Glastonbury's Emily Eavis: Jay-Z backlash was out of control

Albertina Lloyd
·Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
Glastonbury's Emily Eavis joins Lauren Laverne on 'Desert Island Discs' (Credit: BBC Radio 4/Amanda Benson)
Glastonbury's Emily Eavis joins Lauren Laverne on 'Desert Island Discs' (Credit: BBC Radio 4/Amanda Benson)

Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis has admitted she did not anticipate the backlash towards signing Jay-Z as a headline act.

The daughter of Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis began helping her father organise the music festival in 2000 and in 2008 announced Jay-Z would be the headline act.

Emily told Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs: “Jay-Z was probably the most controversial booking we have ever made.

“It just felt like an out of control storm that I was just never going to get out of. Every story, every day was just negative.

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“We’d sold 80,000 tickets on the day of our ticket sale, and that is quite low for us, we normally sell out. We hadn’t even announced Jay-Z at that point.

UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 28:  GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL  Photo of JAY-Z and JAY Z, Jay Z performing on the Pyramid Stage  (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Redferns)
Jay-Z performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2008 (Credit: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images)

“And then we announced Jay-Z and people just took the lack of popularity for that year and the fact that we’d booked a different headliner as being this perfect storm of, ‘It’s all over,’ and, ‘They’ve lost their minds!’ And I didn’t see it coming. I just thought we’d booked a really good really good artist, who’s one fo the best lyricists int he world, who can come and do a really good hip-hop show.”

But she admitted it was huge relief when the rapper’s perfomance on the Pyramid Stage was so well received by festival goers.

She said: “And then he came on and actually it was incredible. I kind of had that feeling just about five ins before he came on, when I saw the crowd and they were all chanting, ‘Jay-Z! Jay-Z!’

“I grabbed my dad who was like, ‘Do you think I should come and watch?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’

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“And we stood and watched him come on and my dad had never seen anything like it and he started laughing uncontrollably, and I started laughing and we were just looking out at this enormous field and it was an enormous feeling of togetherness.”

Farmer and music-lover Michael Eavis founded the festival on his farm in Somerset in 1970 and it was traditionally headlined by rock acts.

Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis collect the Best Festival Award during the NME Awards 2016 with Austin, Texas at the O2 Brixton Academy, London.
Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis collect the Best Festival Award during the NME Awards 2016 with Austin, Texas at the O2 Brixton Academy, London.

Emily admitted she and her father used to argue a lot when she took over choosing the line-up.

She said: “I think it was quite hard, something he created, it’s something of a different era.

“We haven’t had an argument for ages, we used to have quite a lot of dynamic real arguments.

“I think we’ve found our groove now. He loves the fact I’m there and the children and he’s really involved as a grandfather, he’s very hands on.”

Emily, who was born in 1979, admitted that as a child she found the festival being held on her family farm “scary”.

The mother-of-three confided: “I wasn’t that into the festival in the 80s, it was pretty scary at times and not at all like it is now...

“There were times it felt quite unsafe during the riots in the late 80s. My dad loved the risk, my mum kept it steady.”

Emily Eavis is on Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 on Sunday June 23rd at 11:15am