‘That isn’t The Orb, it’s a bloke in a van!’: Matt Everitt on the spirit of Glastonbury

It’s two days before Glastonbury 2024 and BBC Radio 6 Music broadcaster Matt Everitt has just arrived at Worthy Farm. As he greets Headliner over Zoom from somewhere to the rear of the Pyramid Stage, he pans his camera around the site, assessing the scene before the festival officially gets underway.

“I’ve no idea what these things are,” he says, pointing out two large structures. “They could be laser towers for the Coldplay show,” he ponders.

Despite having attended every single Glastonbury since his inaugural visit in 1992, there’s still an air of almost childlike excitement in Everitt’s demeanour. He’s a bona fide Glastonbury veteran, having attended as a punter, performed with his bands Menswear and The Montrose Avenue, and reported on the festival for the BBC.

His boundless enthusiasm for all things Glastonbury often manifests itself in his ability to somehow be everywhere at once. Few will cover the ground he covers, round the clock, come rain or shine. Indeed, two years ago, he undertook a challenge to visit the 90-plus stages thought to exist around the site. He ended up reaching over 100, still unsure if he’d made it to each and every one.

This year, he’ll once again be out in the field(s), reporting from every conceivable location across the hallowed Glastonbury turf. But before he donned his walking shoes (there are scant signs of rain at the time of our conversation), we managed to pin him down for a chat about his enduring memories of Glastonbury from the past 32 years, what he’s looking forward to this year, the power of the BBC’s extensive event coverage, and what makes it festival unlike any other.

You’ve just arrived on site. How does it feel to be back at Worthy Farm?

It’s good, but it’s weird as you get so used to what it looks like with all the studios and the cameras etc, that you forget it’s just a field the rest of the time. And then it is transformed into this entire city. It still takes your breath away that it’s all these different things wrapped together.

Do you still get the same buzz of excitement when you arrive on site each year?

It’s never anything less than a thrill to be here. Because it’s never the same. There are other festivals and they are great and they have a template and they stick to it really well, but Glastonbury keeps evolving and moving. Stages change and evolve and new ones pop up. Though it’s similar in spirit it’s unrecognisable to the first Glastonbury I went to many years ago. You never quite know what’s going to happen. There are a lot of cliches around Glastonbury being a place of special moments, but it’s true. Everyone is always so thrilled to be here and the artists put so much into it, and the audiences give so much of themselves. People treat it like a holiday, and I don’t think any other festival does that. It’s nearly a week’s worth of musical experiences and fun. It keeps moving but the open-hearted spirit of it is the same.

What does Glastonbury look like through the eyes of a BBC broadcaster?

The wider job of everyone down here is to communicate what’s going on for those who can’t be here. It’s my job to tell people what’s going on to the best of my ability through my prism, and hopefully add a bit of context and entertain. Nobody wants to hear someone saying, ‘this is just the greatest thing and you’re not here’. You want to be able to say, ‘I’m not just going to tell you about it, I’m going to show you it, and you can listen to it, and we are going to speak to the people who are making it amazing. Then you’re communicating a lot of the excitement and what it means to the world of music and beyond.

You can walk around at 4am and be like, there’s Lars Ulrich! Matt Everitt

Given the size of the site and the potential for adverse conditions, how do you make plans for your broadcasts?

You start with this incredibly bolted down, airt tight schedule, and then you pretty much take that plan and throw it out the window. Lots of things that you plan do happen, but lots don’t, because an artist has decided to go off with their friends rather than be in the studio. But also amazing things happen that you don’t expect and they end up on air or on telly. I know who I’m supposed to be speaking to and when in theory. But the nice thing is that the artists want to enjoy the festival, so you don’t want to be hanging out backstage, and neither do they.

