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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 16:38 GMT
The Glastonbury legend
Glastonbury 1971
Early days: 12,500 people came to Pilton in 1971
For thousands of fans, cancelling the Glastonbury Festival is like cancelling Christmas.

More than a chance to get away from it all, more than a chance to see some great music - for many, it is a chance to live a different kind of life - even if it only lasts a few days.

Glastonbury's roots go back to the 1970 Bath Blues Festival. Among the crowds sucked into the psychedelic delights of the counter-culture was young farmer Michael Eavis and his wife, Jean.

Eleven years earlier, the 34-year-old had inherited 150 acres of countryside at the foot of Glastonbury Tor, at Pilton, Somerset from his father.

Velvet-covered car
Michael Eavis in 1971
Michael Eavis: Inspired by 1970's Bath Blues Festival

He had spent most of the 1960s getting the family dairy farm back into shape again, and while relaxing at Bath, he thought he could do something similar back at home, combining the pop festival culture with that of the more traditional fair and harvest festival.

He made a few phone calls, and on 19 September 1970 Marc Bolan drove up to the farm in his velvet-covered car, cockily warning Eavis not to touch it.

Later that night, 1,500 people saw T Rex play Worthy Farm, and the first Glastonbury Festival was born.

A second festival was held the following year - "funded by rich hippies", Eavis recalls - which attracted 12,500 people to see David Bowie.
Tents at  Glastonbury 1970
Camping out in the early days

But he was upset by the effects the festival had on his cattle, and disturbed by the organisers' attitude to the locals, and decided the festival just was not worth the hassle.

"There was a lot of LSD about, and people were freaking out, wandering into the village wearing only a top hat," he said in an interview.

But the 1971 festival was filmed by a team including a young David Puttnam, and as the decade wore on it became harder for Eavis to resist the pressure to have another one.

A small free event was held in 1978, and in 1979 12,000 people paid 7 for the first serious festival.

By 1981 it attracted 24,000 people and was a profit-making concern, raising money for CND.

Glastonbury goes professional
Glastonbury 1971
The Glastonbury spirit, 1971-style

Now it accommodates 100,000 people - plus the thousands more who got over the fence to get in for free, who Eavis blames for the cancellation of the 2001 festival.

During the 1980s, travellers were a persistent problem for him, causing him to ban them in 1990 after they rioted on the site, causing 50,000 worth of damage.

In 1986, 1987, and 1989 the local Mendip Council refused him a licence for the festival. But he took the authority to court, and won each time.

More recently the facilities at the festival have come in for heavy criticism - from the legendary toilets to the conditions onsite in 1997 and 1998, when Worthy Farm was turned into a mudbath after torrential rain.

Crime has also been a worry, with arrests up last year.

Despite the festival's current legal problems with the council, locals acknowledge it provides much-needed employment for local people each summer.

The festival now attracts high-profile acts each year. David Bowie headlined 2000's event, called the "best ever" by Michael Eavis. Other acts to play were Travis, Moby, Fatboy Slim and Macy Gray.

Mud in 1997
Mudbaths in 1997 and 1998 led to heavy criticism
Other unforgettable Glastonbury performances have come from Rolf Harris, Al Green, Burt Bacharach and Tony Bennett.

Eavis had thought about making 2000's festival the last, but he changed his mind following the death of his wife Jean a few weeks before the 1999 festival.

"It's a more important part of my life than it was before," he told BBC News Online at the time.

Now he will spend 2001 defending his beloved festival, making sure it survives another year, as well as looking after his cows.

He is also getting married, to local villager Liz Walker, who he met last year.

Meanwhile, thousands of music fans will be wondering just what to do with themselves during the final weekend of June.

No Glastonbury
Were they right to cancel it?
See also:

04 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Glastonbury 2001 cancelled
04 Jan 01 | Talking Point
Was it right to cancel Glastonbury?
21 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Glastonbury 'breached licence'
12 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Glastonbury faces prosecution
28 Jun 99 | Glastonbury 1999
Eavis' labour of love
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