Glastonbury Festival 1981

See the 1981 site in the GlastoEarth Map
Bonus Features > 40 Years of Glastonbury

"Pyramid Builders t-shirts were given to people building the site... there was a hierarchy with t-shirts for the lowly and sweatshirts for the more committed, some of whom were on site for a couple of months. Michael told us that entrance to the festival was free for life with one of those t-shirts, but I've never actually had to try to claim it." - Geoff

"The planners say they have never seen a three storey, pyramid shaped cow shed like it before. And they argue that if it is just a cow shed why is it rigged with lasers, powerful lighting gantrys and huge sound systems?" - New Scientist report on Eavis' planning application, 1981
1981 Glastonbury CND Festival

The beginning of the 80s saw two key changes to the festival. On a personal level, the 1979 festival was a success for Michael Eavis, marking a turning point in his self confidence in running the event. In 1981, he made it is own. On an idealogical level, the festival took on a grittier theme and became overtly political.

In 1981 the hippy idealism of the seventies would take second place to something harder edged: politicisation and an activist stance by way of a tie up with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Although this was now Michael's festival, the founders and the faithful were called in - Arabella Churchill, Andrew Kerr, Bill Harkin, Tony Andrews - but not without some disquiet.

Eavis planned another proper Pyramid stage, the second incarnation since 1971. Harkin, fearing the materials weren't up to the job, declined to build it. Tony Andrews stepped in to finish the job - famously built with old telegraphy poles and steel sheet Eavis had picked up by chance.

Andrews, like others, wasn't happy with the CND involvement.

"We put a huge sun on the Pyramid, on top, and it was taken off, and this great heavy CND symbol went on. So I rolled that off... Then this doctor running the medical staff said he would pull out if we didn't have CND"

A CND organiser noted: "Within the festival there was a sense that CND was certainly not New Age... some very hard left politics and frankly a lot of very unpleasant varieties of arrogant communism within its ranks".

Kerr, on the other hand, said of Michael's idea: "It was really wonderful".

Other team members simply ploughed on. Arabella established her first theatre tent. Although she had little experience in the field it would become a lifetime work and one of the largest areas of it's type in the world of outdoor festivals.

On a more humble scale, the local CND group ran the first information stall, run by teacher and CND member Mark Cann who would later take on main stage production. Another activist, Stephen Abrahall, got involved a year later. Abrahall continues to run Festival Information to the present day.

Despite the controversy, CND would remain firmly entrenched for five years and the festival settled into perhaps the most politicised period in its entire history.

Other events this year:

- First cinema tent appears.

Stephen Abrahall (Guardian, May 2003)

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