Glastonbury at the V&A

As you do. Somersault © Glastonbury Festival. Photography Matt Cardy.

As you do. Somersault © Glastonbury Festival. Photography Matt Cardy.

Will it rain or won't it? To be honest, for the 175,000 people who have trooped to Glastonbury, it's hardly important. A weekend of creative madness and mayhem awaits them. Meanwhile, the V&A is celebrating in a more sedate way: by creating an archive of memorabilia from the world's longest-running and arguably the most famous arts and music festival.

Can the cultural chaos that is Glastonbury - black eyed revellers lounging at dawn by the stone circle, the pop-up casinos and impromptu churches, the overflowing loos, the wet canvas and warm chai teas - really be captured in a few posters and programmes? Can performances by the likes of Bjork, Blondie, Marc Bolan, Coldplay, The Cure, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, New Order, Oasis, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and Amy Winehouse be pinned down in songlists?

The V&A is damn well going to try, gathering stuff from every event since the first one in 1970. Interviews, previousy unseen film and photographs, t-shirts, tickets and, of course, wristbands, will be included, tracing the origins of the Festival. Site maps show how it has now developed into some mad temporary 'city' at once familiar to festival goers and excitingly new.

Press cuttings document the relationship of the festival with the local community (not always friendly); backstage passes and performers' set lists show the festival's inner workings.

Political underpinnings. Excerpt from scrapbook © Glastonbury Festival

Political underpinnings. Excerpt from scrapbook © Glastonbury Festival

The archive also includes photos revealing the evolution of the Pyramid stage. Political action has always been at the heart of the festival - Greenpeace and CND are festival stalwarts - and this is documented through pamphlets and imagery. And let's not forget the art. Glastonbury has hosted an enormous array of quite bonkers site-specific works, from the 15,000 recycled oil-drum bins hand-painted for each festival to mechanical sculptures by the Mutoid Waste Company.

This is a project that will run and change and run again: at the end of each event, Glastonbury will pass over a lump of significant detritus to the museum, to ensure the record of what has now become one of the most significant cultural events of our generation is kept up to date.

'All areas of the live performing arts are represented in the V&A collections, documenting both current practice and the history of the performing arts in the UK,' says Martin Roth, director of the V&A. 'We are honoured to acquire the Glastonbury archive, a festival which has attracted an extraordinary and unparalleled range of creativity across all areas of performance. The archive is interesting not only for its diversity but also for its fascinating witness to creative, social and political change in the UK.'

Highlights from the archive will be on display in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Galleries from March 2015 – January 2016. The V&A will make the archive available for research for the very first time, once cataloguing has been complete.

Hippies and their horse at the first festival, 1970 © Glastonbury Festival. Photography Brian Walker.

Hippies and their horse at the first festival, 1970 © Glastonbury Festival. Photography Brian Walker.

As we know it now. View over site © Glastonbury Festival. Photography Matt Cardy.

As we know it now. View over site © Glastonbury Festival. Photography Matt Cardy.

1989. Excerpt from scrapbooks, Glastonbury

1989. Excerpt from scrapbooks, Glastonbury

All the music ... Excerpt from scrapbook © Glastonbury Festival

All the music ... Excerpt from scrapbook © Glastonbury Festival

And all the art. Excerpt from scrapbook © Glastonbury Festival

And all the art. Excerpt from scrapbook © Glastonbury Festival