The 2000 Glastonbury Festival kicks off this Friday. For those of you wisely choosing to stay at home in order to avoid the poor sanitation, theft, trenchfoot, drugs cut with scouring powder, and the sight of horrible fiftysomething hippies having sex while a couple of freaks stick flowers up their rectums, and a spaced-out teenager masturbates furiously before the entire debauched ensemble, you can watch Travis, Chemical Brothers, David Bowie and the rest on BBC2. But if even that sounds too awful; here are 16 things you genuinely didn’t know about the Glastonbury Festival…

  1. Glastonbury is an area steeped in mystery, visited for centuries by spiritual pilgrims, and guys with goatee beards, and crystals round their necks. Overlooking the town is Glastonbury Tor, a conical hill topped off by a mysterious stone tower. Legend has it that the hill is man-made, and contains a network of tunnels. It also features in Arthurian legend as a possible resting place for King Arthur and the Holy Grail (a sort of magic cup that Jesus may have been sick in).
  2. Bearded farm dude Michael Eavis held the first Glastonbury Festival – then known as the Pilton Festival – on his farm in September 1970. Rather than some cool hippy sensibility, Eavis’s motivation was purely monetary; he wanted to pay off the sizeable mortgage on his property. Unfortunately, the cost of staging the festival merely compounded the farmer’s financial woes, inflating the size of his overdraft like a seal sucking on a helium hose.
  3. Establishing a Glastonbury tradition that still continues to this day, Eavis was inspired to stage the festival by his own visit to the Bath Blues Festival the previous year: the cash-starved Eavis broke into the festival by climbing though a hedge. It is unrecorded whether Eavis later did a poo in the hedge.
  4. The original headliners of the first Glastonbury Festival were The Kinks. However, they pulled out at the last minute, and a hasty replacement was found in the shape of T Rex. The immortal Marc Bolan (that’s “metaphorically immortal”: he’s actually dead) arrived at the festival in a velvet-covered Buick.
  5. Other acts who performed at the first festival included Quintessence, Amazing Blondel, Steamhammer, Duster Bennett, and Keith Christmas. Don’t worry; we haven’t heard of any of them either.
  6. The event was attended by some 2,000 hippies, who enjoyed the benefits of free milk – courtesy of the organiser’s farm – as well as a reportedly delicious roast ox.
  7. A chapter of Hell’s Angels had been hired to provide security for the festival. Unfortunately, the security guards got drunk, stole the ox, and set fire to a hay wagon. Hell’s Angels are excellent!
  8. The following year, Eavis staged the “Glastonbury Fair”, a free event at which the centrepiece was a “psychic pyramid”, one tenth the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and constructed over a “blind spring” – a conduit for the release and absorption of ley energy. The concept behind the fair was that of hippy intellectual Andrew Kerr, who said at the time: “We're going to concentrate the celestial fire and pump it into the planet to stimulate growth.” Yes, we understand.
  9. The line-up of bands for the fair was considerably more impressive than that of the previous year’s event; David Bowie, Traffic, um, Hawkwind, ah… Fairport Convention, er, Brinsley Schwartz, and Quintessence. Again.
  10. Though Eavis described the event as “very pretty and romantic”, Somerset’s top doctor likened it to a refugee camp, while The Observer called it “one of the weirdest events ever staged in modern Britain”. The tabloid press reacted with outrage to reports of naked hippies, mud-baked orgies, vandalism and drug abuse – one report claming that aspirin dyed with beetroot juice was being sold at the festival as LSD. The negative press over the event, encouraged Eavis to stick to dairy farming for the next eight years.
  11. The return of the Glastonbury Festival in 1979 was marked by a set-list that included Peter Gabriel, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and Jimi Hendrix’s sister, Nona. However, like the original event, it was a financial disaster for Eavis, and another festival wasn’t held until 1981.
  12. The 1981 festival was a charity event, with proceeds going towards the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmarment. A permanent pyramid stage was built for the festival, and was used between festivals as a cow shed. Famously, it burnt down in suspicious circumstances in 1994 – just weeks before that year’s festival.
  13. The average attendance of the early 80s festivals was about 30,000 people. By the early 90s, this had risen to more than 75,000 – many of whom took a cue from the event’s organiser, and snuck in without paying. And then watched OAPs having nude sex in the mud.
  14. The dawn of the acid house movement saw the festival cater for dance music fans for the first time, with the establishment in 1990 of a dedicated “rave tent”. A larger dance tent was erected in 1995, organised by hippy pioneer – and 1979 festival performer-turned-new-age-dance-guru – Steve Hillage. We bet he looked real cool in his smiley face, Global Hypercolor t-shirt.
  15. Legendary Glastonbury performances of recent times have included Pulp’s triumphant 1995 set – filling a gap vacated by The Stone Roses – and Radiohead’s 1997 headlining set, promoting their OK Computer album. The band triumphed in spite of technical problems, and extreme weather that had transformed the festival site into a mudbath.
  16. During Radiohead’s performance, several members of the audience done a blow-off!


The Glastonbury Festival runs from Friday 24th June, to Sunday 26th.

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