There are only a handful of festivals whose lineups make international headlines each year, and although Glastonbury classically sells out well before any of its talent is revealed, it seems like the UK festival regularly leads the pack when it comes to rumors and reveals. The mystique is well earned, however, as Glastonbury has shown a propensity to go for broke with booking both unexpected and legendary acts—for better or for worse.
In her new book detailing the woes that are booking such a culturally charged event, Glastonbury organizer Emily Eavis highlights the trials and tribulations she’s faced with fans, industry egos and of course, mother nature. Read select excerpts below.
Kanye‘s 2015 headlining announcement results in death threats:
As soon as we announced that [Kanye] was playing, a petition sprang up – started by someone who had never been to Glastonbury – saying Kanye shouldn’t play because he wasn’t right for us. The media jumped right on it. Again, we had to reassure the people around the artist that it would all work, that these stories don’t reflect the attitude of people coming to the festival…
The criticism we got that year was pretty extreme. And a lot of it was quite personal, as people knew I booked the acts. I was an obvious target…
You can’t please everyone, and the haters tend to be the ones shouting the loudest. I actually had death threats in 2015, which seemed a little harsh – especially given that we had booked what we considered to be one of the most exciting and innovative artists of his generation. But it worked out for Kanye in the end.
How Yeezy led to Adele:
Kanye’s set also led directly to Adele agreeing to headline the following year. I’d been trying to persuade her, but I think she was unsure. She didn’t really need to do it: she was already playing stadiums, and with her it almost seems like the less she does, the bigger she gets. But I think that deep down she wanted to, as she’d been coming to Glastonbury since she was a little kid. I walked her on to the platform next to the stage just before Kanye came on, and we looked out at this huge crowd chanting his name. I said: “Are you ready for it? Come on. Next year?” And she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said: “I’m gonna do it.” It was such a brilliant moment.
Pushing on through the mud:
Part of the excitement of creating the festival year on year is that we don’t know how long it will go on for. It’s like walking a tightrope, trying to keep everyone happy: the crew, the local community, the neighbouring farmers, the council and the emergency services. In 2016, when we had the relentless rain and mud, it was one of the most challenging years we’ve ever had. I had a conference call with the authorities at 3am on the Wednesday, and some people were suggesting we should close the festival. It is really hard to make clearheaded decisions in situations like that, especially when everyone’s working incredibly hard and not getting much sleep. But we managed to convince them we were definitely going ahead, even if it did feel quite touch and go for a few hours.
Prince, Glastonbury’s white whale:
One evening towards the end of 2013, I was walking up the hill from the farmhouse with my husband, Nick, when we got the email we had been waiting for. I can remember exactly where I was when we read it, looking out over the valley below. The email said that Prince had confirmed to headline Glastonbury…
…The funny thing was that there was an incredible sunset that evening, and the sky was completely purple. It felt like a sign.
But only a few days later, we got a message saying Prince had changed his mind. One of the reasons was that, not for the first time, a newspaper had run a story saying that he was playing Glastonbury, which they used to do pretty much every year, along with the Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd rumours. His lawyers thought we’d given the story to the press to promote ourselves, which we would never do. Nor was it in our interests: we’d already sold all of that year’s tickets.
Glastonbury 50: The Official Story of Glastonbury Festival is written by Michael Eavis and his daughter Emily Eavis and is available now through online retailers and in brick and mortar book stores.
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