Eavis Shrugs Off Flu Stories

Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis has shrugged off stories that this year’s festival could be canceled if the swine flu outbreak worsens.

He missed the U.K. newspaper reports saying the festival is under threat because he was in New York attending the May 5 gala dinner for Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People but – soon after returning to Worthy Farm – told Pollstar he doesn’t believe the virus is a threat to the festival.

Eavis was one of the few Brits to be included in the Time list, along with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, London Mayor Boris Johnson, actress Kate Winslet and designer Stella McCartney.

“Of course we monitor the situation and take it seriously because we’ll have 180,000 people on the site, but all the advice I’ve received – and some of it is from the highest sources – suggests there’s nothing to really worry about,” he said.

He questioned the newspaper stories, which were sparked by The Sun interviewing an unnamed source and followed up by majors including The Independent and The Guardian, which is a festival sponsor.

“I don’t think anyone working here would have said that,” he explained, referring to the tabloid paper quoting “a festival source” as saying so many people gathered in one place is a risk and “if the government wanted to pull public events, like in Mexico, Glastonbury would be one of the first to go.”

“I’m sure our own press people would have told me if they’d made any comment on the festival’s behalf,” he said, explaining that when the story broke he was probably in the New York Lincoln Centre with a crowd that included Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. He said he wasn’t even aware of the stories until Pollstar questioned him about them.

Eavis admits to sounding out opinion as soon as the virus broke, but denied reports saying the organisers were arranging an “emergency meeting” to consider how to respond to the threat.

“We’ve looked carefully at the hand-washing facilities and we’re having a trial of what may be better a system,” he said, although he doesn’t believe the flu will prove much of a threat in the U.K.

“The vet that treats the animals on the farm says it’s a common virus and has been in this country for 50 or 60 years,” he explained. “Apparently, it’s why people working on pig farms are much more susceptible to flu. They pick up a strain of the same virus, although it doesn’t turn out to be much worse than a heavy cold.”

In Mexico, where the outbreak began, football matches have been played behind closed doors and large public gatherings were canceled to reduce the risk of transmission.

All 140,000 tickets for this year’s June 24-28 Glastonbury have been sold.

Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and a reunited Blur are the headliners for what has been Pollstar’s International Festival Of The Year each of the last four times it’s been staged.

Others reportedly on the bill include Franz Ferdinand, Kasabian and Animal Collective.