Thousands of people return to England’s Glastonbury Festival as the five-day music and performing arts event reopened on Wednesday for the first time in three years after being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, has 3,000 artists scheduled, including Billie Eilish, Diana Ross, Kendrick Lamar and Paul McCartney. McCartney’s weekend gig will make him, at 80, the festival’s oldest solo artist.
Festival-goers began queuing through the gates of Worthy Farm in Somerset, south-west England, early Wednesday. Many struggled to get to the site as the festival coincided with the biggest rail strike Britain has seen in decades.
Only 60% of the trains were due to run on Wednesday, with further walkouts scheduled for Thursday and Saturday.
Hundreds of people waited with their luggage at Paddington Station in London to try to board a train for the festival.
Camilla Seward, 26, described a feeling of “abject panic” when the rail strikes were announced.
“It’s my very first real festival. We bought the ticket almost three years ago. I was so stressed out about getting there that I didn’t even think about who I’m looking forward to. to see,” she said.
Jenna Conway, 30, thought she could avoid travel disruption by getting to Paddington earlier, but she and a friend had to queue for hours.
“We got here three hours ahead of our train, we were stupid, we just thought we could jump on any train. We thought they would be nice because of the strikes, but they didn’t let us not let it go, so now we are waiting,” she said.
Some 200,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which runs until Sunday.
“The wait has been so long and it’s just the biggest buildup we’ve ever had,” said festival organizer Emily Eavis.
“Getting Paul McCartney for us is just the ultimate, just the person to have this year to bring it all back and bring everyone together,” Eavis said. “And what better way to celebrate that than to have Paul McCartney himself.”