Bill Harkin, designer of Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage, dies aged 83 | Glastonbury Festival

Bill Harkin, designer of Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage, which became one of the world’s biggest platforms for popular music, has died aged 83. The news was announced on the Glastonbury website by organizer Michael Eavis, who did not reveal the cause of death.

The iconic set was first erected in 1971, after Harkin, who had trained as an architect and stage designer, had a vision of it in a dream. “I stood at the back of an outdoor stage next to a drum riser, gazing up at the audience someone was addressing,” he later wrote. “There were two beams of light forming a pyramid in the sky with some buildings on the horizon…I took the morning off and started in the studio with the notes and the sketch.”

He and promoter Andrew Kerr met with Michael Eavis and proposed a return to the Glastonbury Festival, which was first hosted by Eavis at his Somerset farm in 1970. “Excitement,” Eavis wrote in his tribute. “[Harkin’s] enthusiasm and dedication led to what we have now.

The first Pyramid stage was constructed from scaffolding and plastic sheeting. The Glastonbury website states: “A pyramid was believed to be a very powerful shape: the top projects energy upwards while energy from the stars and the sun is drawn downwards. The original pyramid looked like a diamond transmitting pure vibrations into the night.

U2 perform on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival site at Worthy Farm, Pilton in 2011 Photography: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Improved in 1981, it remained in situ until 1994, when it burned down. The festival continued for a few years without him, but the stage returned in 2000. Four times larger than Harkin’s original, the permanent structure is built from four kilometers of steel tubing and has since hosted performers such as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2 and Beyoncé.

Harkin was born and raised in Liverpool, and studied art – “Painting and 3D construction studies in Hope Street, with the occasional midday Beatles gig for a shilling at the Cavern”, he later wrote. He then studied architecture, but “the boredom of the course was more than I could bear. I was much more excited about the theater. He then became a scenographer.

Following his success with the Pyramid Stage, Harkin established his own architecture and event design firm, with clients including Eden Project.

The Glastonbury Festival, last held in 2019, has been canceled two years in a row due to coronavirus and is planning to return in 2022. “Despite our best efforts to move heaven and earth, it has become clear that we ‘We’re just not going to be able to make the festival happen this year,’ co-organizer Emily Eavis said in January. “We are very sorry to have let you down.”

Jan G. Gilbert