Eavis Enjoys The Moment

Glastonbury won three Virtual Festival Awards, including one for most memorable moment for Jay-Z’s rendition of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” during his headline slot in June.

“How about Jay-Z again next year?” joked Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis Oct. 30 at the awards ceremony, which took place at the IndigO2 in London.

One of the most controversial bookings of the summer earned his event yet another gong.

The American rapper performed the song because several U.K. papers had reported that fans were “shunning” the event because Jay-Z was booked to headline.

Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher weighed in by telling BBC Radio 5 that there was no place for hip-hop at Glastonbury.

Emily Eavis, who helps organise the festival and is Michael’s daughter, was so put out by what she called “hysteria in sections of the press” that she penned a piece for the Independent that said media reports were at odds with fan reactions.

“Maybe what the critics have really revealed is something about attitudes that are still all too prevalent in Britain; an instinct to go back to base and play safe – an innate conservatism, a stifling reluctance to try something different,” she wrote.

“And there is also an interesting undercurrent in the suggestion that a black, U.S. hip-hop artist shouldn’t be playing in front of what many perceive to be a white, middle-class audience. I’m not sure what to call it, at least not in public, but this is something that causes me some disquiet.”

At the Oct. 30 ceremony, she revealed that the unprecedented media backlash that preceded this year’s event made her and her father wonder about its future.

Glastonbury also took the best major festival category, the first time winning it since the awards began in 2004. It beat T In The Park and the Isle of Wight Festival, which are previous winners.

Eavis himself also took the outstanding contribution award, the only category decided by an industry panel. The others are voted on by fans at www.virtualfestivals.com.

Kings Of Leon, another Glastonbury headliner but a much less controversial one, won best headline act.

The award for best European festival, which went to Serbia’s Exit Festival in 2007, stayed closer to home this year.

It went to Ireland’s Oxegen, which Denis Desmond’s MCD stages at Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare.

Scotland’s T In The Park, which Desmond co-produces with DF Concerts over the same July weekend, won best lineup.

Another triple winner was The Ting Tings, which took best festival pop act, best live newcomer and anthem of the summer.

Despite Jay-Z’s high-profile Glastonbury appearance, Dizzee Rascal took best urban act, while the other winners of the artist categories were Biffy Clyro (rock act), The Prodigy (dance act), and The Mighty Boosh (festival feel good act).

The greener festival awards went to Waveform, a Wiltshire festival that prides itself on being “the sustainable dance music festival.”

Lovebox Weekender won best medium-sized festival, Secret Garden Party won best small festival, Glade won best dance festival, and Camp Bestival won best new festival.

The other event category winners were Scotland’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (best grass roots), Larmer Tree (family festival) and The Big Chill, which won the fan vote for having the best toilets.

The innovation award went to Standon Calling, a 2,500-capacity event in the Hertfordshire countryside, which created the U.K.’s first underwater dancing arena in a swimming pool.

Earlier in the day, Virtual Festivals held its first conference, which turned out to be an interesting – and at times very amusing – addition to the awards ceremony.

Alan McGowan, associate editor of IQ magazine, who chaired the “Threats To The Market” panel, looked a little perplexed when the consensus from the panelists and delegates suggested that there aren’t any real threats to the festival market.

“This isn’t representative of our survey,” he exclaimed, referring to the in-depth analysis of the subject IQ had just published.

Therefore, the “impending recession,” “unpredictable weather,” “artist fees going up” and “a scarcity of big names” – all of which left the magazine’s conference notes questioning if festival promoting has “ever been quite so risky” – aren’t subjects causing promoters to lose a wink of sleep.

The discussion meandered on to which threats promoters experienced when starting their festivals. No one could match what Bojan Boškovic faced when he started Serbia’s Exit Festival, experiences he described as “unpleasant meetings with bad guys.”

He and a couple of student friends founded the event as part of a 100-day campaign against the late Serbian dictator Slobodan Miloševic, which meant they got occasional visits from government officials.

The other panelists freely admitted that nothing in their music business careers ever put them in any danger of being shot.
Solo Agency chief John Giddings, who sells acts to festivals and buys them for Isle Of Wight, said he doesn’t try to drive the price up when he’s selling and beat it down when he’s buying.

He illustrated his point by telling Primary Talent International agency managing director Peter Elliot that this year he probably paid him “20 times” as much as anyone else for Basement Jaxx.

Elliot suggested that acts aren’t using their power to drive prices up as much as promoters are using their power to drive them down.

He said as much as he “loves him to bits,” Denis Desmond owns a share in so many festivals that he has the power to keep prices down.

Later in the evening, T In The Park and Oxegen – two of the festivals Elliot was referring to – both collected Virtual awards.
The morning panels, both chaired by Ben Challis from A Greener Festival, discussed how more European festivals are finding ways of making themselves more environmentally friendly.

The speakers included Yourope chairman Christof Huber, Alison Tickell from Julie’s Bicycle, the U.K.’s cross music initiative on climate change, Linnea Svenson from Norway’s Oya Festival and Teresa Moore from Buckinghamshire New University.