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Glastonbury lives on

Philip Stevens notes how this year’s Glastonbury Festival will be different

From the morning of Thursday 25th June to late on Sunday 28th when the 50th anniversary of Glastonbury Festival was due to take place, the BBC will be bringing the spirit of Glastonbury to viewers at home with The Glastonbury Experience across BBC television, iPlayer, radio and BBC Sounds.

With a whole new scenario with which to contend, what has been the thinking behind producing this year’s experience on BBC Two and Four?

“The BBC was keen that the audience still got a Glastonbury weekend,” says Alison Howe, executive producer, BBC Studios. “As a result, we worked with BBC Two and Jan Younghusband, head of BBC Music TV commissioning to come up with an offer that revisits many of the classic moments from the festival, along with digging through the extensive archives to find treats that had rarely or never been seen before.” 

Maintaining the look

The TV schedule is very similar to the way the usual festival schedule looks. That involves starting with early evening shows live on BBC Two that reflect a wide range of artists, then building to a classic headline set (or two) each night along with a complementary offer on BBC Four of single artist sets and acoustic compilations.

Howe continues, “Most of the content is archive driven so that will all be pre-produced by the team. Each evening – Friday to Sunday – there will be a live to air show on BBC Two which will involve utilising a small crew. The editorial team at BBC Studios on Glastonbury is usually quite a small group, so we are used to working in that way and this year is no different. Our usual gallery team is also working with us on the live shows and it’s great to be able to regroup and worth together to bring this unique Glastonbury Experience to life for the audience.”

Alongside archive footage, Howe reveals that there will be a small number of simple acoustic performances within the three live shows. “Live music is such a key part of the festival coverage for us – and the audience, of course – so it’s important for us to keep that element in focus this year – even if on a much-restricted scale.”

Accumulated archive

With so much archive material on offer, Howe says that it hasn’t been easy to narrow the choices down. “We are blessed to have access to such an unrivalled archive from a historic festival and all the artists are keen to be involved. The live performances started being filmed way back in 1994, so we were keen to reflect as many as we can from the early days, whilst balancing some of the artists from more recent years.”

She emphasises that the breadth of artists available from which to choose is staggering. “Sometimes it is quite overwhelming, but as we have been involved with the festival for all those years, we have great knowledge between us as a team. We know where some of the gems hidden away!”

Alongside the BBC Two and Four television coverage, BBC iPlayer will play a major role in recreating the Glastonbury atmosphere for fans this year, including the launch of the first pop-up Glastonbury channel on BBC iPlayer.

Whether it’s setting up tents at home, or making festival flags, food or wristbands, the BBC is inviting audiences to share the unique ways in which they are bringing Glastonbury to life on social media, using the hashtag #Glastonbury2020. The BBC will share a selection of these moments on its own social channels, which will be coming together to invite audiences to the ultimate Glastonbury at home experience.

Complementary coverage

Howe continues, “As we do in a normal festival year, we are working with our colleagues at The One Show. They will link up with our presenters on Friday to set the scene and share some of the treats to come with the audience.” 

In addition, Blue Peter joins The Glastonbury Experience with presenters Lindsey, Richie, Mwasky and children from across the UK performing, dancing, or creating their very own music festivals at home. These presentations will celebrate the much-coveted Blue Peter Music Badge, which was designed by Ed Sheeran, and show user-generated content with self-shot videos from home via the CBBC website. Blue Peter is shown on CBBC on Thursday 25th June at 5.30pm, and CBeebies on Friday 26th June at 5pm. 

Howe concludes, “It has been a planning challenge to deliver so many hours of TV over one weekend in this current climate. We are used to working closely together as a team in delivering the BBC Glastonbury coverage and we have had to work hard to achieve our usual high levels of production. We are thrilled to have over twenty hours of content across BBC Two and Four plus a wonderful offering on the BBC iPlayer to share with the audience. We just need a weekend of sunny weather to complete the package!”