Oh, Glastonbury – how we’ve missed you. Your muddy fields, your amber sunsets, your endless nights, the constant sense of joy and chaos in every direction. It was hard enough when the pandemic took you from us in 2020, but for this year’s edition to be pulled a few weeks before Boris Johnson’s roadmap marked Glasto weekend as the first potential taste of post-lockdown freedom after June 21, – well, that just felt like adding insult to injury.
Maybe we’re being a little overdramatic. Festival boss and NME Godlike Genius winner Emily Eavis is certainly a lot more pragmatic about it all.
“There is zero chance that we would have been able to run Glastonbury this year,” Glasto boss Emily Eavis tells NME. “We’re just not quite there yet. Even if things open up, they’re not going to open up with a 200,000 capacity gig. She continues: “I really hope that festivals and big gigs go ahead in August and September, but I think being the biggest made it impossible for us. That’s fine, though, because now we have until June 2022 and we’re quite busy with this livestream now.”
That’s right: fans also suffering from the Glasto blues can tune in to the Live At Worthy Farm livestream this weekend, and see sets from the likes of Coldplay, Wolf Alice, Kano, Haim, IDLES, Michael Kiwanuka, Jorja Smith and more, all while soaking up all the Pilton magic from the comfort of your own home or local cinema.
We caught up with Eavis for the lowdown on what to expect, the surprises that might be in store, the future of Glasto, this new event in September, the rest of the festival landscape and why you should book a trip at their wholesome, family friendly campsite this summer.
Hello Emily! How are you guys doing down on the farm?
Emily: “We’re really good! We’re fully in diversification mode at the moment. It’s quite exciting to be working on something that’s challenging us in new ways. With the streaming, none of these things have been done before. It’s like making a really intricate film, using the festival site and all these beautiful parts of the farm. We’re bringing these artists in and filming them in a way that no one has ever seen. It’s not like the usual Pyramid Stage stuff you see on TV. There’s no audience and we’re capturing the bands in a very intimate way. It’s a very creative project, and very collaborative with the director Paul Dugdale. All of these artists have got amazing ideas. There will be a lot of surprises on the night as well!”
Surprises, eh? Should we expect some all-star cameos?
“Yes, and a few surprise gigs. I can’t say what they are – but there are going to be a few extra things. I can’t say more without giving it away, but you just need to watch it. There will definitely be a few moments where you say, ‘Oh my God – that’s happening! That’s amazing!’ It really is something special.”
What can you tell us about what you’re trying to capture about the festival to make it different to what an armchair Glastonbury fan might normally see on television?
“It’s obviously not the festival, so you need to take that idea out of your head straight away. It’s more of an insight into the farm, so that’s why we called it Live At Worthy Farm. It’s bands playing in areas that you know so well, plus readings along the railway line and late night sets in Block9. You’ll be experiencing a really great gig at home with your friends, while seeing the farm in a way that you never have before.”
So the livestream will tell us a story?
“The way that it’s being filmed is a really exciting way of capturing it. With the history of the festival over 50 years, there have been so many stories with each year having a different narrative. The narrative of this period is obviously COVID because it has defined so much of all our lives and culture. We’ll never forget it, but this film will capture COVID and live music in this period so when you look back on it you’ll say, ‘Wow, that was the most ambitious livestream’. It’s capturing festivals at a time when they don’t exist. I’ve seen a few livestreams, but nothing as ambitious as this. It’s probably the last opportunity to bring all of your mates in and watch this at home before things open up.”
Can fans get the full Glasto experience – debauched late nights and all?
“It really is going to be a very epic night, because by about one in the morning when you’re in Block9, you’ll be in full swing of this party at home.”
Sounds dangerous. What can you tell us about why you chose this line-up?
“We put together a dream line-up, really. Luckily everyone said yes. We’re really honoured that so many people wanted to support it. So many of these artists have had a unique Glastonbury story, and they’re all being quite creative with their sets to show what it means to them. Just like the festival, we’ve given complete creative control to the artists. We’ve given them these green fields and said, ‘Come and create a gig here without people’.”
Were these acts supposed to be playing Glastonbury 2021 anyway?
“No, well – some of them were and some of them weren’t. We just tried to really capture the breadth of the artists that we have on at the festival.”
Is this a teaser of what’s to come next year? Will Glastonbury be the first major festival to book Wolf Alice to headline?
