The BBC’s second documentary about Glastonbury this year was another one which was very good, and it makes me wish they’d let people loose on the archive to discuss more than the usual ‘Coldplay and mud’ narrative of say, a Jo Whiley film would do. This one though was narrated by Dizzee Rascal and again gave a different perspective to a festival which essentially gentrified from 2000 to 2010.
2000 was the year where every single part of the site was rammed by Friday afternoon. By Saturday afternoon parts of the site were uncomfortably overcrowded, especially main paths to and from the Pyramid to the Other Stage. By Sunday it was genuinely dangerous in areas as by now there must have been 300-500k people onsite as the fence in large sections were down, plus you had all the day visitors from the local area. not to mention David Bowie attracted huge interest. As I’ve said on many a blog about this time, getting in the festival in these days was easy so a perfect storm created this situation and there’s no way Eavis could continue. Which meant after a fallow year the festival returned with the Superfence.
There was no getting over this fence, at least not in the numbers of past years which meant in 2002 the site went the opposite way to 2000 and the place was quiet in places. You could walk round the site easily with no traffic jams. In fact it was a wee bit too empty. 2003 saw an increase in numbers as Eavis was finding his feet in this new era where the festival wasn’t quite gentrified but that was the path the festival was on. This was both good and bad in that crime decreased along with the crushes but part of the sould of the festival went with it. True, some of it has returned and is present in many of the areas but Babylon (the main stage area) is mainly for the folk now who pitch up for the weekend and never venture further than that.
Which isn’t to say there’s not great acts on the Pyramid Stage I’ve seen acts ranging from Leonard Cohen to Stevie Wonder to errr, Rolf Harris there.
By 2010 the festival had changed. A dry sunny year washed away the memories of a number of wet years, especially 2005 where Michael Eavis contemplated cancelling the festival due to the enormous amount of rain dropped on the site on the Friday morning.
Once we hit the 2010s the festival had settled down to a pattern which was one of slow expansion as Eavis would rent out neighbouring farms to expand the site, so what was once a gate in say, 2008, was part of a new camping area by 2013. Simply put the site now is huge compared to 2000 and it is entirely possible to never make an area during a festival as it is now (I think) way too big however if it wasn’t so large in size the chances of getting in decrease, so lets take the trade off.
Where the festival goes from here depends very much on Michael and Emily Eavis. When Michael’s wife Jean died in 1999 the general feeling was that 2000 would be the last one, It wasn’t of course, but as Michael is 85 the thought of what happens when there is no Michael is one many folk have been having for years. The general feeling is that Emily takes over full control though the vultures have been circling round the festival since the 90s when RIchard Branson was trying to buy into it. My feeling is it remains with Emily and the team which has grown up over the years as stopping it or selling it off would be the wrong thing to do as so many people have worked to make it what it is now which is a crucial part of the British cultural calender.
Hopefully next year the festival returns. Hopefully I grab a ticket in resales in the spring but the world would be a poorer place without Glastonbury, and frankly, I’m done with watching the festival on TV. So hopefully see you all in a field in Somerset next June, pandemics permitting…