IN June 1970, thousands enjoyed a set by legendary rockers, Led Zeppelin at the Bath and West Showground.

But as the notes of the band's final song faded away and the crowd made their way home, one punter was leaving with an idea ringly loudly in his head.

Michael Eavis was inspired by the spectacle of the show and decided to try a similar event of his own at his farm in Pilton, Somerset.

In September of the same year, the first Pilton Pop, Blues and Folk Festival took place at Mr Eavis' Worthy Farm.

A crowd of 1,500 attended, all paying £1 for a ticket - complete with free milk from the farm's herd.

The first headliner - confirmed at the last minute - was T Rex, who reportedly turned up on the working farm in a purple velvet Cadillac. 

What we now know as the Glastonbury Festival - full title the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts - was born.

Now, more than 40 years later, the event is seen as a cultural icon in its own right, alongside its founder.

It is a staple on 'bucket lists' for children and adults alike and has seen landmark performances in recent years by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire.

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The festival spans more than 900 acres of farmland in the Vale of Avalon, has raised millions for good causes and welcomes more than 2,000 volunteers from charities and organisations each year. 

Yet Michael Eavis is not a media mogul, nor a billionaire cashing in on the latest trends.

He is a Somerset dairy farmer who enjoys putting together a show for more than 170,000 people, quite literally, in his back yard.

He remains the figurehead of Glastonbury, which he ran with his wife, Jean, until she passed away in 1999, with daughter Emily also now at the heart of the festival. 

And it is clear that beyond the modesty, Mr Eavis is proud of what his pop, blues and folk festival has become.

"I've got no idea why it grew like it did really," he says.

"We did some different things along the way. I mean, 50,000 people without tickets; the whole traveller thing, welcoming them.

"No one else would have done that would they?

"Not that I could hold back 50,000 people, even if I wanted to.

"And we had 2 million people trying to get tickets this year, so people still want to come."

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As the event grew, however, problems grew with it. 

Rising numbers - and rising numbers turning up without tickets - brought safety fears with them and calls for the event to be scrapped emerged.

Court cases followed over licences and on several occasions, culminating in the erection of the so-called 'super fence' around the site, the festival itself was in doubt.

"Every year I thought it wouldn't happen again," he says. 

"We had a Tory council (at Mendip District Council). Out of 40 councillors, 38 of them were Tories, and we were fundraising for CND. 

"It was a joke really. They turned it down for the wrong reasons.

"That's why we had a court case.

"Luckily, we could appeal, and we won."

The irony of 'battles' taking place to secure the future of a festival which has its feet firmly rooted in the legendary Green Fields, advocating tolerance and acceptance, clearly doesn't escape the Somerset farmer.

And as so many festival goers would testify, some battles are worth fighting.

But it is the overarching message of peace and acceptance that Mr Eavis, when asked of the legacy of the festival, returns to. 

"I think the basic lesson is that all races, sexes, whatever you are, you can live together and have a really good time," he says.

"That's what people learn from Glastonbury.

"They are all on a level playing field, that's why they're there."

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So when reading about the glitz and the glamour, the celebrity sightings, or rejoicing in the fact you aren't there as you watch footage of revellers covered in mud, remember that at its heart, the festival has an important message and one that thousands take home with them each year. 

"In the fields of Worthy Farm, everyone feels part of something - and no one cares about race, creed, or anything," Mr Eavis adds.

"And it's the greatest time in the world isn't it?"


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