'The TV screen crackles': Why Glastonbury rules, with Jo Whiley, Clara Amfo & Steve Lamacq

'The TV screen crackles': Why Glastonbury rules, with Jo Whiley, Clara Amfo & Steve Lamacq

All week, Music Week has been gearing up for Glastonbury 2019, and now it’s the turn of BBC presenters Clara Amfo, Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq to wax lyrical about the festival.

So far, BBC Studios head of music Mark Cooper has let us in on why he can’t wait for his last Glastonbury before leaving his role, while BBC Music and BBC Music Introducing chief James Stirling broke down just what we can expect from the Beeb’s coverage this year.

As Glastonbury rolls on into the future, with its 50th year approaching fast, so must the BBC’s coverage. Still driven by the will to bring Worthy Farm into the lives of those not present across the weekend, it now offers more coverage than ever. And yes, it’s chasing more record-breaking numbers.

But what’s it like for the presenters on site? Jo Whiley’s been recording TV links and broadcasting from Pilton since the ’90s, and was a bundle of excited energy during the cover shoot for the new issue of Music Week. So too, were Lamacq, a fellow veteran, and Amfo, who first attended in 2016.

Here, all three open up about what Glastonbury means to them, and what audiences can look forward to over the weekend.

Clara Amfo: “The great thing about doing radio is that you notice how people’s tastes are shifting and evolving, especially with young people. There are less barriers when it comes to what you’re into and how that defines you as a person. It’s not, ‘I’m just a punk’ or ‘I’m just a grime head’, there are people who love Newham Generals as much as Idles, Kylie Minogue as much as Janelle Monae. There’s no snobbery, and that’s reflected at Glastonbury.

“There are various awards people can get and I’m sure album sales are lovely, but to say you’ve performed at Glastonbury, especially for the artists on the Pyramid Stage, you can tell every time they open their mouths to say it they’re like, ‘Yes, I’m performing on the Pyramid Stage’. I’ve seen Stormzy in passing and he’s like, ‘Bruv, I’m coming, get ready…’ He’s so excited. He understands the opportunity that he has. 

“The culture of artists performing on that stage has changed, that’s really important and really cool. Glastonbury’s been really good at embracing people’s changing tastes and the breadth of music that’s out there. The open mindedness is showing itself off in a really positive way this year.

We end up watching on a screen the size of a postage stamp!

Jo Whiley

Jo Whiley: “I remember when The Rolling Stones and Blur played. My family were there watching and I was getting texts from them about it while sitting up a hill in a tiny tent watching on a monitor going, ‘I’m really glad for you!’ That’s our experience, we end up watching on a screen the size of a postage stamp [laughs].

“The BBC captures the beauty of the place, it’s such an amazing spectacle. When that headline act walks out onto the main stage on a Saturday night and the lights are twinkling, some kind of magic descends and the TV screen crackles with that for people watching at home.

This year I’m excited to see Vampire Weekend. They’ve been quite a few times, in their real infancy when they blew up and they’ve been back. Ezra Koening was saying that he came and did Glastonbury as a punter last time, and at the moment he was in the Stone Circle as the sun was rising, he said, ‘Now I get Glastonbury, now I understand it.’ He’s going this year with a renewed appreciation of what Glastonbury’s all about so I think they’re really going to give it some.”

We'll be wandering around doing the show with a backpack

Steve Lamacq

Steve Lamacq: “With Glastonbury, there are a lot of people who just want five days off from some of the politics and the bills to pay and the worries about school or parenting and all these things that muddy up people’s everyday lives.

“We’re doing two shows, on Friday we are hoping to do the show wandering around the site with a backpack, as long as the signal is strong enough. We will be starting somewhere near the Pyramid Stage and then we’ll wander up to the John Peel stage and talk to a couple of people there. Then there’s a special guest live band and then we’ll work our way up towards the Park area because there’s a new pier this year. We will probably be the first people up there to cover that I imagine. We’re lining up a couple of comedians to talk to up there. Along the way we will be taking in some of the live music that will be happening on the stages and then we finish off with Soak live. We’ll also be talking to Idles. Then we go again on Sunday.

“I’ve always said, the real Glastonbury is on the other side of the hedge. If you go past West Holts and keep walking, there is a whole other festival, whether you go left or right. You’ve got to have three hours to go off and do that each year. That’s my main thing.”

Read this week's Glastonbury cover story in full here. To subscribe and never miss a music biz story, click here.

Photo: Paul Harries

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