Over the years, Oxfam and Glastonbury have grown together – inspired by a shared belief that change is always possible.
Glastonbury reaches their big 5-0 this summer! And although the season has been turned upside down, we’re determined to celebrate the anniversary by reflecting on what makes our partnership with the Festival so very special.
By Abby Jones, Mike Green and Zara Canfield
In Oxfam’s time at Glastonbury Festival we have painted musicians blue to campaign on climate change, asked festival-goers to write to their MP about the worldwide refugee crisis, and spoken about how fast fashion impacts the environment.
Glastonbury’s support of Oxfam goes back to the 1980’s. However, it was in 1993 that Michael Eavis chose us to be one of the Festival’s main charity partners. Initially Oxfam were invited to provide a team of volunteers that would help with the smooth running of the Festival.
We get an incredibly generous donation after each Festival, which over the years has equated to millions of pounds. This goes directly towards our global work to end world poverty.
For every Festival, each volunteer raises enough money to provide clean water to 25 people for one year.
The values that have remained at the heart of Glastonbury will resonate with many of Oxfam’s supporters.
“We’re all trying in our small way to make a difference. The main motivation for me and all the people who work here is that they have a sense of purpose – to be useful and to make a difference to the state of the earth. I think that’s an essential attitude to have, and it’s very rewarding as well.”
– Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis
We now have well over 2,500 volunteers across stewarding, campaigning and Festival shops. Oxfam’s fiercely loyal Festival volunteer community, who refer to themselves as the ‘Oxfamily’ has evolved as a direct result of the amazing opportunities that Glastonbury has given the charity over the years.
“Having volunteered at Glastonbury with Oxfam since 1998, it’s been great to have been a part of supporting the operation over the years as the Festival has grown. Being part of the Oxfamily has also allowed me to meet loads of new people, some of whom have become lifelong friends”.
– Colin Daffern, Oxfam Festival Volunteer
“When you steward, you know that the work you’re doing will help to change other people’s lives. But over time you learn that stewarding changes your own life too”.
– Jeremy Stewart, Oxfam Festival Volunteer
As the relationship has strengthened, so too has Oxfam’s campaign presence on site. The Festival provides an incredible platform for our campaigners to talk with over 200,000 festival-goers about the differences they can make – whether it is supporting Oxfam’s work on fighting world poverty, supporting refugees, water, gender equality, the sales of arms, or the climate emergency.
Here’s how our partnership has evolved, picking out some stand-out moments from over the years:
🏕️ 1993: Oxfam stewards work the gates
With capacity of 80,000, the Festival sells out two weeks before taking place. 600 Oxfam volunteers are invited to manage the Festival’s gate entry system. The bulk of the proceeds are divided between Greenpeace, Oxfam and local charities.
🏕️ 1994: Pyramid stage catches fire
Plans for the weekend are almost curtailed when eleven days before the event the Pyramid stage catches fire and is burned down. A replacement is rapidly built, and linked to the Festivals’ wind turbine, which supplies 150 kilowatts of power for the performances.
🏕️ 1995: Glastonbury turns 25
Glastonbury celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, while introducing The Dance Tent, which later morphs into the Dance Village, before becoming the multi-stage experience Silver Hayes. Oxfam receives a hugely generous donation of £100,000 from the Festival. 1996 is announced as a fallow year allowing the farm and fields to recover.
🏕️ 1997: Joint Charities are born
Capacity increases to 90,000, with the BBC taking over from Channel 4 on filming and broadcast. There’s heavy rain the week before and well into the weekend with emergency measures taken with waterproof bin liners, emergency crash tents and regular coaches to Castle Cary for those who have had enough. Oxfam and Greenpeace are joined by WaterAid as the official Glastonbury charities.
🏕️ 1998: Increase the Peace
Another wet year with capacity increasing to 100,500. There are now no less than seventeen stages offering over a thousand acts. Oxfam’s campaign builds on the aid effort that helped millions of people to survive the famine and war in Sudan by acting to bring peace. A generous donation of half-a-million pounds is given to Oxfam, WaterAid and Greenpeace.
🏕️ 1999: Fight the Fund
A spectacularly sunny year, which sees the launch of the Festival’s first website. Meanwhile plans continue for the new Pyramid stage build, while more than a hundred acres of Green Fields feature a solar-powered circus, sculptures and The Healing Field is introduced. Oxfam’s Education Now campaign puts pressure on the International Monetary Fund to win debt relief, allowing people in low income countries to get their kids into school and look to a better future.
🏕️ 2000: Rebirth of the Pyramid Stage
At 35 metres high, the Pyramid Stage now is four times larger than the original structure that burnt down in 1994.
Festival numbers increase as a result of fence jumpers, meanwhile a plan is hatched to return after the year off with a solution that will end the gate-crashing once and for all. It is the first year that Oxfam stewards sported the now-familiar orange tabards, which replaced the ‘bin bag’-style ones worn at previous events.
🏕️ 2002: Support for Haitian Coffee Farmers
Glastonbury returns with a huge steel perimeter fence, standing at fourteen feet high and is accompanied by the successful ‘No Ticket, No Show Campaign’. Coldplay headline for the first time on the Pyramid stage and capacity is increased to 140,000.
