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Glastonbury 1999 Wednesday, 23 June, 1999, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Three decades of Glastonbury
glasto
Early days: 12,500 people came to Pilton in 1971
There are thousands of people in the UK who live for their weekend at Glastonbury. 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 1999
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

eavis
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.

Camping out in the early days
But shaken by the effects the festival had on his cattle, and disturbed by the organisers' attitude to the locals - "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 - he decided never to hold another one.

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

The Glastonbury spirit, 1971-style
Now it accommodates 100,000 people - plus the thousands who still craftily climb over the fence to get in for free, although organisers insist it is getting harder and harder to sneak into the site.

It now raises funds for Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid, as well as local causes in the Pilton area.

But it has not always been easy for Eavis. 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.

mudvath at glasto
Mudbaths in 1997 and 1998 led to heavy criticism
Now, much of the local community has been won over, with the festival providing much-needed employment each year.

The festival now attracts high-profile bands each year. Recent festivals have seen performances by the Velvet Underground, Oasis, the Prodigy, Van Morrison, Blur, Pulp and Simple Minds. It has also played host to the Manic Street Preachers and The Verve in their early days - plus a wide variety of jazz, folk and dance acts. Other unforgettable Glastonbury performances have come from Rolf Harris and Tony Bennett.

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.

But even if Glastonbury was muddy every year, thousands would still flock there to get away from their everyday lives - and maybe hear some great music too.

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