Michael Eavis talks to eFestivals

exclusive interview with Glastonbury Festival boss

By Scott Williams | Published: Tue 5th Apr 2011

Michael Eavis & Treetop Flyers

Wednesday 22nd to Sunday 26th June 2011
Worthy Farm, Pilton, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, BA4 4AZ, England MAP
£195 - SOLD OUT
Daily capacity: 175,000
Last updated: Wed 29th Jun 2011

As the curtain fell on The Emerging Talent Competition for 2011, Festival organiser Michael Eavis, sat down with me for an exclusive chat about this year's Glastonbury Festival Of Performing Arts.

Michael Eavis & Treetop Flyers
It's quite late in the evening, the judges have made their decision, and Michael has announced them. I've been sampling the local tasty Addlestones Cider, mainly to calm my nerves as I wait to speak to the farmer who has forged the best Festival in the country through over 40 years.

Hi Michael, thanks for doing this interview.
We've done it again, out of 7,200 applications, we sifted through until we finished up with about 150, and then we combed that back to the two nights. We've chosen a winner that's a bit similar to previous winners I suppose. A little of The Deadbeats, The Travelling Band, and Ellen too, they're so Mumford & Sons, and maybe more Crosby, Stills, & Nash. It was a good show, but we couldn't pick any other band to win, they were very clear winners.

I liked Twin Brother too, they were my second choice. Kind of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and he was so consistent all the way through, and they come from Brighton.

So, lets get on to talking about the Festival itself. Festival goers gave a £50 deposit on the 1st October, and now they have to come up with £150, and we had the rush on the 1st, and I'm always worried about people finding all this money, with this recession, and I'm always worried until they’ve actually got the tickets, I never believe people are going to buy tickets, until it's actually happened and I take nothing for granted. Everyone has a week to complete and then the ones that can’t they get £40 back, so we might get another 10,000 to sell by the end of it, on Sunday 17th April. A week for everyone to fulfil their deposits, a week to clear up and do all the paperwork.

Can you tell us when the whole line-up will be released?
The line-up is done pretty much really. The main headliners are already out there. But, there's a lot of really good stuff still coming in, that I can't discuss at the moment. We've had fantastic stuff in the last three days.

You're still booking acts now?
Yes we are, we've got one old boy slot on the afternoon, the legends slot.

Would that be Paul Simon?
Well, I can't confirm that at the moment.

I was glad that the band that won really wanted Paul Simon to headline in their fantasy line-up, they are all going to be loving being there.

Do you have Pulp playing?
Pulp are doing Reading, and they're doing their own shows, so there's no point in us doing them as well.

So they aren't playing?
Definitely not, no.

And is there no Liberines?
Well, you know what's going on pretty well, don't you?

What about changes to the Festival site this year?
We're expanding Arcadia, and we've got 'Campo Pequeno', a Portuguese Bullring, where they don't kill the bull, and it's more theatrical, it's in The Common and we're building it from lock gates, so we've got soundproofing from these lock gates from Devizes. It's going to be a hell of a venue, it's going to be fantastic. There will be all sorts of stuff that will be going on right through the night until 5am in the morning.

Sound proofing is really important, and I've got all these 10 inch thick lock gates from Wiltshire, where the water rises in Devizes, 100ft, and we've got 35 of the panels going around. It's absolutely pure magic, it's my fun thing for this year. We've got to do one new thing that's fun and exciting, and this is it for this year. They're sending the gates and I'm going to start putting it together, and cut some medieval doors into it, about 10 entrances, so it will have the same layout as a bull ring. It'll be running Thursday, to Sunday and it will have a lot of stuff going on in there, it'll be fantastic.

They have to keep replacing the lock gates, as they have to be perfect, and when they start leaking they take them out and give them to us. We use them for all sorts of things around the site. Bella's Bridge is built from it. I'm really looking forward to building this thing.

We've also got the Underground Piano Bar, where the people from Dublin come over and go into the top of the hill. That's one of my favourite venues. They're one of the first people to arrive, and they start building, they get a hole, and then cut all the seats into turf, and cover it over with soil.

And you have the Andrew Kerr stage this year.
Yes, we've got the Spirit of '71 Stage, and for my part I've got Nick Lowe to do it, which is great, and also I've got Terry Reid to come back from Los Angeles, just to do that, and he will play with Linda Lewis I hope, like in the film, and he's even found that cap that he wore in '71, it's so brilliant. It'll be good fun, and I've managed to persuade him to do it, and Andrew's mates have all sorts of other things going on as well. We've put that together with a replica Pyramid Stage. It's scaled down we don't want too many Pyramids all over the place. It's a token gesture to all that crowd that did it just it just the once.

