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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 June 2007, 01:17 GMT 02:17 UK
Michael Eavis: Godfather of Glastonbury
The Glastonbury festival organiser, a 71-year-old Methodist dairy farmer with a penchant for Radiohead, has been made a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours.

Michael Eavis
Eavis has been running the Glastonbury festival since 1970
Glastonbury is the undoubted daddy of all UK music festivals - with 175,000 music fans, some of the world's greatest bands and an atmosphere that is ever-evolving yet still somehow unique.

More than a festival, a rite of passage. Enjoyed, sometimes endured, by generations of gilded youth.

But none of its trademarks - the pop stars, poets, socialites, stilt-walkers and all the rest, would come together in such a manner each June without the benign presence of the festival's creator and guiding light, Michael Eavis.

Mr Eavis is probably the best-known - certainly the best-loved - music promoter in the world. The proud owner of the 600-acre Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, he has been welcoming festival-goers to his patch since 1970.

Back in those days, entrance was 1 and came with a free pint of milk thrown in. Today, a ticket will set you back 145.

Glastonbury festival
More than 175,000 people will attend this year's event
The first year, the loon-panted, tied-dyed hippy crowd of 1,500 swayed to bands like T Rex and Al Stewart, as well as the now-forgotten Amazing Blondel and Steamhammer.

Farmer Eavis is resolutely a local man. Born in 1935, he was educated at the Cathedral School in nearby Wells and then a merchant naval college.

He sailed the world, working for the Union Castle shipping line, before inheriting the farm on his father's death in 1958.

In 1969, he and his second wife Jean spent a day at the Bath Blues Festival.

So impressed were they that they decided to hold their own festival, at home, the following year. Thus, a day after the death of Jimi Hendrix, a legend was born.

Michael Eavis in black tie
Best bib and tucker: Michael Eavis enjoys a night out at home
Michael Eavis says his motives were simple: "I liked pop music and people, so it seemed like a good idea to put the two together. It was all quite naive when we started, we really hadn't a clue."

There was another incentive too. But despite predicting that "this is the quickest way of clearing my overdraft", Mr Eavis lost 1,500.

Although it thrived during the 1970s, Glastonbury really took-off in the 1980s.

Seen by many as a rallying-point against Thatcherism, its pro-CND stance - guided by Eavis - brought political, as well as musical, relevance. And acts like Aswad, Elvis Costello and Billy Bragg combined pop and polemics.

The festival still has a conscience, with millions of pounds raised for Greenpeace, Oxfam and Water Aid in recent years.

Fans at Glastonbury
Still crazy after all these years
But it has also seen its fair share of strife. Travellers rioted in 1990, the Pyramid Stage burnt down just 10 days before the 1994 event, while in 2001 it was cancelled because of security fears.

Today, a vast fence surrounds the site and, this year, Mr Eavis introduced a tough new ticketing regime to combat touts.

The curator was accused of "selling out" when he invited the Mean Fiddler group to manage the festival's security and logistics in 2002.

But in reality, Mean Fiddler made the festival more organised and it probably would not have been allowed to continue without them. Mr Eavis insists the event is now cleaner, safer and better run than ever.

Labour candidate

"He's incredible. Such a public figure - just like Santa," says former NME editor Steve Sutherland.

"He's generous, egalitarian, but a canny character. One minute he can be as hard as nails, the next he plays the naive farmer. All to get what he wants, the best for the festival."

Michael Eavis and a BBC Radio 1 truck
Glastonbury calling: Eavis' festival is heard around the world
Over the years, he has hand-picked acts like Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Oasis, while turning others down.

In 2003, he said "thanks, but no thanks" to none other than Sir Paul McCartney. A number of years ago, another Beatle, the late George Harrison, received the same answer.

But the man, like the festival, is about more than just music. He remains a committed environmentalist and stood for the Labour Party in Wells at the 1997 general election, losing but adding 16,000 to the party's vote.

Now married for a third time, Michael Eavis has eight children - the youngest of whom, Emily, has followed her father's footsteps by becoming a key figure in the festival.

As Steve Sutherland puts it: "Ask anyone and they'll agree that the unique spirit at Glastonbury is mostly down to Michael."


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