1990:

June 3. Finsbury Park, London. Gaelic culture comes to festival, with the Fleadh, featuring Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher.

Glastonbury site map 1990
Glastonbury site map 1990 Source: UK Rock Festivals

June 22-24. Glastonbury Festival, the 20th anniversary event. Retitled as ‘Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts’ to reflect diversity of attractions. ‘Europe’s most effective anti-nuclear fund-raising event’, says the publicity. The Green Fields quadruples in size to 60 acres, and includes Mind Body and Spirit Healing Area, Earth Mysteries, as well as a green small business trade show. Sponsored by NME which describes the festival as ‘held with all its usual attendant problems of drug busts, muddy, quagmire-like fields, and crush-related injuries.’ Confrontations on the Monday morning between on-site security teams and groups of travellers causes £50,000 worth of damage to equipment and facilities. Ry Cooder, Aswad, The Cure. Also circus, theatre, cabaret and comedy. Tickets £38, programmes £3. 70,000 people. £100,000 raised for CND and local charities.

June 29-July 1. Brighton Urban Festival, featuring up-and-coming local lads The Levellers.

July 20-22. WOMAD comes to the epicentre of British festival culture—Reading, that is. WOMAD rebrands the Berkshire town site as Rivermead. Van Morrison, Radical Dance Faction.

1991:

Earth First! founded in Britain, following eco-activist model of direct action from USA. Summer gatherings will form a major part of EF!’s consciousness-raising activity, a little like a festival in the countryside, but explicitly stating that they are not festivals. The emphasis is on the social solidarity and the education and energising/chilling rather than on music and entertainment.

June 2. Finsbury Park, London. The Fleadh, with the Pogues, Christy Moore, the Chieftains, That Petrol Emotion.

No Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, following disturbances last year.

June 20-25. Longstock Free Festival, featuring radical sound system Spiral Tribe.

June-August. Regular commercial summer festival circuit offers full variety of music and culture: WOMAD at Rivermead, Cambridge Folk Festival, Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington, Reading Festival, Notting Hill Carnival in London.

1992:

Castlemorton from the air 1992
Castlemorton from the air 1992 (unknown newspaper) Source: UK Free Party People

May 22-29. Castlemorton, Hereford and Worcester. The annual Avon Free Festival moved form various possible sites ends up on common land in the next county. The biggest free festival/rave event to date signals a revival of alt. lifestyle, with New Traveller/acid house/free party crossover. Attendance officially estimated at 20,000. Sound systems like Spiral Tribe, DiY, Bedlam play. Locals living in isolated houses surrounded by it all feel ‘invaded’, ‘bombarded’, ‘intimidated’, and their Working Party’s report after the event leads to some of the anti-rave and criminalisation of trespass clauses of the CJA two years later.

New Travellers, ravers, road protesters find new strength to be direct

May: First LMC Festival of Experimental Music, produced by the London Musicians’ Collective, featuring free jazz and experimental music and including daytime workshops and roundtable discussions. ‘Fresh-faced youths shared the stage with names from the Jurassic early seventies. Visitors from abroad notably included Ikue Mori (New York drum machinist, formerly of Arto Lindsay’s DNA) and Sainkho Namtchalak (Mongolian throat singer wearing vinyl LP headdress). LMC project co-ordinator Ed Baxter had the vision to see that if the event was big enough it would not only be visible on an international scale, but also more attractive to funding bodies. A hectic plethora of offstage performances, discussions, workshops and video screenings complemented the main concerts. At times the heated debates in the bar seemed as compelling as the music simultaneously bursting out of the hall. Suddenly journalists and promoters from Europe and the States were hanging out. Older improvisers were fiercely condemning the antics of younger ones, and anyone concerned about the LMC’s health could heave sighs of relief’ (Bell 1999).

June 26-28. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. With the end of the Cold War and the rise in green consciousness, Eavis feels that the time is right to widen out the beneficiaries of the funds raised from just the anti-nuclear movement. Greenpeace (which was originally anti-nuclear) and Oxfam (with its campaigning against the arms trade) benefit with local charities to the sum of £250,000. Event is linked to National Music Day. The Levellers, Carter USM, PJ Harvey—the line-up needed a surprise, and a Glastonbury tradition is invented, that of hosting a veteran performer, this year Tom Jones. Also the Jazz World stage is introduced as a focus for world music and some jazz. 70,000 people. Prices have nearly doubled in the space of three years: tickets £49, programme £4.

Luton, Bedfordshire. DiY group Exodus Collective forms from local black and white youth, holds first free party/rave.

