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Glastonbury 1999 Monday, 28 June, 1999, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Eavis' labour of love
michael eavis
A young Michael Eavis launches the festival in 1970
By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

Very few 63-year-olds still involved in rock music manage to garner any respect from Britain's young music fans.

Glastonbury 1999
But dairy farmer and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis is admired by a generation of festival-goers - some of whom even want to see him knighted by the Queen.

Eavis still loves the festival he founded with his late wife Jean in 1970, and there's no disguising his enthusiasm for 1999's event.

"The sun's shining, the stages are all up, the fields are clean, and there's no mud around," he says.

"It's still risky - it still costs us millions of pounds to put it on, and we have to sell out a little to carry on putting it on."

"But it's very challenging and very rewarding. I never imagined it would become such an importatnt thing. You should see the letters we get. It's unbelievable how important it is to people's lives. It's very dramatic stuff."

Limited sponsorship

eavis
Michael Eavis: "It's unbelievable how important it is to people's lives"
Although the first event was in 1970, it took until the early 1980s for the festival to become a fixture on the music calendar. Now it leads a whole pack of musical events across the UK each summer.

Its long-established rival, the Reading Festival, has been joined by Leeds 99, while Scotland's T In The Park and V99 are also staking their claims on the hearts and wallets of music fans.

But Eavis is determined Glastonbury should go its own way, and stay as true to its roots as possible.

"There's a bit of sponsorship from [mobile phone operator] Orange and [music magazine] Select, but it's very small beer, unlike other commercial events that are almost like a Coca Cola festival.

"We don't let sponsorship impinge on the integrity of the festival at all.

"I've been offered millions - but if we needed it on that scale I'd rather not do the festival.

"It's about bringing people together, it's about artistic achievement and the whole youth culture of Britain. You can't put a label on all of that talent. You can't brand it. It would be the kiss of death for me."

'Last year was pretty horrible'

glasto
Many fans still enjoyed the last festival, despite the conditions
With sunny conditions forecast for the weekend, it looks as if the festival will avoid the horrendous weather that has cursed it in recent years. Both 1997 and 1998's festivals were all but washed out by mud, leading to heavy criticism of the way Eavis runs the festival.

He was attacked for using his farmland rather than a dedicated site, but this year he has spent thousands installing a new drainage system over the past six months.

"Last year it was pretty horrible, but the vast majority of people did enjoy the festival, in spite of all that. The Glastonbury spirit shines through.

"Even so, it's about time we had a nice, hot festival. We haven't had once since 1995. Prior to that we had four on the trot, but it's always the muddy ones that get remembered."

He is also looking forward to catching a few of the acts himself - notably REM, Lonnie Donegan, Marianne Faithfull and Patti Smith.

Most music fans would want Eavis to have a good festival this year. It is only six weeks since Jean's death from cancer, and a successful weekend would provide a fitting tribute to the woman he calls "the cornerstone of the festival".

Carrying on after tragedy

glasto
Eventually, the crowds are replaced by cows once again
Before her death, he had said 2000's festival would be the last one. Now he says her passing has inspired him to continue with the event they founded together.

"Now I've lost my lovely wife, I think I don't really fancy retiring at the moment, I think I'll carry on a lot longer now.

"It's a more important part of my life than it was before, really.

"Until I've haven't got enough brain power, or whatever, to keep it going. As long as it works, I enjoy it and everyone else does - we've a lovely team of supporters here - then I think we'll carry on."

When this year's festival is over, Eavis will allow his cows back into their fields, and start to think about next year's event. He sees no conflict between his day job and running of the festival.

"It compliments the milk job, the cows and stuff. It's relaxing going back to the cows. I go round them last thing at night, at 11 o'clock, and I'm there again in the morning at four.

"I don't think I could do it without the cows, it helps me to relax, it keeps my head in shape. It's very therapeutic."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Michael Eavis: "If we needed sponsorship on that scale I'd rather not run the festival"
Audio
"It's about time we had a nice festival"
Audio
Michael Eavis: "You can't put a label on youth talent"
Audio
"I don't really fancy retiring now"
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