Music venues boss hits out at Glastonbury going online as live gigs restart

Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter
·3-min read

The boss of the Music Venue Trust has described Glastonbury’s decision to host a global livestream on the first weekend music venues can reopen as “disappointing”.

Mark Davyd, founder and chief executive of the organisation, said the move represented a “complete failure” by organisers to support grassroots venues hard hit by the pandemic.

Coldplay, Damon Albarn and Jorja Smith are among the artists booked to play at various well-known sites around Worthy Farm, including the Stone Circle and Pyramid field, on May 22.

The ticketed event falls on the same date as the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, and the same week indoor venues can reopen with social distancing, in line with the Government’s road map out of lockdown.

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Mr Davyd wrote on Twitter: “I think what the live industry really needs right now is some collective, collaborative, joined-up thinking.

“Announcing the world’s largest online event for the first weekend on which limited, actual in-person events are permitted really isn’t that.

“I’m going to politely describe the decision by @glastonbury to choose that specific weekend as ‘disappointing’.

“But it unfortunately reflects a complete failure by the festival to support grassroots music venues. Literally no engagement with @musicvenuetrust at all.”

Tickets for the virtual event, which will be broadcast across four separate time zones, cost £20, with organisers also saying there will be “a number of unannounced surprise performances”.

Coronavirus – Mon Jun 1, 2020
MVT chief executive Mark Davyd (Music Venue Trust/PA)

Mr Davyd later tweeted saying he had had a “positive conversation” with UK livestreamers Drift, who are involved in producing the event, and they had told him the show was booked before the road map announcement.

Grassroots venues including The Windmill in Brixton, The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent and The Horn in St Albans questioned Glastonbury’s timing.

Luke Hinton, head booker at The Horn, suggested the livestream be moved a week earlier so it could become a celebration of the imminent return of live music.

He said: “Glastonbury is without doubt one of the highlights of my festival calendar and it’s a unique event where I’ve had countless great times with friends and family, and seen some truly iconic performances from artists.

“However, I feel that the announcement of a streamed Glastonbury on the first weekend that venues can reopen, in some cases for the first time since March last year, at the minimum since December, is a really unfortunate clash.

“In fact if it had been the weekend before it could have been a big celebration about the imminent return of live music returning to venues across the country.”

Jay Taylor of Night And Day in Manchester said: “After a hellish year for live music venues they finally receive a date to safely operate again and Glastonbury pinpoint that weekend for their #LiveAtWorthyFarm online event.

“Not only is this short-sighted and arguably bullish, this decision flies in the face of all the conversation and co-operation across the live sector this past year – conversations and co-operation that have helped hold the live sector together and have saved businesses from ruin.”

Nick Simcock of Oporto in Leeds said: “Encouraging the choosing of supermarket booze and global megastars over local heroes on the most crucial Saturday in the last six to 12 months isn’t good for the recovery of our industry.”

Glastonbury has been contacted for comment.