Now Reading
A Brief History of Glastonbury Festival pt 2: The 80’s

A Brief History of Glastonbury Festival pt 2: The 80’s

Glastonbury in the 80's

Hello and welcome back!

This is slightly off the beaten track, however: today while sat minding my own business, aimlessly browsing the vasts depths of youtube, I came across a suggested video. ‘James Acaster, the affable man’, now, I know all too well you’re sitting there thinking, what on earth is this bloody idiot on about, I’m reading an article regarding the history of Glastonbury. Well, let me enlighten you, I was taken aback by the name of the video, particularly the word affable. What the hell is affable!? Let me connect the dots, affable has the dictionary meaning – ‘friendly, good-natured, or easy to talk to’. Now, if Carlsberg did festival goers, they’d very much be just that.

Now that I’ve had the absolute pleasure of expanding your vocabulary – don’t pretend you knew what affable meant – let’s hop back to the 80’s…

The second decade of Glastonbury

1981 to be exact. The newly-titled Glastonbury Festival saw acts such as New Order and Hawkwind grace the improved Pyramid Stage. This year was the first time the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was present at the festival, promoting peace amid the cloud of the Cold War. The festival was held at Worthy Farm to ensure the mid Somerset CND benefitted, as the previous venue wasn’t quite large enough.

It wasn’t all plain sailing ensuring that the festival went ahead in 1981. Eavis had to work harder than before, mainly to convince the CND that the festival could be a success after profitless efforts in the 70’s. Fortunately for all us revellers today, he played a blinder and the national CND came onboard. Unfortunately however, due to a lack of muscle, the CND logo wasn’t present at the festival as it was too heavy to lift! The CND wasn’t going to complain though, as the legendary Eavis was able to provide them with the generous sum of £20,000.

The next two Glasto Fests were what we would describe in Yorkshire as fookin’ mudbaths. Very much supported by both the CND (who controlled the gates) and information passed out by the now 30,000 people heading to extravaganza, the festival continued its growth with punters turning out to witness the likes of UB40, Van Morrison and Curtis Mayfield. ‘83 was the year that the government got its greasy paws on Glastonbury, with Mr Eavis having to gain a licence to hold the event, but on a lighter note, it was also the year that Glastonbury Festival had its own radio station: Radio Avalon!

‘84 saw Mr Eavis slammed with 5 charges from the powers that be, allegations against him that came about from breaking the licence conditions during the previous years festival. Michael overcame the odds and successfully defended all 5 charges! The attendees permitted on the new licence meant the festival could host 35,000 folk, the festival that’s globally adored was starting to take shape, and car parking and stewards were introduced. It’s madness to think that in just over 10 years, a festival inspired by a low key jazz event had grown into a borderline movement, with charities benefitting left, right and centre! Let me put this into context: the £60,000 donated to the CND and local charities in 1984, which equates to just over £165,000 today! Nowaday legends such as The Smiths and Elvis Costello (his first of many appearances in the 80’s) graced the Pyramid Stage.

The surge in popularity continued through ‘85 and ‘86 while the typically shite british summers also continued – they literally had to use tractors to tow people off the site. I can only imagine the glorious mud angels I’d be crafting whilst several cans of Fosters deep. Now at 60,000 attendees, the festival was drawing crowds comparable to your modern day Premier League football match, albeit with a far more jolly atmosphere. Legendary acts that we know today were being drawn to perform at the close of the yearly event, such as The Cure, The Housemartins and Madness. Tickets were now up to an eye watering £17…

See Also
Glastonbury festival tickets

With the money, the festival introduced several crowd welfare measures to ensure that the music lovers could enjoy their time galloping around the fields knowing they were in safe hands. It also meant they were able to donate an absolutely staggering £130,000 to the CND and local charities. Mr Eavis, I salute you. 

‘87 nearly didn’t happen, with the bloody council trying to spoil everyone’s summer yet again. The revoking of the licence didn’t get overturned until May – one month before the festival! Nevertheless the show went on, with the 60,000 punters enjoying the now-regular performances of Elvis Costello, New Order and Van Morrison.

Rounding up the decade was the 1989 Glastonbury Festival and you guessed it! Licence complications. To get around this, police were brought in to ensure the festival was managed under their supervision to enhance crowd safety. You’ll never guess who performed at this year’s festival… you got it! Elvis Costello and Van Morrison, but also newer bands such as Pixies and The Wonderstuff. 

So there we have it: the 1980’s. Glastonbury Festival is shaping up to be what we know today. Next we’ll adventure through the 90’s, the time period which is always my answer to the question your mate asks you down the boozer ‘If you could travel back in time and relive any musical era, what would it be?’ 

Scroll To Top