Missed out on a ticket, or just not a big fan of mud? Don’t worry, the BBC’s on hand once again to ensure nobody misses out on the action entirely. Ahead of this year’s festival, Keeley Bolger hones in on the highlights
With a whopping 120,000 tickets for this year’s Glastonbury Festival snapped up in a record one hour and 27 minutes, it’s clear we’re ever so slightly fond of the Somerset-based musical extravaganza.
It’s not difficult to see why. Since starting in 1970, the Glastonbury Festival Of Contemporary Performing Arts (to give its full title), organised and created by Michael Eavis and now with his daughter Emily, has pulled in the biggest names on the planet to perform at Worthy Farm.
And though there have been mud baths, floods and submerged tents along the way, a bit – or a lot – of a downpour seemingly does little to dampen our love of the festival, especially with acts as broad-ranging as Joan Baez, David Bowie and Jay-Z to take our minds off the weather.
But if you’d rather take shelter and watch from the comfort of your sofa, or just didn’t manage to get a ticket this year, there’s the BBC’s extensive coverage of the festival to tune into, airing on BBC Two, Three and Four from tomorrow, as well as online and on their radio stations.
Generally speaking, BBC Two is the place to go for the biggest names, BBC Three for the crop of current music stars, while BBC Four will look at some of the more classic acts.
To whet your appetite, here’s a look at some of the highlights along with some fun facts and figures...
Kicking off the festival is veteran American band Blondie, who are taking the first slot on the Other Stage.
Later on, Canadian favourites Arcade Fire will be closing the first day of music on the Pyramid Stage.
There are also performances by outspoken pop star Lily Allen and Lancashire band Elbow, who are fronted by everybody’s fantasy best mate, BBC 6 Music presenter Guy Garvey.
SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALL RIGHT
For those who wish to head-bang, long-standing heavy metal stars Metallica will be rocking the main stage on Saturday. Following the rock theme, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant is also performing, as well as Welsh lovelies Manic Street Preachers and American singer-songwriter Kelis.
British star Ellie Goulding, she who sang at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, plays on the Other Stage, swiftly followed by Bristol group Massive Attack.
Over on the main stage, country music legend Dolly Parton is set to wow the Glastonbury masses with her huge repertoire, razor-sharp wit and dazzling outfits, while Leicestershire band Kasabian will be rounding off the festival with their closing set.
Fronting up BBC Two’s coverage are Jo Whiley, Mark Radcliffe and Lauren Laverne, while on BBC Three, Ellie Goulding’s ex-boyfriend Greg James and his fellow radio presenters Jen Long and Gemma Cairney are in front of the camera.
It’s not new, but this year, the iconic Leftfield Tower, which was built a decade ago by shipyard workers in Devon who were facing redundancy, has been renamed as the Tony Benn Tower in honour of the late politician.
The tower was erected to represent “a beacon of hope and a memorial for the working people of the world”, according to festival regular Graham Jobbins, who designed it.
MAGICAL MUSICAL MOMENTS
Glastonbury has given us its fair share of standout moments over the years.
Who, for example, could forget Stevie Wonder (and a slightly less tuneful Michael Eavis) serenading the 2010 crowd with a version of Happy Birthday to celebrate the festival’s 40th anniversary?
Or Paul McCartney leading thousands in a sing-song of Hey Jude in 2004?
Then there was Radiohead’s landmark performance in 1997, which saw them play hits from their then newly-released album OK Computer.
Or Beyonce rousing throngs of festival fans into giving their best Single Ladies rendition – complete with dance moves – when she headlined in 2011?
The Rolling Stones’ performance, uniting fans old and young, at last year’s festival was another high.
And back in 1984, pre-televised coverage, The Smiths sparked a stage invasion.
Better yet, there is always another highlight and another classic performance to come with every passing festival.
Of course, Glastonbury, being a celebration of contemporary performing arts, isn’t just about the music.
There are spoken poetry readings, children’s areas, a cinema, theatre and circus.
Free spirits decked out in fairy wings and face paint forging friendships around the Stone Circle, odd rumours spreading throughout the Somerset site and, depending on the weather, people bathing themselves in mud while some daring souls, including Libertines singer Pete Doherty, try to pedal across the swampy puddles on a push bike.
You can also carve your own wooden spoon in the Green Fields, find peace at one of the religious tents and sites, eat your way around the globe with the impressive grub on offer, sup on chai latte, or have a good old cuppa and a chinwag, courtesy of the festival regulars who serve up their life-giving brew while dressed in 1940s and 50s gear.
And of course, you can sip scrumpy from the long-running Somerset Cider Bus.
All these things would be bonkers anywhere else, but it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without them.
:: The BBC’s coverage of the Glastonbury Festival begins on Friday, June 27