Saturday, July 02, 2022

Glastonbury CND Festival 1982

During the 1980s - starting in fact with the 1981 festival - Glastonbury was explicitly a festival for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Festival founder Michael Eavis was active in CND at this time, a movement in resurgence as a result of rising Cold War tensions. As he explained “1981 was the year I decided to join up with the CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). I’d already been involved with them locally after somebody had found a secret bunker in the Mendip Hills which was guarded by soldiers with guns. Everyone was very worried about that; it was all top secret, but we wanted to know what was going on in our area, so we formed a local CND group in Shepton. Emily (Michael’s daughter) being born in 1979 also had a lot to do with me getting involved with the CND. I felt a great need to protect her, because she was so tiny. She really made me think, ‘I’m not going to let her get blown up by a cruise missile!’

The 1982 festival line up included Van Morrison, Jackson Browne, U2, Steel Pulse, Aswad and Judy Tzuke. The festival site was buzzed for a while by a hostile plane from the Tory-front organisation the Coalition for Peace through Security. Tories have never really got Glastonbury have they? Remember in 2015 when David Cameron said that he liked watching Glastonbury at TV at home 'in front of a warm fire' (in June!).

This report by Ross Bradshaw from Peace News, 9 July 1982, covers all the perennial delights and contradictions -  mud, commerce vs. mutual aid, worries about the crowd being too old


Fifty thousand people came, and £50,000 was raised for CND at the Glastonbury festival. What else can you say really... good time was had by all-wish you were there.

I was a bit nervous since it was 10 years since I last went to a rock festival, but the swamp-like consistency of the festival site helped strip away those inhibitions. You've just got to smile at strangers when every wellington-boot step is making a "gloop-gloop" sound in the mud.

Most of the crowd were 30ish; presumably the draw of Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and (the expected surprise appearance of) Roy Harper brought in the "ageing hippies against the bomb". Or maybe that's the normal festival crew.

Anyway, good music. But is it politics? Well squirming in the mud, then baking in the sun and the early morning queue for water does seem a long way from the CND committee meeting. And the sweet smell of marijuana smoke may not be as revolutionary as perhaps we first thought. Maybe we shouldn't really be shouting "More, more!" at the distant superstars on stage for them to come back for their planned encore. And in the market place the capitalists (albeit hip capitalists) were doing brisker business than the, stalls of Peace News, Freedom, and the alternative

But wait... the children's world with giant wooden ships, a castle, clowns, puppets, theatre and care-point all free.
And more theatre and free cinema for adults. And no police. Fifty thousand people and no police - or anyone else for that matter - to tell us what to do. Did standards fall, did a little bit of western-civilisation-as-we-know-it crumble?Thankfully, yes. Mutual aid, as it always does when people are left to themselves, put in an appearance. Food was  shared, people entertained themselves, lost children were found, stuck vans were pushed out of the mud and when it  as all over people gave each other lifts home. Order but no laws. No chaos, just some anarchy. Glastonbury is  D's biggest fundraiser, the Kremlin gold evidently having trouble getting through customs. Fortunately the Festival  people avoided the trap of feeding politics at their captive audience all the time. There were a few speakers (none of whom I heard), a CND tent (which was well supported), a few workshops and a variety of anti-nuclear films  including The War Game for those activists who can't go a weekend without seeing it. In general the politics/music  balance was fine.

Finally just a few words about the opposition. Presumably unable to find enough people to give out leaflets, the  Coalition for Peace through Security treated us to an air show. A plane trailing an anti-CND banner buzzed the site for an hour or two, rather like a nasty wasp that won't go away. I did hear the rumour that they were to be prosecuted for dangerous low flying, but it can't be true since these chaps woudn't break the law. Wonder what they'll do next year.

(old copy of Peace News found in the excellent 56a InfoShop archive) 

1 comment:

Alex said...

interesting that people were complaining that it wasn't cool enough 40 years ago.