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The Glastonbury Festival goes environmental and family friendly

Andrew Allcock
Glastonbury Festival


Picture this - lush green fields in southwest England, a few cows, some apple trees - a quiet countryside scene. But then picture something else - some of the world's biggest names and music, descending on this farm, bringing with them more than 200,000 fans who all camp out there for five days, rain or shine. The result is one of the biggest performing arts festivals in the world, Glastonbury. It is underway right now, and NPR's Lauren Frayer is right in the middle of it. Hey, Lauren.


DETROW: Let me get right to it. Are you in the middle of a muddy mosh pit?

FRAYER: Scott, I took a huge risk, and I left my rubber boots at home, and now I'm watching these dark clouds roll in ominously.

DETROW: Uh-oh.

FRAYER: I'm also looking at a sea of multicolored tents and stages where Dua Lipa, Coldplay, Femi Kuti, Shania Twain - those are some of the headliners playing here this weekend. This place is legendary. Here's one of the music fans I met here, Sam Llewellyn, and he has his baby son, Theo, in his backpack.

SAM LLEWELLYN: It's his first year. He's 1. He was 1 in the 1 May. I've been coming since I was 6 months old. I'm now 29.

FRAYER: Wait, you've been coming here since you were a child?


FRAYER: Your parents took you here?

LLEWELLYN: Yeah, yeah.

FRAYER: And now you're taking your child.

LLEWELLYN: Now I'm taking my child. I'm living on the generations of Glastonbury.

FRAYER: This festival has been going on since 1970. It's kind of like Woodstock. So there are these generations and generations of fans. There's a kids field with playgrounds, arts and crafts, face painting. There're diaper-changing areas.

DETROW: I mean, 50 years is such a long time for pop culture and music. I'm pretty sure there weren't diaper-changing areas at the beginning. What did it look like in the beginning? How has it changed over time?

FRAYER: There was nothing. This was a farm. There's a farmer named Michael Eavis. Back in 1970, the tickets cost one pound - about $1.25. Now they cost more than $450. Most people, like me, camp in their own little tent in the grass. But there are glamping options now. There are luxury yurts for thousands of dollar a night. There's a pop-up hotel with a swimming pool.

Michael Eavis is still around, incidentally. He's 88. He's now Sir Michael Eavis. He's a knight now. He still runs this festival. He was actually on stage today singing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" to massive cheers. It still retains Eavis' ethos, though, which is resisting commercialization. You don't see a lot of big logos here. Glastonbury has sort of managed to avoid controversies that have hit festivals like South by Southwest, for example, where artists have pulled out, objected to sponsorship from certain industries. The motto here is leave no trace on the land. Every five years or so, they have a fallow year. They literally skip the festival to let the grass regrow because this is actually still a functioning dairy farm. They make cheddar cheese here.

DETROW: I mean, let's get to that. I've been to a lot of music festivals, and I can see how much of a mess they make. How can hundreds of thousands of people camp for five days and leave no trace?

FRAYER: I mean, the organizers are just serious about sustainability. There are composting toilets. There's an army of volunteers who clear trash in exchange for free tickets. The festival is plastic-free, glass-free. Here's Sarah Stevens. She's been volunteering here for the past 40 years.

SARAH STEVENS: Yeah. The cows are just missing at the moment. And that's why you have to respect the land even more - you know, no glass and no nonbiodegradable glitter. 'Cause what you drop, a cow could be eating in, you know, three weeks' time.

FRAYER: And it's not just music. There's art, magic, acrobats, political activism. Last year, this festival raised more than $2 million for three big charities - Greenpeace, WaterAid and Oxfam.

DETROW: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer at the Glastonbury Music Festival in southwest England. Lauren, enjoy this hardship assignment.

FRAYER: (Laughter) Thanks so much.

DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.