Bringing Glastonbury to Television
It's about this time of year that anyone who works for the BBC starts getting a little obsessed with the weather. Or tries to feign indifference and adopt a 'Que sera sera' fatalism that's frankly hard to sustain.
The first year I went with the BBC to Glastonbury in 1997, it rained and rained and rained. There weren't many of us then, producing just seven or eight hours on BBC Two, and the site was awash with water and rumours and then mud. The Other Stage nearly sank.
We managed to go to Radiohead live who went straight into Paranoid Android at 11.30 on the Saturday night. Such triumphant memories are balanced by the recurring nightmare of walking mile upon mile through mud that became ever gloopier. It pulled like quicksand upon my wellies as I trudged endlessly around the BBC production area.
In 1998 it rained again. Possibly harder. Since then we have, of course, enjoyed some sunshine but also a major flash flood in 2005, 60 mph winds and last year, lightning. My production philosophy of Glastonbury is to make sure that every position from which we broadcast is 'defendable' against the elements so that it cannot be flooded or borne away. Of course this is only what the festival goers are going through but we are working and we have to stay on air. That's why we're there.
In the meantime our TV coverage of Glastonbury has grown with the BBC into a glorious multi-platform thing, filming across four or five stages with small teams roaming the farm to report on all manner of cultural activity as we supply a variety of acts and programming to BBC Two, Three and Four plus the video for red button and online. There's something like 32 hours of TV across the weekend and well over 100 hours on red button.
We bring artists to perform acoustically in our presentation garden behind the Pyramid to try and cover some of the acts who are on stages we aren't filming. And then of course there will be some late-night cabaret, usually of a grotesque variety to keep our presenters awake and on their toes. Last year the world's strongest woman lifted Zane Lowe and Mark Radcliffe aloft on a pole...
And yet there is so much we cannot show. Stages we cannot get to and to which our budget doesn't stretch. The 'on demand' generation now expect to be able to see everything all the time whereas some of the artists and bands, particularly the old-school American big names, are wary of live TV and of giving too much away.
We love the sense of live event that comes from broadcasting Gorillaz or Muse live to air but we can't always broadcast whole sets live and are often restricted in how much we can show for contractual reasons. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that the BBC at Glastonbury brings the licence payer the most extensive live coverage of any live music event anywhere in the world... this year, last year or ever!
The range and diversity and richness of the Glastonbury festival is extraordinary and that's just the punters, let alone the music. We can't wait to get back to Worthy Farm and whether it's wellies or sandals in this 40th year, we will be proud to be there again. Here's to the next 40!
Mark Cooper is executive producer of the BBC's Glastonbury TV coverage
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Bringing Glastonbury to Television
- Keep up with all of the BBC's coverage on the Glastonbury home page.
- Follow @BBCGlasto on Twitter for news, retweets and links from the festival.
- We'll be scanning Twitter for use of the #BBCGlasto hashtag and publishing some of the tweets we find so use the hashtag when you're tweeting about the BBC's Glastonbury coverage.
- The picture of Bruce at last year's festival was taken by Steve Barney, one of our regular festival photographers.