Glastonbury Festival 1986

Glastonbury CND Festival 1986

As the festival grew, the homogenised swirl of alternative culture and hedonism evolved into more distinctive identities and geography.

In a process of both 'town planning' and social gravitation, participants began to form ideological and artistic clusters, some of which remain a very visible part of the modern festival.

The environmentalists and hippies gathered around the Green Fields in the south, presided over - for the first time in 1986 - by King's Meadow. A sweeping tranquil slope, dotted with maybe a hundred tents, and a handful of horsedrawn carriages - the horses themselves wandering free, grazing amongst the equally placid festival goers.

A little further north, Araballa's theatre stages found a new area to call home - a home for life as it turns out. The travellers also had their own patch, tacked on to the side of the festival as a practical concession no doubt. Better in than out.

Although it is romantic to think of the festival of yesteryear as exclusively populated by the fringes of society, the picture painted in the Guardian in 1986 was a little less revolutionary. In his article, provocatively titled "Middle Class to Middle Earth", John Cunningham concluded:

"A spirit of muted compliance is more pervasive than you might expect at Glastonbury. True, there are hustlers barking hash, acid grass' quite openly. True Michael Eavis has spent £6,000 specifically on antidrugs security. And true, the police are randomly searching bodies and cars that clog the sunken lanes that lead here. But the reality is more elusive. This festival isn't about pushing freedom to the limits, as it might have been 10 years ago it seems to be more about surviving in the recession."

A nod there perhaps to the familiar lament "it's not as good as it used to be", but also one of people either exhausted by a fight for change, or simply not interested in it.

"'I'm a CND member but that's all. ' [Jacky Pettifer] comes to the event for the atmosphere, not the politics."

"...the travellers live under tarpaulins...they don't know where they will head after Glastonbury but they seem to be in retreat..."

What Cunningham didn't unearth - or at least report - was that for the travellers, another threat to their existence was creeping in. Alcohol and hard drug abuse had begun to taint the hippy dream.

Away from these fringes, the festival was ostensibly in rude health. Below the surface though, there were questions. In their eighties CND-published history of the festival, festival workers Lynne Elstob and Anne Howes concluded their final chapter:

"But would it all happen again next year? There had been so much that had been worthwhile, yet the exhausted crew wondered if it had all grown too big and unmanageable...There was even talk of not having a festival in 1987, but as they drifted homewards for a bath and a long sleep, they knew that the magic would bring them back to do it all again."



The Glastonbury Festivals - Lynne Elstob, Anne Howes
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