Unprecedented levels of security are in place at Glastonbury today as the three-day music festival begins with a record number of ticketholders and what is widely regarded as the event's best line-up.
Organisers sold the 112,000 tickets (priced at £105 each) in less than 18 hours and 35,000 expectant festival-goers had already staked out their positions on the campsites by Wednesday night, 36 hours before the music was due to start.
Crispin Aubrey, a festival spokesman, said: "Because everybody bought their tickets way back when, they have planned it much more. They have come early and they are making a week of it."
REM, Radiohead and the Manic Street Preachers are headlining the three nights of music. Organisers were making light of forecasts of showers yesterday, saying they would "dampen the dust" rather than cause a mud bath. The festival nearly did not happen this year, because it briefly had its licence refused after complaints from local councillors and residents about antisocial behaviour.
Yesterday, in the neighbouring village of Pilton (population 990), the streets were being monitored by 160 police officers and more than 100 private security guards employed by the festival's organisers.
Inside the site, there was a uniformed police presence in the camping areas and CCTV cameras were trained on the entrance gates. Such security measures would have been anathema to the hippies who attended the festival earlier in its 33-year existence. In a statement of reassurance to festival-goers, Avon and Somerset police said: "You will see police officers in the camping fields this year. They are not there to spoil your fun but to help safeguard you and your property."
By yesterday morning, police had made 17 arrests for offences including possession of drugs, carrying a knife and ticket-touting.
The improved security at the perimeter fence last year helped greatly to reduce crime levels. Mr Aubrey said prob-lems of vandalism and theft in Pilton last year were caused by people who did not have tickets. For weeks, the organisers have been pleading for those without tickets to stay away.
Although the capacity of the event has increased from 105,000 to 112,000 this year, the organisers believe the site of more than 800 acres could still hold at least 10,000 more people because the numbers are no longer swelled by gatecrashers.
Mr Aubrey said: "Since the fence was built it has been realised that it's possible to accommodate more people. The organisers' worries have been that with the licensing restrictions and the limit on numbers it would become a bit tame. If it doesn't have a wild side it's not Glastonbury." The wildness will be tempered, though, by improved lavatories, mobile telephone charging points, banking facilities and more respect for law and order.
Cost of a ticket: £105 for three days of music
Attendance: 112,000 festival-goers as well as 28,000 musicians and other performers, stall-holders and festival workers
Impact on the economy: £35m
Raised for charity: £1m
Police numbers: 750 uniformed and support staff
Bands: 297Reuse content