'We dive in deep': James Stirling gears up for Glastonbury on the BBC

'We dive in deep': James Stirling gears up for Glastonbury on the BBC

James Stirling, head of BBC Music & BBC Introducing has told Music Week that the audience is “really ready” for the return of Glastonbury. 

The festival returns after a fallow year this week, and the new issue of Music Week, out now, is dedicated to all things Glastonbury.

Stirling features in our cover story, alongside Mark Cooper, head of music, BBC Studios, and Music Week Awards host Jo Whiley, Steve Lamacq and Clara Amfo, who form part of the BBC’s team of presenters on site.

Subscribers can read the interview in full here. Read on for an extract from our chat with Stirling, who’s chasing another year of record ratings for the Beeb at Glastonbury…

What are you looking forward to from the BBC’s coverage this year?

“There are loads of good things. Our TV coverage will be significant and radio will be up there as well, we’ve got five networks there. Radio 5 Live are coming as well as Radio 1, 2 1Xtra and 6 Music. This year, BBC Sounds will give us extra, and allow us to do new things. It is designed to carry live radio, podcasts and music mixes, it’s the perfect platform. We’ve got a bespoke Radio Glastonbury button within the radio dial, which will collate our live broadcasts. It gives us the opportunity to play live sets from across the stages and use the BBC’s archive of Glastonbury content, which stretches back a long time now. Expect classic moments, interviews and extra content. Lauren Laverne has recorded a lovely interview with Michael Eavis, that’ll be on Glastonbury Radio.

So you’ll be covering new areas?

“Yes. We can cover some of the other things perhaps we haven’t always been able to cover from a broadcast sense. We can do that through music mixes, so with stages like Arcadia and The Glade and the acoustic stage. We will make bespoke mixes to sit on BBC Sounds. It will be really comprehensive, kicking off on Thursday afternoon and lasting until Monday afternoon, it’ll be a complete Glastonbury experience for those who wish to dive in deep.”

How did you cope with the year off in 2018?

We are used to a fallow year. We had our work cut out last year with our Biggest Weekend. It’s always good to have Glastonbury back, it’s a world famous cultural event, we’re incredibly proud to be the broadcast partner. I have a huge amount of respect for how Emily and Michael Eavis run the festival, for the audience it’s a window into the greatest musical and cultural event. There’s a sense of pride that the BBC can bring this event to the world. It’s always good to have it back, and we can sense it in the audience, they’re really ready for it.

It's the greatest musical event

James Stirling


“We reach an incredible amount of people. We know there’s a huge appetite, one of the good things is it appeals to a relatively mainstream audience. There might be people watching who don’t ever go to a festival but actually enjoy dipping in and out of Glastonbury because of the iconic location, because of the Pyramid Stage, the world famous talent. We’ve seen that with the performances on Sunday over the last few years, Lionel Ritchie, Dolly Parton, Barry Gibb… There have been some really big audience moments for us. This year, having Kylie in that slot will be really terrific.”

Finally, how’s the BBC Introducing side of things shaping up this year?

“It’s looking fantastic. We’re incredibly proud of our relationship with Glastonbury, it was the first festival stage we created, and that goes back to 2008. It’s three days of new and emerging talent across a variety of genres. The whole of the BBC gets behind it. Huw Stephens hosts it, but you’ll find Annie Mac there, Jack Saunders, Steve Lamacq. Everyone has an interest because we know it’s the next generation of headliners. If you take someone like Florence Welch, for example, who played it in 2008 and then ended up headlining, you can trace a great line of artists who made their first appearance there and have gone on.”

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