Beeb host recalls days of mud and magic

17:00, Jun 25 2013
MUD AND MAGIC: UK festival Glastonbury

BBC presenter Jo Whiley will be the face of UKTV's six-hour simulcast highlights package of the famed Glastonbury Music Festival next Monday morning. She talks to James Croot about what viewers can expect, and her own colourful history with the event.

What makes this more than 40-year-old, rural-set performing arts festival such an iconic event?

I think it's got an amazing heritage and history. You only need to look at the bands who have performed there; it is quite mind-blowing. There is also something magical about it, because there are so many bizarre things that happen there over the three days that don't happen at other festivals. There are the healing fields, where you can go and have gong therapy, or you can sit in a stone circle, or visit the circus village where you can have a go on a tightrope or a high-wire.

What are your abiding memories of the first Glastonbury you attended?

I was about 16 or 17 (she's now 48) and it was my first trip away from home with a bunch of friends. We didn't have a clue, and I don't even remember who we saw. It poured with rain and our tent slid down the hill. At 5am on the Sunday morning we all said "we can't do this any more" - we'd drunk so much cider our heads were really hurting, so we packed up the tent, went to the train station, but it was too early, so we just cooked bacon on the side of the platform. I actually think it's really typical of what everybody's first Glastonburys are like.

So what are the biggest changes that you've noticed at Glastonbury during the last three decades?


It has definitely become a lot more family friendly. People treat it like a holiday now, they come down on a Wednesday and go back on the Monday or Tuesday.

And, over the years, what have been the musical highlights for you?

One of the great moments was (in 2009) when Blur reformed and played as headliners. It was amazing and emotional; Damon (Albarn, the lead singer) was in tears by the end of the performance. Then there was Beyonce in 2011. She kind of took everybody by surprise. There was a lot of cynicism about her appearance there, but when she went out there and played it so well - like a little, tiny club - people were won over. In the same vein, Jay Z also blew everyone away. Then, further back, in 1995 Pulp took over from The Stone Roses at the last moment, and their performance changed everything for them.

So who are you most looking forward to seeing this year?

I love Mumford and Sons - I've known them from the very beginning - same with the Arctic Monkeys. I'm proud, and a little bit nervous, though, about them playing as the headliners on the Friday and Sunday nights. Then there's Kenny Rogers in the Sunday afternoon slot. That one's always a little bit kitsch; they've had Neil Diamond and Shirley Bassey in the past, but it's always fun to watch and people always sing along with gusto. And, personally, I'm looking forward to The xx, Chic with Nile Rodgers and Vampire Weekend.

Finally, with the festival taking a break last year due to the Olympics, what's the mood like around this year's event?

There's a huge buzz. A gap year only served to heighten the anticipation for it. I actually think it's really wise for it to take a year off now and again - you want people wanting more, and that's what Glastonbury does when it goes away, it makes people desperate for it to come back again.

Glastonbury 5am, Monday, UKTV (repeated at 6pm Monday night).