Cows, Rock Bands and Methodist Preachers: A profile of Michael Eavis

by Kathleen LaCamera

PRISM Magazine - Spring, 2006

The best part of my work as a broadcaster and writer is listening to people tell their stories. Whether reporting from a mean street in Northern Ireland or from the parish church around the corner, with few exceptions people are more generous, more open, and more surprising with what they reveal in an interview than I ever expect. One of the more delightful experiences of the past year was writing short profile of Glastonbury Music Festival founder, Michael Eavis. I share it with PRISM readers courtesy of Interpreter Magazine where it first appeared in the February/March 2005 issue. I hope it offers a bit of cheer, especially to Methodists and old rockers.

Every summer for the past 34 years British Methodist dairy farmer Michael Eavis has invited people around to his farm to listen to a bit of live music. Last year 150,000 showed up. Now in his late 60s, Eavis is the founder and producer of the Glastonbury Music Festival. Some of the most famous musicians in the contemporary music scene, including the likes of Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Rod Stewart, have performed on Glastonbury stages.

Eavis believes that everyone needs to work to put something back into society and each year hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised for good causes through the festival. Oxfam, Water Aid and Greenpeace were some of the major beneficiaries of last year's festival. Many of the 30,000 plus volunteers who help make this complex event run smoothly are “paid” in donations to good causes large and small. Michael Eavis' family has been dairy farming on Worthy Farm in Somerset , England for six generations. The farm now has 330 milking cows. The family's Methodism runs just as deep. His dairy farming father was a Methodist minister. So were several uncles and a brother. Eavis says his father used to plan his sermons while doing the milking. “I'd be holding the cow's tail and he'd try his sermon out me. I'd tell him ‘too boring' or ‘not funny'.”

His father died when Eavis was only 19 years old. By that time young Michael already had worked as a coal miner and a merchant sailor. After his father's death, he took over responsibility for the family farm. It was in 1970 that Eavis and his wife Jeanne came up with the idea for the music festival that would become Glastonbury . Jeanne died of cancer in 1999. Eavis is now married to midwife Liz and counts 10 children and 15 grandchildren all totalled. He is a regular church-goer and attends a small Methodist chapel where he says he particularly enjoys singing Wesley hymns with great passion.

“I'm supposed to be the loudest singer and it is noticeable when I'm not there I'm told,” reports Eavis. He says he likes the fact that the people at his church are not involved with his “other” life. “They give me reassurance that there are some really reliable, sensible people out in the world.”

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