Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury- not just a Festival but a Working Men’s Club!

Glastonbury festival seems to get bigger every year.  There are now 6 huge stages and many other things going on in the various fields.  News of who’s playing, what the weather is doing and what the celebs are wearing is hard to avoid during ‘Glasto’ weekend.  There seems to be a national concern about the mud, or lack of it as we watch smiling and giggling festival-goers walking on duckboards in wellies. 

Glastonbury Festival has certainly come a long way since the first festival on Michael Eavis’s Worthy Farm in Pilton back in 1970.  

Then, a mere 1,500 people attended whereas there are ten times that number nowadays.  There used to be more but safety limits and more concerted efforts to stop gate-crashers keep the numbers to this still huge but manageable size. 

But what is the link to clubs? There is the clear one of Glastonbury being a massive celebration of live music which the clubs have contributed much to over the years including providing a training ground for bands and other performers, some of them making it to the ‘Glasto’ stages.  Many young people asked their dads to ask the committee of the local club if they could practice on the club’s stage when no-one was there.  And later maybe, to actually perform in the club in front of an audience. 

Hundreds of now famous performers used the clubs as places to hone their skills and to test the waters in terms of audience reaction.  Big names such as Slade, and Duran Duran apart from the now legendary Tom Jones.   The ‘Voice’ has headlined at Glastonbury alongside other younger artists and recruited another generation to his long list of fans.  Gary Barlow of ‘Take That’ played the North West club circuit from the age of 14 till he was recruited to the boy band. The list of performers who used clubs is too long to recount here- and is a major credit to our clubs.

Another link is that nearby to Glastonbury is the village of Pilton which has a Working Men’s Club! It is housed in a communal facility alongside the Village Hall and Post Office.  According to their website, ‘it is a social space, a place for the community; a meeting place where all are welcome.  As a social hub for the village, various village groups and societies meet there and activities such as Yoga, quizzes and coffee/tea and charity events take place.…quite simply it’s a place where people can meet up with friends and neighbours to be part of the village.’

This sounds like a great example of a community club that many others might aspire to!

The original building dates back centuries but had fallen into disrepair in the late 19th century and was uninhabited.  Locals probably heard about clubs being established across the country so held a meeting in 1890 to form their own.  It was set up in 1893 in a substantially rebuilt building though the old foundations remained as a guide.  Like many clubs, it began as a Reading Room, then added a skittle alley, skittles being a popular game in that part of the country. 

A bar was also installed and the club became an integral part of village social life.  Music and making music we are told ‘was a critical part of the character and social activity of the Club and women were involved from an early stage.’ In the 1970s the building was improved, and then again in the 1990s.  The WMC was re-opened in 2003, then the Village Hall in 2006 and together offer ‘a wonderful facility in a wonderful village.’

Michael Eavis, owner of Worthy Farm and host to Glastonbury Festival, is one of the trustees.  With someone as dynamic and community oriented as he is, the Pilton WMC is set to have a great future!

See what they have to offer!

Ruth Cherrington



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