Glasto all go, despite local noise

Michael Eavis at Glastonbury Festival 2004 by John Bownas
Michael Eavis at Glastonbury Festival 2004 by John Bownas

Michael Eavis led the celebrations last night after the Glastonbury Festival 2005 was given the go ahead by Mendip District Council's licensing board - despite some customary local opposition!

Councillors accepted the application at the end of a nail-biting meeting, however they ruled that several unresolved issues on noise control – including plans to allow markets stalls and the Lost Vagueness area to play music into the early hours – would be left open for further discussion.

Last year, villagers from nearby Pilton claimed late-night music kept them awake, prompting several councillors to call for stages and other areas to close much earlier. Noise levels and closure times will now be reviewed by a council delegation, but the festival will almost certainly go ahead.

After the license was granted, Eavis was quick to attribute the outcome to Mean Fiddler‘s director of festivals, Melvin Benn, who masterminded the license application. 

He told Virtual Festivals: “It’s absolutely fantastic. It was a real long haul with some complications over the noise but Melvin’s the chap who’s pulled it all together. I don’t know how I managed to do it for 20 years. You definitely can’t tell jokes in there any more!”

Earlier in the meeting, Benn told the packed meeting how he felt proud to be part of Glastonbury, urging councillors and residents to recognise the festival as being, “a strong part, not only of Pilton and Somerset, but also of Britain’s culture at this moment.” 

He promised the introduction of dozens of ‘noise monitors’ to patrol inside and outside the festival site, a move designed to offer a more proactive approach in silencing offending sound systems before complaints from residents could be made.

Improved crowd supervision, ticketing security, transport management, disabled facilities, and waste recycling were also pledged as part of the application.

Benn also revealed plans to help the tsunami relief effort by releasing an extra 3,000 day tickets for locals to attend the Sunday, with all proceeds going to a specific project in Asia – possibly a number of boats or a quayside.

But despite all this, the issue of noise pollution refused to drift away, with many locals refusing to accept late opening times – despite the promise of tight controls on decibel levels. The proposal included the opening of the cinema until 4am, Lost Vagueness all night, and market stalls until 3am.

Pilton resident Verona Fraser Mackenzie told the meeting: “Having music going on into the early hours is a step too far. It’s an infringement of our human rights. Residents surely should have the right to sleep in their own homes.”

Councillor Dick Skidmore said: “If this was a new festival we wouldn’t even entertain the idea of granting it a license. It’s only because it’s inherited that we even consider Glastonbury.”  

However, representatives from the relevant emergency services countered that the festival was in good health and confirmed they had no objections to it taking place. Somerest and Avon Police said they are already considering cutting back on the number of officers patrolling the site because of a plummet in crime figures over the last four years. Ambulance officials also reported a severe drop in the numbers of those taken ill or injured.

Eventually, after almost four hours, and despite Benn being compared to Mark Thatcher and Mohammed Al Fayed by one man, as well as being accused of bribing residents living closest to Lost Vagueness, who haven’t raised any objections to the festival, a compromise was reached. 

After councillor Nigel Woollcombe-Adams argued convincingly that it should be actual noise levels, not area closure times, that should be controlled, it was agreed that a license would be granted on the condition that the issue of noise be delegated to a panel of council officers and technical experts. If the issue is not agreed upon unanimously it will go back to the licensing board. It is not know how long this process will take.

However, Benn was very upbeat when VF caught up with him afterwards. He said: “They’ve just delegated it to achieve what the officers were already recommending. There were a few areas of clarification that some of the councillors didn’t understand. I am 100 per cent sure Glastonbury will go ahead. The worst case scenario is that Lost Vagueness will have to shut at 4am or something – that’s it. So I’m happy.”    

In that case, we are very pleased to announce that the Glastonbury Festival will take place at Worthy Farm, Pilton, between 24-26 June 2005. Click through to the next page for a break down of the meeting and some more Glasto news!


…The initial application also requested 3,000 additional Sunday tickets, profits from which will go to the Tsunami Relief Effort. (However this will go to delegation and has not been properly agreed.)

…The point was made that this is an event that most of the villagers are quite justly proud of. There are now no more problems with disorder in the village from rampaging festival-goers – these sorts of problems are things of the past! Over the past few years everyone has truly learnt to work together, and this co-operation is the real measure of the festival’s triumph. The event is a fundamental part of modern Somerset’s way of life, and it should be celebrated as such!

…Cllr Woolacombe pointed out that young people need to have fun and assured the meeting that the Cockmill Lane residents (near Lost Vagueness) don’t object to a bit of a party going on next door for a few nights. He later added that simply switching things off at midnight and asking everyone politely to go to bed would be a recipe for disaster!

…There was a challenge made that Benn and Glastonbury could not guarantee beyond reasonable doubt that noise breaches wouldn’t occur – the objector was put in their place when it was pointed out that they merely needed to take all reasonable steps to avoid any breaches.

…Benn reiterated the strength of the festival as a British cultural icon and underlined the fact that it is a mammoth task traditionally achieved through the co-operation of thousands of people.

…Bill McKay OBE stated he’s never understood why music has to be so loud and people so close that you’re deaf by age 21, but confessed the possibility that he may be out of touch. He made the point that previous festivals had the problem of illegal attendees – so much so that the festival nearly ended. However since Benn has come on board he has been happy to approve the licence. Now however, even though it is running successfully, noise may still be an issue. It is up to Benn to prove that noise will not be a nuisance – but he’s not convinced there’s a need for 24 hour entertainment. Many councillors have been asking for noise reductions in Lost Vagueness and the markets – these should include more stringent time limits such as the end of entertainment 00.00 to 00.30 or if late night music is to continue, to limit to it 200w. (Public giggling ensues!)

…So Glastonbury Festival 2005 is all-systems-go! However 2006 will be another fallow year, as (courtesy of the BBC) Michael announced that he will be taking the time to build a reservoir from a natural spring that he has found on the farm that will supply all of the event’s future water needs. He commented that this break also helps to keep the excitement going…has nobody told him that he could run the event three times a year and people would still keep flocking in!?

…What we DESPERATELY hope is that this investment of time and money in such fundamental infrastructure means that the long term future of the event is rosy…after all, you don’t build something like a reservoir if you are planning to stop running the festival in a few more years.

…Oh yes, and those Time Out words from Eavis that we mentioned – first off, tickets for 2005’s event will be on sale on Sunday April 3rd (priced at one hundred and twenty five pounds)…the hope being that this is when telephone exchanges are notoriously quieter, so the eorganisers are hoping that more people will get through without having to resort to calling in from phone boxes to get priority access (sorry if that gives away any trade secrets). 

…The second heads-up was a warning to touts or anyone considering trying to buy a ticket ‘in advance’ from any of the bogus agencies who try to fleece over-eager punters – this year’s tickets will probably incorporate the original buyers’ photo…so unless you are buying from the official agency or your twin brother then you can forget about getting in on a touted ticket. Oh yes, and it’s going to be two tickets per person again.

…Finally – who will headline? Well all that Eavis was letting on was the it is ‘the best songwriters in the world today’ – so let’s all look forward to The Bloodhound Gang and The Wurzels on the 2005 Pyramid stage on Saturday and Sunday nights!