MICHAEL EAVIS has responded to widespread criticism of the appalling conditions brought about by the weather at this year’s Glastonbury Festival.
NME has received numerous letters from festival-goers who claim that support services, stretched by the elements, were simply not up to the job.
Others complained about poor signposting at the site, being charged to have their cars pulled out of the mud, the large number of thefts from tents and the high cost of tickets.
Putting the criticisms to Eavis, NME first asked why, as the festival is now a permanent fixture, it is still run as a part-time event on his farmland, leading to many of the logistical problems once the weather turns bad.
Eavis replied: “We can’t simply move the site to a bloody aerodrome. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in creating a vibe and a spirit that lives and works. We’ve run it for 28 years and have only had three really wet years. If maybe 20 people had come to me and said, ‘This is a mess. I don’t want to come any more’, then I would have been worried, but I only had one person complain all weekend.”
One of the major criticisms of the site is that there are no permanent roads to allow easy access in and out to performers, punters and emergency services. Embrace were stuck in the mud for six hours getting out of the festival and Tortoise have released a statement saying they didn’t play because they refused to navigate their van down a mud slope bordered by people’s tents for fear of causing injury.
“We’ve got loads of roads,” Eavis responded. “Mendip Council and the police have found nothing wrong with this year’s festival.”
In answer to the claims that there was not enough security, leading to a high number of thefts, Eavis said: “There are thousands of stewards and 400 policemen. You won’t get more stewards at V98 and Reading. There were 900 crimes, which is the same figure as in 1995. It’s the best-run festival anywhere in the world.”
NME pointed out that many European festivals with permanent sites, such as Roskilde, are better equipped to deal with the vagaries of the weather.
“Roskilde is different,” said Eavis. “They have permanent toilets and it’s a permanent site. But it’s boring as hell. It’s different, we’re running on a green-field site. Glastonbury’s on the level of a scout camp to be honest with you. Roskilde is a showground that’s purpose-built. Roskilde has got concrete and Tarmac but Glastonbury is not about Tarmac and concrete, it’s about a country site in the middle of a beautiful valley and that’s why we sell out and V98 doesn’t.”
Asked about the threat to personal safety posed by the adverse conditions – such as the increased number of ankles broken due to the mud – Eavis was emphatic in his response: “That’s not true. The authorities have said it’s safer than ever. I’ve got that in writing. Mendip Council say it’s really well run.”
He dismissed suggestions that the festival should be moved to July or August, when the weather is generally warmer. “Midsummer festivals have been traditionally held in Glastonbury for over 3,000 years,” Eavis said. “I was scared rigid to see kids wet and cold. That worries me. But we had a medical shelter running.”
Eavis was asked if he was worried that acts would be deterred from playing at the festival in the future.
“Well if you keep printing your sort of stuff, they might be,” he quipped. “Bob Dylan said it was a dream come true to play. The bands had an amazing time. There’s nothing like the Glastonbury audience. Also, your story (‘I was Glastonburied out of my skull’ by Steven Wells, July 4) about the smell of the mud was rubbish. I didn’t smell anything. Everything was being contained in the loos. Also, we kept the cows off the land for three weeks, so there was no E-coli danger.”
“You media lot,” continued Eavis, warming to his theme, “you come out of London and concrete paving and street lights and you think it’s hell on earth, don’t you? You don’t understand what’s going on. You haven’t got a clue. That article (Swells, again) was horrendous. It really was. The media don’t like it, the Select lot that came down didn’t like it. And they’re supposed to be sponsoring us! BBC2 didn’t like it. Radio 1 didn’t like it. Maybe John Peel and what’s-his-name Lamacq didn’t like it. Media people do not like it. But I’m not concerned about the media. We don’t need the media any more, ‘cos we sell out anyway.”
“I’d be happy now to give it up. I’m old enough. I’ll be 63 years old next time. I’ve got 17 grandchildren and loads to do with my life. I don’t have to carry on. It would be something of a relief to give up. It’s only the support from the paying folk that keeps me going. If I listened to the media, I’d be glad to pack it in. I don’t have to do it. It’s only the massive support of the millions out there that love it to bits. You don’t believe me, do you? You think I’m lying. I’ve got a responsibility to all these people who absolutely live for it. It’s bloody hard work and the only reward we get for it, apart from financing all the schemes we fancy, is the response we get from the folk who come here.”