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Glastonbury 2022: BBC Radio DJs on the festival's return and its 50th anniversary

Today, (Wednesday, June 24) sees Worthy Farm open its gates for arguably the most hotly anticipated edition of the Glastonbury Festival in its storied, half-century history, as festivalgoers prepare for the double celebration of both its 50th anniversary, and its first post-pandemic outing following a two-year absence. As ever, the BBC will be delivering unrivalled live and on-demand coverage from across the entire event, while their new commemorative documentary film Glastonbury: 50 Years and Counting, is now available to watch on iPlayer. Here, three of the BBC’s most seasoned Glastonbury presenters and performers, Cerys Matthews, Craig Charles and Matt Everitt, tell us what they are most looking forward to this year, share some of their personal highlights from down the years, and provide a unique insight into what Glastonbury looks like through the eyes of a BBC broadcaster.

The 50th anniversary edition of Glastonbury, which was due to take place in June 2020, was always going to be one for the history books, but the fact it’s the first time Glastonbury has been able to take place as an in-person affair for the first time in over two years has unquestionably marked it out as a landmark instalment. And this year’s line-up is a suitably stellar one, with Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar set to headline the Pyramid Stage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively, and the likes of Sam Fender, Noel Gallagher, Lorde, Elbow, Diana Ross, Herbie Hancock, Foals, Megan Thee Stallion, Pet Shop Boys, Burna Boy, Glass Animals, Little Simz and many, many others will be appearing across the festival’s many stages over the course of the weekend.

“I’ve really missed it,” says Everitt, who has been going to Glastonbury as either a fan, performer or broadcaster for the past 30 years. “Without putting the big BBC hat on, it’s brilliant to be doing it as part of the BBC. Because the BBC stuff is so broad, we have a brilliant job to do in bringing the festival into people’s lives and homes. If someone had said to me back when I first started going in the early ‘90s that you could stay at home and watch something from pretty much every stage all day every day, I’d think it was the best thing in the world, and the BBC does an amazing job: the sound is brilliant, the way it is shot is fantastic, the journalists and presenters are great. I cannot wait!

“There is a lot to cynical about in the music industry but coming off the back of everything the music industry has been through, it’s very difficult to be cynical about Glastonbury. It gives £3 million a year to charity, it’s non-corporate sponsored – it’s Water Aid, Greenpeace and Oxfam – they give so much. It’s the very best of us, the atmosphere, the spirit and the way people look after each other. Is it the only thing I’m not cynical about in the music industry? It might be!”

Crucial in conjuring this unique spirit is Michael and Emily Eavis’ ability to blend A-list, mainstream appeal with the weird and wonderful quirks that have been so central to Glastonbury throughout its history. For many, including Radio 2’s Charles, the allure of the festival’s fringes is as strong as ever.

Glastonbury is the very best of us. Matt Everitt, BBC Radio 6 Music

“I do like naughty Glastonbury, if I’m honest,” says Charles, “so Lost Vagueness, Block 9, Shangri La, that’s where we all head, and then there is no sleep till way past bedtime. We used to stay in this field with hay bales all around. It was all Joe Strummer’s lot, so there’d be Keith Allen, Damien Hirst, and all the wives and girlfriends. I saw Bez walk through a fire once and not get burned, I thought he was the second coming [laughs]. They were crazy nights, and just the level of conversation and wit from Joe and Damien and Keith… they are all very clever, you have to bring you’re A game to have banter with those guys.

“There are times I’ve been to Glastonbury and not seen one band, because it’s also about the culture and everything else that’s going on. It’s such a brilliant spirit and the site is so big that you just miss so much, and so many things clash. That’s why the BBC coverage is so good. It’s not just for those who aren’t there, it’s for those who were there and want to catch up on all the things they weren’t able to see live. It can take a couple of weeks to catch up with what’s gone on.

