Glastonbury is not just an event, it’s a whole cultural experience. Unlike Coachella, the UK’s Glastonbury Festival has become one of the most known and culturally significant music festivals in the world for one simple reason: it genuinely puts its audience first.
Obviously, Glastonbury has grown into something much bigger than a meet-up of about 1,500 people. Even though its attendance has gone up times a hundred, with over 200,000 visitors in the past few years, the principle remains the same – Glastonbury is for the people.
When it was first created back in 1970 by Michael Evis, who was inspired to create his own festival after attending Bath & West Showground, Glastonbury (which was only named Glastonbury Festival in the 90s) was held on Somerset’s Worthy Farm. It hosted about 1,500 attendees, who paid £1 for a ticket and received free milk from the farm, fitting with Evis’ goal of the non-commercialisation of music events and festivals.
Without even talking about the music, Glastonbury’s commitments to the community at large speaks louder than the bass blasting from its many speakers. On the grounds, you can find market places that sell homemade goods, from food to clothing, supporting local artisans. Glastonbury Festival also supports organisations like Greenpeace and Oxfam, following its political manifesto pushing for social change.
The festival also has a dedicated area, known as the “green area”, for complete freedom of expression, alternative forms of medicine, a showcase of environmentally-conscious techniques and technologies, debating social and moral issues… Basically anything goes in the “green area”, as long as it comes from a place of acceptance.
While most people expect festival goers to be some kind of hippie tripping out on whatever substance available to them – and sure there are a few of those – what makes Glastonbury so special is that it isn’t dedicated to just one type of person. From your classic hippies to your rebellious punks, all sorts of people attend and co-exist in a bubble of reality for just a few days out of the year, every year.
That’s why high-profile attendees like Kate Moss and Alexa Chung can roam around freely in their wellies like everyday people. Glastonbury is the place where identity beyond the realm of music and culture is looked past, resulting in an enjoyment of the experience that is the festival.
That’s also why Glastonbury isn’t put on blast on social media like Coachella is. The way Glastonbury is experienced is most of the time without your phone. Sure, that might have been truer pre the iPhone, but past the live musical experiences, Glasto fits aren’t quite the social phenomenon that Coachella fit pics are – and considering what we saw this year at the Californian festival, we’re glad.
And obviously, the music is everything at Glastonbury. A hotspot for some of the most culturally significant artists to play at, the festival has been host to David Bowie making his return after 29 years in 2000, Paul McCartney as the first Beattle to perform in 2004, Jay-Z famously performing Oasis’ “Wonderwall” in 2008, the Banksy-bulletproof vest-wearing Stormzy in 2019, and this year’s Lana Del Rey. Since its creation 5 decades ago, Glastonbury has evolved to be a place for all kinds of music enthusiasts. From rock to pop, jazz to funk, punk to indie.
But it’s not just music that Glastonbury celebrates. A hub for creativity, the festival also hosts different types of art, like poetry, theatre, light shows, comedy circus… Essentially, there’s a place for everyone – as long as you manage to secure your tickets.
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