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A Brief History of Glastonbury Festival pt 3: The 90’s

A Brief History of Glastonbury Festival pt 3: The 90’s

Tom Tetlow
Glastonbury history from the 90's

Hello and welcome back!

As you may have noticed, it’s been a while since the part 2 of the history of Glastonbury was released, that’s my bad. As you can imagine and are well aware of, Glastonbury 2020 was cancelled and just like each and every one of you guys, it’s taken me a while to get over the heartache generated by the globe rocking news, however I’M BACK! It’s only fitting that I carry on your tour throughout the Glasto ages on the weekend the fest of all fests was set to kick off, the weathers banging, grab a bevvy, sit back and allow me the pleasure of walking you through one of the greatest musical decades of all time, the 90’s!

So here it is, the year is 1990 and there ain’t no global pandemic in sight. The Cure, Happy Mondays and Sinead O’Connor putting on rousing performances for the 70,000 strong attendees. Glasto has a new name to start the decade, it’s the first year that it was titled ‘Glastonbury Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts’. A fitting title that represents the diversity on show, however unfortunately it didn’t end with all good news for the 20th edition of the festival we all know and love as travellers clashed with on site security resulting in 235 arrests as the bloody hooligans attempted to loot the emptying festival site, accumulating in £50,000 worth of damage. Charity donations continued to rise to over £100,000 for the CND and multiple other charities.

1992 is the next run on Glastonbury’s ladder of history – Primal Scream headlining for yet again a 70k strong attendance, this year significantly saw a move away from the CND charity as the cold war had ended and Mr Eavis felt the concerns of a nuclear war evaporate, this year saw the £250k, yes 250k, donation shared between Oxfam and Greenpeace for the very first time, charities that we’re very familiar with today. This year saw a true great appear as a surprise guest, the one and only Tom Jones as the festival also allied with National Music Day, an annual celebration of music held yearly in the UK on June 21st.

The festival continued to grow into what we have today, an increase in attendance to 80,000, advance only tickets still sold out by mid june and those lucky ticket holders witnessed Lenny Kravitz do his thing on the Pyramid Stage, lucky buggers. Ticket prices were now up to an eye watering £58…… again, lucky buggers. 

Now like everything in life, there’s not always positives and the 1994 event saw one of it’s darker days. The Pyramid stage burnt down in the early hours of the first morning but fortunately a replacement was provided by the company which brought the NME and Jazz stages, but that wasn’t the worst of it, a shooting occurred involving 5 people but fortunately nobody was seriously injured. It got worse though, the first death also occurred at this year’s installment as a young gentleman died of a drug overdose. Channel 4 televised the whole event this year which ultimately increased the appeal of Glastonbury to a wider audience and in brighter news, well over £300,00 was donated to multiple charities and this was the first year that the wind turbine we all know was installed providing a clean energy source for the main stage!

1997 was a truly British festival experience, nicknamed ‘Year of the Mud’ as you guessed it, an abhorrent amount of rain graced the festival all weekend but we all know that it didn’t stop the party, mud angels galore and nothing a good old bev jacket couldn’t sort out! Highlights from this year’s fest were ‘Dubhenge’ which was made up from upended VW Beetles and Campervans and the first Greenpeace field with a reconstructed rainbow warrior and solar heated showers. The site was expanded 800 acres and there was a daily newspaper published for the event. BBC 2 now broadcast the event and a plethora of charities once again benefited greatly from the money generated by the 90,000 legends partying in the rain. Jealousy of mine is now growing as I read the likes of The Prodigy, Radiohead and Massive Attack running riot over the stages.

The penultimate 90’s installment was once again a wash out, obviously. This didn’t stop the festival lovers which were now over 100,000 strong enjoying the newly expanded dance tent and over 1,000 different performances across 17 stages. Facilities improved and over £500,000 donated to charities following the event is seeing the festival grow into what we enjoy today. 

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Last up in my quick stop tour of the 90’s is of course, 1999. REM, Manic Street Preachers, Fatboy Slim and Blondie to name but a few had the pleasure of entertaining a 100,000 strong crowd. £150,000 was spent on downpour precautions this year following the classic British summers of yesteryear. This year saw the beginning of the Glastonbury website we all frequent to wrestle our way to the golden tickets. This year’s extravaganza also saw the widest range of entertainment on offer ever! Over 300 bands, all the theatre you could dream of and most importantly in my eyes (and belly) over 250 food stalls! Unfortunately, this year was overshadowed by the death of Michael Eavis’ wife Jean. A winged wicker was sculptured and ceremonially burned in Jeans honour to a background of fireworks in the moonlight sky, paying the deserved tribute to Jean Eavis. Glastonbury’s spirit truly shone through at this year’s event, beautiful.

So, there it is. The 90’s had plenty of ups and downs but continued to grow and whilst doing so, not forgetting it’s roots and why the event was created in the first place. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed my beer that I’ve been supping whilst typing this up.

Catch you next time when you hop back on board to travel through Glastonbury’s not so distant past where we relive the Noughties! In the meantime, enjoy all the top notch coverage of years gone by this weekend as Glastonbury attempts to fill the void until we can (hopefully) go wild once again at Glasto 2021!

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