After a two-year hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic, with the exception of last year's virtual performance, the 50th edition of this famous event was again held in a large field in southwest England, called Worthy farm owned by 86-year-old dairy farmer Michael Eavis, which once again attracted hundreds of thousands of people over five days.
It's a show like no other, offering a variety of art forms with artists coming from all over of the world. Lovers of music, cabaret, theatre, magic, circus, dance, comedy, poetry…again had a chance to have the time of their lives by witnessing jaw-dropping performances and coming together as one.
The first festival which was then called Pilton Festival, after the name of the host town, where it still takes place, was held by Eavis in 1970, after seeing an open-air Led Zeppelin concert at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. Back then, tickets were just £1 each, with only a few thousand people seeing the headliners.
Being the largest greenfield festival in the world and a template for all the festivals that have come after it, Glastonbury takes place in an area of around 1,100 acres. It features more than 100 stages and venues, more than 500 food stalls, more than 100 bars, more than 4,000 toilets and more than 40,000 trash cans.
Given its strong green policy, the festival has been joining forces with major partners, like Oxfam, WaterAid and Greenpeace, making the event as environment-friendly as possible.
RACHEL MURRAY is the Director of the logistics department, which does all of the direct actions and interventions at Greenpeace, one of the festival's leading partner for decades: ''We have fundraisers here asking for money, but we have more people who are just talking about the things that we do and why we do them. This year, it's much more about Greenpeace's place in the movement and referencing back to the people that have come before us and also to look forward how we can be more involved in the movement in the future. Climate change is a really important thing, but it is really tied up into climate justice and just transition for workers. Everything is really intersectional. We are here to make sure people understand that Greenpeace is aware of the place that we have in this tapestry of protest.''
In 2013, the Glastonbury festival introduced its own local newspaper, which has been printed on site ever since using vintage letterpress technology, offering two daily papers for free.
Wandering around the printing tent this year, was also ROSIE LEE WILSON live printing with the Giant Triplets collaborative, who encourage people to bring in second hand or pre-loved items of clothing to get screen-printed: ''We like to do this activation to draw attention to the environmental degradation of the textile industries and encourage people to extend the life cycle of their clothing. Clothing is so emotive, people have a poetic and beautiful relationship to it and we want to extend that and add more to the tapestry.''
Another incredibly unique thing about the Glastonbury festival is also its very own volunteer, on-site radio station called Worthy FM, broadcasting live 24/7 for more than a week.
Until 1981, the Glastonbury festival was held intermittently and has been held most years since then, except for "fallow years" taken mostly at five-year intervals, intended to give the land, the locals and the organisers a break.
This year, 210,000 people were said to have attended the Glastonbury festival, breaking the official record from 2002, when 153,000 tickets were sold. Unofficially, back in 1994, around 300,000 people turned up, with enough fence-jumpers doubling the size.
As for the number of performers coming to the festival this year, visitors could catch more than 3,000 of them. There is something to suit every taste, and many festival goers tend to discover some of their favourite artists at the family-friendly Glasto.
Leaving its mark on the festival this year was also Ukraine, as the country's Eurovision Song contest winners Kalush Orchestra shared their message on stage, among others, including President Volodymyr Zelensky who addressed the crowd via video. One of the many suprise appearances at Glastonbury was also the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Many artists have again used their platform to address current events and happenings in the world, and this year's festival was no different. Following a week that saw the US Supreme court rulings impact American citizens constitutional rights, many musicians spoke up for women's rights, defending freedom and truth.
Sir Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar headlined the festival and took over the Pyramid Stage while Diana Ross got the 'Legends' slot, meaning this year's Flash Mob was dedicated to her.
McCartney made history by becoming the oldest headliner to ever perform at the Glastonbury festival at 80 years of age. 20-year-old Eilish on the other hand went down in history as the youngest ever solo headliner. Mccartney was joined on stage by two other legends, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Bruce Springsteen.
Other big names appearing on stage at the 50th Glastonbury festival included Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Ziggy Marley, Herbie Hancock, Angelique Kidjo, Wolf Alice, Skunk Anansie, Roisin Murphy, Sam Fender, George Ezra, Arlo Parks, Leon Bridges, Primal Scream, Jack White, Mad Professor, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Crowded House, Jarv Is, Pet Shop Boys and others.
Apart from the music area, another important part of the festival is also Theatre & Circus fields, which is a whole new world leaving festival goers enchanted forever. There's trapeze fyling, interactive shows, laughing yoga, juggling workshops, late-night LED hoop twirling, stand-up comedies, circus acts, walkabouts – the festival's highlight for many…the list goes on.
One of audience favourites this year was world-famous British artists actress, comedian and ventriloquist NINA CONTI who is known for using people from the audience and getting them on stage, putting them in awkward and funny sitaitons: ''I love it because it kind of creates itself out there. You can go out there with a plan of what your act will be, but you can't not respond to the experience that everybody else is having in a festival, so it makes it very unique. Everybody loves seeing other members of the crowd on stage, it's a very connected sort of audience, more so than others.''
It might be interesting to some of you, that the Theatre & Circus area is run by juggling artist Haggis McLeod, husband of the late Arabella Churchill who was a major force in the organisation of the Glastonbury festival and made the T&C area such a success.
It is worth saying that the atmosphere at the Glastonbury festival has a strong community feel, despite its size. It does often get muddy, but this year the gods were friendly again, as the event ended almost rain-less. Some festival goers still didn't mind putting on their waterproof wellies, which have become a real fashion staple. It was again no surprise to see people wear silly hats, shirts or costumes that they’ll never wear again. Nothing is strange or weird there ever, which is why everyone feels so welcome.
Event boss Emily Eavis, Michael Eavis' daughter, has declared this year 'the best one yet'. One of the most exciting appearances to be remembered will surely be her father's traditional stage appearance, who at 86 of age, performed a heart warming set of covers, including Frank Sinatra's My Way, paying tribute to Glastonbury’s 50 years of history.
One of the many memory lanes which remain an important part of the festival is Bella's Bridge, honoring earlier mentioned granddaughter of Winston Churchill, Arabella, who kick-started the popular Theatre & Circus area, three fields filled with some of the best theatre, circus and comedy on the planet.
Walking about Bella's Field this year and performing at the famous Maverick's tent, was also magician and illusionist SAM SEBASTIAN from Slovenia. This was already his fourth appearance there: ''It's a kind of proven recognition for myself that what I do is good, and that it fits to the variety that they want to offer to their audiences. It's a beautiful event, like a celebration of life. Everybody comes to Glastonbury to have a great time, it's a festival in the real sense of the word.''
Britain's Got Talent versatile variety performer JAY RAWLINGS who excels in juggling, magic and balancing objects on his chin all with comedy, has been coming to Glastonbury for years. He tells us why: ''I come here because it's the biggest festival in the world, but more than that. There are very few that do this wide variety of things, all the different tents for circus skills, all the walkabout acts, it's just a huge variety of things. So, if you want to see things that isn't just people singing, come to Glastonbury and you'll love it!''
Interestingly enough, Jay broke two world records simultaneously at the previous festival three years ago, for the longest duration and furthest distance travel while balancing a lawnmower on his chin.
Glastonbury festival really is an experience like no other, its impossible to not fall in love with this place and with all it stands for. Its one of those bucket list experiences that everyone should do at least once!
Finally, one more special thing about the festival is the fact that it has a beautiful view on the famous ancient spiritual site of Glastonbury Tor, a modified sacred natural site dating from Neolithic times.