Glastonbury: from here to eternity

an interview with Michael Eavis

published: Mon 18th Sep 2006

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June 2007
Worthy Farm, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4AZ, England MAP
£145 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 150000
last updated: Wed 7th Aug 2013

eFestivals recently caught up with Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, to ask him about the Festival's future and another refusal by U2....

How are things going with the licence?

With new licensing laws we are going for a licence forever. From here to eternity – nice slogan isn’t it? We are gonna try and get that past Mendip. It’s a site licence now so it won’t belong to people it will belong to the site. Personnel change but the licence will still belong to the farm. We’ve got about 7 farms involved with this site now – it’s so big. I’ve just got 450 acres, but we’re using over 1000 acres now. We’ve got an extra 70 acres on last year for the extra 20,000 people.

When will you hear for certain if it’s a definite yes or no?

Well we have to put it to Mendip, and Melvin Benn does the licensing work and he’s very good at it. He’s appointed a new lady who will be working from the farm here. The girls who do this job always do it for a year, and then move on so we really want to keep one. Melvin’s the operational director though, he’s in charge of all the operational stuff. Melvin’s an important part of the equation. It’s not all me, people think it is all me. I’ve got 22 people who are all top management. The chap who runs all the site electricity for instance came to work for me when he was 16, and now he’s got sets in Afghanistan, and he was called in with the problems with the flooding in New Orleans to sort the electricity down there. So he’s a big deal, I’ve got people of that calibre. There’s no better experience than working in Glastonbury for 35 years is there? With the mud, and the rain, and the flood, and the gails, and the wind and the lightening.

We’ve got a team of people who are absolutely first class who are permanently thinking about the site all year round.

If it wasn’t for those people would you think twice about putting on the festival?

I couldn’t do it without them. But it’s a life time of work, getting people who you can trust and people you can rely on to deliver. These are the people who can make it work. That’s a hardcore team I’ve got who are absolutely brilliant. That’s just one example of the calibre of people we’ve got at the top of each department. That’s why we’re so good at it.

What do you say to people who ask "Glastonbury’s only on one weekend – what on earth do you do in the rest of the year?"

We’re doing a lot of movement of water really. If we get that flash flooding again – 3 inches of rain in about an hour and a half then we can deal with it. I’ve just got 600 2x6 pipes – big ones you see. So it’s never a dull moment.

So are you expanding the site?

We’re just making everything bigger so there’s more room for everything. We’re not changing the number of stages or anything like that. Basically there will be more room for the campers. It will be a lot more comfortable. There will be more space generally speaking. We will be rearranging all the industrial stuff that we’ve got on site, tucking away all the heavy lorries and taking them away from the centre of the site so that that it looks a lot more attractive. It’s pretty good now but it still could be better. Those are the main site changes. We’ve also got the massive drainage program that’s been drawn out. So we’ve gone to the environmental agency to get approval for that and we hope to start on the 1st of October so things are coming on well.

Will you still be having a year off?

Yes, every 5th year there is a year off. It’s a fantastic idea, although I’ll take the credit for it myself. 4 years on one year off just works so well. It does get a little bit monotonous. So you need a year off to think about other things and to plan other things for the site as well. I must admit I do look forward to that year off; a lot of people miss it mind you.

Will you be sticking to the current ticketing system?

No, technology is moving so fast now. You can get a card that you put in when you get to the gate which will produce a picture of the person that the card belongs to. You know there’s so much stuff going on. It did work last year for us. A few tickets were still sold on but it was only a handful I think. It’s got to get better than that. It is really difficult to resell a Glastonbury ticket now. They may be worth £1000 each, and for someone that’s really desperate to come that’s the sort of money they would pay. Then it gets silly. The whole thing is a complete disaster area. I think after last year we are almost there but there needs to be a bit more done to make it 100% effective. A lot of things are happening and the technology is there to do it.

People refer to Glastonbury festival as a magical, sometimes even spiritual place, why do you think that is?

I don’t really know. I don’t like to get all kind of spooky about it. It’s a great farm and its always attracted lots of people. We used to do tennis parties – we would just be playing tennis and everyone would turn up. It’s got some sort of magnetic charm to it. Apart from that I think it’s a beautiful farm and it’s been well looked after with hedges and trees and that sort of thing. When people come here I think they feel they are coming to a safe friendly place. It’s like Tennyson said about the death of Arthur “I’m going a long way to the island-valley of Avillion”. That’s French for Avalon by the way, which is here. In the eyes of Tennyson it was a very romantic place to finish ones life. And I think that still exists in some shape, I don’t quite know why though. I mean we get peoples ashes at the farm practically every other week – when youngsters die on the roads or something. It’s a very romantic Tennyson version of where we are now. I mean it still works like that.

Are there any plans to turn Glastonbury into a charitable trust, so it can keep on going?

My solicitor, David Wood, whose retired now, has fought with me through court battles all through the years. He’s a fantastic bloke. I think he must be 65 now, or in his 60’s. He said that what he wants to do, and he’s not gonna charge me for this (he charged me all his life) is to form a trust that can carry on. Which is great isn’t it? So there maybe a way. I’m sure there’s people out there who would be able to do what I do.

Emily would be involved of course. She’s more involved than anyone else at the moment. She’s certainly very good at lots of things that she does. I’ve got other children as well you see so I try and be fair about it. I’ve got four or five trustees in mind at the moment. So I’ll be relying on them essentially.

Would you ever consider having a live streaming of smaller stages?

Well the thing is the BBC haven’t got the resources. They say they are losing money. It costs them a fortune, It’s the biggest outside broadcasting that they do . It’s bigger than Wimbledon. I mean it’s huge the coverage. The resources to get down here in the middle of a muddy field in Somerset and to set it all up costs a fortune.

I did a lovely interview with Chris Moyles at 10 O’Clock in the morning. Chris was saying ‘Is it cancelled?’ and I said “No way, have you ever heard of a festival being cancelled?’ This water will have gone down to the sea within 25 minutes. The sea is only 25 miles away. I went over to the BBC studio and their three piece sofa was actually floating by the window, which was part of their set. Even the camera crew decided to go back because they heard it had been cancelled.

The BBC are great. I love working with them. They are really solid proper operators. It’s not commercially inspired or anything. That’s why I like BBC – they’re all people that are doing something for the good of the nation. There is no finacial consideration whatsoever. It’s a quality job. I love working with them, the people have got integrity. I would much rather work with the BBC than anyone else.

continues on page 2... more >>

interview by: Scott Johnson

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June 2007
Worthy Farm, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4AZ, England MAP
£145 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 150000
last updated: Wed 7th Aug 2013

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