Oxfam take more of an active role in organising the gates, with a defined team leader and gate organiser structure. Meanwhile it is the last year that motorcycle drivers are used to deliver teas and coffees to the volunteer crew.
A visit to Haiti in 2002 inspires Emily Eavis to organise a concert at London’s Astoria in support of Haitian coffee farmers. Headliners include Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland and Noel Gallagher.
This is followed by a show at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2004 headlined by R.E.M. All proceeds go directly to supporting the livelihoods of the coffee farmers by ensuring that they are getting a fair deal.
🏕️ 2003: Launch of Make Trade Fair
Capacity reaches 150,000 while the annual battle to obtain a Festival license continues, with Chris Martin of Coldplay joining Emily Eavis in support of getting the licence passed with Mendip District Council.
Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign is launched to promote trade justice and fair trade among governments, institutions, and multinational corporations. Over a million pounds is donated to Greenpeace, Oxfam, WaterAid and many local charities.
🏕️ 2004: Oxfam opens its first Festival shop
Oxfam opens its very first Glastonbury Festival shop, which is an immediate hit with festival-goers. Today, there are four shops on site carrying collections that take inspiration from The Glade, Park Stage, Shangri-la, and Interstage areas. Stock is collected all year round in preparation for the Festival weekend and raises over £100,000 at each event which goes towards fighting world poverty.
🏕️ 2005: Make Poverty History
An incredibly wet year with capacity now at over 150,000 the weekend tickets sell out in a matter of hours, setting a new record. On the Friday morning, two months’ worth of rain falls in a few hours, which causes flooding in the car parks and campsites, with entrances temporarily closed. The onsite team rise to the challenge and normal service is resumed, and only a few acts miss out on their slots.
Oxfam’s Make Poverty History campaign uses people power to influence governments to take ambitious action by demanding world leaders deliver debt cancellation, more and better aid, and trade justice.
Alongside Greenpeace and WaterAid, Oxfam introduce the official programme, asking that along with ending poverty, we should also ‘make clean energy our future’.
The event donates £1.35 million to the charities and local causes, meanwhile waste recycling tops 50% for the first time.
🏕️ 2007: Pledging to stop climate chaos
Following a year off, it’s a rainy weekend, meanwhile the pre-registration with photo ID is introduced, making the ticket touting virtually impossible. Emily Eavis launches The Park with lots of new and exciting venues. Michael Eavis is awarded the CBE for services to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Oxfam’s iCount campaign asks festival-goers to join the fight to prevent climate change. Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid work together to communicate a joint campaign with record breaking sign-ups.
Stella McCartney designs a limited-edition vest inspired by 1970s tie-dye fashion, which is on sale via a stall in the south-west corner of the site. All proceeds go to Oxfam.
Oxfam provides over 1,400 volunteer stewards for the event, and receives a very generous donation of £200,000, while Michael Eavis makes a further donation of £100,000 to support the Oxfam Sudan appeal.
This is also the last year that the Oxfield camp site is located in Tom’s Field, before moving to the Spring Ground and Big Lickle areas of the Festival site the following year.
🏕️ 2009: Demand action until you’re blue in the face
With capacity topping 177,000, weekend tickets are sold out two months in advance. The Festival becomes internationally recognised as a true ‘city in the fields’.
Oxfam asks festival-goers to join the growing global movement of people acting against climate change with the campaign asking people to ‘demand action until you’re blue in the face.’ 30,000 people paint themselves blue, including Norman Cook, Jarvis Cocker, Tom Smith from the Editors and Luke Pritchard from the Kooks in support of the fair deal on climate change.
By the end of the decade, annual donations to the chosen charities approaches the £2 million mark.
🏕️ 2010: Getting a Fair Deal
A blazingly hot weekend sees some crucial site improvements added during the off-season. These include a second reservoir holding two million litres of drinking water to supply a tented city whose population has now surpassed both Oxford and Bath.
Oxfam asks festival-goers to show their support by getting a ‘Fair Deal’ washable tattoo, while joining a global movement of people who want those in poverty to be treated fairly in the face of climate change.
🏕️ 2013: Love Syria
After a fallow year, tickets sell out in record time by the October before the Festival. The BBC announce their highest-ever viewing figures since broadcast of the Festival began in 1997, helped by The Rolling Stones playing for a record crowd. Oxfam ask people to sign a petition to provide more aid for the people living in the refugee camps in Jordan.
🏕️ 2014: Make a Song and Dance
Environmentally friendly stainless-steel bottles and water kiosks for the cost-free refill are made available through WaterAid. Art installations are introduced across site, including Banksy’s ‘factory farming’ installation that parades noisily through the market areas gaining global attention.
Through the power of music, Oxfam shows how inequality is growing, pushing more people into poverty. A charity track is made using thousands of voices from festival-goers, celebrities and the public. The Festival gives £2 million to Oxfam, Greenpeace, WaterAid and hundreds of other causes.
