While you might not be able to stick your wellies in the muddy fields of Glastonbury this year, you can still be a part of a bigger tribute piece and reminisce on the UK’s most famous music festival. Like so many other events, the music festival was cancelled earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It would have been celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, making it a rather momentous occasion. Instead, we'll be reliving highlights from the comforts of home. To coincide with what would have been the world-famous event, the Victoria & Albert Museum is opening up its extensive archive for all to enjoy – and is asking for new contributions, too.
The V&A in London's Kensington is home to the nation's Glastonbury Archive, and this week (22-28 June) it is going virtual: making its extensive records free to access online. The archive includes nostalgic posters, programmes, designs, interviews, film, photographs, correspondence, T-shirts, tickets and backstage passes. There's also personal accounts, maps, press cuttings and documents that trace the origins of the festival.
First held in September 1970, Glasto was founded by dairy farmer Michael Eavis and his family. Tickets famously cost £1 and came with free milk. Since then, it has grown to become a veritable highlight of the cultural calendar. In 2019 alone it sold 135,000 tickets in a matter of minutes, as per Metro.
“Glastonbury is a crucible for ideas and creativity," says Kate Bailey, V&A Curator of Theatre Design and Scenography. "The Glastonbury Festival archive is an extremely important growing collection for the V&A. This diverse archive reveals how the festival has developed exponentially over the past 50 years to become the global cultural phenomenon it is today.”
Beyond learning about the festival's origins and evolution, the V&A's curators are asking for members of the public to share their beloved tales with the memories project. "Glastonbury is more than the performances themselves," reads the statement, "it is about the communal social experience of the festival-goers." Using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org, the museum is asking for your written memories to enter the archive.
“The festival is witness to decades of creative, social and political change, and your memories are an integral part of this story," adds Emily Eavis, Glastonbury Festival Co-organiser.
Beyond the treasure trove of memorabilia and nostalgia, the V&A has also commissioned award-winning sound designer Gareth Fry to create a unique soundscape that explores a day in the life of the Somerset event. “Glastonbury is so much more than just music," he notes. "There are comedian, circus acts, workshops, buskers, dozens of international cuisines. The camping, the walking, the people you pass by and the people you meet. There’s something unexpected around every corner.” Recorded in 2015, the soundscape will almost make you feel like you are there. Just close your eyes and think of the stage...