1993:

June 25-27. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. ‘Golden Oldie’ Rolf Harris with didj reinvents himself as world music elder. Velvet Underground on a reunion tour, the Orb, Lenny Kravitz. 80,000 people. Tickets £58, programmes £4. £250,000 raised for Greenpeace, Oxfam, and local charities. In the early 1990s admission prices are rising by around £10 per year, which is 20-25% annual inflation—even so, this year’s festival sells out well in advance.

June-August. Free festivals organised by a lager company to promote its product. Heineken Festivals take place in Brighton, Preston, Nottingham, Swansea and Portsmouth, offering free rock and world music in marquees in public parks. The free festival movement develops a respectable edge?

Brighton Urban Free Festival (BUFF) is stopped by the council after eleven years of the annual event.

Rebirth Brass Band
Rebirth Brass Band © David Redfern/Redferns. Source: Guardian 2013

November: First London Jazz Festival, which developed from the Camden Jazz Festival (see 1973). Produced by Serious Events Ltd and now directed by John Cumming, David Jones, and Claire Whitaker. Now over ten days in more than than 20 venues across London, including South Bank Centre, Barbican Centre, Jazz Café, Blackheath Halls, and Pizza Express with audiences up to 10,000. Features major international musicians alongside British performers. Writing about the first festival, Guardian critic John Fordham wrote: ‘Some might have considered that the Serious/Speakout operation, as it then was, had bitten off an indigestible mouthful when it launched the London jazz festival (as a three-borough, multi-venue event built on the foundations of the old Camden jazz festival) in 1993, but they began with a confident shout that has reverberated through the decades since. At Islington’s Union Chapel in May that year, the young Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans played the opening night (alongside British soul, jazz and blues legend Carol Grimes) as if it was a resounding finale, and in their combination of roots jazz, Headhunters funk, pop and reggae, they were the perfect harbingers of the idiomatically freewheeling and inclusive LJF yet to come. That year’s festival, embracing Nitin Sawhney, Stan Tracey, Anthony Braxton, and a Shape of Jazz To Come crossover event at the Forum, were early indications of the process under way’ (2013).

1994:

June 24-26. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. Ten days beforehand the Pyramid Stage burns down, and is sadly replaced by a standard outdoor festival rig. The fire is ominous; the festival has its first death, a young man from a drugs overdose, while on Saturday night there is a gun battle between two suspected drugs gangs, with five people shot. (Melody Maker notes that Glastonbury ‘isn’t Compton, but it’s not Utopia, either’.) Practising what they greenpreach, a wind turbine provides 150kW of power for the main stage area. Channel 4 broadcasts live on television. Manic Street Preachers suggest during their set that we could ‘have some more bypasses through this fucking shithole’. Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Bjork, Orbital are more polite, plus Golden Oldie Johnny Cash. DIY sound systems blast out techno through the night. 80,000 people. Tickets £59, programme £5. £300,000 donated to Greenpeace, Oxfam and local causes.

June-August. Regular commercial summer festival circuit offers full variety of music and culture: WOMAD at Rivermead, Cambridge Folk Festival, Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington, Reading Festival, Notting Hill Carnival in London.

July 14-17. Long Marston, Stratford-upon-Avon. A disused airfield. The Phoenix Festival arrives, organised by the Mean Fiddler Organisation, sponsored by Melody Maker and Carlsberg.

July 30-31. T in the Park, near Glasgow. T is for Tennents—like Heineken last year, Carlsberg with the Phoenix and Guinness with the Fleadh in a couple of years time, breweries are tapping into festival culture for promotion. Headlining are Rage Against the Machine and Del Amitri, while in King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent you can see Blur, Pulp, Oasis and Manic Street Preachers.

New York State. Woodstock 2. 300,000 people believe the publicity. They then get rained on while listening to the contemporary sounds of Santana, The Allman Brothers. ‘Woodstock 94. Live it. Love, Pepsi’, say the sponsors. Sad.

November. Criminal Justice and Public Order Act becomes law. A sustained attack on alternative lifestyles and politics in Britain, including almost unprecendented laws directed specifically against pop music and culture: the notorious anti-rave sections, identifying ‘music characterised by a succession of repetitive beats’.

1995:

May 5-7. Fairmile, Devon. Beltane Festival, organised on site of the road protest camps agains the development of the A30 trunk road.

Reclaim The Streets in Camden 1995
Reclaim The Streets in Camden 1995 Source: Actipedia

May 14. London. First Reclaim the Streets anti-car culture free street party blocks off Camden High Street for a dance party protest.

