Robert Richards obituary

Other lives: Fixer at Glastonbury festival who produced a film about the event in 2006

Robert Richards, who has died aged 65 of cancer, was an important figure in the story of the Glastonbury festival. He worked for the festival’s founder, Michael Eavis, for more than 30 years, and was producer of the 2006 film Glastonbury, directed by Julien Temple.

Robert made the film with backing from Eavis’s personal savings, and enlisted Temple to capture every moment of the festival as it happened in 2002 – stretching to 2,000 hours of film. At that point Glastonbury was facing something of a crisis, having suffered break-ins and serious overcrowding the year before, and Eavis had been compelled to put up a controversial “superfence” to keep out intruders. Although it took four years for the film to be released, it remains the defining record of the festival’s first half-century.

Born in Finsbury Park, north London, Robert was the son of Ann (nee Platt) and Robert, a design engineer. While at Woodberry Down comprehensive he played rugby for school, county and country. Eventually he decided not to pursue the sport, growing his hair long and hanging around at Finsbury Park’s Rainbow theatre to chat backstage to musicians, among them Eric Clapton and David Bowie.

He spent a year at the University of Bristol (1974-75) studying politics, philosophy and economics, but then gave up, switching to do the same subject at City, University of London – and calling it a day after a year there, too.

By then Robert had began to make a string of underground films, all of which have since been lost, except one – Krasny: An Introduction to Philosophical Thinking – registered at the BFI in 1999. He also sold candles, and, for a while, tea in Covent Garden.

It was a vanload of candles that took him to Glastonbury festival in the early 1990s – he went there to sell them to punters but came back in following years to work for the festival in its information area, initially in the Green Fields section with CND. Later he helped Melvin Benn secure the festival licence and began to work more closely with Eavis as Glastonbury grew to become one of the biggest outdoor events in the world.

By then settled in Somerset, he also became involved in the growth of Somerset Film, a charity dedicated to nurturing new film making talent; he was one of the founding trustees in 1999. Aside from his work with the festival he kept goats on a smallholding in Withypool on Exmoor, became a trustee of Glastonbury Abbey and, more recently, chair of the Glastonbury Town Fund Board, which raised £24m for the town in 2021.

An astute negotiator, Robert worked closely with the Eavis family and the core festival team on forging new partnerships and opportunities, including a longstanding media partnership with the Guardian that began in 1998 and continues to this day.

Robert’s first marriage, to Victoria (nee Thomas), ended in divorce in 2010. He is survived by his second wife, Ann-Marie (nee Buckley), whom he married in 2011, his mother and his sister, Elizabeth.

John Shearlaw

The GuardianTramp

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