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Heavens open on cue over Glastonbury

GLASTONBURY (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people flocked to Glastonbury for the world’s biggest green field arts and music festival on Thursday and with rain falling and more forecast to come mud-lovers might not be disappointed.

Revellers wait to pitch a tent during the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, south-west England, June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The festival is notorious for its torrential rain after three ‘washout’ years in 1997, 1998 and 2005 in which the entire festival site on Michael Eavis’s Worthy Farm, deep in Somerset, became a slippery quagmire. Some fans revel in the mud.

The big lure is the hot line-up of bands, including rock legends The Who, The Killers from Las Vegas, British sensation the Arctic Monkeys, and Canada’s Arcade Fire, at a three-day event that has poetry, theatre, circus and comedy.

Eavis sees the rain as a challenge and after spending 100,000 pounds on improving drainage the 71-year-old bearded organiser said he was “almost looking forward to the rain, in order to see the pipes working...”

In 2005, hundreds of tents were swept away by flooding after two months of rain fell in several hours and on Thursday seasoned festival-goers pitched canvas on high ground. Eavis is convinced his improvements will prevent a washout.

But festival-goers were taking no chances. Wellingtons, colourful umbrellas, ponchos and raincoats have been fashion staples at Glastonbury since it first began in the 1970s and swiftly became an alternative hippy haven.

The BBC online weather forecast predicts the weather until the end of the festival on Sunday will be rain every day with sunny spells.

Spirits among festivalgoers were high despite the rain, which had stopped by mid-morning but with thunderstorms possible, and organisers said on Thursday a record 177,500 people are expected to pack Eavis’s fields to see more than 2,000 performances on 35 stages with the festival officially kicking off on Friday.

CAMPSITES MUSHROOM

Campsites overlooking the Pyramid Stage, where big acts such as Kaiser Chiefs, Manic Street Preachers, Kasabian, the Kooks, Bloc Party, Paul Weller and Dirty Pretty Things will play, were already packed with keen fans marking out their territory.

All through Wednesday night there were whoops and singing from those who arrived two days early to get the best camping spots. Tents were erected in circles and Eavis is encouraging people to leave them behind to be donated to nations in need.

Eavis champions the philosophy that people should come for the experience rather than for a favourite band and his fields also host alternative healers, acrobats and poetry readings.

The Green Fields take up nearly one third of the site with the Greenpeace Field, Craft Field and Healing Field. They reflect the festival’s 1970s hippy roots giving an alternative lifestyle of bread baking, massage and meditation.

As excitement mounted ahead of the weekend of concerts, many music fans, students, families and new age travellers were content just to soak up the Glastonbury magic.

Mia Bennett-Houlton, a 20-year-old student wearing Wellingtons, a pink sundress and psychedelic yellow plastic jewellery, had a very simple plan for the day. “I’m just going to hang out in the Green Fields.”

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