Jack Saunders: Glastonbury 2023 top tips & are ‘The ChurnUps’ really Foo Fighters?

BBC Radio 1 presenter Jack Saunders has spoken to Headliner about his top tips for Glastonbury 2023, what sets the festival apart from all others, who this year’s mystery Pyramid Stage act ‘The ChurnUps’ really are (Foo Fighters?), and lots more.

Presenting live performances and highlights from across Glastonbury 2023 on Radio 1 and iPlayer, Saunders and the BBC will once again be capturing as much of the festival as possible for those watching and listening from home. Taking place from June 23-25, Glastonbury 2023 will see Arctic Monkeys, Guns N’ Roses, and Elton John headline the Pyramid Stage, with the festival shaping up to be the biggest outing its illustrious history. And as such, the BBC has once again had to up the ante in its extensive coverage.

To find out more about the work that goes on behind the scenes, Headliner caught up with Saunders for a chat about the job of being a BBC presenter at Glastonbury, some of his most memorable moments from down the years, who he expects to deliver the biggest moments of the weekend, and whether or not ‘The ChurnUps’ could make for one of the greatest mystery artist appearances in the festival’s history…

What will your Glastonbury 2023 look like?

At Glastonbury this year I’m going to be on the TV again alongside Jo Whiley, Lauren Laverne, Clara Amfo, and bringing everyone at home every single highlight possible from across the weekend. This has been happening for many years now and continues to be the most stellar music coverage of any festival or any music experience across the planet. The way the BBC brings Glastonbury to life truly made me want to go to the festival in the first place, so it’s a huge privilege to be there alongside those legends.

What is the Glastonbury experience like for you as a broadcaster?

People always say to me, ‘you’re so lucky you get to go to Glastonbury’! And I am at Glastonbury, but I’m not doing Glastonbury like everyone who has bought a ticket is doing Glastonbury. There is a huge amount of prep work and research that goes into each day to make sure you’re not only clued up on all the performances and performers, but you’re across the things that have happened the previous day at the festival. So it’s making sure we have all the knowledge and a comprehensive guide to allow us to bring to life exactly what is happening at the festival at that given moment, and then cross reference that with other events or performances from Glastonbury. Everyone wants to be at this festival, all eyes are on it and it always brings about moments of joy and happiness. But it’s a lot of work and not a lot of watching of music.

How many years have you been covering Glastonbury for?

Since 2019. Obviously we missed a couple of years due to Covid but I’ve done three with the BBC. 2019 was with Radio 1; I was bringing the festival to life for the Radio 1 audience, so they were crossing over to me every half an hour with updates and we were doing this game of me having to trade up a button and seeing what I get by the end of Glastonbury… and it ended up being a pair of stage soaked pants from Laurie from the band Slaves, now known as Soft Play… he literally took them off in front of me live on Radio 1, and being speechless is not a great thing on radio, but I was very much left speechless. That was my first year and a great induction with the BBC.

Then I was lucky enough to get to do the first one out of lockdown on the TV. I’d grown up watching all those great BBC presenters and it made me want to be at the festival. I specifically remember that Beyoncé performance and the buzz from the presenters and it looked like such an amazing moment. It’s been a really lovely journey for me and I’m very grateful. It’s one of the best jobs in the world.

At Glastonbury the real world goes out the window. Jack Saunders

What is it about Glastonbury that continues to set it apart from other festivals?

It’s down to the heritage of the festival and what it stands for. It was a very hippy festival when it started, very liberal, and the way it’s grown has been very attractive to other styles, genres and cultures for being so welcoming. Indie music got its first run out there with The Smiths in 1984 and that spread the word of that genre making its way in. You then had dance music in the early ‘90s and then UK rap and grime, with Stormzy going on to give arguably one of the best headline performances ever at Glastonbury. Then Kendrick last year. It’s always been very open and is a platform to celebrate all culture. People find that very appealing. No matter what you enjoy, there will be something for you at Glastonbury and the other cultures will welcome you in equally. It’s its own bubble and time zone and the real world goes out the window. Everyone talks about it like this and there is a reason why everyone talks about it like this, because it is genuinely such a unique experience. And it’s not until you go that you can truly understand just how special and unique it is. I’m sure those who haven’t been are sick of hearing how spectacular it is, but it’s true.

Tell us about your first Glastonbury experience

2016 was my first ever Glastonbury, as a fan, not working. It was one of the wettest Glastonburys ever. It was a real baptism of fire in that respect, but no matter what the weather it doesn’t really dampen the spirits in any way, you’re just there to indulge and have the greatest time ever. You get your wellies on and slide through the mud, you have no other option. We started making friends immediately, everyone just gets it in an instant. That was really great and there were some exquisite performances. I remember going to Block 9 and having a rave up there; I remember watching Earth Wind and Fire on the Sunday night - we were wet, tired and cold and you need Earth Wind and Fire in that situation! We watched Muse do a blistering headline performance. We also saw Stormzy in a small tent and it was just overflowing with people – it seemed destined that he would go on to top the bill. It was everything I thought it would be and more.

What have been some of your other highlights through the years?

The Beyoncé set is a really big one that I remember. Jay-Z jabbing Noel Gallagher for saying rap doesn’t belong at Glastonbury. That was a huge moment in the context of the culture of Glastonbury. They really stood firm in the belief that someone like Jay-Z should be headlining Glastonbury. That was a great moment. Arctic Monkeys in 2013 were amazing. Last year Turnstile on the John peel Stage… that band are going to go down in folklore. Within the rock scene and the post hardcore scene they are very well revered and if they play their card rights they could be massive, like, top the bill massive.

Also, Wolf Alice played a blinding set on the Pyramid Stage, which felt very emotional for them as they had been on a hell of a journey to get to that slot, which was their biggest to date. They had been in LA, their flight was cancelled, they then managed to get a flight to somewhere else and make a connection to London. They literally landed, got in a car, drove to Glastonbury and had to borrow backline and instruments from other bands, and got there about half an hour before their slot.

Who are you excited to see this year?

I think Raye is going to have the most unbelievable moment on the Pyramid Stage. That is a set not to be missed. It will be interesting to see who The ChurnUps are. They are playing before Royal Blood and Arctic Monkeys on the Pyramid Stage. All the rumours are pointing towards it being Foo Fighters… if it’s Foo Fighters, Royal Blood and Arctic Monkeys that might be one of the greatest Pyramid runs ever. There is a brilliant line-up of DJ as well; Fred again..s set will be a really big moment. It’s heating up to be a good one.

Saunders will be broadcasting from Glastonbury as part of the BBC coverage of the festival (Wednesday 21 – Sunday 25 June) on BBC TV, radio, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds.

Listen to the full interview with Jack Saunders on Headliner Radio, here: