Glastonbury 2010 TV Coverage Review
The view from the sofa rather than Somerset
Steve Jenner - 30 June 2010
Naturally, by the Wednesday beforehand, the reality of what a cataclysmic mistake I'd made was beginning to sink in.
By Friday night, I knew I'd made a mistake I'd regret for the rest of my life, as I frantically texted everyone I
knew who was there (including Emily Eavis - oops) to look out for a hole in the fence for me to sneak in
Oh well. There was certainly a lot of pressure on the BBC as far as I was concerned! Anyway, I wasn't there, but in the spirit of our team that was, here is my Rated! review of Glastonbury 2010's coverage courtesy of the BBC:
Pre-coverage - 6/10
Aunty beeb's coverage of Glastonbury 2010 started a few days before the event, with their 'Glastonbury at 40: From Avalon to Jay-Z'. See what they did there? Naturally this included a fair few predictable entries (Bowie, Radiohead, Robbie, Eavis, Pulp, Blur, Oasis) with touching tributes to John Peel and Arabella Churchill (both credited as pioneers of the 'spirit' of Glastonbury) and I know you can't please everyone but I was disappointed not to see a single mention of The Levellers (who still hold the record for the largest ever audience with half a million back in '94) or Primal Scream (who remain the only band to have been physically thrown off the Pyramid Stage for bad behaviour, in 2005). Plus recounting of the legendary 1998 poo truck incident in the dance tent appeared to have been set to suck all hilarity out of one of the most stinkingly funny festival happenings of all time. Blow me, that was impressive.
The set-up - 7/10
And so we get to the 2010 event itself. Despite cut-backs, the BBC had saved up enough tax payers' money to cover the festival 'in stereo', simultaneously on two different channels, with two separate presenting teams and studios, situated in different locations on-site. BBC 2 had their usual lavishly decorated residence backstage to catch the cream of the crop, whereas BBC 3 had a more make-shift affair which looked like it was on loan from Parliament Square, out on-site.
The presenters - 2/10
BBC 2 weighed in with the stately combo of Jo Wiley and Mark Radcliffe. Their voices may have been engraved into our hearts and souls from hand-rearing us on so much wonderful music in the mid nineties, but today they both have as much charisma, relevance and inspiration about them as Capello's last three starting line-ups. If you've never done it, imagine taking your parents to Glastonbury and sitting with them at the Stone Circle while they blabber on tediously, trying to rationalise the experience. Now and again Zane Lowe was let out of his cage to add a bit of energy but this was not enough to compensate for the overall ghastliness.
BBC 3 managed to miss that open goal by dragging along poor Reggie Yates and dropping him into an environment that was obviously even more terrifying and alien to him than the one they dropped him in last summer (called Reading). Watching him desperately summon every fibre of professionalism in his body in a series of vain attempts to 'connect' with people like The Cribs and Slash was as excruciating as England's second half performance against Germany. In fact his one VT about the proliferation of grime (in the urban sense) at this year's festival was much like England's equaliser - a brief respite in an otherwise hideous proceeding. I really can't blame co-presenter Edith Bowman for not even trying to hide her complete and utter misery throughout. Made me feel slightly better about not being there, at least.
The music - 8/10
This is where the BBC really come into their own. To capture the sheer scale of the Pyramid Stage in all its majesty and do justice to both the magic happening on-stage and in the vast ocean of a crowd is no mean feat. Yet the BBC nailed this. The camera work was absolutely stunning, blending close-ups with awe-inspiring panoramics of the site and audience and evoking the unique splendour of the festival's many shades, from sun-drenched afternoon bliss, to the spine-tingling sunsets and, of course, the explosive night-time dramas. Coupled with flawless sound, with the volume up and the lights off, it really was like having a mini Glastonbury in my living room at times, and there were many a neck-hair-raising moment.
The performances themselves were fairly predictable, focusing on the higher profile acts (Dizzee, Florence, Paloma, Faithless et al), with a spicy smattering of more obscure choices (a la Rodrigo y Gabriella). Entire headline sets by all three headliners were pleasing, with Muse's dazzling feast of light and sound permanently saved on my V+ box as one of the greatest pieces of televised live music I have ever seen. Suffice to say, the effectiveness of this coverage only served to compound my regrets at not being there in person, but the fact that I had a much better view of the stage, and could make it as loud as I wanted, was at least some comfort.
Overall - 7/10
If you're the type of festival-goer who goes to Glastonbury to see the main stage bands then you would have been very happy with the BBC's coverage. If you're a Virtual Festival-goer (and I know a few of you will be reading this) with an enjoyment of vicarious thrills and a curiosity about the 'great unwashed', then you'd have had a ball on my sofa these last three days. And that, for better or worse, is the majority covered (we know this from our annual Festival Census). In that sense, I suppose the BBC is doing its job. For the minority, like me, for whom Glastonbury's real magic takes place after the main stages have shut down - stumbling into secret underground piano bars, random chaos in Shangri La and Arcadia and twilight serenity at the Stone Circle - there was little on show. And that's definitely for the best.