Glastonbury founder knighted in New Year Honours
Michael Eavis has been recognised for services to music and charity.
The 88-year-old joked he may “take a couple of tickets” in his pocket if the Prince of Wales performs the investiture ceremony as he was knighted in the New Year Honours.
In an interview with the official Glastonbury website, Sir Michael said his daughter Emily, with whom he runs Glastonbury music festival, had brought him the official letter about his knighthood, adding: “I was really surprised to see it, actually. Why did they choose me I wonder?”
He added: “What can I say, really? I’ve done quite a lot of stuff in my life and I’ve always been fairly sure that I was doing the right thing.”
Athelstan Joseph Michael Eavis, whose father was a Methodist preacher, was born in Pilton, Somerset, in 1935, and educated at Wells Cathedral School.
He later went to the Thames Nautical Training College and initially joined the Union-Castle Line, part of the British Merchant Navy, as a trainee midshipman.
In 1954 he inherited his parents’ 150-acre farm and 60 cows and had a change of career.
Speaking about his knighthood, he told the Glastonbury website: “When I got the CBE in 2007, I went and told my mother, who was 95 at the time. And she just said, ‘Oh that’s a pity, I thought you would have got a K’!”
He was first inspired to host a music event at Worthy Farm in 1970 after an open-air Led Zeppelin concert.
Admission was £1, which included free camping and free milk.
Audiences enjoyed performances by Marc Bolan’s Tyrannosaurus Rex (later T. Rex), who played in place of the Kinks who were due to headline.
The following year it became Glastonbury Fayre, a small event attracting around 1,500 people, and the date was changed to coincide with summer solstice.
It is now the largest greenfield festival in the world and is attended by around 200,000 people each year, drawing the biggest musical headliners and a raft of celebrity guests.
Sir Michael said the farm “has been a fantastic part of my life too”, adding: “We’re actually finalists for the Gold Cup again this year, which is the UK’s premier dairy herds competition.
“The judges were here earlier this month and we’ll find out if we’ve won in February. So that’s a big deal too. Well, it is to me anyway!”
The festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2020 were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Sir Paul McCartney were due to headline.
The event came roaring back in 2022 with Sir Paul, Lamar and Billie Eilish all at the top of the bill.
Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid all receive donations from the festival and the event aims to raise around £2 million per year, which also helps hundreds of local causes.
Sir Michael is still active in the running of the festival, but his daughter Emily and her husband take full responsibility for the line-up.
During the festival, he chooses to walk among the punters instead of travelling through the site’s myriad rat runs, and is often seen taking selfies with fans.
In 2023 he was met by rapturous applause as he performed on the site’s Park Stage before the music officially kicked off.
Hundreds chanted “Michael” as he was wheeled out on an office chair to perform a collection of classics as he recovered from an operation on his leg.
Sir Michael has also been politically active and unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for the Labour Party in 1997.
In 2004, he suggested voters disillusioned with Tony Blair should switch to the Green Party in protest against the Iraq War.
However, he returned to Labour in 2010 and was an advocate for Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-nuclear and anti-austerity policies, calling him “the hero of the hour” and inviting him to the festival in 2017.
Sir Michael has also been vocal in his support for fox hunting, trophy hunting and badger culling, prompting anger from animal rights activists including Queen guitarist Sir Brian May, who has claimed he will never play the festival in protest.
He was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2007.
Asked about the knighthood ceremony and if he had met the King before, Sir Michael told the Glastonbury website: “I have, actually. Last time I met him, I got a suit especially.
“And he said, ‘Why aren’t you wearing your shorts?’! But I think William might do the ceremony. He’s made a few mentions of wanting to come to the Festival. So I’ll probably take a couple of tickets in my pocket!”
Sir Michael has also helped to build a number of rented social homes near to the festival site in a project which was this year visited by former footballer Gary Lineker.
He said of the importance of the houses: “Well, obviously I’ve been in the village all my life and I’ve seen all the council houses sold off, so there were no houses left to rent for working people. And private renting can be a nightmare.
“I think it’s so important to have a permanent stock of houses to rent at an affordable price. So that was the most important thing for me to do in this village really.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub