Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Glastonbury Festival

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is one of the best known music and contemporary performing arts festivals in the world. It takes place over a period of three or four days in June on the site of Worthy Farm. It is located in the county Somerset, in the south-west of England, between the villages of Pilton and Pylle. It is thus not situated in Glastonbury itself but 7 miles from this little picturesque town, characterized by her Tor, Abbey, market and shops. The site extends over 900 hectares in the Vale of Avalon, an area full of mythological and religious traditions from centuries ago. Each year, thousands of musicians, dancers, comedians and other artists entertain some 150 000 festival-goers.

Noticeable are the facts that the Glastonbury Festival tends to encourage young people in all sorts of arts, and that it has an environmental and humanitarian side. In fact, many volunteers work each year for the Festival, representing associations such as the campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, WaterAid, Greenpeace or Oxfam. That is why the profit made is distributed to these good causes. Furthermore, the Glastonbury Festival is a good example of green behaviour since recycling, solar energy and other green material are the key words during the three or four days of the Festival.

The first edition took place in September 1970, strongly influenced by the hippie culture and free festival movement. This Festival was called ‘Pilton Festival’. The founder, Michael Eavis, thought of this cultural event after having gone to an open air Blues festival the same year. The first edition was not as successful as it is now and gathered some 15,000 people.

A year later, in 1971, the Festival was held in June for the first time and called “Glastonbury Fair”. The entrance was totally free as the Festival was against the principle of over commercialization. The Festival also took a new turn, mixing medieval themes with different artists’ shows. The first pyramid stage was built, made of scaffoldings and plastic sheeting whereas famous musicians such as David Bowie or Traffic offered musical performances.

In 1981 the Festival got its official name “Glastonbury Festival” and in 1995, the 25th anniversary of the Festival was celebrated, providing unforgettable performances from famous artists (Jeff Buckley, Oasis, The Cure,…). Since then, it has developed, consisting of numerous stages and divided into distinct areas with their own specific atmosphere and attractions. The whole site is centred around the main stage: ‘The Pyramid’ where the headliners perform. Besides, the three main areas are ‘Dance Village’, ‘The Green Fields’, ‘The Circus and Theatre’ and ‘The Park’. Different camping sites are situated within those areas to enable people to stay in their favourite village for the night. Tipis are also made available, furnished with groundsheets and raincatchers. Also, the Festival has not been spared by the weather and has often had to cope with heavy rain, floods and thunderstorms, leading to serious damage, and affecting camping sites.

The Festival takes a “fallow year” every five years for the area and the organizers to rest. There will be no Festival in 2012, but you can already register for the 2013 edition!

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