A History of Music Festivals, Part 5: UK Rock – Utopik

A History of Music Festivals, Part 5: UK Rock

Authored By Dr Dave 0 Comment(s)

Across the pond in the 1960s, the faltering British jazz scene was soon to be replaced by huge rock festivals inspired by Monterey and Woodstock.

Reading Festival

Influenced by the Newport Jazz Festival, the first Reading Festival (later Reading and Leeds Festival) was known as the National Jazz Festival.

Three years after this 1961 event, its name was changed to the National Jazz and Blues Festival. This reflected the changing musical tastes of the Brits at the time.

1969 National Jazz & Blues Festival

The 1969 National Jazz and Blues Festival in Plumpton, East Sussex

Gradually jazz musicians were relegated to the ‘graveyard slot’ of the festival, so that acts such as Cream, Fleetwood Mac and Jeff Beck could headline the event.

Much like America, festival noise and crowds irritated the locals. This meant that the festival had to constantly change venue in the 1960s.

Reading, Berkshire, was selected as its permanent home in 1971. Jazz hardly featured by this time; the crowds of around 30,000 were drawn to the progressive rock, blues and folk music that replaced it.

Reading Festival is often said to be the oldest popular music festival still in existence.

Fleetwood Mac

A newly formed Fleetwood Mac appeared at Reading Festival

Isle of Wight Festival

The first Isle of Wight Festival in 1968 was a relatively small affair that attracted around 15,000 music lovers.

Taking place a few weeks after Woodstock, the 1969 festival dwarfed the opening year – the attendance had increased by about 10 times.

This was mostly because Bob Dylan, who headlined the event, had rarely performed in the previous 3 years. Three acts from the Woodstock Festival also played there.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan attracted huge crowds to the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival

With an estimated attendance of 600,000-700,000, the legendary 1970 festival was an even bigger event. People flocked to see the unique line-up, which contained numerous famous artists from both sides of the Atlantic.

The unexpectedly high attendance meant that the UK Parliament passed a law, in 1971, that prevented the festival from remaining on the small island. However, the event was revived in 2002 and continues to this day.

The Who in 1974

The Who appeared at Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival

Glastonbury Festival

The day after Jimi Hendrix’s death, the first Glastonbury Festival took place in 1970.

Based close to Stonehenge, a crowd of around 1,500 saw Marc Bolan, Stackridge, Al Stewart and others. As part of the admission price, free milk from the nearby farm was provided.


Stonehenge is 33 miles from Glastonbury Festival 

The 1971 festival featured the first appearance of the Pyramid Stage, possibly the most iconic festival stage in the world.

From 1981 onwards, Glastonbury continually grew in size. Today, an attendance of 135,000 revelers is normal.

The Pyramid Stage in 2014

The Pyramid Stage in 2014






Check out Part 6: Nineties festivals adapt to changes in taste

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