Arabella (Churchill) stayed on with me you see, and Andrew went off to Scotland to stay in the wilds up there. Then he came back and gave me a bit of a hand with health and safety, as well as some of the site stuff. And Arabella was there all the way through, and Arabella was the one who held it together.

Do you miss her input?
Yes I do, yes. She was really powerful and had a real personality and we worked together for about 30 years, and she was the one who held Glastonbury '71 together. She was a female input, very passionate, and very dedicated to what we were all doing. She would criticise me, if she had something to say. But she would stick with it, and would see it through whatever was going on. I do miss her, but Haggis and her daughter are very good to work with and he loves doing it too.

Are you fairly set with the team you have built around you now?
Yes I think so, I don't see any changes coming up anywhere. We've got new staff on infrastructure Phil Miller who came from Mendip Council for thirty years, and he's absolutely brilliant, the things he has done. The reservoirs, and the ring main, and the roads and the bridges. Good stuff, and to think I got him from the Council! Extraordinary isn't it?!

We're seen now as a shining example by the health authorities for the water provision. They come down and monitor the reservoirs and what we're doing. We're the best example now of providing water for temporary accommodation in the country. We're a role model and that's all Phil's work. Before the reservoirs we put 10 solid 10 foot high corrugated containers up with polythene liners in them, all above ground, it's much better now.

The site is in very good shape now, we're probably finished now. All the new bridges, new roads, and the 4 mile long ring main for water is completed. It's so good now.

Is there anything more to do?
We're just finishing off the sewage. Minor alterations, we're actually building another septic tank so that it can run into a big septic tank that we run off every day. That's costing about £50,000 to build.

How is the green message sinking in with Festival goers?
Well, we do try on lots of things, and we've got a scheme where people living locally can cycle in, so that they get preferential camping if they come on a bike, and we're organising a compound to look after the bikes this year, and we've got special deals on the buses. So hopefully there will be even more people not coming by car.

Is the amount of rubbish generated at the Festival coming down?
The point is that we're recycling much more. This year we have three times as many conveyor belts, the young people that do it, do it so well, they're so committed to doing it, and so enthusiastic about it. When I saw it last year, I thought we need more lines so that they can pick out the various things that we recycle. But people do dump rubbish, at least they pick it up more now and put it in bags, but it still needs to be sorted, and there's such a huge crowd.

You're now considered the father figure of festivals in the UK, how do you feel about that?

I spent 41 years doing it, and I'm still as passionate now as I ever was. There's never a moment when I'm not thinking about it. But I don't really go to other people's festivals, I'm not really interested in other people's festivals.

You have a year out next year what will you be doing?
We'll be going around the country in Liz's little yellow mini, that I bought for her when we got married. She's going to book up all the best B&Bs all along the coast from Scotland to North Wales. We're going to really go for it. I'm just going to try and do something that doesn't concern a constant crisis about the festival (laughs).

At what point do you go back to working on the Festival for 2013?
We start putting the show together for 2013 from 1st October 2012. We've already got headliners for the next two years. We have 2013 sorted pretty much, and I've got '14 as well. Well, I've got a handshake on '14.

So, The Rolling Stones, did you ever have them booked?
No, it's never been done. That was a silly story, I was so annoyed about that. I just make a phone call. (laughs), I speak to John Giddings about it, and he also does U2 as well. So, it's a standard phone call every year, I don't know why it doesn't move anywhere. One of Mick Jagger's daughters sent an email to Emily saying "my dad wants to play your festival" but it doesn't ever happen. One day it will happen, but I don't know when, I hope it's not too late. (Laughs)

Beyonce, doesn't really interest me on the Sunday night, do you have a good alternative lined up on the Other Stage?
(Laughs) Yes, Martin (Elbourne - main stage booker) has done a good job on the Other Stage. I'm very pleased with that, but I won't step on Martin's toes about who it is. But we do have Primal Scream and The Chemical Brothers playing there.

We're on the top of our game at the moment, and if we get the weather again this year, then it's going to be absolutely fantastic.

Thank you Michael for your time.

The resale date of cancelled/refunded tickets for this year's Glastonbury Festival has been announced as 9am on Sunday 17th April.

Tickets will be limited to four per transaction, and only available to those who have registered beforehand will be eligible to buy a ticket.

Anyone aged 13 or over (when the Festival starts) who wishes to buy a ticket must be registered. Registration involves providing contact details, a valid e-mail address, and a passport standard photo.

Online registration can be carried out by clicking here.

For more detailed registration and ticket information click here.

As well as standard Festival tickets (priced at £195 + £5 booking fee), there will be a number of Combined Coach and Festival Tickets on sale. These tickets include either single or return coach tickets from a range of locations around the UK.

Michael Eavis & Treetop Flyers
interview by: Scott Williams

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