Leamington Glasto ‘hippy’ Ann, 70, heads back after 43 years

Ann James, who is volunteering at Glastonbury this weekend - 44 years after going to the inaugural festival.
Ann James, who is volunteering at Glastonbury this weekend - 44 years after going to the inaugural festival.

A Leamington pensioner is taking a trip down memory lane by experiencing the music, mud and mayhem of the Glastonbury Festival this weekend - some 44 years after she went to the very first event.

Although she describes herself at the time as having been a young “hippy”, 70-year-old Ann James now feels very far removed from the festival lifestyle - and she has not been camping for decades. But the mother-of-two was keen to volunteer for WaterAid at the event to help gather signatures for a petition on one of the charity’s campaigns.

Recalling the first Glastonbury festival - which was actually called the Pilton Festival and took place at Worthy Farm in September 1970 - Mrs James, who lived in London at the time, said: “We were all hippy alternative types and we used to go off somewhere in a van from time to time. Someone had heard about this event by word of mouth. There were only four bands and there was only one field full of people there. One of the bands was T-Rex.”

Mrs James had gone to the humble event with her then-boyfriend Phil, who became her husband, and a group of friends. Sadly, Mr James passed away four years ago.

The couple and their friends decided to go back the following year - and this time the event, renamed the Glastonbury Fayre, was a much bigger affair, featuring acts such as David Bowie, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Quintessence and Hawkwind.

One of Mrs James’ friends was Bill Harkin, who designed the first version of the Pyramid Stage, a one-tenth replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza built from scaffolding and metal sheeting. Mr James had helped with its construction.

Mrs James said: “We had a fantastic time. But I never went back, except to drop my sons off once or twice.”

Having lived in Leamington for the past 34 years, the retired social worker is a member of the south Warwickshire WaterAid support group - so she decided to sign up to head to Glastonbury this weekend to help the charity’s ongoing awareness-raising campaign.

She said: “I will be collecting signatures for a petition to encourage governments, when they review their millenium goals, to push ‘taps and toilets’ to the top of the agenda.

“People are very sympathetic about water at Glastonbury because they are constantly thinking about taps and toilets themselves.

“It will be lovely to go back, but I think it will probably be totally unrecognisable. Camping is not my scene any more! But I will have to go with the flow. I will take wellies and have a poncho and hope for the best.”

To find out more about the petition and to sign it, visit www.wateraid.org/glasto