'Pilton Pop Festival' 1970
In the summer of 1969 a modestly sized music festival was held in the centre of Bath. Just two small makeshift stages and 12,000 visitors. In 1970 it relocated to the Bath & Wells showground just three miles from Michael Eavis' Worthy Farm.
Eavis and his girlfriend Jean snuck through a hedge at the showground and would see an event that - unlike the previous year - was both vast and technologically advanced.
Some 150,000 visitors filled the showground area, with a fittingly large main stage, and as a festival first: video projections allowing tens of thousands of festival goers to see acts such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd close up. Perhaps not surprisingly, Eavis - a keen music lover - was impressed.
So there, in late June 1970, the Glastonbury Festival was conceived. A financially naive plan was formed - Michael would hold a music festival at Worthy farm, just a few months later, as a way of helping pay off the overdraft on the farm.
The previous year, there was another event, on another continent, that is worth noting. On a wet weekend at a dairy farm in New York state, a crowd of 400,000 descended for Woodstock. The following year, closer to home, the Isle of Wight Festival drew a claimed 500,000 people. These colossal gatherings were the culmination of the early boom years of outdoor popular music festivals. It seemed that they could only get larger and larger.
In comparison with these other events, the Pilton Pop festival at Worthy Farm was a mere minnow, with just 1,500 attending and paying £1 each. Whilst the bookings showed ambition - Marc Bolan's T-Rex headlined - other aspects left much to be desired, no doubt reflecting Eavis' novice status as a festival organiser:
"Badly advertised, poor organisation, not exactly an auspicious start to one of the longest running rock festivals of all time." Notes Alan Stone on the UK Rock Festivals website.
It didn't fare well financially either. What was meant to be money into the Worthy Farm coffers ended up being a £1,500 loss.
Whilst the Pilton Pop Festival had struggled through, the mega festivals imploded.
Both Woodstock and The Isle Of Wight suffered similar fates.
The organisers were saddled with ruinous debts, and local laws were passed to prevent such large festivals ever happening again. Much later there would be attempts to revive both of these events, but the days of these truly massive festivals were over.
With that - although noone would have guessed at the time - the Pilton Pop festival, that would evolve into the Glastonbury Festival, began a long and often precarious journey to becoming the biggest in the world.
Memorabilia (c) respective publisher. Scans courtesy of wiskey. For more information about GlastoEarth copyright policy see the 'About Us' page.
Glastonbury History >