Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset (c) Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn

Britain from the Air - Glastonbury Festival

From humble beginnings in a farmer’s field to the world’s biggest open air music festival

Spreading over 900 acres of picturesque Somerset farmland, the Glastonbury festival is the world's biggest open-air music and arts festival. The first Glastonbury was held in 1970 after farmer Michael Eavis, inspired by a local blues festival, decided to host a similar event on his farm.

Marc Bolan was among the musicians who performed to a crowd of 1,500. They paid £1 to get in which included free milk from the farm. In 2015 tickets cost £225 with 150,000 sold out in 25 minutes

The festival became an annual event in 1981 but every five years organisers ensure there is a ‘fallow year’ to allow the fields to recover and give the local people a break. The festival is worth £100 million to the national economy and each year donates over £1 million to charities and local causes.

Going green

Keeping Glastonbury ‘green’ is a challenge. Glastonbury uses 30 megawatts of electricity over the weekend, which is about as much as the city of Bath. To make up for this huge energy use, there has been a wind turbine on the site since 1994, and solar panels provide a quarter of the electricity needed for the phone recharging sites. A local school supplies organic vegetarian food and many of the 800 stalls demonstrate sustainability through using only local organic materials.

Local myths and legends

Although Glastonbury is now known as a rock festival, it was first associated with the hippy generation who came to tune in and drop out. It is no accident that the festival is held in the Vale of Avalon, where according to legend, King Arthur was buried. Ley lines are believed to abound here, making it a magnet for New Agers. 

Glastonbury's most famous landmark is the Tor on the summit of which is a ruined 14th century church tower. The Tor is a totem for local myths and legends. Depending on your point of view, it could be a Druid initiation centre, an Arthurian hill-fort, a magnetic power-point, crossroads of leys, a centre for fertility rituals and celebrations, and a meeting point for UFOs.

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Location: Glastonbury Festival, Pilton, Somerset, BA4 4BY
Grid reference: ST 59093 39760

Britain from the Air - Glastonbury Festival credits

Thank you to -

Adrian Warren and Dae Sasitorn for aerial photography

Text researched and written by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

The first festival was held the day after Jimi Hendrix died in September 1970.