A look back at the highs and lows accounting for everything from the rainfall to the sunshine and the glorious Glasto-mud in between
Glastonbury may be known the world over for its mammoth scale, but part of what makes the event truly legendary is its history.
Some iconic symbols that spring to mind when someone says the words “Glastonbury Festival” include the Pyramid Stage, Michael Eavis (and his beard and shorts), Long Drops and of course the obligatory hippies of past and present – But mud, wellies and harsh weather may well be up there too.
Around 200,000 Glasto-goers (including staff and performers) descend on the Worthy Farm-held each Glastonbury-year, which in turn means that for one weekend in June, a Festival in the rural county will equate to a population of a small (or some would say medium) town.
The entire site takes up roughly 1,100 acres and boasts more than 100 stages and endless attractions, plus a perimeter super-fence which runs 8,000 metres long.
With Glastonbury being infamous for its mud, one could not but wonder what weather they’ll be faced with once they arrive at Worthy Farm, which will inevitably become home for the weekend.
Trying to predict the weather for the Festival weekend is nigh impossible, and with long-range forecasts being a fickle matter, any predictions made more than a mere few days prior to the event taking place would be as accurate as a blindfolded person pissing into a long drop during an earthquake.
So for the time being, instead of looking forward to the ext Festival’s weather predictions, we have decided to take a look back at figures from the Met Office’s historical weather data, collected from all its weather stations across the UK – with the nearest station to Worthy Farm (home of Glastonubry Festival) being Yeovilton, which is roughly 11 miles away.
2020 marked 50 years since the first-ever event was held at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset on the 19th of September 1970 (which just happened to also be one day after the death of the late-great Jimmy Hendrix).
Organised by now-legendary dairy farmer Michael Eavis, Glastonbury 1970 – or the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival, as it was called back then – was attended by approximately 1,500 people, with an entrance fee of just £1, which also included free milk from the local farm.
The weather that day was dry with no rain and the max temperate recorded in the observation station closest to the Festival site in June of 1970 was 21.8°C, with 42.3mm of rainfall measured in total for that entire month.
From that year forth, the Festival date was rescheduled to coincide with the weekend following the Summer Solstice in June, and Glastonbury 1971 – also known as “Glastonbury Fair” – was the first year of the now-iconic Pyramid Stage (designed by the late Bill Harkin).
Planned by Andrew Kerr and Arabella Churchill, the 1971 edition of the Festival was attended by approximately 12,000 people, and the entrance price was free.
The skies were quite clear for the most part with no rain or mud on site, as clearly seen in the image below.
Glastonbury’s first real mud-bath occurred eleven years later in 1982, following torrential rain on the first day of the Festival and some seriously stormy weather which didn’t let up for the rest of the event and which made the site ground extremely slippery and treacherous. In fact, the highest rainfall for a single day in 45 years was recorded on the Friday of the event.
Attendance that year clocked in at approximately 25,000 people and tickets cost £8. Acts included Van Morrison, Judie Tzuke, Jackson Browne, Roy Harper, and Richie Havens – as well as U2, who were on the poster but didn’t play.
Moving along; up until 2017, Glastonbury 1984 was considered one of, if not the, hottest Glastonbury on record in the Festival’s history – with temperatures coming in at 27.5°C on the Wednesday prior to the event, just two days before gate opening day on the Friday.
That same year Michael Eavis successfully defended 5 prosecutions bought against him by Mendip District Council alleging contravention of the previous year’s licence conditions. All five charges were dismissed after a day-long hearing at Shepton Mallet Magistrates Court, with the local council then announcing that the licence for 1984 would cost £2,000.
The licence numbers were set at 35,000 and for the first time, specific car parking areas were designated with stewards employed to direct the traffic.
1984 also saw the start of the Green Fields as a separate area within the Festival and £60,000 was raised for CND and other charities. As mentioned, attendance came in at 35,000, while tickets cost £13.
The highest wind gust speed recorded for Glastonbury was 41mph, which has been reached at Yeovilton in 1985 and 1987 during the event.
Glastonbury 1987 also experienced the lowest temperatures, with a station at Yeovilton recording the lowest minimmum temperature to be 4.2°C.
At Glastonbury 1989, temperatures reached 27.3°C by the Sunday, making that year the highest average temperature on record and the sunniest – when a station at Yeovilton recorded approximately 15 hours and 36 minutes of sunshine.
In contrast to Glastonbury 1990, which was Glastonbury’s twentieth-anniversary celebrations and saw the site experience somewhat of a deluge with rain on the Friday that thankfully cleared up by the Saturday, and which was much drier in comparison.
Unfortunately, the 1990 Festival ended with a confrontation between the security teams and travellers who were looting the emptying festival site. This resulted in 235 arrests and £50,000 worth of damage to property and hired plant.
This was also the first year that a professional car parking team was employed to encourage the best use of space, with attendance coming in at 70,000 people and a ticket cost of £38.
Towards the end of the ’90s, despite there being only a few millimetres of rain during the weekend of the Festival, there was rain in 6 out of the 8 days leading up to Glastonbury 1997.
That month of the Glastonbury 1997 festival – which later came to be known as ‘The Year of the Mud’ – saw 71.4mm of rainfall in total (as measured by the closeby Yeovilton station), turning Worthy Farm into a complete and utter mud-fest.
