Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Glastonbury 1990, My Ninth Glastonbury. Showdown At Yeoman's Bridge.

In 1990 I went with a friend called Sara from Westbury. It was pouring rain when we got to the station in Westbury. “Oh no, It’s going to be a muddy year”, I said to Sara. As it turned out it wasn’t too bad at all, certainly not one of the famous muddy years anyway. I had a ticket for the festival but Sara didn’t. I don’t think she even had a train ticket either but the train was so packed it was impossible for them to check the tickets. I don’t know where Michael hired the security on the gate from that year but they were quite an unsavoury aggressive bunch. They were searching everyone’s bags looking for stuff that they could confiscate for themselves. It worked to our advantage though because while they were going through my rucksack Sara sneaked past on their blind side and just strolled through the gate with no problems.
I don’t think 1990 was musically very memorable, not for me anyway. Because of the problems the festival had encountered Michael Eavis had decided to promote the theatre side of the attractions and had called it ‘The Glastonbury Festival Of  Contemporary Performing Arts’. If he hoped that this would attract a different type of audience then it failed. The New Age Travellers turned up in even greater numbers and had their own ‘Free’ festival in their field and people continued to climb over the fence to get in. The act that everyone was talking about that year was a circus act called Archaos. They were French and did all sorts of dangerous stunts such as juggling with live chainsaws, motorbike walls of death and high-wire acts. Apparently they were performing acrobatics all over the roof of the Pyramid Stage and above the crowd but I didn’t bother watching any of it.

Of the bands that appeared, The Happy Mondays caused a lot of bother backstage by smuggling people in their bus, forging backstage passes, laminating them and giving them to any Tom, Dick or Harry who wanted one. That band were said by some to be responsible for bringing an undesirable element to Glasto which got worse in subsequent years but I think it is a bit harsh to blame them. The Cure were the top headlining band but I didn’t like them much. Ry Cooder was someone who I admired and I had a couple of his albums but I think I might have been asleep when he was on. 1990 for me was the year of discovering the joys of the Acoustic Stage. It was the first of many times I saw John Otway at Glastonbury although I had witnessed his madness many times previously. Davy Spillane was there as well. He is a uilleann pipe player from Ireland. It was a good year for pipe players because I enjoyed Katherine Tickell from Northumberland as well. Roy Harper of punch-up with Ginger Baker fame played the Acoustic Stage that year and it was absolutely packed for him. We listened from outside. On the World Music stage I saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo who sang really well and did enormous leaps into the air.

1990 was the year I made enough money on my bookstall to go straight to Ireland afterwards. On Monday afternoon I got back to Westbury, had a shower and a change of clothes and headed straight back to the station and caught the train to Fishguard  and the ferry to Rosslare. I was pleased to find that the train and boat were wedged with Irish music fans on their way home from Glastonbury. The craic was mighty as they say. As the boat sailed towards Ireland all seemed well in the world but unknown to me  back on Worthy Farm a riot had broken out between the unpleasant security guards and the New Age Travellers. This became known as the Battle Of Yeoman’s Bridge. The police had to deal with it and there were dozens of arrests and lots of damage. Was this the end of the road for Glastonbury?. There was to be no festival in 1991.

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