It’s just been announced that Glastonbury Festival’s creator Michael Eavis has been awarded a knighthood in the New Year Honours list, for services to music and charity. We spoke to him to find out his reaction to the news.
First of all – congratulations!
Thank you very much! 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”!
Wow. Well you got the knighthood eventually!
When did you hear the news?
Emily came up with the official letter. I was really surprised to see it, actually. Why did they choose me I wonder?
Perhaps because you created the world’s greatest festival, raised millions for charity and helped put Britain on the cultural map?
Maybe! But I have had a good life and managed to keep the Festival going for 53 years. It’s all gone so well in the end. It took 25 years for the public to catch on. We started with 500 people in 1970 and we’ve finished up with millions wanting to come every year now. That’s quite extraordinary isn’t it?
What did you do once you’d read the letter?
Well to start with, we had to write back and say that I would accept it.
Your mother would have been furious if you hadn’t.
She really would!
Why do you think they gave it to you?
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.
It’s incredible to think you only left the merchant navy to return to Somerset as a teenager because your father died and you had to take on the farm. Your life could’ve gone a very different way.
It really could’ve. But the farm has been a fantastic part of my life too. 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!
And are you looking forward to the knighthood ceremony? You’ve met King Charles before?
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!
Another big thing for you this year was the opening of another 20 social houses in Pilton on land you donated, using stone from Worthy Farm.
Yes, that took us to 52 homes. Isn’t that incredible? Gary Lineker came down to open them and that story went everywhere. He did a marvellous job. He said all the right things.
Why are the houses so important to you?
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.
And the Festival also gave almost £4 million to good causes in 2023, which is just mind blowing.
I know, it’s marvellous.
When you think of the financial struggles the event had for so many years, it’s incredible that it can now help to do so much good.
Yeah isn’t that fantastic? I think it all goes back to Sunday School at the village Methodist chapel really. All the things that were pumped into us when we were 5 years old. Some of it obviously took root in my brain!
Finally, how are you feeling about being “Sir Michael”?
Well, when I was a boy, I did rather like all the King Arthur stories. With Sir Lancelot and everyone. That was always very fun to me!
So are you going to get yourself a sword? Maybe swap the shorts for a suit of armour? To be fair, you can probably get all of those things in Glastonbury town.