processes behind one of the greatest shows on earth. We are now gradually transferring these materials to the V&A.
The archive continues to expand year on year and contains posters, designs, maps, ephemera and film, as well as the Crispin Aubrey Collection. The latter contains correspondence, press cuttings, press releases, programmes, posters and other documents regarding the organising, publicising, running and recording of Glastonbury Festival. It also includes material relating to the writing and publication of Glastonbury: An Oral History of the Music, Mud & Magic by Crispin Aubrey and John Shearlaw.
The V&A will continue to capture the essence of each Glastonbury Festival and safeguard it for posterity. The ever-expanding collection reflects how no two visits to Glastonbury are the same and how each festival-goer becomes part of the creative tapestry of the festival, taking away a kaleidoscope of impressions and experiences, intimate and spectacular.