The gates to the Glastonbury Festival have been officially opened by the event’s founder, Michael Eavis, who said it will be “the best show in town”.
The festival is returning for its 50th anniversary after a three-year hiatus due to Covid-19.
As the gates were officially opened on Wednesday morning, Eavis and his daughter Emily stood at one of the many entry points and clapped as the first attendees entered the site.
Eavis, 86, told them: “This is going to be the best show in town. Wait and see. You better believe it.”
Festival-goers had been queuing since the early hours of Wednesday morning after many battled travel delays on their journey to Pilton in Somerset, amid three days of major rail strikes.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast shortly before the gates opened, festival co-ordinator Emily Eavis said: “It’s still so exciting. It’s even more spectacular this year. The wait has been so long and it’s just the biggest build-up we’ve ever had and everybody is feeling very, very happy and a little bit emotional, I think, about opening the gates.”
She added: “It’s all so exciting, you’d never believe it.”
Radio host Jo Whiley said Glastonbury is the “ultimate festival” and that Sir Paul McCartney’s headlining slot on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night is a “very, very important and significant performance”.
The former Beatle, 80, will become the music festival’s oldest ever solo headliner when he takes to the stage this weekend.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Whiley said: “Glastonbury is the ultimate festival, it’s a celebration of all the arts and it’s all about the human experience.
“So, yes, there are all these bands playing, there’s the main stage, everyone gets very excited about that, but it’s all about just enjoying this, just the amount of things I think you can enjoy when you get there… Over 100 stages, there are all different kinds of performances going on wherever, so you have to think of it as like a massive smorgasbord that you can go along and you can just keep tasting all these different things… circus acts, cabaret, music.
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“And everyone is just so friendly, so you make lots of friends, it’s just a wonderful experience.”
On Sunday on BBC Radio 2 Whiley will present live from Pilton, 7pm-9pm, including highlights from Diana Ross’s set on the Pyramid Stage.
She said on the Today programme of Sir Paul that it is a “very, very important and significant performance that will be happening then, it’s the greatest songwriter of all time from the biggest band, at the greatest festival in the world – it’s a big moment”.
Shortly before the gates officially opened at 8am on Wednesday, hundreds of Glastonbury attendees had already been queueing for hours with their bags and some said they arrived at the site in the early hours of the morning.
Mark Lawrie, 49, from Reading, Berkshire, who works for a sports charity, said he had arrived at the festival at 2am with his 18-year-old daughter Bethan.
“We slept in the car for a few hours and joined the queue at 6am,” he told the PA news agency.
“This is our third time and it’s always brilliant. The moment you get here and start to see the tops of the tents, you get such a buzz.
“It’s always such a positive atmosphere here, everyone’s just so nice to each other and friendly to each other, but I think after what we’ve been through the last two-and-a-half years it’s going to be special.”
Ms Lawrie said the act she is most looking forward to is Billie Eilish, while her father said he is hotly anticipating Sir Paul.
“When I was first a primary school teacher, I didn’t realise this but I lived next door to (McCartney) in East Sussex,” he said. “One morning he was walking his dog outside and I had a hangover so I was in bed and didn’t go to say hello to him.
“My parents will absolutely never forgive me for not having done that, so he’ll be amazing to see.”
Ahead of the five-day event, meteorologist Tom Morgan, from the Met Office, told PA this year’s weather outlook promises to be “one of two halves”.
Temperatures could reach 27C at the 900-acre site – 9C higher than usual – in the lead-up to the world-famous event.
However, the mud synonymous with Glastonbury is still set to make an appearance, with showers and thunderstorms predicted from Friday onwards.
To the dismay of many festival-goers the event coincides with three days of planned major rail strikes over rail workers’ pay, leading to travel disruption for people making their way to Worthy Farm.
Just 60% of trains will run across Wednesday, with walkouts planned for Thursday and Saturday.
The much-anticipated festival, hosting a population of 200,000, will also see Eilish and rapper Kendrick Lamar headline the Pyramid stage.
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