“I think Glastonbury has kept its independent spirit because it has maintained its naughty side,” he continues. “And it hasn’t gone too corporate. Yes, it’s gone corporate in places, but it needs that because it costs and awful lot of money to put Glastonbury on. They’ve left places like Block 9 and Shangri La alone. One of my greatest memories was playing Arcadia in the mouth of that massive spider and the fire from the flamethrowers, I thought the records were going to melt. But there was so much creativity, from the set design to the huge machines, it has kept that wild side. It still has the carefree hippy side, and that for me is the essence.”

For Matthews, it is this balance between the pull of the Pyramid Stage and the appeal of Glastonbury’s outer limits that makes it such an outlier in the festival field, as she explains when listing some of her highlights from her 25 years as a Worthy Farm regular.

“Jerry Dammers on the West Holts stage was a highlight,” she says. “Hearing the opening bars to Maggot Brain coming across the fields from the West Holts stage and watching raggedy lines of zombie-like people heading towards the speakers.

Broadcasting for BBC Radio 6 Music for first time from Glastonbury in 2009, interviewing Status Quo after their headline Legends slot, where they pumped out single after single after single. Seeing Dolly Parton in the same slot in 2014, interviewing B.B King, Baaba Maal, having the Rajasthan Brass Band play on my show, and seeing Sturgill Simpson in green wellies (he is from red neck country USA, so it seemed amusing to see him in very English muddy green wellies). Also, during that first broadcast, I’d put on a mobile pack and had a microphone and stood on a green hill overlooking Glastonbury Tor. I’d spent much of the show sharing the ancient history of the area. While looking over these auspicious fields, I did a closing link where I imagined we, the Glastonbury festival goers would, at the end, - just like the mythical characters of these local legends who'd slunk away to the underworld - ebb back to our homes, and there wait for the next year’s date to come around, before reappearing again to worship together on these lands. That felt special. Ageless.

It's kept its spirit because it's maintained its naughty side. Craig Charles, BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music

“It’s this rich and auspicious history of the surrounding area, in addition to the farm element, and Michael Eavis’ eccentricity and the welcome he has always shown to leftfield thinking. All these start to mark it out as different,” she adds. “Also Vince Power, aka the Mean Fiddler, also needs some credit here for turning it around - making it one of the earliest festivals to move from being a more casual affair to become the user-friendly, charity earning colossus that we know and love the world over.”

So what are the BBC trio most looking forward to at this year’s outing?

“I’m really looking forward to Herbie Hancock, Billie Eilish, Little Simz,” says Everitt. “I’m obviously excited to see Paul McCartney, everyone is going to be crying their eyes out by the end of the night. And anything Kendrick does is going to be different and surprising. There’s big stuff I’ll make a point of seeing and then there’s the great stuff you just wander by.”

For Charles, just being back on the hallowed turf of Worthy Farm is enough to be excited about.

“I’m looking forward to the whole celebration of it,” he states. “I love the heritage stage, I tried to see Dolly Parton but could only get within half a mile of her, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Diana Ross brings. I don’t often go to the Pyramid Stage, I go to the more eclectic events, so I’m looking forward to loads of craziness and discovering things that are new to me. I try to look for things that are a bit more leftfield, a bit more experimental and risky.”

The rich and auspicious history of the area is a big part of its appeal. Cerys Matthews, BBC Radio 6 Music

Likewise, Matthews is also eager simply to be back out in the field.

“Seeing live music, which has been curated well and shows great players and a massive variety in styles will all be special, regardless of which festival, given that we’ve not seen and heard so much of late,” she says. And who could argue with that.

You can listen to Headliner’s interviews with Craig Charles and Matt Everitt below, in which they talk all things Glastonbury, from its “naughty side” to convincing Prince to perform at Worthy Farm. You can also read interviews with Charles here, Everitt here and Matthews here.

BBC Music brings Glastonbury Festival 2022 to viewers and listeners from Wednesday 22nd - Sunday 26th June on BBC television, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio and BBC Sounds. Glastonbury: 50 Years & Counting is on BBC Two on Sunday 19th June (9pm), then available on BBC iPlayer