Glastonbury Festival: The 1997 flood that turned Worthy Farm into a mud bath

Say Glastonbury Festival and the second thing people think of is mud. It’s the stuff of legend, and there can’t be many regular festival-goers who haven’t had to wade knee-deep in sticky stuff or survive in muddy clothes at least once for the pleasure of a weekend filled with incredible entertainment.

These days we are all well prepared for the impact of an untimely deluge, but in 1997 – forever known as the year of the mud – it came as a bit of a shock when heavy rain thundered down Worthy Farm shortly before the doors open. due to opening.

The huge volume of water quickly soaked the dry, dusty land and turned massive areas of the festival into giant pools of soupy brown liquid up to a foot deep.

READ MORE: Glastonbury Festival 2022: How to pay for your ticket as full payment is due in March

Nonetheless, the show went on, albeit through very awkward moments, and punters seemed to take it all at their own pace, donning boots and balaclavas or fully embracing the mud and wrapping themselves head to toe.

There were 90,000 ticket holders on site, with The Prodigy, Radiohead, Massive Attack, Ray Davies, Sting, Van Morrison, Neneh Cherry and Supergrass all performing on the main stages.

It was sometimes tricky on the logistical front, as Richard Abel from the production team recalls in the book Glastonbury, An oral history of the music, madness and mud by John Shearlaw and Crispin Aubrey.

“The poles of several of the large tents were now sitting in a kind of soupy mush and they all started to come out of the ground. That was probably the only time I thought we might have to shut down the show and tell everyone to go home,” he said.

The day was saved by crews of heroes who spent all night replacing the stakes with railroad ties from Michael Eavis’ silage pit.

The artists’ large tour buses couldn’t get to the main stages, so they were hauled through the mud in hastily borrowed 4×4 vehicles. But the mud in front of the other stage was so wet and deep it was too dangerous to work there, and several acts were canceled on Friday night.

In the ultra-slippery dance tent, Arabella Churchill recalled that someone had the brilliant idea of ​​using a sewage gulper to suck out the worst of it, but they put it on “hit” by mistake and mud splashed everywhere.

A few later festivals surpassed 1997 in volume and scale of mud, but that year taught everyone – organizers, crew, merchants and members of the public – important lessons in preparation. A lot of flood defense work has been done on the farm to minimize the future impact of heavy rains and almost everyone now arrives with rubber boots and rain gear.

Did you survive the mud at Glastonbury Festival 1997? Let us know in the comments below, or send us your memories and photos – [email protected]

For beautiful historical images from the past, take a look at memorylane.fr/ and see what you can discover

Jan G. Gilbert