Singer Steve Harley says his return to the Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza this August will be "a joy".
It will be the second time the Seventies legend has taken to the stage as support act with Cockney Rebel, this time opening the show ahead of Bryan Ferry and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, in the grounds of the historic ruins.
Steve said: "What a setting! And the Eavis family make it all comfortable and decent backstage and onstage. It’s always a joy."
The Extravaganza is held every year as a thank you to local people from Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, who said the band produced a "magnificent show" when they last performed at the Abbey in 2010.
Perhaps best known for their hit Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), which has been covered by other acts more than 100 times, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel have been playing the song for nearly 40 years, but Steve says he still looks forward to the moment he performs it to another audience each time.
"I love to sing that song," he said. "It’s never the same twice, to be honest. The feedback, the singing from audiences all over the world brings a lot of smiles to a lot of faces."
And whose "greatest hit" would bring a smile to Steve’s face? "I would love to bring back Anita O’Day and have her perform Tea For Two in my gazebo on a sunny day, just the two of us, with tea," he said.
Steve formed Cockney Rebel in the early 1970s, with their debut album released in 1973, the first of a string of releases over the next few decades and chart hits including Mr Soft, Here Comes The Sun and Judy Teen. Steve had originally set his sights on being a journalist, however, landing a job in Fleet Street as an accountant before working for newspapers in Essex and London. And what might he be doing if he hadn’t pursued a career in music? "It would always have been words, words, words," he says.
Tickets for the Extravaganza on Sunday, August 11, are being snapped up after the event took a break last year, following a 17-year run. Over the years it has provided the chance to see big names, from Status Quo and Madness to Van Morrison and Jools Holland, in an intimate setting.
With a busy touring schedule taking in festivals as well as smaller shows, Steve said both kinds of performances had their appeal. "All shows have their own special moments," he said. "Five hundred-seat concert halls or theatres are wonderful to play, especially when it’s our three-man acoustic set, which we take to many different countries. But I love the big events with the rock band just as much. A big Glastonbury crowd will do for me, anytime!"
Besides stopping off for performances at Glastonbury Festival and Extravaganza, Steve also visits the West Country to see friends in Cornwall, setting off in a lugger from Portscatho and feasting on the catch. Getting close to nature at home in Suffolk is also guaranteed to make him smile, says Steve.
"The birdlife in our country garden is close to phenomenal! Pied wagtails, greenfinches, long-tailed tits, multitudes of yellowhammers, goldfinches, blackbirds, the occasional song thrush, woodpeckers, both great spotted and green, house sparrows, which nest in our eaves, starlings, which nest in a separate area of the roof, jay, rooks, magpies – all that, and we actually have three outdoor mouser cats!"
And when he isn’t on stage, Steve has also devoted a great deal of time to raising awareness of landmines and the drive to clear them, even joining treks in countries where the devices are still affecting people’s lives.
Explaining why the cause is important to him, he said: "I love children, and can’t bear to think of them suffering. Landmines are a disgusting, hidden menace. Kiddies can’t get out of their villages to go to school in many areas of south-east Asia. That’s appalling and being an ambassador for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is a privilege."
Performances by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel and Bryan Ferry and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra will be followed by the traditional fireworks display that brings the Glastonbury Extravaganza to a close.
Advance ticket prices are £35 adult, £20 for an accompanied child aged six to 16, £95 for a family of two adults and three children. Gate prices are £40 adult, £25 for a child aged six to 16, £120 for a family of two adults and three children. Accompanied children aged five and under do not require a ticket.
Bookings can be made:
Online at www.glastonburyabbey.com/Extravaganza. There is a £3.50 delivery charge per order.
In person at the Abbey Shop where there is free collection or £1.50 delivery charge.
By posting a cheque/postal order made payable Glastonbury Festivals Ltd, to Glastonbury Extravaganza, 28 Northload Street, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9JJ indicating number of tickets required, postal details and delivery fee of £1.50 per order.