Arts: Keep off the Grass: Glastonbury at 28

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The Independent Culture
TIME WAS when entry into the Glastonbury festival cost pounds 1 and earned you a pint of farm milk. The first festival, in 1970, featured the then unknown Marc Bolan performing on a stage anchored by a couple of trees. Somerset dairy farmer Michael Eavis set up the event in direct competition with the Isle of Wight and the Bath Blues festivals, both of which he felt to be unwholesomely commercial.

The following year's festival, shrewdly timed to coincide with the summer solstice, saw Eavis upping the music stakes with Hawkwind, Fairport Convention and David Bowie on the bill. Imitators were already popping up over the UK, from Pink Floyd's 15,000-strong jamboree at the Crystal Palace and the Reading festival to the prestigious Weeley Festival of Progressive Rock.

T in the Park, Phoenix and Branson's ultra-efficient Virgin-fests gathered pace in the mid-Nineties. Meanwhile, Glastonbury started to get out of control - 1995's event saw a shooting and destruction of the perimeter fence.

So far this year, demand for festivals has slumped. Universe was postponed, rescheduled and then postponed again. Pride is on the verge of being cancelled and Phoenix is not going ahead due to poor ticket sales. Even Glastonbury, the grandaddy of them all, didn't sell out.

Fiona Sturges

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