Glastonbury Festival: Travel back 40 years to Worthy Farm in 1982

Take a trip back 40 years to Glastonbury Festival 1982 and you’ll find world peace high on the agenda, with the CND symbol appearing above the Pyramid Stage for the first time.

A year earlier, Michael Eavis had invited members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to get involved in the practicalities of running the festival in return for a donation to the group’s funds. Around £20,000 of the proceeds from the 1981 festival went to CND at a time of mounting Cold War tension.

On the Sunday afternoon of the 1982 festival, this association attracted a backlash. Anti-CND protesters flew a light aircraft hauling a slogan banner over the farmhouse, drowning out the words of then CND General Secretary Bruce Kent as he spoke on stage under the iconic peace sign.

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Michael has found a new solution.

“He almost dive-bombed us with that slogan. Someone was going to do a fireworks display at the end of the evening with huge rockets – they cost around £70 each – so I spoke to him on the radio and said: ‘Next time he comes back , can you drop one?

“So the rocket exploded and exploded into thousands of particles around the plane. It was really brilliant, he understood everything and everyone clapped like crazy,” he recalled for the book Glastonbury, a oral history of music, mud and magic by Crispin Aubrey and John Shearlaw.

“The plane never returned. After that there was a trial and the pilot was fined £400 for flying over a crowded area without a licence. And during the case the pilot told me pointed and accused me of firing a rocket at him, which he said was really dangerous.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Very Reverend John Bickersteth, also rose to address the crowd about peace and went so well that he returned several years later and created a precedent for future bishops to visit the festival.

1982 was also notable as the first properly muddy Glastonbury. The highest rainfall recorded in Somerset for 45 years was dumped on the fields of Worthy Farm on Friday June 18, the day the gates opened. This left terribly squelchy pitches for the 25,000 festival-goers to negotiate, although the pitch dried up before the end of the weekend.

A festival-goer gives himself up to the mud at Glastonbury on June 18, 1982

Van Morrison topped the Pyramid Bill for the first time, beginning his long association with Worthy Farm. Reggae legends Sly and Robbie, Black Uhuru, Aswad, Steel Pulse, Jackson Browne, Judy Tzuke, Richie Havens, John Cooper Clarke, The Blues Band Thompson Twins and a young U2 also performed.

Alexei Sayle and David Rappaport entertained audiences in the theater area, while film screenings included Cold War dark comedy Dr Strangelove, and Derek Jarman and Toyah Willcox in The Tempest.

For all of this, including camping, speakers, lasers, food, camping and Children’s World, the ticket price was the princely sum of £8.

Van Morrison performing at the Glastonbury Festival on June 19, 1982
Van Morrison performing at the Glastonbury Festival on June 19, 1982

Glastonbury continued to support CND through the 1980s until the end of the Cold War, when the festival’s charitable focus shifted to more environmental and humanitarian causes, including Greenpeace, WaterAid and Oxfam.

Were you at the Glastonbury Festival in 1982? Let us know in the comments section below, or send your memories and photos of the festival over the years to [email protected]

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The Stone Circle at Glastonbury in 1994, two years after it was created by Ivan McBeth

Jan G. Gilbert