Rolf Harris kicks off Glastonbury festival

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The Independent Culture

Australian entertainer Rolf Harris kicked off Glastonbury Festival's 40th anniversary today with a set full of wobble boards and antipodean charm.

The 80-year-old prompted smiles and dancing among a huge crowd who had braved the early start to catch his eclectic show on the Pyramid Stage.

With the sun beating down, Harris played favourites Two Little Boys, Waltzing Matilda and Stairway to Heaven.

Harris, who found fame as an artist and cartoonist in the 1950s before adding comedy and music to his repertoire, prompted mass singalongs and even led his fans in chants of "There's only one Rolf Harris".

During his rendition of Irish folk classic Irish Rover while singing the lyric about the poor captain's dog drowning, Harris raised a giggle by adding "but we took him down to the Animal Hospital and he is going to make it" in reference to his former television show.

When revellers finally poked their heads from their tents this morning they were greeted with a Glastonbury rarity - blazing sunshine.

Wellington boots were relegated to the rucksack as flip-flops, mini-skirts, shorts and T-shirts - packed more in hope than necessity - became the must-wear items.

And the weathermen agree - it is going to be a belter with predictions of the hottest weekend of the year ahead.

Steve Ellison, a forecaster for Meteogroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said fears of a downpour were disappearing.

"Today is going to be warm and very sunny," he said. "No-one will be getting wet at Glastonbury today.

"Overnight temperatures will drop but it is not going to be cold.

"Tomorrow will be another hot one and Sunday appears to offer more of the same."

The festival, held at Worthy Farm, near Pilton, in Somerset, started in 1970.

For £1 the 1,500 guests enjoyed a set by glam rock star Marc Bolan and free milk from the dairy.

The annual gathering is now the world's biggest open-air music festival, with more than 140,000 revellers expected at the 900-acre site.

Tonight cartoon rockers Gorillaz will headline the main stage after stepping in at the last minute to replace U2 whose frontman Bono had to undergo back surgery, ruling the Irish favourites out.

Gorillaz - the brainchild of Blur's Damon Albarn - are a virtual band made up of characters 2D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs.

But tonight Albarn and a host of stars including music legend Lou Reed, Madchester pioneer Shaun Ryder and The Fall's famously grumpy frontman Mark E Smith will perform. Organiser Michael Eavis has predicted the headline show will be a "massive audio-visual spectacle which will really ignite" the festival. It will be Albarn's second Glastonbury headline slot in as many years after reforming Blur for a triumphant gig at last year's festival.

Also on stage later will be American singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, indie darlings Florence and the Machine and Brit rapper Dizzee Rascal.

Tomorrow space-age rock outfit Muse headline the main stage while '80s electronic duo the Pet Shop Boys top the bill on the Other Stage.

And on Sunday Stevie Wonder closes the festival.

So far there have been 304 reported crimes on site and 54 arrests. Yesterday police said there had been an increase in thefts from tents but generally crime was low.

Medical staff have treated 1,185 people, mainly for heat-related problems.

One doctor outside the medical tent said: "It is up on last year but it is minor stuff. People need to wear sun cream and cover their heads."

Overnight police also received a complaint from a confused villager in nearby Pilton reporting "loud, rave-type music" coming from down the hill.

On the Other Stage punk survivors The Stranglers proved they could still get the crowd pogoing.

Young and older alike sang along with hits No More Heroes and Peaches as the festival - and the weather - began to heat up.

As temperatures reached a sweltering 26C backstage organisers handed out water down in the mosh pit.

Kris Leaver, 48, from Camden Town, London, said the band were good - but it was not quite like the old days.

Proudly sporting his Damned T-shirt he said: "Punk is dead - but every now and then one of the old bands sparks back to life.

"I used to love The Stranglers in the old days. I have seen them lots of times but time has caught up with me - and them.

"They were excellent though and a lot of the young people here were really loving it."

Ella McEvoy, a student from Bristol, agreed: "They have lots of energy. I know all the hits, of course, but I have never seen them live.

"We were just strolling past and got drawn in. I am glad we did."

The 22-year-old, at her first Glastonbury, added: "The whole thing is a lot different from what I imagined. I got here early this morning and it has been a bit of a whirlwind.

"There is a different vibe to any other event I have been to. I haven't ventured into the loos yet, though."

The Stranglers - also at their first Glastonbury - asked the crowd to help with the vocals for hit Always The Sun and the sunbathed revellers belted out every word.

Singer Jean-Jacques Burnel asked the crowd as the bass riff of Peaches rang out: "Glorious Glastonbury - is it hot enough for you? I hope you brought some protection."