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Everything but the mud: V&A's archive of Glastonbury will create order out of chaos: From old posters to unseen films, museum is boxing up 45 years of festival history

June 14, 2014

Maev Kennedy



For just pounds 1 a ticket, the little music event advertised on a cheaply printed red and black poster was very good value. It was happening at a nice farm in the wilds of Somerset from Saturday 19 September 1970, and not only was there a hog roast, the promise of "food at fair prices" and "sheltered fields for camping", but the headline act was that chart-topping band, The Kinks. And for anyone bored by the music, there was also the promise of "a lightshow, lightship, diorama and films, freaks and funny things" - and even free milk from the farm.

The tickets this year cost pounds 210, and the V&A Museum will want some of them, as well any surviving copies of the 1,500 tickets advertised in 1970 as "available by post from M Eavis Esq". The museum, beginning with a large hoard from the Eavis family, is creating a permanent archive celebrating the history of the longest-running festival of its kind in the world: Glastonbury.

The archive already holds boxes, crates and cartons containing programmes and posters from every festival, miles of tape recordings and films which nobody has ever had time to play back, acres of photographs, backstage passes, set lists for bands and correspondence including negotiations with superstars who often yearn to play Glastonbury - the Rolling Stones made their first triumphant appearance only last year.

There are also site maps showing the ever expanding and frequently all too permeable security fence, the trench warfare that is the lavatory blocks, and how the original little village of tents in the sheltered fields gradually spread to the far horizon and beyond.

All the memorabilia has been hoarded by Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily, who now run the festival, but nobody quite knows what is in the boxes. "You won't be surprised to hear they never actually got round to cataloguing anything," Kate Bailey, the V&A theatre and performance curator charged with creating order out of the chaos, said.

Michael Eavis, who founded the festival after a rare escape from the farm to hear Led Zeppelin play in Bath - he still hopes the band will reform and play Glastonbury - described the V&A as "an inspirational space", and said it felt like a natural home for the archive.

Martin Roth, director of the V&A, said they were honoured to acquire the archive of Glastonbury's "extraordinary and unparalleled" creativity across all areas of performance. "The archive is interesting not only for its diversity but also for its fascinating witness to creative, social and political change in the UK," he said.

The archive is not intended as a static collection transported from the Eavis attics, and Bailey will not be conducting her research in a nice warm, dry office. In a few weeks she will be packing her cagoule and wellies and joining the lucky people who managed to get tickets before all 130,000 for this year sold out in less than 90 minutes. She will be staying in a tent - "of course, it wouldn't be right to do it any other way" - and scouting around for artefacts including flyers for everything from tofu burgers to shamanic healing, political T-shirts, exceptionally fancy fairy wings, customised welly boots, and the fantastic dragons and demons built from recycled junk which regularly appear at the site.

She will also be looking for stories not just of the stars but of the food sellers, the security guards, the local people who have worked there year after year. "Without the stories of the people who go there, a ticket is just a bit of paper," she said. She and her colleagues will continue documenting the festival every year, and a team will be making a film this year which will be shown at the Prague Quadrennial arts festival next year. There will also be an exhibition in the V&A's Theatre and Performance galleries from next March, and the entire archive will be made available for research as it is catalogued and digitised.

The main stages are well documented, but Bailey says very little is preserved of what happens in the tents, stone circles, circus rings and campfire gatherings in the far fields: "There is an extraordinary explosion of creativity on the fringes, which we really want to capture," she said.

Hundreds of thousands of people have treasured souvenirs of the festivals, but persuading the owners to hand them over can be difficult: "Even a scruffy grubby old lanyard - people are very attached to them and very reluctant to give them up."

The most famous aspect of Glastonbury will only be represented in the collection by photographs: Bailey has lost her nerve about collecting a bucket of mud. "I don't think our conservation people would be at all happy with it."

Captions:

Advertisements, scrapbooks, programmes and pounds 1 tickets, these are a few of the things that the V&A's Glastonbury memories will be made of. But when it comes to glorious mud, curators will be content to collect photographs like the one below


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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