Glastonbury live-stream festival: Coldplay, Michael Kiwanuka and Haim to perform

Damon Albarn, Idles, Jorja Smith, Kano, Wolf Alice and Honey Dijon will also appear at Live at Worthy Farm, a ticketed virtual event on 22 May

The organisers of Glastonbury have announced that Coldplay, Damon Albarn, Haim, Idles, Jorja Smith, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and Wolf Alice will perform at Live at Worthy Farm, a ticketed live-stream event to be broadcast on 22 May.

The five-hour film, directed by Grammy-nominated film-maker Paul Dugdale, will be presented as an uninterrupted production, tracing the arc of what festival co-organiser Emily Eavis called “one continuous wild night” at the festival, via festival landmarks including the Pyramid stage, the stone circle and the notorious south-east nightclubbing corner.

The event will be broadcast in full across four different time zones, with tickets costing £20 and an unlimited capacity. “We always try to keep the ticket price down,” said Eavis. “Some people said, ‘You could charge £60.’ We were like, no. For a while we thought we could do it for free. But actually, we do need to have a ticket price and £20 seems really reasonable for that many acts.”

Glastonbury lost £5m from having to cancel in 2020. This year’s cancellation came earlier, significantly lessening the losses. “We know we’re not going to recoup £5m, obviously, but we will be able to make a bit back,” said Eavis.

Staging Live at Worthy Farm will “cost a lot of money”, she said. “I can’t give an exact figure because we’re not even there yet, but I think we’ll be able to make a significant donation to the festival pot and to our charities, so that’s really all that matters.”

The performers, also including DJ Honey Dijon, waived their fees. “We were in the very fortunate position of being approached by a few people offering their support or help if we did something,” said Eavis.

“It’s important for me to support Glastonbury because it’s been such a landmark event since I’ve been alive or indeed been playing my music,” Michael Kiwanuka told the Guardian. “It’s something that brings people together for all the right reasons, but primarily as a celebration of live music.”

“In all honesty there probably isn’t a lot that Wolf Alice wouldn’t do for Glastonbury,” said the band’s drummer Joel Amey. “We’ve had the best times both there and at the Pilton Party, and we’re so excited to be involved in this one.”

In addition to Live at Worthy Farm, the Glastonbury organisers are still planning to open a family campsite on the site this summer, and hoping to stage an event for the public in September. Greater certainty on the the latter would happen in May, said Eavis. “We’re hoping that the UK festival scene will be bouncing back in August, but we have to take it step by step.”

Live at Worthy Farm trailer – video

The idea of staging a live-streamed event on site arose last March as the pandemic hit. “One of the things that we get asked the most about is getting an insight into seeing the farm,” said Eavis. “The idea started forming of bands performing in some of the areas that are most recognisable during festival time, but surrounded by nature, immersed in the depths of the Somerset countryside.”

While planning is ongoing, she confirmed that Albarn would perform in the festival’s famous stone circle at sunset, while Block9, the artists behind much of the festival’s late-night clubbing zones, would stage Honey Dijon’s sets in the south-east corner. Other surprises will include poets delivering a spoken-word narrative to link the musical performances, along with rappers, magicians and visual installations.

Glastonbury usually takes place close to the summer solstice. While the Live at Worthy Farm date has no specific pagan resonance, Eavis said they chose late Spring to celebrate a sense of rebirth. “In May, the farm is buzzing with life, the hedgerows are full of cow parsley and wild garlic. Everything is bouncing back and what we wanted to capture is that feeling of the emergence of hope of the summer ahead. Coming out of this really horrific time of Covid, bridging [the gap] between people being allowed out en masse at the end of June.”

Compared with the festival’s usual 210,000-capacity scale, planning a comparatively small-scale event had allowed the festival organisers to take a more “interactive” role, said Eavis, particularly regarding how to shape a performance while “taking away the wall of the audience”.

“I love the creative element of the festival, bringing together different collaborations and things like that. But on a huge scale, you spend your year curating an event that you don’t really see anything of and you rely completely on feedback. This [year] is really us delivering a film to the public, so that people can get a different insight and view, follow this story and see the farm as they’ve never seen it.”

Dawn at the stone circle during Glastonbury festival, 26 June 2017.
Dawn at the stone circle during Glastonbury festival, 26 June 2017. Photograph: David Levene/the Guardian

Proceeds from a limited edition lineup poster will benefit Stagehand, the charity helping live music crew members who have not been able to access government financial support during the pandemic. Getting staff and crew back on the site had been revitalising, said Eavis. “Everyone was really, really happy to be back. The UK needs festivals, we need to get everything going. So doing something on the ground and using crew that have been basically redundant, it’s a good feeling.”

She said they were considering a competition for some members of the public to attend the live-stream recordings, or for local NHS staff to attend, depending on Covid restrictions come May.

The Glastonbury team had been participating in Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport steering committees with doctors and scientists regarding the future of live music events, said Eavis. “We’re the biggest [festival] so we are by far the hardest to get back. Anything up to 100,000 is much more manageable in terms of safety. We also have the largest demographic – lots of young people and lots of older people. So it’s all working out what’s possible.”

She revealed that they had confirmed all three headliners for 2022, but couldn’t say whether any of 2020’s planned main draws, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar, would return. “It would be too easy to work out who it is. It’s looking like a different lineup, but there will be some crossover.”

When Glastonbury returns in full, Eavis said she would remain committed to achieving gender equality on the festival’s lineup, as she has previously pledged. A recent wave of UK festival announcements for summer 2021 was criticised for heavily weighting male performers. “It’s not an accident any more, it’s a statement of exclusion,” Maxie Gedge of Keychange, the PRS Foundation’s initiative encouraging music festivals to commit to balanced lineups, told the Guardian.

“We’ve managed to do it with our live stream, it’s not actually that hard,” said Eavis. “I’m not targeting any particular festivals here, but if you book with [gender equality] in the back of the mind, you can actually design a lineup that works for men and women in equal parts. It’s not rocket science. People talk about it like it’s this really cryptic, impossible thing to work out. Guys, I’ll help! Ask! I’ll send them some suggestions.”

She reiterated her previous call for “the whole industry to get on board” to solve the problem. “It’s not just the live sector, it needs to go right back to playlisting, radio, signings with labels. It’s a much bigger issue. But it’s not hard, I promise you. Sometimes we have less female acts, sometimes we have more. It doesn’t have to be bang on 50-50. But just make a bit of an effort.”


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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