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Michael Eavis

06 February 2007

Somerset's most famous farmer drops a few clues as to what you can expect at a small festival he's organising in June near Glastonbury. We hear it might be quite a good laugh...

Never since a certain 'super-fence' was put up to stop gatecrashers and pilfering pikeys jeapordising the festival's future has there been such fevered anticipation for a forthcoming Glastonbury Festival. That was 2002, two years after the notorious 2000 'Gridlock Glastonbury', when fence jumpers outnumbered ticket buyers and combined to transform Worthy Farm into a sun-scorched dust scrum. Two barren years separated those two festivals, just as they will have when the Glasto gates are flung open to the hordes at the end of June. And just like 2002 and 1997, excitement will be sky high.

One man who enjoys playing on the kind of excitement matched only by a World Cup is Michael Eavis, the 71-year-old festival founder and commited Methodist, who continues to pick his headliners (whilst keeping people guessing until the very last minute!) Eavis leads a rich and varied life; he's served in the Navy, run as a Labour MP and takes frequent charity trips abroad. But his heart and soul is Glastonbury Festival. He still pulls the strings and has vowed to do so for many years to come. What's striking, too, is that after all these years he's just as excited as you or I. We caught up for a quick chat...

Virtual Festivals: How's it all coming along?
Michael Eavis: "Oh great! I've just been driving round the site and it dawned on me that it'll be full of people again in four months time. I often try to picture it but I just can't really, no matter how many festivals we have. We've got so much stuff coming in now for this year's festival. We've even just had to turn down one huge, American band who would've been great, but they were too late. Ha ha! Who are they? Oh I can't say, it wouldn't be fair and we might get them for 2008 so we wouldn't want to ruin the surprise."    

VF: You've tried to get a sizeable increase in capacity. Are you confident of boosting tickets to 137,000?
ME: "Well it's the first capacity rise we've had in a while so I'd hope so. The festival always sells out and people are always disappointed if they don't get a ticket, so it's only fair that more tickets are made available. In the end it will help all the charity organisations and causes we support. I think the council now have a lot more faith in us and are happier with the situation. It got a bit hairy after the 2000 event when the festival became very overcrowded, but since then relations have been improving, especially since we introduced the fence and brought in Mean Fiddler. The council hold Melvin (Benn - head of Mean Fiddler) in high regard as he's done such a good job with the operational side."

VF: Will the increase in capacity crowd the site?
ME: "I don't think so because we're taking over an extra 100 acres to make the site bigger. We're going to expand to the west of the farm, basically where the Other Stage looks out towards, over to the right. The land is part of one of my neighbour's property, called Park Farm. Funnily enough, since 2000 we've actually had people complaining that the festival is too sparsely populated, especially around places like the circus field, so the more the merrier I say. The extra tickets are going to be dependent on those people who buy them arriving and leaving by bus, so they won't be clogging up all the roads around the area."

VF: How are relations with the village this year?
ME: "Pretty good, I think. We've been involved in building some affordable housing in the village, which has gone really well, and I think that's been appreciated. This year I'm offering everyone in Pilton and the next village a free festival ticket, or they can have 150 instead. That means it's up to them if they want to come or not and, if not, they can go out for a nice meal or stay in a B&B somewhere."

VF: Will the new ticketing system work?
ME: "Yes, I'm positive it's going to work. All the people who buy tickets on 1 April will be the ones coming to the festival in June. It's virtually full proof. We've got a team based up in Scotland who will deal with all the registrations throughout February and then they'll send all the information to the ticketing agency, Aloud, who'll match it up when people are ordering their tickets. All the tickets will feature a picture of the person who's bought it and they are going to be pass-out tickets now, which means that everyone can keep their ticket forever as a memento, which is quite nice."

VF: Does the return after a year off signify a new start for Glastonbury?
ME: "Yes, there's going to be more of everything, more music, more entertainment, more people and more of an impact. We'll be increasing our proceeds to 2 million for the first time this year, up from 1.3 million, so that's a big increase. The money will be going to our traditional partners, such as Water Aid, Oxfam and Green Peace, however we're also looking at loads of smaller projects and charities to support in the coming year. I think one of the best projects we've supported this last year is the rebuilding of houses needed in the wake of the Asian Tsunami. It's great because they build about 10 of them at a time and then send us the bill, so we can really see the work in progress."

VF: What can we expect that's different?
ME: "Well there's just going to be more of everything really. Probably the biggest change will be the expansion on the western side. It will be a whole new part of the festival, which we're going to call Park Farm. The Silent Disco will be staged there and we're going to have a second acoustic stage which will be only partially under canvas, so it should be nice to sit outside of if it's sunny, which I've been assured it will be this year! There will be loads more pop music and rock music and Emily is looking after that one so it's quite a big thing for her. There will be lots of younger acts, I'm sure."

VF: Any other changes?
ME: "What else? Oh, we're moving the tee pee field off the main site to the fringes and increasing it to 200 tee pees. In its place there will be a games area, where we'll host some great participatory games. The emphasis this year is to stop gawping and to get involved! So you'll be able to get stuck into a range of games, lots of holding hands, that kind of stuff. It's quite an old fashioned kind of thing but it should be great fun and a good way to make some new friends. We've got an excellent team organising it all."

VF: Have you had much trouble getting the acts you want?
ME: "No, we've got everyone we wanted. There are just some incredible bands and acts on and everyone's so excited about this year. For Sunday night we've got one of my favourite ever bands, a band that goes back a long way and are just terrific - the real deal. I can't really tell you any more, but I will tell you someone who's playing who I'm really looking forward to as well, and that's John Fogerty who used to be in Credence Clearwater Revival. He'll be fantastic." 

VF: How upset were you that Kylie could not play this year?
ME: "It was a real shame because I thought she was going to do it for a long time, but in the end she just didn't call. I've heard that she was busy and maybe she's going to start a family or something. I'm not sure, but these things happen and I wish her all the best. Maybe it'll happen another time."

VF: Recent reports suggest The Killers have signed to V Festival and won't be playing Glastonbury. Are they another one who've got away?
ME: "The Killers got away? (laughs knowingly) Where did you hear that? In the papers? Well, you might be in for a shock then!"

VF: What bands are you listening to at the moment?
ME: "There's lots of new bands I'm listening to but they're not actually that new now really. My two favourites are The Kooks, I think they're amazing aren't they? And also Kasabian. But there's going to be loads of new bands on come the festival, so I'll probably find another couple of favourites."

VF: Is it fair to assume that Kasabian and The Kooks will be playing then?
ME: "Well it looks like it doesn't it?"

Glastonbury Festival 2007 takes place from 22-24 June at Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset. Click on the links below for more info, including acts rumoured to be playing.

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Article by: Ross Purdie

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