(Pilton) Tens of thousands of festival-goers flock to Glastonbury, in the south-west of England, on Wednesday for the legendary musical event which ends this year with Elton John’s farewell to the British public.

The first festival-goers arrived on Tuesday evening with their backpacks and tents, before the doors opened on Wednesday and the performances of the main bands on stage from Friday.

For the summer solstice, they were greeted by showers that threaten to turn the site into a vast patch of mud, even though the weather forecast is better for the end of the week.

The event will mark Elton John’s last concert in the UK this year. After a stint in Paris, the multi-successful star, from Rocket Man to Tiny Dancer, is due to end her long international farewell tour on July 8 with a concert in Stockholm, Sweden.

This is the first time that the exuberant 76-year-old English singer has taken part in the event, which takes place every year near this small medieval village. He will take to the Pyramid Stage, the festival’s most important stage, on Sunday evening to close the 51st edition of Glastonbury.

“It’s the first time I’ve been asked” to play Glastonbury, he revealed in late May in a BBC interview. “It comes at the right time, I believe in fate and it’s the most magnificent way to finish in England.”

Other big names this year include Arctic Monkeys and Guns N’Roses, scheduled for Friday and Saturday respectively on the Pyramid Stage.

The festival had drawn criticism from fans for not scheduling any female headliners on the main stage this year. Blondie, Lizzo and Lana Del Ray are on the program, but in the first part of the evening or on less important stages.

Arctic Monkeys, who played three concerts at the Emirates Stadium in London this weekend, are due to play on Friday, but had to cancel their concert scheduled for Wednesday in Dublin, Ireland, the group’s lead singer Alex Turner suffering from laryngitis.

Glastonbury, a mythical meeting place since 1970, which has seen the biggest stars in the world, closed its 2022 edition with Paul McCartney, who at 80 had set the festival on fire by performing Beatles classics. Soul legend Diana Ross was also in attendance.

In early November, more than 100,000 tickets sold out in just over an hour for the five-day 2023 edition, despite tickets approaching 400 euros ($577). Over 200,000 people are expected.

The festival promised “unforgettable farewells” with “Sir Elton” – he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 – who announced a “brand new” show for the occasion.

“I’m starting with a song I haven’t played in about ten years, so we’ll see how it goes,” he told the BBC, adding that he had some surprise guests planned.

Half a century after his debut, the British star born in the north-west suburbs of London has sold more than 300 million records worldwide and still occasionally tops the charts by joining forces with the stars of these last years.

In 2021, his title Cold Heart, a duet with singer Dua Lipa, ranked number one in the UK singles, as did Merry Christmas, a collaboration with Ed Sheeran. And last August, he dusted off his classic Tiny Dancer to release a new title, Hold Me Closer, in duet with Britney Spears.

The singer’s farewell tour, dubbed Farewell Yellow Brick Road and originally scheduled to last three years, kicked off in 2018 with more than 300 dates scheduled. But she has been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, hip surgery in 2021 and testing positive for COVID-19 last year.