‘It’s a platform to inspire…’: Kidzfield founder Tony Cordy on why young people matter at Glastonbury

IT is truly a field of wonder.

In more than 1,000 of wondrous fields, this one stands out.

Yet most people who go to Glastonbury will not be aware of the giant, colourful boards, that guard this treasure trove of experience, colour and magic.

But those who have witnessed it, will never forget it.

And the man behind it all is Tony Cordy, the creator of the Kidzfield.

Tony, who lives in Wales, is a festival veteran of more than 30 years.

Tony ‘sat out’ the 1993 Glastonbury Festival – ‘after years of picking people up, you get to that age, don’t you?’ – but in a Godfather-esque moment, a phone call out of the blue pulled him back in…

“I had spent a lifetime looking after people at festivals – which used to be very wild – and got to the stage where I was thinking ‘sort yourselves out’,” he said.

“Then Michael (Eavis, festival founder) phoned me after the 1993 festival and said he had been looking at the aerial photographs and in the children’s area, there was nothing going on, so asked if I would do something.”

And so the idea of the Kidzfield was born.

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“It was really important to me that there was a safe, secure, inspiring place for children to be because they are the next generation – and I think that has been proven because now, as half of the entire festival is managed by people who have come through the Kidzfield.

“There are people there with their great grandchildren. It’s a really special thing.

“I end up with more than 1,000 people camped in the field, it’s a big deal, it’s a family.”

Previously, Tony ran what is now the Greenpeace Field and was involved in festivals across the country.

He has seen the event morph from Michael Eavis’ loss-making first year, into the largest greenfield festival in the world.

And that history, and the festival’s core ethical ethos, is at the heart of the Kidzfield, giving young people the right grounding in all things ‘Glasto’.

“The big thing is that the festival is now presented as a brand, and a lot of people don’t know that there’s all that history – and that’s our job, to turn them on to the whole festival reality,” Tony says.

“That’s definitely my feeling.

“Having done it for 25 years – and involved with festivals for more than 30 years – I have seen couples get together, have a child, seen that child become a doctor, or a pop star.

“It’s a great connection to a lot of people and a platform to influence and inspire a new generation of people.

“It’s an honour and a privilege – but a lot of work.”

But has the scale – and commercial success – of the event changed things?

“The festival has changed beyond all comparison,” he explains.

“It’s become more and more work to put on, due to the levels of compliance and paperwork. It’s grown hugely.

“I can remember, in the 80s, you could barely give away tickets.

“I remember driving around the country, putting posters in any natural food shop or unusual cafe, because it was so desperately hard to sell tickets.

“That has hugely changed and I think Glastonbury was named something like the third most popular brand in the country, behind Nike or something. It’s just outrageous.

“All sorts of people, who would never have dreamed of going to a festival, have Glastonbury on their bucket list.

“It’s a ballache on lots of levels, but then there are moments, when people come up to you and thank you, a small child, or a great hulk of a person who says ‘you won’t remember me…’.”

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“It’s a great thing to be able to put something on that is so positive.

“For me, it’s a huge responsibility; I invite all these people and their children and my job, my task, is to see that everybody is safe and has a good time.

“I love the whole festival.

“It’s hugely worth it.

“Looking back, the amount of people it has reached and inspired, that’s really gratifying.

“I am really proud that I have managed to hold on to this totally autonomous region of the festival.

“It’s taken 25 years to get to this level. We have worked it up, bit by bit.”

It is this positivity – and the chance to ensure the continuation of the values at the heart of Glastonbury – that lie behind Tony’s huge efforts.

He is hugely aware – as someone who cherishes decades of Glastonbury’s values – of the importance of keeping that core ethos at the forefront of the event.

“It’s very difficult when you upscale anything, and when you become successful,” he says.

“Capitalism will destroy anything, and it’s the same for anyone, from a small burger stand to a cannabis dealer.

“Now everyone is desperate to jump on the bandwagon.

“The BBC would not have dared come onto the site before and now they’re everywhere.

“I certainly don’t do it for money.

“And we are utopians – the core group of people who hold the festival together in whatever conditions – we are truly utopian people; we believe in a better tomorrow.”

The first Children’s Area at Glastonbury was set up by Arabella Churchill, who was also behind the Theatre and Circus field.

“Arabella put a huge amount of energy into it, regardless of who she was,” Tony says.

“She was a true believer in it.

“In the early days, the whole kind of what I call the ‘yippie’ movement – we were yippies, activists, rather than just spaced-out idiots – she put a lot of energy into the Theatre and Circus Field and ran the first Children’s Area.

“She was a difficult character on some levels, but class and money and all that stuff didn’t really matter – it wasn’t an issue.

“But she put a lot of energy into it – and put her money where her mouth was too.

“It wouldn’t have happened without them.”

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It is clear that legacy is important to Tony – as it is to so many involved with the festival.

“It’s not an accident, there’s a core group of us that have fought to keep the festival together, through riots, through all sorts, gangs and whatever.

“There was a time when it was like a war zone, really.

“It’s not always been the easy ride it is for some people.”

From Basil Brush to Dynamo, a giant wooden castle to sandpits, simple crafts, magic and music making, the Kidzfield truly has everything a child could wish for.

It is a mantra that Tony says relates to the whole festival, regardless of commercialism, media and hype.

“The chance for people to get out in a field, lose all the nonsense and rediscover their inner calling, that’s what it’s all about,” he says.

“That one moment, when you’re in a crowd and you really do get that feeling of common humanity.”

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