1997 actually holds the record for the coldest Festival day with 13.2°C as high as the temperature reached at Castle Cary Grove Mead.
Kula Shaker stepped in for Neil Young who pulled out, while Ash deputised for Steve Winwood and ended up headlining the Pyramid Stage.
Meanwhile, the Other Stage was in such a precarious position that the music programme had to be delayed on the Friday. By the Sunday the structure had started to sink into the mud and Mansun had to cancel their set, with The Bluteones being left to finish off one of the wettest festivals ever.
Fast forward to the following year, and Glastonbury 1998 was yet another gruelling one with a lot of rainfall and harsh terrain – by Saturday many had bailed out and left the Festival site altogether.
After a run of nice weather, Glastonbury 2004 headed off to a good start, but it was not long before the rain kicked in on Saturday. This meant many had to watch headliner Paul McCartney in the wet and slippery mud. The rain did however clear up by Sunday, leaving the rest of the festival site in a state of slush.
A year later, Glastonbury 2005 was delayed on opening day by thunderstorms and heavy rain, which subsequently saw the valley be hit by flash floods, leaving some areas under almost 4 feet of water (as seen in the image below).
To this day, 2005 was the most rain Glastonbury has ever seen, with almost a month’s worth of water falling in just a few hours – washing tents down the hills and flooding campsites.
Several stages including the John Peel and Acoustic were struck by lighting and Friday’s music programme was delayed while the site was made safe again.
Glasto-goers had to wade through water to get around, but luckily, the rain didn’t return, and the sun ended up shining bright – making the mud turn from a slippery mush to thick goo.
Glastonbury 2007 holds the record for the Festival’s wettest day, with 60.1mm of rain falling in a single day at nearby Rodney Stoke.
The event got off to a pleasant start that unfortunately quickly turned bad as torrential rain began on Friday morning and continued throughout the event, but thanks to a £750,000 worth of flood defence system which was put in place prior to the Festival, flooding was able to be kept to a minimum – although it was still very muddy and wet, as you can imagine.
The Who headlined on Sunday night and performed during a freezing cold downpour.
Hopes were high for Glastonbury 2009 after 2008 had experienced decent festival weather – until the clouds started closing in on the Pyramid Stage while bringing along the lightning, thunder and rain. Luckily, the skies cleared not long after that and a full-blown mudbath was avoided.
Glastonbury 2010 had some of the sunniest weather, and in addition to celebrating Glastonbury Festival’s 40th anniversary, 2010 saw three days of sunshine with temperatures soaring to 26.4°C on the 26th of June.
The Festival experienced an actual electrical storm four years later at Glastonbury 2014. The Festival had to be shut down temporarily on the Friday afternoon when lighting from the electrical storm threatened safety.
Lily Allen’s appearance on the Pyramid Stage was delayed and Rudimental were among those who had to be ushered off stage and have their set cut short as the storm approached bringing proceedings to a brief halt.
Thankfully, 2014 wasn’t a complete wash-out as things picked up on the Sunday, which saw a day of light clouds, gentle breezes, warm temperatures and practically no rain – just in time for Dolly Parton’s set.
Glastonbury 2016 saw Muse, Adele and Coldplay headline the Pyramid Stage, and was when Festival founder Michael Eavis said that the mud the year was the worst it had ever been.
According to a story in the Glastonbury Free Press, the legendary dairy farmer said that the Glastonbury traffic tailbacks, caused by the spate of rainy weather, were some of the worst in the past 10 or 15 years, saying: “In my 46 years it hasn’t been as bad [muddy] as this. Every single bit of woodchip in the south of England is here over 1,000 acres.”
Glastonbury 2017 was antithetical to 2016, and was even hotter than 1984, the mercury reached a balmy 31.2°C at Rodney Stoke, while the warmest night was recorded in the same year, with 17.6°C at the same location.
According to the BBC, temperatures reached a whopping 30°C by 14:00 on the Wednesday, making it the hottest day in the event’s history up until that day.
Temperatures were so scorching high that people had to be treated for heatstroke as they queued to get in.
The hot weather stayed for the rest of the weekend, which just goes to prove you never can tell with Glastonbury weather.
Another boiling hot year was Glastonbury 2019, which just two years later dethroned 2017 as the hottest ever Festival to take place at Worthy Farm.
Saturday’s temperatures soared to an astounding 31.2°C! The heatwave, which was caused by a “Saharan Bubble” of hot air from North Africa, prompted the NHS to issue a level two heat health alert for the South West.
Glastonbury officials even issued a “be safe in the heat” message, (seen below), which advised Glasto-goers to drink loads of water, slop on protective sunscreen, seek shade, wear a hat and seek help from security or stewards if they feel ill or faint. Glasto organisers also recommend visitors “not drink too much alcohol, as it will dehydrate you”.
As with every Glastonbury year, various long-range reports trying to predict the weather of the next Festival are to be taken very lightly.
Everything ranging from predictions of a “three-month heatwave” to “grime and unsettled” should all be taken as unsubstantiated guesses at this point.
As of the time of writing, no (reputable) weather sites are currently providing forecasts as far out as the festival.
And remember, whatever the weather eventually turns out to be, you will most likely have an absolutely amazing Glastonbury.
Glastonbury Festival weather statistics: