'It would be great to get ABBA'
When she was just five years old, Emily Eavis performed ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ at Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid stage, just before the headline act. Now, along with her partner Nick and dad Michael (who founded the festival in 1970) Emily is responsible for putting together one of the biggest and most famous music festivals on the planet, which this year will see the likes of Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran and Radiohead take to the world-famous Pyramid stage.
We had a chat with Emily Eavis to find out exactly what it takes to put Glastonbury Festival together. (If you didn’t manage to bag any tickets to this year’s festival, we’ve got you covered with seven tiny festivals to try out this summer instead).
What was it like growing up at Glastonbury Festival?
‘There were times that I was like, blimey – I knew that [Glastonbury Festival] was an unusual thing that other children didn’t have in their garden. But it was mostly great fun. You get to meet lots of interesting people. Although I tried to avoid hanging out in back stage areas too much. I think that’s the secret – stay out front.’
Do you remember stepping out on to Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid stage aged five?
‘Yeah, I remember hearing the stage manager say to turn the lights down, so it didn’t scare me. Then it sort of plunged into darkness and I played [Twinkle Twinkle Little Star] on the violin – it was a long time ago but I still remember the view of tens of thousands of faces.’
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Glastonbury Festival this year?
‘Oh my gosh there’s so many people, it’s really hard to choose one. I would say all three headliners on the main stage [Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran are headlining this year], Barry Gibbs, who’s playing Sunday afternoon. I’m really looking forward to that. We see as much as we can, but depending on how much is going on we can be very busy working. We make time to do something with the children every day though. It’d be lovely if they could take the reins a bit when they’re older and keep it going along.’
If you had to pick your favourite headliners over the years who would it be?
‘It’s so hard to choose. I guess David Bowie – that was such a great moment for us. He played in 1971 and came back in 2000. Radiohead in 1997 was the year that I finished my A-Levels, and that was one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. I can’t choose anything more recently, it’s like trying to pick between children.’
You received death threats and abuse after booking Kanye West in 2015, what helped you keep your resolve?
‘I think sometimes you have to switch off from the noise of the internet, because it can be quite deafening. So much of the festival is seeing what’s right for Glastonbury, and not trying to keep everybody happy or serve too many people. I’ve learned to just do what I think is right and stick to my guns, [Kanye’s performance] proved to me that my instinct is always the best thing to listen to.’
How important is female representation to you within the acts at Glastonbury Festival?
It’s an on-going challenge, but it’s really important that women are represented equally. And that involves year-round working with all the different stage bookers, and making sure that everybody is consciously trying to address the imbalance.’
How has running Glastonbury Festival changed through the years?
‘EE are providing all our mobile coverage this year, which is great. When you’re planning a festival in the valley, it’s important that people can communicate with each other, so the service they provide is a really important one. It’s funny to think it wasn’t long ago when people didn’t have mobile phones and would leave messages saying ‘I’ll meet you by the theatre’. And my dad is still very involved, we work really well together. There’s something every day that we always find hysterically funny. And we have an incredibly good team around us – it starts off with around 100 people at the beginning of the year, and from January onwards it grows every week. I can’t imagine ever retiring at the moment – I enjoy it too much.’
Who would you love to play at Glastonbury Festival that hasn’t?
‘It would be great to get ABBA. I’d love to get Tom Waits too. We actually spend a lot of time listening to the radio, we switch between Radio 6 music, Radio 1 and Radio 2. You get a real variety by listening to all three channels. It’s important for us to hear what’s going on.’
EE is the official technology and communications partner for Glastonbury festival for the 5th year running. For further details visit: ee.co.uk/glastonbury