The return of Glastonbury Festival after a year off feels like “a big family reunion”, according to organiser Emily Eavis.
Headliners for this summer’s event include The Rolling Stones – performing at their first-ever Glastonbury, Arctic Monkeys and Mumford & Sons, who still plan to take to the stage despite their bassist’s recent hospitalisation for a blood clot.
With just over a week to go until 135,000 music fans flood through the gates of the festival when the campsites open, the finishing touches are being made to the 900-acre site in Somerset that will play host to thousands of acts over a three-day period.
The last Glastonbury Festival was held in 2011, with a year’s break for the Olympics and to allow the land to recover.
Eavis, who runs Glastonbury with her father Michael, said she had to pinch herself when thinking of this year’s star signing.
She told the Press Association: “We still can’t quite believe they’re doing it. The Stones at Worthy Farm! We’ve always wanted them to come and play but with a band like that you never really expect it to happen.
“I still get a shiver thinking about the moment we got the call after all the waiting saying ’it’s on’.
“I think people expect these huge headliners, but actually we don’t have a blank cheque to offer – so we rely on people really wanting to do it for the love of it and that makes it even more special for us.”
There had been a question mark over the appearance of indie folk group Mumford & Sons after bassist Ted Dwane fell ill last week. The most recent statement on the band’s website said that Dwane is “on the road to a full recovery”, but they were forced to cancel the rest of their planned North American tour.
They are due to headline Glastonbury on the final night of the festival.
Eavis said: “Yes, we’re hoping that they’ll be here, so fingers crossed and here’s to a speedy recovery to Ted. I’m sure he and the band will get a heroes’ welcome on the Sunday night when they come on stage.”
She said it was “great” to have the festival back on the farm again.
“We’ve had a year off and it feels like everyone has come back with a lot of energy,” she said.
“We’ve been growing steadily over the past weeks and now have thousands of crew living on the farm working all hours building this thing - it’s quite a sight! There is a great atmosphere too, it feels like a big family reunion.”
Tickets for this year’s festival, which cost £205 each, sold out in a record one hour and 40 minutes. Other highlights fans can expect are appearances from Primal Scream, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Smashing Pumpkins, Elvis Costello, The xx, Public Enemy, Professor Green and Dizzee Rascal.
As usual, the festival is also offering some more unusual acts alongside the chart toppers – with Sir Bruce Forsyth playing on the Avalon Stage on the Sunday, country star Kenny Rogers taking to the main Pyramid Stage the same day, and the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan monks appearing on Thursday, the day before the main musical performances begin.
The Gyuto Monks of Tibet, who live in exile in north India, will be performing chants at the Green Fields site to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tibetan declaration of independence and will also be making a sand mandala, a ceremonial sculpture of coloured sand which is dissolved upon completion.
The Dalai Lama himself has given his support for the monks’ performance, saying: “The work that the Gyuto Monks do in the West has my full support.”
Festival goers should look out for special treats during the Glastonbury weekend, said Eavis, but she added that there would be no “secret acts” on the Park Stage. In past years, The Park, cultivated by Eavis herself, has seen unannounced performances from some of the biggest names in music, with Pulp and Radiohead attracting huge crowds in 2011.
She said: “We haven’t booked in any ’special guest’ slots on the Park Stage this year as it was starting to become a bit too predictable. But as always, there will be a few surprises happening around the festival over the weekend so be alert!”.
As well as the three main music stages, there are more than 20 other areas for festival goers to explore, each with their own individual character.
Eavis said: “There are hundreds of different venues and thousands of performances happening over the weekend so it’s always very hard to highlight individual acts.
“But I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the new features for this year, like the Arctic dome in the Greenpeace field, Genosys in Block 9 and the Blues Sound System area in Silver Hayes, which is the new dance village.
“Arcadia (the late night area) has moved over to the other side of site, by the Glade on the railway line, and they have some pretty spectacular plans for this year which will hopefully be seen by a lot more people in their new location.”
Asked what she was personally most looking forward to, she added: “We’ve just had another baby, so I’m really looking forward to heading down to the kids’ field with the boys.
“It’s such a magical part of the festival and I’d really recommend it to anyone, not just kids. We were very inspired by what goes on in there when we started The Park.”
Also appearing on the Pyramid will be Rita Ora, Jake Bugg, Rufus Wainwright and festival veteran Billy Bragg. Big names on the Other Stage include Portishead - almost 20 years after they released their debut album Dummy – along with Mercury Prize-winners Alt-J and John Lydon’s band PiL. The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes and Foals are included on the bill.
Elsewhere on the huge rural site there will be performances by 1970s’ disco pioneers Chic, Tom Tom Club, Dinosaur Jr, The Horrors and Johnny Marr.