Hot Seat: Malcolm Haynes, Glastonbury Festival
How many Glastonburys have you done? It’s a bragging right for anyone who has spent a long, lost weekend at the famous English festival. Whatever your answer, it won’t stack against the efforts of Malcolm Haynes. The British event organiser has worked on Glastonbury since 1990, when he started booking for the-then Jazz-world stage. He’s part of the decision-making team, along with Glastonbury’s founder Michael Eavis, his daughter Emily and her husband Nick Dewey.
In 2005, Haynes created and programmed the Dance Village at Glastonbury – a seven-venue site within the fest which encompasses live bands and DJs. Last year, he revamped the dance area with a new name (Silver Hayes), structures, and a changed layout.
For those uninitiated, Glastonbury is the big-daddy of British music fests. Its founder, Michael Eavis, opened his dairy farm to hippies and music fans for the first time back in 1970. Since then, the festival in Somerset, south west England, has built a reputation as one Europe’s best-know outdoor music events, hosting some of the world’s biggest, and sometimes the most obscure, artists. Its “fallow year” is a quirk that’s the envy of all festival promoters; every four or five years the event takes a year off to let the site regenerate.
Glastonbury hasn’t been without its problems. A rising tide of gatecrashers saw the show fall-foul with licensing authorities in the early noughties; the issue was partially settled when a multi-million-dollar “super fence” was erected around the site. Around the time of the GFC, Glastonbury’s ticket sales – until then a sure sell-out—had slowed noticeably. Festival-goers had begun looking abroad to events in Spain and elsewhere for experiences that wouldn’t include ankle-deep mud. Jay Z’s headline show in 2008 was “make-or-break.” Glastonbury won, and right now it’s without rival in the British summer.
What began as an event for a few thousand, has now grown to a mass pilgrimage. Worthy Farm opens its gates each year to well over 100,000. Haynes will be one of them, again. This week he’s in Australia for the Australasian Worldwide Music Expo, which runs Nov. 14-17 in Melbourne.
Glastonbury is probably the best known festival in the world. Perhaps you can give me an idea of what goes into staging this event each year.
I work on Glastonbury all year round. We start from a few weeks after the previous festival. I’m seeing bands all year round which I would love to put on. And I’m meeting all the other people who help run my area. In this present period, I am already actively meeting with agents, managers, bands and DJs with the view to booking. This process takes about three months. I’m looking at the headliners first, then I’m working on the rest of the billing. I put on around 220 acts in Silver Hayes. This also goes for the production and the organisation in the area. It’s fair to say it’s a year-round job. I’m very fortunate to work with — and I’ve been there for over 22 years — an amazing bunch of people, friends and staff. I have a staff of around 450, some of who have also been working with me at the festival since day one. And now I’m working with their children too. Being such a massive festival we are hit with new challenges every year. We have a great team of inner-core people who also work all year round to deal with how to make the site better for the audience, to dealing with new conditions that the local authority may put on us. As an organisation there’s a huge amount of record keeping, monitoring and evaluation, covering pretty much every aspect of the festival. All of that makes the festival better each year.
The Dance Village has undergone its own evolution within Glasto. Why so?
We have had a dance tent since 1995 and a dance village since 2005. With the year off in 2012 I went back to the family with an idea to change and revamp the area. It’s now called Silver Hayes with a new structure and slightly different direction in music. We still basically cater in dance, but we’ve also added a roots and reggae area.
Michael Eavis is an interesting character who certainly doesn’t fit the mold of a contemporary festival operator. What’s it like to work with him?
Oh, it’s a pleasure. I have worked with Michael at Glastonbury for over 22 years and I have a close working relationship with Emily and Nick. I have a few meetings with the family throughout the year where we discuss the line up and the running of my area.
What do you make of Australia’s current crop of artists?
I’ve not heard a lot of the new, young acts to be honest. Apart from Flume. But I normally return to the U.K. with a better knowledge of the current Australian scene. Of course, that’s part of the reason I’m here. On this trip, I’m having a number of one-to-one meetings with various bands and their representatives. I will also be seeing a lot of bands. And of course I will be speaking on a few panels.
The U.S. is currently EDM obsessed. Can you see that bubble bursting anytime soon?
No, I don’t. EDM is just part of the ever-changing evolution in dance music. We have been featuring electronica music in my area for a number of years now. The U.S. just want to think that they started electronic music.