For all the praise lauded on the Glastonbury Festival, a 135,000 capacity music and performing arts festival held yearly on Michael Eavis’ Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, one major criticism has plagued the event since inception: Glastonbury doesn’t export.
Attracting artists and media coverage from the US has historically been an uphill struggle for Eavis and his daughter, Emily, primarily due to the lack of worldwide focus on the Mendips milk farm, and the un-American nature of a three day open-air jamboree – a concept considered quaint by hard-edged New Yorkers and Californian hipsters alike.
A combination of the old Eavis charm and a major media breakthrough are about to irrevocably change this situation though.
When compiling the bill for last year’s main stage, Emily Eavis, Michael’s co-conspirator since the death of his wife Jean in 1999, successfully persuaded US hip-hop legend Jay-Z to headline the traditionally rock-oriented event.
When Time magazine listed its 100 most influential people in the world last month, what odds would you have been given on the inclusion of a 73-year-old Somerset dairy farmer?
The move, which aroused feelings of resistance and suspicion among the rock establishment – Noel Gallagher was especially vocal in his displeasure – was vital for two reasons. Principally, the festival’s profile became significantly more visible in the US, and secondarily, Emily recognised the Glastonbury audience needed to change, with an injection of younger festival goers needed in order to sustain the Pilton gathering’s appeal.
As with any change, the patrons were initially hesitant and the festival fell a few thousand tickets short of a sell-out, but, as Emily Eavis explained to the Guardian, “it was the most wired atmosphere I've ever felt at the festival, and the crowd were chanting 'Jay-Z, Jay-Z’ for hours afterwards!”
With the seed of transatlantic involvement planted, a handwritten note passed between Michael Eavis and Bruce Springsteen ensured The Boss’s participation at this month’s event. Combine this with Neil Diamond’s triumphant two hours at Glastonbury 2008, and this global media onslaught is looking too easy for the Eavises.
When Time magazine listed its 100 most influential people in the world last month, what odds would you have been given on the inclusion of a 73 year old Somerset dairy farmer? Nestled between Barack Obama and Jay Leno, Emily Eavis’ groundwork and bold selection policy was justified by the appreciation heaped upon her father in the premier US weekly.
In response, Michael Eavis informed the BBC he was "flattered and maybe a little embarrassed" by the honour, although he added: “What's really important too, is that I'm a non-conformist. It's all about kicking against the traces and making it work."
Eavis senior’s ‘punk’ outlook had previously been tested by an invitation from the Queen to receive a CBE for his services to festivals and charitable organisations, a decoration he graciously accepted, even managing to engage Her Majesty, a fellow agriculturalist, in a lengthy chat regarding the post-festival cleanup operation. “She mentioned the mud and wanted to know what the farm looked like afterwards,” Eavis told VirtualFestivals.com, adding: “I said it’s a very lovely farm and it’s looking splendid now.”
For most, the rigours of running the largest outdoor festival in the country, without the added pressure of managing a sizeable dairy farm, would be too demanding. Eavis points to his own level-headedness as the cardinal factor behind his ability to juggle two such onerous tasks, confessing to The Independent: “If I have any money spare, it’ll go on a new slurry pit, not a swimming pool or a holiday in Barbados.”
Eavis considers himself a dairyman above all else, and rises at 5:30 each morning to milk his organically reared herd of 250 Friesian cows, a truly ethical concern. Following the demise of the Milk Marketing Board, he was asked to head the Somerset Milk Producers' Group, a collective which represents the interests of nearly 300 dairy farmers and sells direct to Unigate.
The milk produced by his Friesians provides the bulk of Eavis’ yearly income, netting him in the region of £140k worth of pure profit per annum, a figure that makes him one of the most successful farmers in the region.
By contrast, he devotes six months in every year to festival organisation, paying himself a wage of £40k in return for rent of the land and general wear and tear.