Yesterday (October 20), the organisers of Glastonbury Festival confirmed their first headliner for 2017. Radiohead’s involvement in the event was announced via a “crop circle” of the band’s bear logo painted on the field in front of the Pyramid Stage. It proved one of the many rumours floating about was right, but, according to Emily Eavis, there are a couple of speculations that are way off track. She told NME who isn’t playing in 2017, what’s changing at next year’s festival, the future of Worthy Farm, and whether a new event from the Glastonbury team will happen.
It must be an exciting day for you announcing Radiohead returning. What was the idea behind the crop circle being painted in front of the Pyramid Stage?
Emily Eavis: “It’s been a busy 48 hours. Stanley Donwood, who is the artist who does Radiohead’s artwork, but who we work with on Glastonbury artwork as well – he designed that bear logo of Radiohead’s. When we were thinking about how we could announce this, the idea came up that we could do this. You’d be surprised how a lot of people look at the farm all year on the webcam. They check in on it on a daily basis. We thought maybe we could use the webcam as a way for people to find out. We found some amazing scenic painters called Jackie and Nigel – they do lots of work with us in The Park area of the festival. They came down, started yesterday morning at nine o’clock and finished today at midday, and it’s just been slowly kind of evolving. What’s been really exciting about it is that people have been able to watch it grow through the webcam.”
Do you have any similar ideas for future announcements that you might try out?
“No, I think Radiohead coming back to the Pyramid Stage after such a long time feels particularly special and exciting, and I think the relationship with them is such a close one that goes back such a long way it means a lot. We wanted to do something that was a bit different in the way we let people know. There’s no more announcements now for a while, but I will tell you the other two that have been rumoured aren’t happening. I don’t know where anybody got those from.”
Which two specifically do you mean?
“There was a news story that said Daft Punk and Stone Roses. That’s not true. I don’t know where that came from. Other rumours can roll and that’s fine. Pretty much everyone is rumoured every year. That’s great, but everybody was keen to get this out and let people know as this was such a big one.”
Why did you invite Radiohead back this year?
“Well it’ll be 20 years since the legendary 1997 Pyramid headline slot. It’s one of those sets that’s really gone down as such a great moment and I think it’s because… no one really knows what it was about that set, but it was such an extreme year in politics, in the world and in the festival because of the conditions. It was a very, very wet year. They came on stage and kind of lifted people into this other place. It was a very spellbinding kind of set. It’s gone down as a great moment. I think sometimes in muddy years, music means so much more than in sunny years.
“It’s funny, a lot of really special moments have happened in those conditions. I think it’s because people need the music more and the whole thing has a different meaning to it. That year and in that rain – I just remember the white lights catching the rain, it was torrential – it was just so amazing. It was just when ‘OK Computer’ came out. Having them back 20 years after that is great. The door is always open for Radiohead. This is the right time and they wanted to come back, which is great for us.”
How far into booking the rest of the line up are you?
“So we’re about 90 per cent of the way there now. It always seems to get earlier and earlier, but I think because we’re having a year off in ’18, we’re cramming two years of music into next year. We’re quite far down the line. It’s looking so good. We’re certainly all there with all of our headliners across all stages.”
Can we expect more announcements early next year?
“Yeah I think so. Last couple of years we’ve announced things in May, but I’m sure there’ll be something early next year to keep people in the loop.”
There’s been lots of stories about the festival moving. What’s the long-term future of Glastonbury at Worthy Farm looking like?
“We’re very keen to keep Glastonbury Festival as we know it at Worthy Farm because that’s where it belongs. If we did anything anywhere else, it wouldn’t be called Glastonbury, it would be by the team behind Glastonbury that put on another event. That might happen in ’19, it might happen in ’20, but at the moment we’re still looking at all the different options. We’re really keen to continue doing Glastonbury here for as long as we can. I think my dad is very keen to try something somewhere else. I think at his age it’s just something he really wants to do so we’re all going for that, but I don’t know exactly what it’ll be yet.”
Does that going ahead depend on finding the right site?
“Yeah exactly. At the moment we’re looking at a couple of sites. We’re close to finding somewhere that could be good, but also what it’s going to be is still up in the air. Probably it will be something more based on the fringe areas of the festival with more installations and all those experiences people have, rather than lots and lots of music stages.”
Are there going to be any big changes at the festival in 2017, any new areas?
“There is a new area, a whole new area, which is coming. We can’t give you too many details, but it’s going to be an area which involves lots and lots of… it’s somewhere between an installation and somewhere where you’ll go to experience watching films and listening to music in a different way. It’s a massive addition to the festival. I don’t wanna give it away at the moment, but there’s artists working on it flat out and every day these cars are arriving, which are going to be part of this installation. They’re like ancient cars. It’s very exciting, but we’ll give you more information when we have it. It’s a little bit too early to say.
“The festival itself, as you know, is pretty much going to be the same. The John Peel area went really well in its new position last year and it feels like it’s in its home in that spot. The south-east corner, potentially, that’s all gonna be the same. We’re just trying to make that as accessible as possible to everybody and try and crack that late-night congestion problem and spread things out as much as possible for everybody. There’s lots of things going on with seeing all the areas on a daily basis at the moment and coming up with lots of plans and ideas. It’s in a really good place. Everyone’s got lots of ideas and is very excited about next year.”
Tickets sold out very quickly and the site crashed leaving some people disappointed. Is there ever going to be a way you can avoid that happening?
“I think our website did crash, but I don’t think the Seetickets site did. There’s some debate over what actually happened. People use multiple devices so quite often in each household there can be 10 devices open. We’re dealing with two million people applying for tickets and then they’re using in some cases multiple screens. It turns it into millions and millions of hits so that’s why it’s hard to not cave under that.
“Ultimately, it’s that many people trying to get tickets that causes problems, but we try and make it as quick as possible. There were very few issues this year. The level of disappointment is always disappointing for us too. We just want to make it as quick a part of someone’s life as possible. We don’t want it to take up hours. It used to be nine hours of stress and that was quite depressing because it would ruin someone’s day. Now, it’s at least as quick as we can get it. We just feel incredibly humbled and so grateful of the support we get from the public. It’s so unlike anything and we never take it for granted so it was amazing to sell out in that time. Now we really want to make it the best yet and add as much as we can to make it the best experience it can be.”
From everything you’ve got lined up so far, do you think it actually will be the best yet?
“Oh yeah, definitely!”
What were your highlights from 2016?
“I’d just had a baby about a month before so it was quite a crazy one. There were so many moments. I could not point out one musical moment because there were so many this year and it was such a great year. I can’t say what it was about it. In a way it was tricky given that the weather was quite harsh to us the weekend before, so the site was quite wet. The atmosphere was incredible and it certainly felt like the best one yet. People always astound you, don’t they, when you see the spirit through those conditions. There was a lot of emotional performances this year.”
Do you think that’s partially because of Brexit?
“Yeah, I think so. I think it’ll be remembered as quite an emotional year because that happened here and a lot of people were here in a kind of suspended reality. People weren’t rushing back so there were more people here on Sunday. I think there was this feeling of ‘God, what’s going on out there in the outside world? Let’s make this as brilliant as we can and enjoy it’ – and everybody threw everything in. That’s how it felt, cos it is a strange time out there, let’s face it. I think, in a way, music and those shared experiences in fields become more precious.”