Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis said she was overcome with emotion as she welcomed 200,000 people to the world’s biggest greenfield festival for the first time in three years.
Under blue skies and a blazing sun, thousands of people streamed into Worthy Farm as soon as the gates opened at 8am on Wednesday, many having camped out overnight.
Michael Eavis, the 86-year-old Glastonbury founder, posed for selfies and promised fans “the best show in town” as they flooded in.
Its return has long been anticipated after Covid-19 forced organizers to cancel two years in a row. In celebration of its 50th year, Sir Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar will headline the Pyramid stage, while Diana Ross will fill the Sunday teatime legends slot.
Emily Eavis, 42, said everyone was “so chuffed to be back” and that it felt like a “totally unique atmosphere” as revelers filled the family farm for the first time since 2019.
She said: “It was very emotional this morning. I had to step away [from the gates] … not only is it actually getting people in here but also the patience – people have really stuck by us. They kept their tickets – they rolled them over, they rolled them over. It’s been this never-ending journey to actually get here. I was like, I have to step away now. It’s just the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”
The five-day event will host about 200,000 visitors, with more than 80 artists due to perform, including Olivia Rodrigo, Lorde and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. But festivalgoers have faced difficulties arriving at the site in Pilton amid major rail strikes in the biggest industrial action in a generation.
Only a fifth of trains were running on Tuesday as about 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Speaking to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Eavis said the staff who had been busy for weeks preparing the 900-acre site were all “beaming” and had “devoured” every moment when in previous years they would have felt exhausted by the time the festival opened.
It was only in the past few months, she said, that they knew for sure the show would go ahead. “There were many moments where we were just full of uncertainty. It was only really in the last few months where we were sure we were going to actually make it through. How certain can you ever be at the moment? It’s just a miracle that we’ve actually made it happen.”
Andrew Hwang, 28, smiled giddily as he explained how he had flown 5,600 miles from his home in South Korea – a 14-hour flight due to a detour around Ukrainian airspace – to attend his first Glastonbury.
“It’s been my dream for like 10 years,” he said. “This is the most historic and famous festival on this planet. It’s hard to describe.”
Hwang, a K-pop promoter based in the South Korean capital, Seoul, is working as a producer on the Williams Green stage and arrived on site earlier this week, before the mayhem ensues.
It meant he was able to take a quiet moment in front of a deserted Pyramid stage and think back to his childhood: “I’ve been watching video footage on YouTube since I was like 17 so it’s been 10 years that I’ve been wishing I was at Glastonbury while watching footage of performances from the Pyramid stage. It’s quite bizarre that I’m finally here. It’s quite amazing.”
The biggest train strikes in 30 years added an extra air of jeopardy to the journey for many festival-goers.
UK Music’s chief executive, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, said the industrial action risked “causing chaos” and jeopardizing a huge economic boost for the creative industry after the barren pandemic years.
But the mood was determinedly positive as the first revelers pitched up their tents in the sun on Wednesday.
Ben Colgan, from Stockport, drove down to Pilton with his friend on Tuesday evening and slept in the car overnight ahead of the festival gates opening on Wednesday morning.
Colgan, a 34-year-old technical manager, who will be joined by his wife at the festival on Thursday, said it was “genuinely like a dream”.
“It sounds a bit sad, but it is. Glastonbury, for the past seven years, has been our thing,” he told the PA news agency. “Me and my wife came first, and then brought a few friends along, brought a few more, and now there’s about 12 of us that come and camp together. And it genuinely is the best place on Earth. It really is.”
A mixture of sunshine and rain has been forecast for the five-day jamboree. Heavy showers are expected on Friday and Saturday, potentially providing a dramatic, if rather soggy, backdrop to the headline sets of Eilish and McCartney.