Masterclass: Michael Eavis
Michael Eavis is a man who needs no introduction. The founder of Glastonbury festival is responsible for one of – if not the most – well-known annual live music events of the last 50 years. So, when he visited BIMM Brighton to give a masterclass recently, students from all disciplines were lining up to attend.
Speaking with Steve Jones, Event Management Course Leader at BIMM Brighton, Michael spoke candidly about his early days, memorable moments and his future plans for the festival. Here are just a few questions and answers from the live events mogul.
What was the first Glastonbury like?
“It was amazing! Lots of American blues bands, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, etc. I met a girl that gave me the number from The Kings which was one of my first band bookings. I got them for £500 which was a great deal, however, in the end they never turned up. I was quite worried about approaching the public, press after I’d announced the band. In the end, I managed to get T-Rex jumping in, which was obviously a great replacement. The first years were rather difficult to manage. I didn’t make any profit but rather went in my overdraft.”
The 50 anniversary is next year, do you have any plans for the future?
“We’ve got the lineup for the event in place but I can’t announce anyone just yet.”
“It costs millions to put the event on. Sometimes it’s hard to get bands on but some bands like U2 were so keen to play the event that they played almost for free at some point. The profit that we make at the end of the day goes back into the next event. A festival is a very expensive thing to run, that’s why the ticket price is so high but every penny is pretty much going back into the show.
We sell out in 25 minutes and thats obviously because of the great bands, but it’s also about the experience of the festival vibe. It’s not all about ideas, they have to function and for me as a farmer. It’s important for me to do so as my grand-grand parents started the farm about 200 years ago.
My crew is also having a lot of wonderful ideas. they’re great to work with, which is important if you want to make it happen. We have get-togethers and breaks in which we socialise throughout the work to keep a friendly vibe…not for too long though, as there’s a lot to do. I’m working together with my neighbour farms as well, as the size of the festival has grown so much that I had to expand.”
What are you doing in terms of environmental sustainability?
“We tried to ban plastic bottles. Water should be free, so we installed water fountains for everyone to refill their own bottles. We also use recycled plastic to build and rebuild certain elements on the site.”
Do you think the festival is going to internationalise more in the asian direction like K-pop etc?
“We try to get people from everywhere. We’ve got bands from Australia or New Zealand and every corner of the world. The Chinese are very keen to get involved with the festival, they even want us to do a show in China, but I’m too old to do that. Maybe someone else will.”
What’s your plan for Glastonbury in the future as you were worried about the ground and the landscape?!
“It’s hard because I’m involved with many different land owners and farmers across 1400 acres and to just move this space to a different location is very difficult. I got a 12 year deal with all my land owners, so that’s where it’s going to stay now.”
Which was your favourite Glastonbury?
“Whatever year is the one coming up. There isn’t one in particular… 1979 maybe but every year is something special. Radiohead in 1997 was great, it was raining cats and dogs but they still put on a great show. Also Oasis in 1994 was amazing but it never really happened again like this. It was the best Oasis set I’ve ever seen in my life.”
What was so special about John Martyn, as you mentioned him several times before?
“I don’t know really, he just really stood out for me. His set was one of the best moments of my life and I never got a moment like that again. ”
“What’s the role of a festival in terms of social and political awareness?”
“A lot of event managers don’t like it, but I’m quite involved. I’m a fan of Jeremy Corbyn and we run the local Labour party as well. We would definitely not get Theresa May on one of our stages!” (crowd laughs).
“The masterclass was very informative for someone who’s a live performer, but also helped me for my career in event management. Seeing the transition and progression Michael made in his career was very inspiring.
– Sophie Forst BA3 Vocals
“He was a lot more down to earth than I expected, despite his incredible career. He was a funny guy and I learned a lot.”
– Noah Clarke BA3 Songwriting
We’re incredibly grateful to Michael Eavis for taking the time to pay us a visit at BIMM Brighton. Judging from the reaction of the students, the masterclass was a resounding hit. And of course this is just one example of the sorts of industry guests BIMM welcomes regularly as part of our Masterclass program.
*Photography by Nic Serpell-Rand