His laughter echoes down the phone, and his sense of humour is deeply contagious. At 86, Michael Eavis, farmer, and creator of Glastonbury Music Festival, was recently honoured with the Freedom of Glastonbury by the town’s mayor Jon Cousins. Here he shares a moment with the NBVM.
Why the Blackmore Vale?
I’ve lived in Somerset my entire life with my family: I have built everything around the farm and the village of Pilton. For me, Somerset is a very romantic place full of beauty, history, and culture. I find the history of the Vale of Avalon, including Glastonbury and King Arthur, very inspiring. Tennyson wrote lots of poetry about it too.
How do you maintain your incredible sense of happiness and positivity?
I make sure that I enjoy what I do: I work hard and trying to make all my projects, be it my farm, the festival, or the social housing project, a success. My greatest passion is bringing my dreams to a reality. It gives me pride and joy when they are successful.
Have you had a favourite decade?
For me, there is no better time to be living than now, and I’m so happy with my time on this earth. Maturity brings wisdom and familiarity. The worst thing about aging is that you’re getting closer to death.
What’s the one thing you think people don’t know about you?
I think what they know about me is more impressive than what they don’t!
Where do you go to escape?
We have a small family retreat in Newlyn, Cornwall, for the family to recharge, but I love staying home or around the Somerset levels, particularly in the springtime.
How do YOU like to be entertained?
Peter Hitchens’s philosophical column in the Mail on Sunday is my favourite; and I never tire of the film classic Easy Rider (1969) with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.
And your ‘go to’ piece of music?
To play loud, and drive to, any Rolling Stones will do… but when I need to unwind, Astral Weeks or Van Morrison do the trick. I still wish The Grateful Dead and Fleetwood Mac played at Glastonbury.
If you could have a historical figure to dinner, who would it be?
Lord Nelson as he was in the Royal Navy, and I was in the merchant navy: I think it would be interesting hear about his experiences.
Who has inspired you the most in life?
I’d instantly say Edward Thompson because he was a big peace campaigner. There is so much more to do to safeguard the future for the planet. I wonder when we will believe how serious the problem really is.
Glastonbury has inspired so many other farm festivals, how does that make you feel?
I am very flattered and pleased that they are copying some of my ideas. We celebrate 50 years this summer and that will be very special. Although some of the old hippies still play an important part here, I seriously believe the future of the festival lies in the ideas and aspirations of the young people of this country.
Glastonbury is one of the rare music festivals that still relies on goodwill and doesn’t try to make an obscene profit, with most proceeds going straight to charity. In addition, Michael Eavis has just donated more land for another 20 homes to be built in Pilton, Somerset, built on the condition that the homes will serve the community in perpetuity, bringing the total number of homes created since 1996 to 52.