IIt’s Sunday afternoon in Somerset, and Glastonbury co-organizer Emily Eavis is hanging around her farmhouse looking for coats for Haim to put on. The sisters from Los Angeles just arrived to record their performance for Living at Worthy Farm, a global livestream, set to premiere online and in theaters tonight, that will replace the actual festival after Covid forced Glastonbury to cancel for two years in a row. Later this week, artists such as Coldplay, Damon Albarn and Kano will visit the farm to record their sets in the most popular venues of the festival.
Having played here three times previously, Haim knows that wellies are non-negotiable. But somehow, Eavis says when he appears from above, passing a photo of David Bowie outside the family home in 1971, they never played one of the festival’s infamously wet years, so they didn’t bring anoraks. He delivers them to the festival office next door, now a makeshift changing room.
It’s been so long since the last festival that Eavis says his children, ages five, eight and 10, had forgotten what the preparations were like until this renewed week of activity. Her husband, Nick Dewey, is walking their six-month-old puppy Clover locked up around the place. “It’s cool,” he says of the hustle and bustle. “It feels like we’re going back to the 70s, when the Taj Mahal used to sing goodnight lullabies to everyone.”
On the farm, he dumps it intermittently and it’s very windy. Weather is a constant in an otherwise bizarre landscape: no tents, no crowds, no thumps on stages, no tempting burger and curry hops at food stalls, which means you can really smell garlic. wild in the hedges. The permanent structure of the Pyramid stage, stripped of its usual cladding, stands eerily skeletal.
Industry hotbeds lurk on the site as live streaming director Paul Dugdale and live streaming company Driift, along with the regular Glastonbury crew, put together the bespoke staging for each act. It’s meticulous work: during Haim’s set, a producer asks people to take off their high-visibility jackets as they explode too loudly on camera; drone camera operators are camouflaged with foliage. Construction began 10 days ago, Eavis says. “That’s what we liked the most: having everyone here working, getting the crew back and using the farm that way again. It’s like digging up a giant fossil. “
The weather means they have to be adaptable: a tent pops up quickly when a downpour threatens Michael Kiwanuka’s set, and the cool Converse he carries with him to protect them from the mud until it’s time to film. The pounding of a drum during your sound check is the first live music I’ve heard in 15 months – it’s electrifying. At the famous Stone Circle, Haim’s staging is covered by viewpoints until the last possible minute. Still, a short shower intrudes, and Eavis joins the crew on hands and knees to dry off the shiny silver center deck.
The film will run for five hours, the music interspersed with spoken pieces by artists such as PJ Harvey and Jarvis Cocker, and the festival’s founder, Michael Eavis, reciting a poem under an oak tree planted by his great-grandfather. The goal, says Dugdale, who speaks at a speed that suggests a man with a dangerously tight schedule and little time to sleep, was to “take people on an overnight adventure so that, hopefully, you will experience a wild night in the Glastonbury festival. “
The festival’s unpredictability is what makes it unique, says Cocker, who has tried to reflect that spirit in his poem. “I am impressed that they have managed to keep that side because the festival has grown a lot over the years. And people have had different moments where they think it went wrong, ‘Now they have ATMs, that’s the end’, but whatever happens, it adjusts and still has some of its character. ” on the spot, between his last DJ sessions at the Stonebridge Bar? “Well, maybe a little pottery,” he says dryly.
The program covers the entire breadth of the festival. On the significantly sunniest Monday, a group of London schoolchildren walk through a field with Little Amal, a ten-foot-tall puppet of a young unaccompanied Syrian refugee. In July, she will “walk” from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester to tell the stories of refugee children. “She reflects the spirit of Glastonbury,” says producer Tracey Seaward. “Activism, lowercase politics, performance, poetry, persuasion, spectacle, theater, dance, art. It has such a strong presence that the moment will be an opportunity for reflection. One of our messages has always been, ‘Don’t forget about us.’