“I’m not going to give anything away about next year! But Wolf Alice certainly have an incredible history at the festival. They’ve had so many great gigs here plus they camp and really get stuck in. They’re not one of those in-and-out bands. They play gigs, have late nights and are really committed. They’re one of the bands that has seen the farm out of season. We love them. Who knows, there might be some subtle hints towards the future during the livestream? It’s up to the artists what they do on the night…”
Exciting! It must be nice for the farm to feel alive again?
“One of the reasons for doing this is to give work to some of our crew and to raise money for some of our charities. We know things have been frustrating for the festival-goer, but it’s really impacted on the whole industry, crews and people who have been completely unsupported through this. It’s great to see so many people on the ground and setting things up here. It feels great to be on site and building again. That just hasn’t existed, so it’s great to give those jobs back to people.”
You were asking fans to design flags for the livestream. Have you had a lot sent in?
“Yes, so many! They are so beautiful that we’re going to use them at next year’s festival for sure, and probably for the next 10 years. I’m trying to figure out how to best display them, but they are going to be part of one of the sets in the Pyramid field during the livestream. The effort that people have gone to is really touching. There will be plenty of the flags that you’ll also recognise as a festival-goer. I think the flags without the people will be quite moving, actually.”
Nothing too obscene?
“Oh, no – everyone’s been very on message!”
A lot of festivals are worried that they just won’t be able to go ahead this summer without government insurance. What are your thoughts on that?
“Live music is an integral part of our country, and something that we’re extremely good at. It’s one of the things we’re known for because we do it better than anyone. Whenever Glastonbury tickets go on sale in October we always see people wanting to come from Japan, New Zealand and all over the world. That’s because we have brilliant festivals here. We need to get this industry back up and running again as soon as we can. Ideally, we’d like to do a gig in September but that kind of hangs in the balance at the moment.”
Ah, yes – what can you tell us about this proposed event for September? Will it be a baby Glastonbury?
“The September gig is a large version of the Pilton Party [an annual ‘thank you’ fundraising gig for villagers, workers and local people]. We do that every September, but it will just be bigger and the public can come down. We’ll call it Equinox if we do it. We’ve got a licence hearing and we’re working with the authorities to see what we can do, but it’s just one step at a time really. I really can’t talk about it too much right now because it’s all still being discussed with the council.”
Fair enough – but the farm will be opening as a campsite this summer?
“Yes, and that’s great because it brings people onto the site to enjoy the farm in a really family-friendly way. You can enjoy the cycle tracks plus a few foodie places and a bar.”
So it will be very wholesome?
“Yes, very wholesome! Very nice, family camping vibes!”
Do you feel as if life without Glastonbury has changed your appreciation for it?
“Yeah, there’s been a lot of reflection for everyone during this time. We’ve never had two years off before. The wildlife on the farm is just teaming and we’ve recently found otters! Those kinds of things are really nice to notice when there’s no one else here. For now, because we’re in the early stages of easing restrictions, it’s quite hard for people to imagine being in a crowd of 200,000 people – but it will come back and life will resume. When that happens, the high is going to be so high.”
Do you miss the fans?
“I really feel for those teenagers and people in their early 20s who normally cram their summers with gigs and festivals and non-stop going out. That’s not been there, so when it returns people will just go nuts. I can just imagine people hugging strangers. That will be so lovely, for people to come back here, regroup and have those moments together. That feeling of being in a crowd and surrounded by people you don’t know while taking something from a gig together, that is so precious. That appreciation will never dim.”
There has been a lot of criticism levelled at festivals in general this year due to the lack of gender diversity. What are your thoughts on that?
“I personally feel very passionate about this, just as a woman in the music industry who is able to speak up for others. I’m not pointing any fingers at anyone because I feel like everyone is just trying to do their best this year, but I think we really need to bring it to the forefront of people’s minds when they’re booking. It’s not just a problem with the live music side – it goes right back to radio, A&R and throughout the industry. I’m behind 50/50 gender split line-ups, but we all need to join forces and get behind that together. For now, all we can really do is focus on ourselves at Glastonbury and make sure that we are doing our best. We’re focussing on our bill and making sure that we’re doing our best with equal representation.”
Do you reckon you might have some time off to go to some other festivals this summer then?
“God, whichever one opens first, I’ll be there. I can’t wait to get back to gigs. I’m totally and desperately missing live music.”
Live At Worthy Farm will be streamed on Saturday May 22 before encore showings on Sunday May 23. Visit here for tickets and more information