Around now, Castle Cary station should be a sea of rucksacks, glitter and wellington boots, the narrow country lanes of Somerset clogged up with campervans, all heading to the Glastonbury Festival, held at Worthy Farm in the village of Pilton.
The first festival attracted 1,500 people, T. Rex headlined and the attendees were given free milk by Michael Eavis, farmer and festival organiser. The festival in 2019 attracted 135,000 and was headlined by Stormzy, with Miley Cyrus, Kylie Minogue and Fatboy Slim also performing. It’s the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world.
As Michael Eavis said in 2014: “When I set out on this crazy, hippy trip, little did I know that 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.”
Glastonbury has taken place in blazing sunshine and quagmires. It has survived riots and a growing celebrity following; This year Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift were due to headline, alongside Kendrick Lamar and Diana Ross, until – on March 28 – the festival was cancelled in response to COVID-19.
The B.B.C. has a long-running relationship with Glastonbury, usually devoting round-the-clock broadcasts at the festival; last year there were 37.5 million views of its festival coverage. This year, with no live performances, the corporation will be digging into its archives to bring performances from David Bowie, Adele, Beyonce, the Rolling Stones and Billie Ellish, both screened and available from its Iplayer app.
Iplayer is restricted to the U.K. only, but B.B.C.’s audio player, BBC Sounds is available around the world and also has archive performances, including Blur headlining in 2009 and Glastonbury stalwarts Coldplay in 2016 and Ed Sheeran in 2017.
For many who attend Glastonbury, it’s the events away from the main Pyramid stage that are as memorable; each year there are nearly 3,000 performances across the festival site, including Green and Healing Fields, as well as the carnivalesque Block9, The Unfairground, Shangri-La and Family Field.
Drinking deeply on the Glastonbury vibe, the V&A, Britain’s leading decorative arts museum, is tapping into this collective experience with a seven day celebration. Holder of the Glastonbury archive, complete with festival ephemera including posters, t-shirts and performer’s clothing, the museum also is asking members of the public to contribute their recollections – however hazy – by emailing email@example.com. The Memories Project aims to become a digital archive.
There will also be the chance to hear a specially-commissioned soundscape from Gareth Fry recorded during the 2015 festival and museum staff have created a playlist on Spotify of their favourite performances.
Kate Bailey, V&A Curator of Theatre Design and Scenography says: “Glastonbury Festival is a crucible for ideas and creativity. The Glastonbury Festival archive is an extremely important growing collection for the V&A. This diverse archive reveals how the festival has developed exponentially over the past 50 years to become the global cultural phenomenon it is today.”