June 23-25. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. In an echo of Woodstock and of the Isle of Wight festivals of a quarter of a century before (this is the 25th anniversary of the first festival), fences are pulled down by some sections of the crowd to make a free festival. The Cure, Portishead, Simple Minds, Oasis. The Stone Roses pull out from their headlining slot at short notice, and Pulp, in one of those Glastonbury moments, step in with a legendary pop performance for the common people. The new Dance Tent is a real crowd-pleaser, featuring Massive Attack. 80,000 people. Tickets £65, programme £5. £400,000 raised for Greenpeace, Oxfam, and local causes.

June-August. Regular commercial summer festival circuit offers full variety of music and culture: the Fleadh in London, WOMAD at Rivermead, Cambridge Folk Festival, Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington, Reading Festival, Notting Hill Carnival in London.

Brighton Festival of Freedom. Following the end of the Brighton Urban Free Festival a few years previously, and the recent introduction of the CJA with its anti-rave clauses, a group of admirable troublemakers decides to throw a new free festival in the town. 10,000 party politically.

July 7-9. The Mother megarave, somewhere in southern England, conceived by free party activists as Castlemorton II, fails to materialise following cat and mouse game with police from site to site.

July 23. London. RTS 2. Street party in blocked off street: sand covers tarmac, deck chairs are brought out as a summer beach party takes over London and thousands dance.

August 5-7. Tan Hill Fayre, Avebury, Wiltshire. A revived ancient charter fair, by Dongas Tribe eco-protestors, now living a low impact nomadic lifestyle reclaiming the green lanes of the English countryside.

September 3. London. Newham Unity Festival. A response to organisers’ previous criticism of the “ANL syndrome”: passing off anti-racist conerts in black areas, attracting thousands of people but leaving little lasting effect, as huge anti-rcist mobilisations. The Unity Festival is different’ (quoted in Hutnyk 1996, 180).

September 22-24. Claunie Dam, Scotland. A free festival for the very brave: Midge Death Festival.

1996:

April: First Cheltenham International Jazz Festival, directed by Jim Smith.

May. Tribal Gathering, a commercial dance festival, has major problems getting permission to happen. Underground organisers the Advance Party see this, after the CJA in 1994 and the banning of The Mother megarave/free party in 1995, as evidence that ‘the authorities are out to crush the whole movement, be it legal, illegal, large or small’.

June. Finsbury Park, London, seems to become a semi-permanent festival venue for the month. A series of one-day events, all commercial: on the 8th the Fleadh with Christy Moore and Clannad; the next day, ‘A Lazy Sunday Afternoon’ with Paul Weller; a fortnight later, Saturday at the Park is ‘Madstock’, featuring a reuinted Madness, and Sunday is, sadly, a reunited Sex Pistols day.

June 12-18. North Wales. Earth First! Summer Gathering of radical environmentalists and other direct activists. Advance publicity clarifies the distinction between it and (a slightly jaundiced view of) festival culture: ‘Please note that this is NOT a festival. It is a gathering of those involved or interested in direct action in defence of the earth. There will be no sound systems, but there will be acoustic bands in the evening. If you just want to sit around getting pissed up and listening to music we can provide you with a list of festivals where you can do just that.’

No Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, after last year’s crowds and crowd trouble. Instead, festival organisers branch out, to offer the first Classical Extravaganza, an open air concert in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. There is a small echo here of Rutland Boughton’s Glastonbury Festivals of the early twentieth century.

13 July. London. RTS 3 hit the motorway! A street party blocks off the M41, and 8,000 people do the party & protest.

July 18-21. Long Marston, Stratford-upon-Avon. A disused airfield. Hoping to pick up Glastonbury’s crowds, the Phoenix Festival features David Bowie, Neil Young and the Sex Pistols.

August 10. Stanmer Park, Brighton. Festival of Freedom. 30,000 come to this free festival of DiY Culture, with eight stages featuring live bands and all sorts of alternative stalls.

1997:

Dubhenge at Glastonbury 1997
Dubhenge at Glastonbury 1997 © Hugh Jart Source: Hugh Jart

June 27-29. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. One of the mud years following torrential rain just prior to the festival, which leads to the Other Stage threatening to collapse and performances there being cancelled as a precaution. Sting, Ray Davies, the Prodigy, Radiohead, Massive Attack, but overall less big names, more variety. Site now covers a huge 800 acres, and has a daily newspaper and live television broadcasts on BBC2. A ‘dubhenge’ made from upended VW beetles and campervans, the first Greenpeace field with a reconstructed Rainbow Warrior (the boat blown up by French secret service in New Zealand in 1985). Greenpeace, Oxfam, and a local homeless charity are among main beneficiaries. 95,000 people. Tickets £75 with no charge for programme.

