Online conference – Glastonbury @ 50: Origins, Evolution and Impact

June 24, 2021
Glastonbury Festival. © Barry Lewis

As part of the Glastonbury Weekender (25 – 27 June, 2021), we held a one-day conference exploring the impact and legacy of Glastonbury Festival. First launched in 1970, tickets to the first Glastonbury were £1 – including free milk from the farm! Today, Glastonbury attracts over 200,000 festival-goers each year, and has grown into the world’s largest Green Fields event. But Glastonbury is more than the world’s greatest music festival, it is a space that encourages freedom, creativity, belonging and expression, inviting people to come together and participate in a mass experience unlike any other.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on live performance and festival culture. This conference is a unique opportunity to reflect and consider the value and importance of Glastonbury and wider festival culture, and discuss why festivals must return stronger than ever post-pandemic.

All talks and presentations are pre-recorded and made available to conference participants at the times outlined below. Both morning and afternoon sessions include a live Q&A featuring speakers from each session.

Morning session

Featuring leading academics from across disciplines including Communication and Media studies, Scenography and Design, and Arts Management.

Welcome and introduction

Welcome by Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A and introduction by Kate Bailey, Senior Curator of Theatre and Performance, V&A.

The Presentations

The Value & Future of Festivals: Glastonbury Festival…the next 50 years?
Dr Beatriz Garcia, Associate Director at the Centre for Cultural Value and Senior Research Fellow in Cultural Policy & Media Events at University of Liverpool, will begin the day with a keynote talk examining what the future holds for festivals as we emerge from the global pandemic.

Brand Glastonbury: Contradictions and Continuities
Dr Chris Anderton, Associate Professor at Solent University, will trace the evolution of Glastonbury’s brand, from its genesis in the 1970s, through its CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) association, to its worldwide presence on BBC television and beyond.

The Landscape Imaginary
Dr Greer Crawley from Royal Holloway, University of London’s Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance, will consider the festival in British identity and history, reflecting on the scenography and landscape imaginary of Glastonbury.

In Conversation: Creativity and Festivals
Dr Roxy Robinson, Creative Director of From the Fields and author of Music Festivals and the Politics of Participation, discusses the role of creativity in festivals, the growth of the festival economy, and the influence of Glastonbury in conversation with BBC Radio 6 Music’s Chris Hawkins.


Join our morning speakers for a live Q&A session, chaired by Elaine Tierney from the V&A Research Institute.

Afternoon session

Featuring a visual tour through Glastonbury’s history led by five photographers who have documented every decade of the Festival, and exclusive interviews with the creative communities that make Glastonbury happen.

Photography Panel: Photographing Glastonbury across five decades

Dr Duncan Forbes, Head of the Photography Centre at the V&A, talks to five photographers who have captured the Festival through every era. Sheila Burnett, John Novis, Matt Cardy, Venetia Dearden and Emma Stoner discuss their favourite Glastonbury images, reveal what it’s like photographing the Festival, and explore the changing attitudes towards Festival photography over time.

A Creative Community: interviews with Glastonbury co-creators

A series of exclusive interviews take you behind-the-scenes and back to the origins of the Festival. Find out what makes Glastonbury unique to those who make the Festival happen as we discuss the ethos, impact and future of Glastonbury.

We speak to Liz Eliot, Founder of the Green Fields; Bob Wilson, Head of Events for Greenpeace; Tony Cordy, Founder of the Kidzfield; Joe Rush, Founder of the Mutoid Waste Company; Luke Piper, Coordinator for Avalon, The Glade and The Wood; and Pip Rush, Co-founder and Creative Director of Arcadia.


Join our afternoon speakers for a live Q&A session chaired by Kate Bailey, with closing remarks by Joanna Norman, Director of the V&A Research Institute, National Art Library (NAL) and Archives.

Find out more

This event was part of the Glastonbury Weekender (25 – 27 June, 2021), which explores the legacy and impact of the Festival with a dynamic programme of free events responding to the Festival archive.

Find out more about the V&A’s Glastonbury Festival Archive

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