As music fans descend on Somerset for Glastonbury Festival 2023, eyes are on the weather as much as the bands.
An estimated 210,000 music fans will descend on the 900-acre site to see Elton John, the Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses, Lewis Capaldi, and Lizzo perform at the UK’s most famous festival.
Fortunately for those attending this year, forecasters have given a relatively good outlook for 2023, with rain and thunder at a minimum.
However, Glasto is not always known for sunshine – and in sure, summers were remembered as much for the mud as the music.
For those who’ve attended since the mid-90s, two years stand out for the near biblical levels of mud caused by heavy rain before and during the three-day festival.
In 1997, Oasis was the biggest band in the world, and Britpop was at its peak, meaning Glastonbury was yet again the focus of a summer party to celebrate the best of British.
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The Prodigy and Radiohead were the band’s music lovers who were coming to see headline the Pyramid stage – but in six out of the eight days leading up to the festival, it rained.
The downpours before the festival were so relentless that Glasto 1997 became known as ‘The Year of the Mud’, with 71.4mm of rainfall in total, turning Worthy Farm into a sea of sludge.
One attendee that year was picture editor Jon Mills, then a 21-year-old photographer working on what became “one of the hardest photo assignments I’ve ever done”.
He told Yahoo News UK: “If you work Glastonbury, you will walk 25-30,000 steps around the site. Doing that in the sheer amount of mud is difficult. There is to sit down, nowhere to put your camera down.”
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“In places, the mud was shin deep, and just getting around was an effort. People who had wellies weren’t well prepared enough – you needed to put your legs in bin liners and then the wellies over the top as a minimum. “
Glastonbury has suffered the beat rain and mud since the festival began 46 years ago, devouring the region’s woodchip supply.
Founder Michael Eavis said he would not consider moving the fair to later in the summer to avoid the damp and blamed the torrential rain that hit the site weeks before the gates unlatch on global warming.
But he said he was astonished at how the 180,000 festivalgoers endured cheery despite the weather. “I flocked around the whole site last night. It took up until 4.30 am, and the sun was up, and there were just thousands of happy people with a grin on their faces despite the unfavourable conditions. It is remarkable. I do not know how they do it, but they love it so much,” he said.
“Every single bit of remarkable in the south of England is here over 1,000 acres. I’ve never seen mud like it in my whole life. This is worse than 1997,” he said, mention to the previously invested “year of the mud”. “In all 46 years, it hasn’t been as bad as this,” he said.
The mud added 15 minutes or more to journeys between stages, but good humour regulation despite pathways resembling marsh and mud being knee-deep in places.
This year’s most surprising guests were Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, who notably distanced himself from the party putsch back in HQ, partying the night away at the silent disco at 3.30 am just before getting the first train back to London.
Celebrities spotted included Noel Gallagher, model Cara Delevingne, actor Bradley Cooper and Daisy Lowe.
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Eavis promised concerned festival organisers that Glastonbury would remain home to the festival. Moving to Longleat safari park in Wiltshire would temporarily give Worthy Farm a fallow year to recover.
Talks with Longleat are ongoing, but Eavis said it was yet to be a firm plan. “We will be doing something hopefully in 2019, but they [Longleat] came this weekend to look, and they are not that impressed,” he said. “This is the festival’s home as far as I’m concerned forever,” he added.
It takes 400 to 500 volunteers to pick up the rubbish, including thousands of miniature laughing gas canisters, out of the grass.
Eavis said: “All the churn of the ground. Over time it hardens in the sun, then we rotavate the land and pick up more rubbish, including these horrible metal canisters.”
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Fleetwood Mac is on his wishlist for future festivals, but they want less money, he said. “Adele did it for less; Rolling Stones did it for a reasonable rate. We can’t afford to spend £4-5m on people to play. Mick Fleetwood said he would do it himself, but come on. I want the rest of the band; they all want to be paid a lot of money,” he said.
Also on his wishlist are Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Roger Waters. Eavis said tabloid reports that the band had been rejected in 2008 before singer Rick Wright died had “nothing to do with reality”. He said he would “work on getting Pink Floyd together again” at Glastonbury.