Come rain or shine Glastonbury lives on

Uncommonly huge crowds and, incredibly, more sunshine. The final day of the last Glastonbury festival of the millennium yesterday confirmed 1999 as a year like no other in the event's almost 30-year history.

Uncommonly huge crowds and, incredibly, more sunshine. The final day of the last Glastonbury festival of the millennium yesterday confirmed 1999 as a year like no other in the event's almost 30-year history.

After two days which banished memories of the 1997 and 1998 mudbaths, organisers found expectations confounded once again when the 100,000 revellers flouted tradition by partying throughout Sunday - a time normally that is less grand finale and more closing down.

Fans' reluctance to leave was further proof that this festival will be remembered as the one which guaranteed Glastonbury's existence into 2000.

The uniqueness of the event was marked, too, by the arrival of Keanu Reeves, Hollywood's movie star-cum rock musician. He appeared briefly backstage with fellow members of his band Dogstar to pose for press photographers. Declining to give autographs and mumbling a few incoherent words, he looked even more bewildered by Glastonbury than he does generally on screen. On stage he found little to endear him to the event - unimpressed members of the audience hurled oranges and other fruit at his bass guitar.

Overall, though, the success of the weekend could not be denied. Michael Eavis, the owner of Worthy farm and the farmer who launched the festival 29 years ago, postponed his retirement plans, which had thrown the event's future into doubt. And even as the bands continued playing yesterday organisers were discussing improvements to the site for next year, to cope what is certain to be an even bigger millennial festival.

Rumours suggest that Mr Eavis is planning an extended event for 2000 although organisers were unwilling to discuss that yesterday. "Let's just say we will be working very hard to top this year," said one.

The success had much to do with the weather. After the festival's glorious first day on Friday, it looked as if the old certainties of rain, mud and misery, were determined to re- assert themselves as grey clouds piled up over the 600-acre site late on Saturday afternoon.

For some the rain came as something of a relief. "I didn't come last year and I was starting to feel a little bit spoiled by all the sunshine," said Julie Riddle, a student nurse from Nottingham. "Now at least I feel as if I've had the authentic Glastonbury experience."

But in the gloom of yesterday morning other festival goers appeared to have decided that their luck had run out as they packed their tents and began the long trek home.

By lunchtime, however, the sombre mood had lifted and the impending exodus was little more than a trickle as blue skies and heat, held in check by a stiff breeze, re-appeared. The organisers cancelled another Glastonbury tradition - free entry on Sunday afternoon - and, on local radio, police warned people to stay away because there was no space on the site.

The effect of the weather on those who were inside the gates was unmistakable - anoraks crushed back into rucksacks, sunglasses back on the top of heads and sun screen lathered on. Crowds resumed the partying and again bustled around the avenues of fruit stalls; sun bathers occupied every available patch of grass.

There were, of course, the usual Glastonbury incidents. By last night 900 crimes had been reported to the police, mainly theft-related, and 200 arrests made, again mainly for theft as well as drugs offences. But with officers saying the figures were well within what could be expected for a crowd that size, even the crime rates did little to dampen spirits.

"The whole thing has been wonderful," decided Alison Welwyn, an artist from Hackney, east London, taking a breather in the healing fields. "I thought Friday couldn't be topped, but Glastonbury this year just keeps getting better."


Stuart Millar

The GuardianTramp

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