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Glastonbury 50 Years and Counting: release date, trailer and everything we know

Glastonbury 50 Years and Counting
Francis Whately's film has been three years in the making. (Image credit: BBC)

New BBC Two film, Glastonbury 50 Years and Counting, is set to take us on a trip through half a century of mud and music when it hits our screens later this month. 

Created by Francis Whately, producer and director of the acclaimed David Bowie Five Years trilogy, the feature-length documentary will be bring us a social and musical history of the world's most famous music festival. 

Festival founder Michael Eavis, his daughter Emily Eavis, and a host of artists who've appeared over the years, will be sharing their stories during a 'thematic and story-driven exploration of the peaks and troughs, the agonies and the ecstasies, that have shaped the festival's many eras'. 

Meanwhile, cameras will take viewers backstage and deep into the archive to reveal the forces that have driven this alternative event. Here's everything we know...

Glastonbury 50 Years and Counting release date

The film will debut on BBC Two and the BBC iPlayer on Sunday, June 19 at 9 pm. There's no news on when the film might be air in the US. 

The film will be just the start of the Beeb's Glastonbury offering over the ensuing week, with the music festival being covered more extensively than ever before this year. 

Talking about the BBC's coverage of the Glastonbury Festival, BBC Director of Music Lorna Clarke says: “I’m very proud of the BBC’s long history of broadcasting from Glastonbury, the highlight of our Summer of Live Music.”

“Our coverage this year will be our most extensive to date, with over 35 hours of programming across BBC One, Two, Three and Four, and over 40 hours on BBC iPlayer – in addition to digital live streams from the five biggest festival stages. We’ll also have wall-to-wall coverage on the BBC’s pop radio networks and BBC Sounds – with over 60 hours of broadcasts from the festival itself. For the first time, we’ll be showing sets from the Pyramid stage in Ultra High Definition, a fantastic progression in our Glastonbury story, which aims to help audiences access every epic musical moment."

This year's festival will be headlined by Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamarr, you can see the entire line-up and find out how to watch Glastonbury 2022 in our guide. 

What is Glastonbury 50 Years and Counting about? 

A BBC press release reads...

"The film dramatizes the forces that have kept Glastonbury Festival moving forward despite the threats that have sought to destroy its magic. So much has changed in the 50 years and counting of the festival’s journey, yet so much has remained constant. At the heart of the film is an emerging portrait of dairy farmer and impresario Michael Eavis - who CND’s Bruce Kent describes as “a funny little man”, Cinemageddon’s Joe Rush as “an anarchist”, and Block9’s Gideon Berger as “fantastically open-minded” – and his daughter, Emily. Glastonbury Festival began as Michael’s money-spinner and has morphed into a vast wonderland where he’s brave enough to enable all kinds of music and all manner of fun which don’t always sit easy, either with his personal taste or his Methodist conscience; while Emily now curates the diverse artist bookings and drives the festival’s progressive environmental approach.

"Opening with Billie Eilish and Stormzy backstage in 2019, viewers are almost immediately plunged into the nuclear threat that drove Glastonbury’s alliance with CND in the early 1980s, before meeting Johnny Marr and Mike Joyce of The Smiths who share how their 1984 slot reconnected this hippie gathering with the musical zeitgeist. The template of Glastonbury’s combination of social conscience and musical immediacy has been set. 

"The film then journeys back in time to the first Glastonbury festivals - the inspirations of dairy farmer Max Yasgur’s Woodstock in 1969 and the nearby Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music down the road in Shepton Mallet in June 1970 - swiftly followed by Michael Eavis’ pastoral village fete in Pilton a couple of months later, which was intended to pay off the mortgage on Worthy Farm and trade upon the Utopian vibes of the mystic Vale of Avalon. 

"Then it’s onto 1971’s free Glastonbury festival of liberty and lawlessness, as recalled by singer-songwriter Linda Lewis who hung out with David Bowie and sang with Terry Reid that year.

"The rollercoaster ride escalates as Glastonbury takes on Maggie Thatcher, embraces the travelers, then eventually drives them off while keeping the determined talents that will enrich the festival’s extracurricular offering at Lost Vagueness, Block9, Arcadia, Pangea, and Carhenge. Dance culture, drugs, Britpop and Blair, Radiohead and rain, The Fence, Jay Z, the arrival of television and identity politics are woven into a tapestry told by the Eavis family, the event’s many curators and the musicians – Thom Yorke, Florence Welch, Dua Lipa, The Levellers, Aswad, Orbital, Fatboy Slim, Linda Lewis, Noel Gallagher, Ed O’Brien, Chris Martin, and Stormzy, all tell it like it is. 

"Throughout, unfolding events are orchestrated by a Greek chorus of apposite stage performances from the likes of Dave, Sinead O’Connor, Massive Attack and Arthur Lee & Love which often float free from the year they were given to soundtrack the politics and the emotions of Glastonbury’s struggles with a wider Britain." 

Michael Eavis on Glastonbury 50 Years and Counting

"It’s an unusual model really that we’re running here but... that’s why it works I think," he says. 

"Three million people want to come to this event, which is a huge number, because of what it offers them I suppose... isn’t that enough for me? Don’t you think so? I think that’s plenty, come on, for a chap that’s 86, 87... to be satisfied with my life, surely.”

'Glastonbury - 50 Years and Counting' trailer

There's no trailer for this one yet, but we'll be sure to post it here as soon as it drops. 

Sean Marland
Sean Marland

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.