June-August. Regular commercial summer festival circuit offers full variety of music and culture: the Fleadh in Finsbury Park, Phoenix Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, WOMAD at Rivermead, Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington, Reading Festival, Notting Hill Carnival in London.

August 16-17. Leeds and Chelmsford. V97. Virgin V Festival continues its innovative festival structure: it is split on two sites up and down the country, with the line-ups swapping overnight. Blur headline.

August Bank Holiday Weekend. Luton, Bedfordshire. First annual ‘Free the Spirit’ free festival, organised by leading DiY-ers, Exodus Collective, on their Long Meadow Community Free Farm.

Tribal Gathering, the longstanding commercial festival of the dance generation, is involved in an acrimonious legal battle with commercial partner, Mean Fiddler Organisation, over the increasing commercialisation of the festival.

1998:

June 26-28. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. Bob Dylan, Robbie Williams, Tony Bennett wearing the only white suit in Somerset in June, play in front of anything between 85,000 and 100,000 people. Tickets £80, plus £3 booking fee, £20 extra for coming in a campervan. Another one of the mud years, and gastral infection spreads through some of the crowd, from the mud. 1,000 different performances on 17 stages, including the Prodigy, Spiritualized, Asian Dub Foundation, Pulp, Roni Size. Over £500,000 raised for Greenpeace, Oxfam, Water Aid and many local organisations.

June 20. Milton Keynes Bowl. Ozzfest ’98. Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath reunite. Advertised unassumingly as follows: ‘Ozzfest takes a bit wet bite out of the arse of every other festival … You haven’t seen jackshit … the event of the millennium!’

July 11-12. T in the Park, near Glasgow. Prodigy, Spiritualized, Asian Dub Foundation, in case you missed them a couple of weeks back in Somerset.

July 16-19. Phoenix Festival, Britain’s only four-day commercial event. Bands booked include Prodigy, Spiritualized, Asian Dub Foundation, in case you missed them at T in the Park last weekend. The event is cancelled late on due to poor ticket sales. Along with last year’s Tribal Gathering struggle, a crisis in the development of commercial festival culture in the 1990s is taking place, with many proclaiming The Death of Festival. A number of smaller festivals are also hit by lack of demand, by the oversupply each summer.

1999:

June 25-27. Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, ‘supporting Greenpeace, Oxfam, Water Aid, and worthwhile local causes’. REM, Manic Street Preachers (who bring their own portaloo), Ian Dury is too ill to perform. It’s a survivor.

June-August. Some of the regular commercial summer festivals happen as usual: Cambridge Folk Festival, T in the Park, the Fleadh at Finsbury Park, WOMAD at Rivermead, V99, Notting Hill Carnival in London.

Phoenix Festival doesn’t rise from the ashes.

July 31-1 August. Someone has the bright idea to revive the Buxton Festival of the 1970s, an event called BADAM ’99. An unashamedly retro bill was to feature Hawkwind, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (last seen–when? Decades ago?), nd Daevid Allen from Gong. Ticket prices from another era too: £20 in advance. Was this event cancelled?

August 11. Total eclipse of the sun. Line of totality includes some of the West Country, so a number of tribal gatherings and commercial festivals are held. Those advertised in Devon and Cornwall include Lizard Festival, Lynx Voodoo Eclipse Festival, Moonshadow Eclipse Festival, Total Eclipse Festival, Cornish Eclipse Stone Festival, and a free festival at Men-an-Toll. Quite a few of the commercial events lose money.

August 28-29. Reading Festival. Picking up on the Virgin Festivals of the past few years, ‘The Carling Weekend’ Reading offers a north-south split. Friday and Saturday see the bands at Reading, Saturday and Sunday the same bands at Leeds.

October 9. London, New York, Geneva. Net Aid benefit to alleviate poverty in the devleoping world. A bit like Live Aid from the previous decade—with many of the same ‘superstar’ acts: Bowie, George Michael, Eurythmics—and a smattering of 90s talent like Wyclef Jean, Puff Daddy and Robbie Williams. The difference is that these transatlantic simultaneous performances are broadcast live on the internet.

1999 is the the year in which American company SFX Entertainment began acquiring British live music companies, including the Apollo Leisure Group, Midland Concert Promotions, and the Barry Clayman Corporation, thereby acquiring a large chunk of the UK’s major live music businesses seemingly overnight. SFX is later sold to Clear Channel and then spins off into Live Nation.

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