'We all need human connection': Emily Eavis hopes for livestreamed Glastonbury show

Exclusive: festival organiser says this year’s cancellation won’t bankrupt the event and that 2022 will be an ‘enormous high’

For the past 10 months, the organisers of Glastonbury have been pursuing “every avenue” to make this year’s festival viable after it was cancelled in 2020. This week, they concluded that uncertainty regarding the pandemic was too great to press ahead with the event in June, and it was pulled too.

They had considered on-site testing, the removal of indoor venues, increased medical provision and other measures, said co-organiser Emily Eavis, yet they still could not be “reasonably confident that there would be no or much reduced social distancing measures in place” when gates opened in late June.

She denied reports that they cancelled the event over insurance issues, citing multiple deciding factors. “Everything from restrictions on public transport capacities to availability of the medical staff we need to work at the event, to the simple fact that mass gatherings are currently still legally prohibited and it’s not at all clear when that will be reversed.”

Eavis also dismissed suggestions that Glastonbury could go bankrupt after a second fallow year. In 2020 the festival lost £5m after cancelling in March with much of the planning and work under way. Cancelling now meant this year’s losses would not compare, she said.

“We would have been in trouble if we’d hedged our bets and pushed on regardless to March and then had to cancel. We’d have spent a lot of money by then, money which we wouldn’t get back.”

Glastonbury had not applied for the culture recovery fund (CRF), though it had furloughed some staff and received rates relief, said Eavis. Some independent areas of the festival, such as the late-night clubbing areas Shangri-La, Block 9 and Arcadia, have benefited from the CRF.

The government could be doing “much more to support the arts in general, and that goes way beyond festivals”, said Eavis. “The arts sector brings billions to this country’s economy and it’s been halted through no fault of its own. Plus there are an awful lot of musicians and crew who are falling through the cracks in the government’s financial support schemes and those people desperately need help too.”

She called for financial support for events that were forced to cancel. “Germany announced a €2.5bn event cancellation fund in December, and we don’t currently have anything like that here,” she said.

Referencing industry demand for a government-backed insurance scheme for live events, Eavis said: “It’s not even about insurance. It’s about the government offering direct financial support where events have to cancel because of circumstances they have no control over. If other countries can do that, I would hope we would be able to.”

Promoters say Glastonbury’s cancellation doesn’t necessarily set a precedent for this year’s festival season as it is an outlier in many ways. With a capacity of more than 200,000, it is the world’s largest greenfield event. Its rural Somerset location means it takes longer to build than city festivals, and it falls towards the start of festival season. “We have a few things against us,” said Eavis. “I think as the months go on, it will become more and more likely that smaller events can take place.”

Views at Glastonbury festival 2019.
Views at Glastonbury festival 2019. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Deciding to cancel had been “a rollercoaster of emotions” for Eavis and her father, the 85-year-old Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis. “So many livelihoods depend on this event and that’s why we desperately wanted to make it happen. All of us at the farm are just a tiny part of an enormous web of people who rely on the festival.”

Support from the public had been overwhelming, she said, with very few ticketholders asking for refunds in 2020 and “no more than a handful” since Thursday’s announcement. Many people offered to donate their £50 deposits to the festival, she said. “I think a lot of people want to hang in there and support us, plus they know they’ve got a ticket to what will be one heck of a party when it does happen.”

It hadn’t been an easy year, Eavis said. “It’s not easy trying to cancel a festival while also teaching three different primary-aged children at once. But at the same time, we’re certainly well aware that we’ve got it better than so many. We are healthy, we have a home, and we’re surrounded by some incredible countryside. And, even though we didn’t have a festival last summer, the work hasn’t really stopped.”

Eavis said she was still working on Glastonbury-related projects for this year, including possible livestreamed events. “A lot of big artists have been in touch offering to perform for us at the farm, so we’re doing everything we can to make that happen. We would love to build a show that can be watched at home by people all over the world, and of course it would be a useful way for us to make some very welcome income.”

Michael Eavis told LBC on Thursday that they were considering staging some autumn events. This could be a version of the annual Pilton Party usually held in September as a thankyou gig for the local village, Emily clarified cautiously. “We’d definitely like to do something around then in 2021 if we’re able to and it’s allowed.”

Planning for the 2022 festival would traditionally commence in September but could be pushed back “if we’re extremely confident we’ll be able to go ahead”, Eavis said. “I think next year is going to give us all such an enormous high, because when we can all reunite on this scale it will feel even more uplifting than ever. One thing this last year has taught us is that fundamentally we all need human connection.”

Contributor

Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Michael Eavis: Glastonbury could go bankrupt if it can't be staged in 2021
Exclusive: Founder says another cancellation would ‘be curtains’ for festival and has hopes for testing scheme, with daughter Emily saying they will ‘mutate to survive’

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

25, Jun, 2020 @11:32 AM

Article image
Emily Eavis scotches Glastonbury relocation rumours following 'dangerous gas pipe' claim
Organiser says ‘there seems to have been a misunderstanding about the gas line which runs under the festival site’

Harriet Gibsone

24, Nov, 2015 @3:48 PM

Article image
Glastonbury: PJ Harvey, Jarvis Cocker, George Ezra and Róisín Murphy join livestream bill
A narrative by Harvey, Cocker, Michael Eavis and others will link musical performances from around the site

Laura Snapes

12, May, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
'It's bloody brilliant!' Michael Eavis on bringing Jeremy Corbyn to Glastonbury
The Methodist farmer who founded the festival, and his daughter, reveal why they are welcoming the Labour leader – and Johnny Depp – to this year’s event and what happens to Glastonbury next

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

16, Jun, 2017 @3:05 PM

Article image
Glastonbury festival will move home in 2019 – as The Variety Bazaar
Festival founder Michael Eavis reveals future event will shift ‘halfway to the Midlands’ and go by different name before returning to normality in 2020

Guardian music

17, Jan, 2017 @5:11 PM

Article image
Glastonbury tickets for 2019 sell out in half an hour
Record numbers attempt to buy tickets for festival following its fallow year

Alexandra Heal

07, Oct, 2018 @9:09 AM

Article image
Glastonbury 2017: 'the best one yet', declares organiser Emily Eavis
Ed Sheeran is headliner for last night at Worthy Farm after secret set by the Killers, winding up politically charged festival

Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Nadia Khomami

25, Jun, 2017 @6:29 PM

Article image
Glastonbury hopes to stage one-off concert in September
Emily Eavis announces that event licence application has been made, along with plans for a ‘family-friendly, not for partying’ campsite during the summer

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

19, Mar, 2021 @4:59 PM

Article image
Jeremy Corbyn to appear on Pyramid stage at Glastonbury festival 2017
Labour leader to introduce political US rap duo Run the Jewels on the main stage as Michael Eavis hails him ‘the hero of the hour’

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

16, Jun, 2017 @9:32 AM

Article image
Glastonbury founders to celebrate 50 years in behind-the-scenes book
Glastonbury 50 also features contributions from stars including Adele, Jay-Z, Dolly Parton and Noel Gallagher. Plus, read an exclusive excerpt

Laura Snapes

05, Jun, 2019 @9:00 AM