The best interviews are when you bump into people around the site. I remember bumping into Ed O’Brien from Radiohead watching a Japanese flute performance at the Crow’s Nest, and that’s a better interview because it’s something he’s interested in, rathe than sitting with them in a clinical studio. Capturing those moments out of the studio are some of the best moments. There is a hospitality ‘VIP’ area but that’s not what it’s about. You can walk around at 4am and be like, there’s Lars Ulrich! He wants to experience Glastonbury rather than sit at a VIP bar surrounded by other VIPs.

How many Glastonbury have you attended to date? Do you remember your first time?

The first one I ever went to was in 1992 and every year since then, when there has been a Glastonbury, I’ve been. I remember going with my mates in ‘92 and we wanted to see The Orb. We were really excited, and I remember sitting in front of the stage saying, ‘this is going to be amazing’, and I turned to someone next to me saying, ‘do you think they are going to do any of the new stuff’? And this guy just said, ‘this isn’t The Orb, it’s just some bloke in a van. I remember that [laughs]!

The one I remember more distinctly was 1995, which was the first time I played it with Menswear. It’s regarded as the year that a lot of newer bands from the Britpop world were on the lineup, or there was a bigger influx of new talent than in previous years. There were a lot of younger people than the previous couple of years, a lot of people who hadn’t been before. So it felt pretty vibrant.

Did it have the same sense of mystique in those early-mid ‘90s years? It’s taken on an almost mythical status since then, especially for artists playing for the first time. Its such a milestone.

It’s always been important to play Glastonbury, but after those mid-‘90s festivals it could propel you higher than you ever thought possible. It really became a place where, if you put your heart into it, you could present your music to a much bigger audience. And now with the BBC there are so many opportunities for people to see you. I think now it’s a become an even more special place for people to play.

How powerful a tool is the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage in bringing new audiences to artists?

Say there is a new band you’ve never heard of and you catch a little clip of them on social media. You can’t watch the whole thing on socials, but you might then go to the iPlayer so you can see the whole performance. As we see tips and clips on social media, you now have a place to go where you can see more.

Bands also love it because they sound and look great. When it comes to broadcasting, capturing performances, the BBC is the best. There is a reason why when the Stones or Stormzy or any of these massive acts are happy to be captured and broadcast. You don’t get that at a lot of other festivals because artists don’t want it represented because the moment is the moment, but at Glastonbury it’s captured to the best it can be.

Are there any years or moments from your 30-plus years attending Glastonbury that really stand out to you, for better or worse?

It’s always brilliant. Some years are harder than others, but its always brilliant. In the 2000s there was a run of really bad weather which affected the sound, and it just slows everything down. But on a bad weather year the Sundays are often the best because everyone is like, ‘we’re still here’!

I couldn’t pinpoint one year, but one moment that springs to mind was a personal moment. It was the year Beyoncé played, and she played the most astonishing set. It was incredible. I was with a bunch of friends who hadn’t been to Glastonbury before and we had the best day and we watched Beyoncé and they were like, ‘shall we just go and have a drink at a bar’? And I said, ‘why don’t we have a wander’, as it was past midnight and I’d finished work. And we walked around the whole site and ended up in strange little bars and went to strange little theatrical things. It was all totally unplanned, and it was magical. That was a real encapsulation of why Glastonbury is so magical. But there have been so many moments, so many unbelievable performances.

What are you most excited about for this year?

Off the top of my head, LCD Soundsystem. I don’t think they have done anything in the UK for a while, and when they do it always feels quite special. They’ve done a good Glastonbury before, they get it. And they only do something when they feel like it’s a special thing to do. And Coldplay are always amazing. I know they have their detractors, but they are brilliant at Glastonbury. They totally get it, they totally understand how to communicate with the audience.

You can read our interview with he BBC’s executive producer of Glastonbury for TV, Alison Howe, in which she speaks in depth about the organisation's groundbreaking Glastonbury coverage here

The BBC is broadcasting Glastonbury Festival on TV, BBC iPlayer, radio and BBC Sounds until Sunday 30th June. Matt Everitt will present from Glastonbury on BBC Radio 6 Music (Sunday 30th June, 7-9pm).