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Michael Eavis: celebrity magnet at 70!

17 October 2005

Not many farmers get to rub shoulders with The Manics, Chemical Brothers and Elbow at their 70th birthday bash. Even fewer still would vow to run the world's best festival until they're 80. This one does...

Exclusive birthday interview with the Glasto boss!

Virtual Festivals: Happy birthday Michael. How's 70?
Michael Eavis: Well my feet havenít really touched the ground since the weekend so Iím just catching up. Today's my birthday but we had a big party on the farm on Saturday with loads of friends and various pop stars. Leila from The Duke Spirit was there, one of the guys from Elbow, James from The Manic Street Preachers, Sarah Cracknell from Saint Etienne, Ed from the Chemicals came down, and Polly Harvey too, although she didnít sing, she was just there for the party. Her family are old friends of ours. There were about 900 people in all and the sun shone all day. We brought in six big heaters but we didnít need them at all. There were a couple of huge bonfires and flags like at the festival except different colours, much richer for a more autumnal look. Deep red and purple. We had the party in the Film Field, which I think weíll call the party field from now on. Itís a good setting because of the trees shielded us from the villagers in Pilton. They didnít complain so that makes a change!

VF: No festival next year then. Do you worry you'll get bored?
ME: No I definitely won't be bored. There's lots going on and to be honest a break will be nice. Iím very involved in a social housing scheme at the moment. Weíre building 10 houses on the farm that will be let to working families. Weíve got six months to get them finished so itís all go. Obviously there will be no festival next year because weíre resting the site but weíll be thinking about 2007 to make sure that oneís a cracker. Thereís also the Extravaganza weekend for 2006, which is more for people living around this area, so thereís that to think about too.

VF: Why does it always rain on your farm on the last weekend of June?
ME: I don't know but the rain storm we had this year was great because it proved that everything worked and that all the emergency plans we have in place go to plan when something like that happens. The crew absolutely loved it because it gave them a huge challenge and they responded to it perfectly. In fact two of them have decided against quitting the team since the storm. I think they were perhaps getting a bit bored of the job because there were no real problems, but the storm changed all that and now theyíve said theyíll be back for 2007.

VF: You said immediately after the storm that the rain makes the atmosphere of Glasto. Would you want it every year?
ME: Not necessarily no, not really. Personally Iíd prefer it to be dry and warm every single year, but the rain does definitely bring out the best in humans. We got it totally wrong with our forecast. We heard it was going to be a heatwave, so it was quite a shock when the rains came. When we heard the storm was coming on Thursday I went onto Radio Avalon to try and warn people, which proved quite useful, but obviously you canít inform everyone.

VF: How pleased were you by the recent reports from police and council praising this year's festival?
ME: The reports were very good and everyone seems behind us now. We donít really have to worry about the council anymore. They have actually asked if we would reconsider resting Glastonbury next year because they want the festival to take place. At the very least they want to start talking about 2007 already, so that the ball keeps rolling from this yearís event. They want to keep everyone onboard and interested.

VF: You said last week that you've already secured one of the headliners for 2007 and they're not American. Is it Eric Clapton?
ME: I am not talking about who it is, but itís not Eric Clapton. I did see him earlier this year and he said that he would like to play sometime but we donít know if it will be 2007 yet. It's not an American band no.

VF: So it is a band?
ME: It is a band yes. Iím just hopeful theyíll do it.

VF: So it's not signed and sealed yet?
ME: No, nothing's 100 per cent, but theyíve said they want to do it.

VF: It's well known that you choose who the headliners are. Do you generally approach them personally or got through their agents?
ME: It depends really which band it is. Sometimes if I know the band then Iíll call them, but most of the time you deal with their agent. With Coldplay, I just bumped into Chris Martin on Regent Street in London after having some lunch and he pretty much agreed it there. But it all takes a lot of planning so nothingís definite yet.

VF: Will there be any major changes in 2007?
ME: I want to make the site bigger so that we can perhaps get a few more people in. The idea is to move the fence further out. Melvin Benn (Festivals Director for Mean Fiddler) is in charge of all the operational matters and Iíve suggested it to him and heís agreed to the idea of it, so weíll have to see how that goes.

VF: What's the latest on Melvin Benn's future involvement in Glastonbury?
ME: Thereís a lot of festival politics going on at the moment. Mean Fiddler has been taken over by Clear Channel so now Melvin is working for Clear Channel. Itís all very complicated and the situation needs to be sorted out. Weíre talking to Clear Channel every day.

VF: And your future? How long do you want to be running Glastonbury?
ME: My ambition is to go another 10 years until I am 80. Itís just whether I start losing my marbles. Iím quite sharp at the moment and donít feel like Iím losing them, but you never knows whatís just round the corner. Just look at Margaret Thatcher. She was one of the greatest minds in the country but now look at her. Sheís just turned 80 so hopefully I can out do her! Itís a fantastic job running a festival. I donít want to retire until I have to because it fills me with unadulterated joy.

VF: Even when it rains?
ME: Even when it rains!

- Click here to discuss this on the Festival Forums!
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Article by: Ross Purdie

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