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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
Eavis holds Glastonbury together

Glastonbury Festival has opened its gates for yet another year of music, mud and millions of fans. BBC News Online spoke to the man behind it all.

Michael Eavis, the dairy farmer who throws the biggest party of the UK's festival season, could not be more removed from the glamour and arrogance of the music industry if he tried.


It's very satisfying for me to know that we can make a difference

Michael Eavis
Just one day before the gates opened to welcome 100,000 fans into Glastonbury 2002, Eavis was out on the streets of Pilton, the nearby village, making sure a schoolbus got through a tight security cordon that had been thrown around the site.

"The bus didn't get the right passes in its windscreen or something," Eavis says.

"So I had to go down there, move all the blockades, get the bus into the village, load it up with kids and then get it out again.

"It's quite a major event, moving all the barriers and all the vans and everything, and all these security people are all standing in the way.

Personal touch

"I was out there directing traffic for about 45 minutes to get the kids to the village school. That wasn't my job, but it was this morning."

That is the story of Eavis's attitude - he is not in it for the ego or the money, and wants to do the right thing as well as give everything a personal touch.

Glastonbury
Glastonbury becomes a home away from home
After ushering the schoolbus through the village, he was on the phone to the supplier of eggs for the site canteen, complaining that they had got battery instead of free range.

Part of the reason he has time to do these things is his new partnership with live music giant Mean Fiddler, who are in charge of the "nuts and bolts" of the festival - traffic, security, health and safety.

Apprenticeship

"All the stuff I didn't enjoy anyway," Eavis says.

He and Mean Fiddler managing director Melvin Benn have rekindled a working relationship that once saw Benn serve his apprenticeship at Glastonbury.


As long as the festival lives and breathes like it does at the moment, it will certainly continue

Michael Eavis
The pair are now "working quite well together", Eavis says.

"Melvin's in charge of the operational stuff, which frees me up to do all sorts of things that I enjoy doing. Melvin's there with his shorts on now, wandering about everywhere with a radio in his hand."

That has pleased the police, Eavis says, who used to get frustrated that Eavis rode around the site on his bicycle without so much as a mobile phone.

David Bowie at Glastonbury
Glastonbury continues to attract big names
Fans had been concerned that the Mean Fiddler involvement would destroy the festival's fabled "hippy" spirit, and would mark the beginning of the end for the special atmosphere that other festivals seem unable to match.

Safety fears

But Eavis is adamant that he is still in full control of the "artistic and emotive stuff", whereas Mean Fiddler just "keep the wheels turning".

Safety fears pose the biggest threat to the festival's future, prompting Eavis to erect a 1m "super-fence" to keep thousands of gatecrashers out.

Eavis is convinced that it will do its job, and that the festival will go on. He certainly shows little desire to retire.

Glastonbury sea of tents
About 100,000 people are expected
"As long as the festival lives and breathes like it does at the moment, it will certainly continue," he says.

More exciting

"It's got so much energy to it, so much positive feeling about it, and everyone on board is throwing everything at it. It's so good."

He says it is now more exciting than when he started in 1970, because he can raise more money for charities like Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid.

Fans breach the fence
Organisers have erected a new super fence to deter gate crashers
"There are reasons to keep me motivated and happy and excited about it - and the reasons are that we can put so much back into our society, and even into countries around the world as well," he says.

"That's what makes it all worth doing. It's very satisfying for me to know that we can make a difference.

"Not only for all the charitable stuff, but people that actually come here also feel like it's been a really valuable experience for them. That's very, very gratifying for me to know that they enjoy it so much."

'Really magic'

He is still enthusiastic about the music, too, and the passion in his voice when he talks about Radiohead's 1997 headlining slot makes it clear that there is still fire in his belly.

"God, that was really magic, I'll tell you," he says in a hushed tone.

Glastobury
The festival has kept its unique spirit
But there is one thing that would make him give up.

"It's a balancing act between earning enough to make it work and keeping out the huge sponsorship deals that the other people seem to work with," he says.

"It's extraordinary when you get things like the Vodafone Derby - it's absolutely extraordinary really, isn't it?

"I'd rather not do it at all than do that. I'd rather go back to the farm and have a nice quiet life."

The Glastonbury Festival 2002 runs from 28-30 June.



Festival focus

The band's diary

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ALSO FROM THE BBC

The history of Glastonbury

Glastonbury history


See also:

22 May 02 | Entertainment
25 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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