At the opposite end of the spectrum is DJ Honey Dijon’s closing performance with a guest appearance by Róisín Murphy. Block9, the producers of the festival’s nightclub areas, customized a bus for Dijon, installing a performance side flap and an internal catwalk for their dancers. “We were trying to recreate the energy of Glastonbury’s early days when it was very much our own and new-age commuters were enjoying the excitement about its buses,” says Chicago-born Dijon.
She says the festival is unique as a mainstream event that “celebrates the roots of dance music, which is queer people, BIPOC. “It’s really important that Glastonbury can give it that profile and hopefully influence other mainstream festivals around the world to see how important the contribution culture and queer people make to the arts, to the world and to humanity.”
On the site, there is a sense of not just the return of Glastonbury, but of a microcosm of the entire music industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, coming back to life.
Tom Gilding is a site coordinator responsible for infrastructure. The affable Bristolian lost “six months of work at once” when events were canceled last March, he says during a break away from catering. Only self-employed since 2019, he was not eligible for government support. “He’d had a pretty good year that year, so it was pretty heartbreaking to have all this proof of earnings, but it didn’t include the entire fiscal year.”
The Independent Festivals Association recently issued a ‘red alert’ after more than 25% of UK medium-sized festivals canceled their 2021 events because the government refused to endorse a severance plan. (Of IDA members, 92% say they won’t be able to get on without insurance, says CEO Paul Reed.) Possible cultural loss should be taken as seriously as financial deficits, says Wolf Alice, a four-piece British band. clearly back in their element as they scream for being backstage, buzz when PJ Harvey arrives, and enjoy speculating on the identity of the mysterious guests who are checked into their booth as “T&J.”
“One of the most formative experiences of our lives is playing on stage with John Peel [in 2014]”Says bassist Theo Ellis. “We were really more nervous than ever, and that level of exposure was very meaningful to us. It was a great test to see if you could operate in that environment. “
Outside a production booth is a family poster for Glastonbury Free Press, the on-site newspaper usually published during the festival. “Where will you be looking?” ask in that instantly recognizable single stroke typeface. One of those watching at home will be the Manchester artist and Glastonbury obsessive. Nathan Carroll, who painted a trash can with an image of the Tor, recreated the giant “GLASTONBURY” signage, made a mini version of the iconic Ribbon Tower, designed a table to look like a cider bus, and decorated his garage to look like one of those of the festival. infamous long-flush toilets.
Last March, the 29-year-old lost his office job due to the pandemic. Unable to find work, he relied on his lifelong love of painting, which specializes in detailed renderings of the festival, and now makes a living from it. “It’s living the dream,” he says. “I spend all day painting in my studio.”
If all goes well, when the end of summer rolls around, the Eavises will gear up for a real-life festival: During filming week, they are licensed for a one-day event in September called Equinox. (The first Glastonbury, in 1970, took place on the autumnal equinox.) The lineup is reserved. With a capacity of 50,000, a quarter of the usual festival, they are working on a smaller site plan that was last used in 1983. As soon as government scientists they have been in contact with during the pandemic den the Okay, says Eavis, they ‘We’ll start selling tickets. “I think we will find out by mid-July.”
Live at Worthy Farm was created in part to cover the £ 5 million losses the festival incurred from canceling in 2020 (the festival recently received a £ 900k grant from the Culture Recovery Fund). Eavis does not say how many live broadcast tickets they have. sold out (a large proportion of the tickets for the live broadcast are sold on the day), beyond that, they are “really, really happy.” They won’t know how much the event has cost until it’s over. “It’s expensive, I’m not going to lie.”
Aside from September, there is no point in looking too far into the future, he says. “Whatever happens next, this will be part of the festival’s history. I had this moment in the office the other day when I was looking at all the posters from the 80s and 90s. There have been so many years that the festival is on the brink, and then it comes back or there is some miracle that ends up swinging in your favor. . It’s a bit like that right now – it feels like one of the most dramatic moments in their history. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism