Glastonbury: Arguably the world’s most famous festival, with 210,000 people spread over 900 acres in the West Country in late June. In 2022 there’s glamping, celebs arriving by helicopter and tents you can hire for thousands that include three bathrooms and a butler. But back in 1970, when it was started by Michael Eavis – a dairy farmer with big ambitions but no experience of organising a music festival – things were different. For one thing, it was called the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival. For another, it was attended by only 1,500 hippies.
One of those hippies was Lynne Telfer, a retiree who lives in the Bristol suburbs and also happens to be my mother-in-law. Ahead of the return of Glasto this month, I had a chat with her about her experience of what went down and what she thinks of the festival now. After poor sales, Eavis said of the 1970 festival: "I wouldn’t say it was a disaster, but it hasn’t been as good as I hoped". But what was Lynne’s view?
Before we begin, she wants to let you know that “this is 52 years ago and my memories may not be totally accurate”. Considering none of us can remember the line-up of the festivals we went to in 2019, I think we can forgive her.
VICE: So what were you doing in 1970?
Lynne Telfer: I was 17 and I was still living at home in Bristol. I was working in an office and hanging around with mainly male friends who were in bands and were a bit older than me. I used to call us The Weekend Hippies, because they would go off to work on building sites and then practise their music during the week. Then we'd all go mad at the weekend.
So how did you hear about the festival that was happening?
We were in The Hatchet, which is a really old pub in Bristol, and there was a poster on the wall. And because my friends did gigs around Bristol pubs, they got to hear about things by word of mouth so they knew what was going on.
Was going to a festival the type of thing you plan months in advance or you just decide the week before?
Generally it was a mess! The festivals that we went to were miles away, up country. If you could pay on the door, we just went there. Nothing was planned. Before the Pilton Pop Festival [as Glasto was called then], there had been two festivals that we'd gone to. One was at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music [which Eavis later said he was inspired by], which had something like 150,000 people and that was in the same year. The year before that we'd been to Bath Pavilion with about 30,000 people and both times bands like Led Zeppelin were playing. It was brilliant. But this one I don’t think we really made any plans for it at all. It was just a thing that we decided to go to.
When you got there, did it feel a lot smaller than those other ones?
Oh yes. Straight away it felt a lot smaller. We arrived on the Friday night and went in. I was expecting to see more people there but there were big empty expanses of fields around us.
How big was the biggest stage?
There was only one stage and it was a bit ramshackle. I remember scaffolding on it – it must have been safe but there was nothing that looked elite about it – it certainly wasn’t like the Pyramid Stage now. It was just a stage that had been put up with a canvas over the top in case it rained.
Do you remember how much stuff you took with you?
[laughs] Me and my little crew took a sleeping bag, a change of underwear, a toothbrush maybe a comb.. not much else. I don't remember there being a lot of tents. We did end up in other people's tents at times but most people just slept where they sat. You just got your sleeping bag on when it started getting cold and went to sleep. If you were really organised, you had a bit of polythene to put over the top in case it rained. And the toilets were very grim, very early on in the weekend. They were filthy right from the start, somehow, and not fit for use…
What bands did you watch?
Stackridge [a prog rock band] opened and closed the festival. There was a guy called Duster Bennett who was a one-man band, played the drum with his foot, played the harmonica and guitar, and Marc Bolan. The Kinks were supposed to be headlining but didn't turn up – I heard Bolan was supposed to be on his way to play Butlins in Minehead and he stopped off on the way to headline.
It was all a bit like that – disorganised. The DJs did a lot of filling in while they were waiting for bands to turn up. We were just sat about having a lovely chill time. It didn't really matter. You could go anywhere. You could see anything. You could have gone round the back of the stage. I mean, it was access all areas.
And what was the vibe of the festival? Did it get more chaotic as it got later?
No, not chaotic at all, at least for me! The thing was, and it was quite a phenomenon for that time, is that whatever gigs we went to, everybody sat down. You were really cool if you sat and watched these gigs, nobody stood up. It must have been quite unnerving for the bands. It’s such a strange phenomena – people just sat watching quietly, drinking and smoking and having a lovely time.
Smoking tobacco or…
We were smoking dope. That’s why it was chilled! But it was a pain when you got hungry because there wasn't any food down there. We did have an ox roast there though. And because there were only about 1,500 people there, it had a really intimate feel. Everybody was friendly.
What’s your one standout memory of the festival?
I mean paying a pound and getting a pint of milk as you walked through the gate was always going to stick in your mind as it never happened before.
Did you have any inkling of what it would become?
Not at all. It was the same with all those bands: We never thought they’d be remembered like they are. When I speak to people and tell them who I've seen and I talk about Hendrix and Led Zeppelin… You wouldn't have thought then that they would still be in people's consciousness 50 years later.
And did you go again?
I didn’t. Once I had children all that stopped and I didn’t have time to go again.
Would you like to?
I’d like to go to experience it. I think what scares me a bit is the choice. I was looking yesterday at the line-up for this year and the different stages and I thought ‘God, there are so many people that you’d want to see, how do you choose?’ Back then, you didn't have a choice, you just sat and watched whoever was on next.
Would you watch Paul McCartney?
This is a strange phenomenon for me; that they sort of drag all the oldies out. When I was at Glastonbury, if somebody had said we're bringing out Frank Sinatra, we'd have been horrified.