Glastonbury festival secures its future with five-year deal on crowd control

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The Independent Culture

The future of the Glastonbury festival has been secured for the next five years after a deal was reached between the event's founder and a promotion company yesterday.

Michael Eavis finally agreed to let the Mean Fiddler group control the large crowds after disputes threatened to scupper the agreement.

Mr Eavis was concerned that by handing over part-control to the Mean Fiddler, the largest event management company in Britain, the festival's reputation could be tarnished by commercialism. In return for allowing Mr Eavis to keep artistic control of the event, the Mean Fiddler group will be rewarded with a 20 per cent share of the net profits, increasing to 40 per cent within the five years of the deal.

The involvement of Mean Fiddler had been a central issue insisted on by district councillors before they would grant a licence for the festival.

The council had been concerned about security problems at previous festivals.

The last time the festival, the biggest event of its kind in Europe, was held, in June 2000, about 200,000 people attended, 100,000 of whom did not have tickets and broke into the grounds of Mr Eavis's farm at Pilton, Somerset. Mr Eavis had to pay a fine of £6,000. He called off the three-day event scheduled for last year.

Mendip District Council has approved a licence for a crowd of 140,000 to cover the costs of the extra security measures including £1m of new fencing.

Police have also expressed concerns at how non-ticket holders would be dissuaded from attending the event but, after a meeting between Mr Eavis and the Mean Fiddler yesterday, they announced they had reached a "fundamental understanding" that was needed to safeguard the festival's "spirit" for the coming years.

Mr Eavis said that, after the setbacks of previous years, the festival had to run smoothly this year. Gatecrashers were threatening the festival, which raises thousands of pounds for charity, he warned.

"I suppose I was fundamentally letting go of part of the festival, which was kind of difficult for me. I've been running Glastonbury since I was a small boy," he said. "We [Mr Eavis and Mean Fiddler] had some misunderstandings. I don't know why. They have all been resolved now."

He said all the charities who benefited from the festival would be paid their cuts before any of the profits were split.

Melvin Benn, the managing director of the Mean Fiddler, said: "The Mean Fiddler intend to make no spiritual changes to the festival. We will really be much behind the scenes and ensuring the festival is secure."

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