🏕️ 2015: The Big Lip Sync
Capacity reaches over 200,000 with the very first visit from the Dalai Lama – the BBC distributes footage to more than thirty countries.
Oxfam puts beating poverty on everyone’s lips by demanding leaders get in sync to tackle poverty. Thousands of festival-goers paint their lips green to create the ultimate lip sync video. It is another record year with money going to the Festival’s three charities (Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid) and other Worthy Causes.
🏕️ 2016: Oxfam’s Stand as One Campaign and Jo Cox tribute rally
It’s incredibly wet on site with everything feeling damp for the entire event. Meanwhile, Coldplay become the first act to top the Glastonbury bill four times. A stall is set-up to allow site workers to register a vote in the historic EU referendum.
Glastonbury estimates that one million plastic bottles are used during the event with stainless steel non-aerodynamic pint cups made available to minimise injuries from throwing. The ‘Love the farm … leave no trace” initiative is born, asking festival-goers to share transport to the Festival, limit litter, recycle, refill water bottles and not to abandon their tents or urinate on the land.
Oxfam asks music fans to stand together by signing a petition for world leaders to take action in support of millions of people fleeing conflict, disaster and poverty to ensure they get the help and protection that they need.
Oxfam and Glastonbury collaborate on ‘Stand as One – Glastonbury Live’, an album released to support Oxfam’s Refugee Crisis Appeal.
🏕️ 2017: Oxfam’s Stand as One Campaign – Family Reunification
A very hot year with the Foo Fighters headlining for the first time, alongside Radiohead and Ed Sheeran. Oxfam asks festival-goers to help push our leaders into action through using their voices to ensure the UK government helps keep families together. A bill is passed in parliament in March the following year. The Festival surpasses the £3 million mark to good causes for the first time.
In early 2018 Glastonbury announce a site-wide ban on plastic bottles when it returns in 2019.
🏕️ 2019: Second Hand September
As well as being blazingly hot, it is a big year for many reasons. Sir David Attenborough reinforces his commitment to tackling climate change with an appearance on the Pyramid Stage. Thousands of festival-goers take part in a climate change protest march led by Extinction Rebellion which begins at the Park Stage and ends at the Stone Circle, with Oxfam helping to steward the event.
Oxfam launches Second Hand September at Glastonbury by asking people to pledge to say yes to less new items of clothing for one month.
Headliners donate their Glastonbury wardrobes to Oxfam as part of a campaign to encourage the buying of second-hand clothes and avoid items going into landfill. Kylie Minogue, Robert Smith, Johnny Marr, Sheryl Crow and Lewis Capaldi are amongst those to donate their items.
During a project visit to Cape Town in late 2018 with Oxfam, Michael and Emily Eavis see The Langa Methodist Church Choir perform and are so impressed they invite them to perform at Glastonbury. On the Sunday morning at the Festival the choir takes to the Pyramid stage – broadcast to millions through the BBC’s coverage of the event.
Huge steps are taken forward via the plastic-free system, with Emily Eavis posting on Instagram that “99.3% of all tents were taken home” after the Festival. This is based on aerial photographs of the site taken during and after the event.
🏕️ 2020: 50-year anniversary
Sadly, Glastonbury isn’t possible this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but we are determined to find ways to make this year count. Here are some ways that you can get involved:
Dress up at Home
Discover our Glastonbury Festival Shop range with selected items inspired by the wonderful Shangri-la, The Glade and Park Stage.
If fashion is not your thing, why not pick up some second-hand vinyl from a selection of artists featured on the BBC’s Glastonbury 50th anniversary broadcast.
There In Spirit
If there is someone you will be really missing this year, then why not send them this Ribbon Tower e-card to let them know you’ll be together in spirit. This gift will ensure families have the essentials they need like soap and clean water to protect themselves from coronavirus
Sourced by Oxfam: Rainbow Collection
We’ve also just launched our limited edition Sourced by Oxfam Rainbow collection. Any product you buy from this range also goes directly to our worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Glastonbury has collaborated with artist Stanley Donwood and produced a fantastic range of tee-shirts, posters, tote bags and tee-towels.
All profits go to Oxfam, Greenpeace and WaterAid.
We hope you find something you like, while enjoying the Festival weekend from the comfort of your home (or garden!) – we are already looking forward to seeing everyone at Worthy Farm in 2021.
Our current campaigns
Oxfam is currently campaigning for a global ceasefire – we cannot effectively respond to a global pandemic when millions of people are still caught in warzones. And for debt cancellation – debt relief could free up $40 billion to help the world’s poorest countries fight coronavirus. And for #CareForCarers, to end poverty for carers.
You can also donate to our coronavirus emergency response appeal.
And as for the future?
Organiser Michael Eavis says the partnership between Glastonbury and Oxfam will stay as strong as ever, as Oxfam supporters keep striving to create a much fairer and happier world to live in.
“Oxfam is in our blood,” he smiles, “It’s in our veins. We’re here for the long haul.”
Facts for this blog have been obtained from the official book celebrating the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival, Glastonbury 50: The Official Story of Glastonbury Festival by Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis (Trapeze, October 2019)