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Glastonbury Festival, 1923

This photographs in this album are of the original Glastonbury Festivals of Music, Dance and Mystic Drama, founded in 1914 by socialist composer Rutland Boughton. The Festivals were said to attract “an eclectic mix of eccentric bohemians”. Thomas Hardy, Edward Elgar and George Bernard Shaw are said to have attended Boughton’s experimental Glastonbury Festivals, which also hosted summer schools and pilgrimages to sites of local history and folklore. Rutland Boughton sought to create an alternative society with the arts available to all. Yet his communist leanings lost him financial & local support. His Glastonbury vision ended in 1926 after he staged a socialist propaganda play in support of the locked-out miners of the General Strike.

Very little has been written about the original Glastonbury festivals, however for references we highly recommend Rob Young’s excellent Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music (Faber & Faber, 2011) and also Roger Savage, Masques, Mayings and Music-dramas: Vaughan Williams and the Early Twentieth-century Stage (Boydell Press, 2014).

The photograph album is from our Edith Dawson collection. Dawson, an Edinburgh cancer pathologist was part of an Esperanto group, who attended the summer schools of Glastonbury Festival in 1923, possibly on route from the Esperanto Conference held that year in Nuremberg.