It's just a couple more days until the gates open at Glastonbury 2019. With the finishing touches being added at Worthy Farm, we caught up with Emily Eavis to find out what's new, what the big talking points will be this year, plans for 2020, and if there's a danger of Glasto ever becoming 'too big'...
How are things looking on Worthy Farm? Have you finished building everything?
“We’re very near completion, but there are still things to do. We’re readying things for the Wednesday morning arrivals. Tomorrow night people will start driving down and we couldn’t be more excited about showing people what we’ve got in store for them this year. We’ve got some incredible additions.”
We’ve heard a lot about the new ‘Glastonbury-On-Sea’ pier attraction in The Park. What else is new?
“Block9 are doing this thing called IICON. Block9 is probably one of the most popular late night destinations. The recreation of the New York ‘80s gay club The NYC Downlow is just incredible. That’s always a massive hit with people, but this year they’ve expanded into the field next door. IICON is this new installation that they have and what they’ve created is just mindblowing. They’ve built this enormous head and stage which will host up to 19,000 people. We’ve been working on that all throughout the fallow year, and to see it come into fruition and look as impressive as it does is extremely satisfying.”
Anything else new or exciting that you’d say Glasto-goers should definitely check out?
“I would say the new structure for Arcadia. It’s called Pangea, and it’s an enormous crane that you can see from pretty much the entire site. It’s quite crazy and hard to describe, but it’s going to carry a moon and circumnavigate the Earth which is at the base of the tower. It’s going to have fire and music. You know, a whole line-up of brilliant music and classic Arcadia pyro as well.”
Do you foresee the new additions changing the vibe of the festival in any way?
“Not really. We also introduce loads of new stuff after the year off. We like to completely reassess. The spider in Arcadia was great, but it had been there a very long time. Every now and then you just need to change things up so they keep evolving. We don’t sit still.”
What can you tell us about Extinction Rebellion’s involvement at Glastonbury this year?
“I went to the Extinction Rebellion occupation of London with my kids, and I really wanted them to do something here. This is the perfect place for them to do something, because we’re essentially building a city and people need to come and live in it while being completely open-minded. People are open to changing the way they live when they re-enter the outside world. It’s a good place to campaign, join together, and send a message to the outside world?”
So what will Extinction Rebellion’s activity look like?
“There will be a huge procession put together by Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, Water Aid and all of our green partners. There will be a few minutes on stage with some speakers, then we’ve got loads of animal costumes, insect circuses, bugs from different parts of the site, different areas of the site are contributing different animals, Greenpeace are bringing these penguins, it’s going to be brilliant. We’re going to walk down to the railway line, turn right into King’s Meadow, head up to the Stone Circle where we will then create a shape. It’s a big one, but this a great way to kick off the festival. This is the year. Climate is top of the agenda, and it needs to be the top of the agenda if we’re going to make some serious fundamental changes.”
Will that be this year’s ‘Corbyn moment’ then?
“I think this year is all about the environment, climate change, biodiversity and the fact that we need to act now. So yes, you could compare it – but it’s bigger!”
Glastonbury are very hands on in advising people on how best to treat the land and what they can and can’t bring. What are the most annoying traits in a festival-goer that you’d like to eradicate?
“We’re not selling plastic bottles this year. That’s the first mission that we’ve working on all year, and it is vast. If you want to buy water, then you can buy it in a can. I think most people will have reusable bottles so we’re not trying to sell more bottles, we’re just asking people to reuse them more. We’ve got water points everywhere you look. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk on site is that tap water is available everywhere. If you need to fill up, there will be a Water Aid kiosk wherever you are.”
Is there anything else that annoys you?
“Well, leaving your tent behind. It’s about being conscious when you’re packing. Don’t pack lightly but don’t bring anything that you’re going to leave behind. Don’t buy things for the sake of it that well end up as waste.”
And no gazebos either?
“About five years ago, we asked people to stop bringing gazebos. We didn’t enforce a ban because we just please ask you not to. We will have campsite stewards who will go around and ask you not to. It’s really important because we need to make space for everyone. We simply don’t have that space, and it blocks people’s views. It’s unnecessary. Just be conscious of other people. Plus gazebos used to be a huge part of what would be left behind.”
Do you feel as if Glastonbury-goers are far more mindful to these kinds of things than they would be at other festivals?
“I think so. It’s our home. This farm has been in our family for six generations. It does have a deeper meaning. It’s not a hired site, although we do use the neighbouring farms as well. It’s essential that you respect all of the land and don’t trash it – in the same way that you wouldn’t trash your own garden after a party. We’re saying, ‘Just show some respect’. Use the bins and the recycling. We have all kinds of measures in place and people are here to help.”
You’ve also been working on the book about 50 years of Glastonbury. Is there anything from Glastonbury’s past that you feel might have been lost and you’d like to bring back?
“Not really. We’ve got so many elements from the last 50 years. In the 70s, there weren’t many festivals and the capacity was maybe like 1,000 maximum. In each decade, you can pinpoint the change The ‘80s saw the biggest expansion, but the ‘90s probably saw Glastonbury become the most similar to what you see now. There are still traces from then. It’s evolving all the time and there will always be elements that are still here from way back. There are probably some elements from the ‘70s that are still here.”
“Every now and then you just need to change things up so they keep evolving. We don’t sit still”
– Emily Eavis
So you can still find a free and easy hippie experience if you go looking?
“Exactly, in fact I think we’re closer to that than we’ve ever been with all of the environment campaigning that we’re doing.”
Glastonbury has become such a cultural behemoth. It’s the biggest thing in music but so many people go for the experience rather than the music. How do you feel about the idea that Glastonbury could become ‘too big’?
“I think it’s good that people come for all different reasons. It’s more than a music festival. It means so much to people, and for that we’re really grateful and try to give people the best value as possible. We don’t want people to feel ripped off at any point of the process. We still give people the free programme, and I don’t know of any other festival that do that. They’re usually like £20.”
Are you concerned about ‘influencer culture’ having a negative impact on Glastonbury? That people might spend more time on Instagram than they do actually living in the moment?
“I don’t really know about that. We’re not massive on social media and it’s just not our primary focus.”
Speaking of focus, you recently made headlines when you said that you wished the BBC would focus less on the mud and weather…
“Oh, no – I was talking about something that happened in the ‘90s. That was definitely taken out of context. Back in ’97 and ’98, they were our first really muddy years and I was talking about that. Not now – people are expecting a bit of mud.”
Is there anything that you would like to shift the focus towards?
“Not really. So many people in different areas make Glastonbury so much bigger than any one element. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s reliant on so many people, all with a different energy. I’m just looking out across the field now, and whether these people are working on a gate or building Block9, everyone is passionately throwing everything they’ve got into it. That’s what makes it so special. The bands are so important but there’s a lot of other things going on as well.”
What’s been the wildest Glastonbury secret set rumour that you’ve heard so far?
“Oh there are some always rumours. Some of them are right, and some are a way off. I just had to dispel one in particular in case people came down expecting to see Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga!”
Back in 2017, you told us that you’d already booked two headliners for the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2020. Your dad Michael teased that Paul McCartney could be returning, and Fleetwood Mac also last week seemed to suggest they might be playing. What can you tell us about next year’s line-up?
“This week, we’ve had some really, really good news on 2020. I don’t want to give you any clues because I don’t want to start a whole rumour mill. It’s going really well, but for now we’re focussing on this year – which is just a few days away?