BBC Music Blog
  1. BBC Music
  2. Blog Home
« Previous | Main | Next »

Glastonbury and BBC TV: How it works

Post categories:

Mark Cooper Mark Cooper | 17:21 UK time, Thursday, 23 June 2011

Glastonbury 2010 Pyramid Stage

I have been covering Glastonbury Festival for BBC TV since 1997. Every year this week makes me feel like I am a nervous farmer just before harvest, scanning the skies anxiously. Of course the weather will be what the weather will be and it never seems to dampen that famous Glastonbury spirit that enables a city to spring up in a valley outside Glastonbury almost overnight and for those sudden citizens to behave with Caribbean charm and good manners while they are together in Avalon.

Although I have been covering Glastonbury for 15 years I have spent most of my time at the festival trudging between the trucks from which we broadcast that back onto the Pyramid Stage and across the stream to the BBC compound where our central presentation position and our catering tent resides. That's a long and squelchy trudge when it's muddy.....

Our coverage has grown over the years and now spreads across BBC Two, Three and Four, red button and online at with the attendant catch-up services, not to mention the substantial coverage on BBC 6 Music with support from Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 4.This year we are filming the Pyramid, Other, West Holts, John Peel and BBC Introducing stages and bringing some 15 different artists from the Dance Village to the Acoustic, Spirit of '71 and Avalon Stages to the BBC TWO presentation area to perform for the channel. We have around 38 hours of broadcast across the terrestrial and digital channels, half-hour highlights from a wealth of sets will go up on BBC online and hopefully even more will rotate on red button.

Glastonbury is surely the richest and most eclectic three day live music event in Europe and probably the world and the BBC's coverage across the weekend is undoubtedly the largest and most ambitious live music TV broadcast going. Being big means trying to create real appointment to view moments with the headliners who regard the last slot on the Pyramid Stage as a date with destiny. We broadcast these headline moments live to air these days and try and build up to them like a boxing match as BBC Two comes on air to catch the electricity of Bono and co, finally stepping off their own gargantuan tour to show they can still deliver as a four-piece, in a field with a festival crowd that isn't the regular U2 punter they encounter at their own gigs. We work hard with each act to capture their performance distinctly as they adjust the stage and bring their screens, lasers and what have you to bear on their career-defining moment.

BBC Three tries to show the audience substantial amounts of the likes of Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, Plan B and Mumford & Sons while BBC Four offers heritage performers including Morrissey, BB King and Kool and the Gang. Television hours means we can't show all of each artist and many of the artists don't always want us to show all of everything, as they or the BBC may be faced with technical problems, playing in a field in quick turnaround without much of a soundcheck.

Glastonbury is so impossibly rich - just study the list of artist and stages on the Glastonbury and BBC websites that it's impossible to capture it all. We have crews out in the field bringing you live and edited reports from far-flung areas like Block 9 and The Rabbit Hole and alongside those acoustic moments, we bring cabaret performers and poets to our presentation area to try and hint at what the festival has to offer. Changing between BBC services isn't quite like stumbling in the dark between stages but the BBC's multi-platform offer is all about choice and we try to use our services not only to bring you the big Glastonbury moments but also to discover some of those unpredictable and surprising treats that you stumble accidentally upon and that make Glastonbury the greatest festival in the world.

Did I already say that?

Mark Cooper is the Creative Head, Music Entertainment

  • BBC executive Andy Parfitt blogged on the logistics and staffing involved in pulling the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury together last week

  • 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 official Glastonbury Festivals site is via

  • Comments

    • Comment number 1.

      Thank you! :)

      Will the BBC Four coverage be broadcasting without the DOG this weekend like last year?

    • Comment number 2.

      Beyonce was what she is, she was showing her knickers while shaking her big asssssss
      but was not what Glastonbury is about.
      Now i understood Noel Gallagher, was unleshed for all the pop rubish that only sells
      Glastonbury line up it is about "Greatness" remembering ... She was not like that,
      Kool and the Gang was what the show was about. greatness

    • Comment number 3.

      i think Beyonce was hopeless nothing new, the same thing you can see in a lap dance, Glastonbury its about being a greatness moment, she was not
      i can understand Noel Gallagher now, all the commercial rubbish was unleashed GOD FORGIVE FOR THIS SIN, it is the end of greatness from now on you can expect the Spice Girls in Glastonbury

    • Comment number 4.

      utterly utterly sick of wittering presenters - and i actually like mark radcliffe etc - shut up with the presenters and play the music - unless the artists record companies have you by the danglies that is - no? - then more than 1 track from headliners

    • Comment number 5.

      This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

    • Comment number 6.

      I mostly enjoyed the coverage, as mentioned above, there could have been more band coverage and less presenter time. As with all other years, the presnters try to pretend they mucking in with the general public and are experiencing the real Glastonbury, but we all know they never leave the VIP area unless in a 4x4 to get them to their next vip area, of course the cosmetic mud spashes are always added. 7/10 I think is a fair score for the BBC coverage

    • Comment number 7.

      The Gaslight Anthem were on the red button on Saturday. So how come their set isn't on the BBC website? C'mon - it's not like you didn't film it. Get a grip!

    • Comment number 8.

      I don't see why it is not not possible to open up the coverage earlier on in the day at Glastonbury from when the performances start? BBC 3 and 4 lie redundant most of the time, is it the cost, I suppose it is, but a waste of a resource. Perhaps some of the vast sums in the bbc's coffers can go to opening up these channels?

      The very handsomely renumerated presenters to a person are all very irritating and unnecessary screen presences - I'd just like to hear the music - it's simple!? Get rid of all those irritating presenters and open up the channel.

    • Comment number 9.

      I'm so utterly sick and tired of hearing about Beyonce or Coldplay on the BBC. I saw such amazing talent on the smaller stages that was, predictably, completely criminally overlooked by the coverage. Bonobo on the Wow! stage, DJ Kormac at Chai Wallahs, The Destroyers at Club Dada, the list goes on and on... John Peel must be spinning in his grave!

    • Comment number 10.

      The arguements against Beyonce being the headliner at Glasto, are so similar to those made against JayZ a couple of years back. The truth is, they were both excellent. They are both stars...... full stop. And that is the thing about Glastonbury,you can have anyone headline. It is not a rock festival, it is not a pop festival, it is an arts festival and as such covers so many genres. There is something for everyone, rock, pop, blues, jazz, folk, dance, poetry, drama, comedy, theatre, performance art, DJ's......the list is endless. So the choice of headliner is never going to please everyone who attends, let alone the millions that watch the coverage from the comfort of their armchair. The tens of thousands watching and enjoying Beyonce, clearly showed that the Eavis family chose correctly, again! Just like they always seem to do. Its a thankless task...... but somebody has to do it. And i for one am glad they do.

      P.S. Can we have the Wombles headlining in 2013 please?


    More from this blog...

    BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

    This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.