Glastonbury Movie – And Ice Cream!

Those who get withdrawal symptoms because they’re being denied their annual Glastonbury Festival fix in 2006 might find some sort of stop-gap placebo substitute in Julien Temple’s film of the world famous U.K. festival.

Compiled from 250 hours of footage shot by the 10 camera crews Temple had at the 2002 gathering – which was the film’s original subject – and some BBC broadcasts, British Film Institute material, Nic Roeg’s visual take of the 1971 event, several tapes from festival owner Michael Eavis’ collection and 900 hours of film sent in by fans, “Glastonbury” previewed at cinemas in London, Bristol, Leeds and Glasgow between April 11 and 16.

Eavis, who put up the £160,000 seed money needed before the film was picked up by the BBC, commissioned Temple in 2002 because he feared the festival could be Glastonbury’s last.

“I was remembering the chairman of the magistrates waving his finger at me in 2000, when we were prosecuted for having too many people the year before. I began to wonder if the whole thing was ever going to work again,” he explained.

Other money for the film came from festival sponsors Orange, while Ben & Jerry’s ice cream weighed in with about £25,000 and will soon launch a new flavour called – presumably after much brainstorming in the marketing department – “Glastonberry.”

Although Eavis and his festival pick up at least a couple of awards each year, including last year’s “Best Festival” gongs from New Musical Express, the glossy monthly Q magazine and also Pollstar‘s international festival of the year for the second time in succession, he still seems a little bemused by the naming of the ice cream.

“I wish they’d take our milk to make the stuff,” was the festival owner-turned-dairy farmer’s response.

Prior to being bought out by Unilever, B&J’s Cherry Garcia was one of few tributes to find its way on to the shelves alongside the likes of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup, New York Super Fudge Chunk and Neopolitan Dynamite.

Despite it’s seemingly cut-and-paste patchwork production, the 128-minute film has been extremely well reviewed. The Observer called it “one of the most absorbing and inspiring music films ever made.”

“An uncompromising tale of Glastonbury that comes as close to touching, hearing and feeling it as possible,” a Guardian film critic said. An arts correspondent for The Independent said, “just like the festival but without the mud.”

The hardest part was going through the 900 hours of footage sent in by fans, said Temple, who came to prominence in 1979 with “The Great Rock-n-Roll Swindle,” a film about the rise and fall of The Sex Pistols.

Following an appeal to any Glastonbury-goer who had video film, he received so many rolls and cassettes posted in padded envelopes that – by his own admission – he came close to ending up in a padded cell himself.

“I nearly had a nervous breakdown, because I did seriously feel I was drowning, paralysed by film,” he told The Observer.

Alongside capturing the easily imaginable strange behaviour of wide-eyed hippies who have clearly lost more than their tents, the film also focuses on some of the more political and confrontational issues that have made Glastonbury’s history.

Apart from the construction of the fence for 2002, which caused Eavis to worry that the ethos of the entire event would be ruined, there are scenes showing his angry confrontation with the itinerant industrial sculptors from The Mutoid Waste Company in 1987. It showed him storming off and shouting the sort of oaths he’d rather not see repeated in print.

Commenting on what must be his extremely rare usage of “the F word” and “the C word,” he told Pollstar he was having a bad day.

“I was in the middle of milking the cows and it hadn’t been easy. It’d been raining a lot in the previous days, the grass was rich and they all had stuff pouring out of their backsides that was as green as Martian paint. I’d just about had enough.”

The film also has footage from 1985 when – amid a Thatcher government clampdown on “peace convoys” – the police stopped the Stonehenge solstice celebrations and thousands of travelers moved further southwest to Glastonbury.

He provided refuge on that occasion but, over the years, Eavis has had to become used to ongoing tensions with travelers, freeloaders, ticket touts – or “rogues and vagabonds” as he calls them – and some determined gatecrashers.

Early in the film, Eavis explains that peace and love are wonderful things, but so is solvency. He said cattle farming is such a disaster that the festival is another chance for him to make money.

Despite working on the event for more than 35 years, it seems he still has difficulty understanding it himself.

At one point in the film, he says, “It’s not real is it? It can’t be real can it?”

– John Gammon