'Virtual Glastonbury' will have the bands ­ but not the mud

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The Independent Online

Michael Eavis, the Glastonbury Festival organiser who was forced to cancel this year's event because of fears over gatecrashers, has agreed with an internet music site to stage a unique online concert instead.

The first virtual festival, as it is being billed by the internet site Playlouder, which is organising the event, will include live performances from headline artists as well as highlights of performances from the last six years of festivals.

Wading about in foot-high mud is not everyone's idea of fun, but for die-hard music fans Glastonbury is a three-day extravaganza not to be missed. It was called off this year by Mr Eavis, a Somerset farmer, because of the large numbers of people who climbed over the fence at last year's event to gain free entry.

Mendip District Council brought a prosecution against Mr Eavis in March for breaking the Public Entertainment Licence and the farmer is considering putting up a £1m fence at the site to prevent the same thing happening again. Although magistrates in Frome recognised his efforts to run a safe event, they fined his firm £6,000 with £9,000 costs, and he was threatened with heavy fines if the same thing happened this year.

The mud will be missing but the organisers are pledging that the essence of the festival will remain. Mr Eavis said: "We have taken a year off and come up with an idea of virtual Glastonbury 2001. Some of the atmosphere will be captured on the screen and the Worthy Farm spirit will prevail."

He has teamed up with Playlouder for the second time to form a collaboration that will enable Glastonbury to go ahead. Playlouder broadcast last year's festival for eight hours over three days.

Bands including Stereophonics, Gorillaz and Basement Jaxx will be taking the "main stage" this year, while the website will also offer a "dance tent" and "comedy tent".Logging on to the website will be free and guests will be invited to make donations to three charities: Greenpeace, Oxfam and Wateraid.

Paul Hitchman, managing director of Playlouder, said: "We're working with MSN, one of the world's biggest service providers, to cope with the necessary demand on resources. The internet provides a fantastic way of promoting the music and ideals of the festival to a worldwide audience."

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