Obituary: Jean Eavis
Wednesday 19 May 1999
She was known as the "mother" of Glastonbury. She soothed the troubled nerves of great musicians; she washed, ironed and repatriated lost clothing; and she kept the public face of the festival, her husband Michael Eavis, in check. He says: "She was my moderator. She knew when I was going over the top, getting something wrong. She would rein me in, put me in my place."
She was born Jean Hayball in 1939, the daughter of a major in the Somerset Light Infantry, and later worked as the forewoman in a Somerset factory making Morlands sheepskin coats. She was already married with three daughters when she met a local farmer, Michael Eavis, in the queue outside a fish- and-chip shop in Glastonbury in 1964; they became inseparable.
Along with thousands of others, in 1970 they gate-crashed the Bath Blues Festival where, according to Michael: "We discovered hundreds of thousands of strange and interesting people, the like of whom we had never seen before." By combining the pop festival culture with the rapidly dying West Country tradition of rural fairs, and placing the event on Eavis's Somerset valley farm that extends towards the Tor at Glastonbury, the couple figured they could surpass anything the Bath Festival could muster.
From an audience of 1,500 in September 1970 to a turnout of 100,000 last year (not to mention a budget of pounds 4.25m), the Glastonbury Music Festival has become a major economic force in the region. Jean Eavis was the company secretary and fielded all the telephone calls, hopeful musicians, complaints and aggravation. She was also the first to get stuck in when something needed doing. Last year, for example, she was leading teams of litter- pickers out onto the fields as soon as the crowds began drifting away as she strove to restore her beloved farm to some sense of normality.
Above all, Jean Eavis was a listener, who never let her responsibilities get on top of her. Visitors were nourished, even when they were neighbours, environmental health officials and politicians trying to silence the beat.
The Eavises - who invariably made large donations from the festival profits to causes such as CND and Greenpeace - sometimes suspected a political motivation to their harassment but by last year even the broadsheet newspapers were suggesting that Glastonbury had become a part of the establishment, an accusation the couple were at pains to deny.
Jean and Michael eventually married in 1989, in a joint ceremony with Winston Churchill's granddaughter, Arabella Churchill, and Haggis McLeod. Arabella Churchill had been a visitor at the first festival.
Jean Eavis maintained a dislike of the glitzy lifestyle associated with the world of rock. Even though musicians such as the Gallagher brothers from Oasis were firm friends, she would still be up before dawn keeping the farm - a working dairy farm - on track. Recently the Eavises received a quality award from Unigate Dairy for their outstanding performance.
Jean Hayball, festival promoter and farmer: born Gibraltar 11 May 1939; married 1959 Anthony Lord (three daughters; marriage dissolved 1970), 1989 Michael Eavis (one son, one daughter); died Pilton, Somerset 15 May 1999.
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scientists create transparent mouse complete with see-through organs
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 Amazonian Indian tribe filmed making contact with Brazil village in rare video footage
Game of Thrones actress Aimee Richardson begs for 'other princess work' after Myrcella Baratheon part is recast
New Netflix releases: Films and TV shows coming in August 2014
Cultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
The Walking Dead season 5 will see deaths of 'favourite characters', suggests Andrew Lincoln
Edinburgh Festival 2014: Israeli show The City pulled after pro-Palestinian protests
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
- < Previous
- Next >