Glastonbury the movie: the next best thing to being there

A call for old festival footage led to hundreds of hours of performances turning up and being edited into an evocative account of everyone's favourite mudfest. By Ian Burrell
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The Independent Online

They don't call Dave Henderson the "Monster of Rock" for nothing. As head of Emap's string of music mags Q, Kerrang! and Mojo, he has built an association with the Glastonbury festival that has spawned a whole media empire.

Not only does Q produce the daily newspaper at Glasto but, with the festival not taking place this year, its readers have helped to provide much of the footage for a feature film that will serve as virtual alternative.

Together with the readers of Mojo, in which notices were also placed asking for amateur film from Glastonbury, the Q readers have supplied hundreds of hours of material for director Julien Temple to work with.

The film will be released this month but has already triggered a host of spin-off projects, in the shape of soon-to-be-released Glastonbury CDs and DVDs, dedicated to the performances of specific bands at the world's most famous festival.

The first in a series on a new Glastonbury label ("It will be like the Peel Sessions," says Henderson) will showcase Pulp and their appearances at the 1994, 1995 and 1998 festivals. More CD/DVDs are planned with Orbital, Stereophonics and Paul Weller. A 30-minute EP of the The Cure is also lined up, in spite of singer Robert Smith having been previously convinced that the 1986 performance was "never filmed", until it was discovered in a BBC archive.

The relationship between Emap and Glastonbury goes back nine years to when the company attempted to profile its brands at the festival. The wily festival organiser Michael Eavis might be a farmer but he's so media savvy, you'd think he'd been lunching in Charlotte Street all his life. Using the argument "What can you give back to the punters?", Eavis, who will be 70 this year, used his powers of persuasion to get Emap to produce a 50,000-circulation free newspaper for every day of the festival, working out of two Portakabins and distributing across the fields.

Henderson and his team rose to the challenge, even sending up a helicopter to photograph the tented city that Eavis's Worthy Farm usually becomes for a few days at the end of June. Eavis was so impressed with the results that he "rewarded" the journalists by placing straw on top of the mud around the Portakabin. "By the end of the festival we all looked like Catweazle," says Henderson.

Q has made the Glastonbury newspaper ever since. From this relationship, Eavis and Henderson, along with director Temple (a West Country local) and the film-maker Robert Richards, put together the idea of a Glastonbury film two and a half years ago. "They asked if Emap would like to help because we knew lots of bands who might have some film in their cupboards," says Henderson. "We also agreed to put something in Q and Mojo asking for people to come forward if they had any Super 8 footage."

The 600 hours of film that the process brought forth contained scenes of excess and eccentricity. "A lot of people don't go to Glastonbury for the bands but to see things they've never seen before," says Henderson.

Temple was staggered by the response. "I had so many options, millions of ways to go. For a while I did go down under it and was quite depressed." The director says his challenge was to "fit this dead VHS stuff which had been left in someone's garage and put it together with other stuff that will make it come alive".

That was not easy. "A lot of it was rubbish, to be honest," he says. But snippets contained moments of spontaneity that would have been hard to capture with a film crew. "Putting a microphone in a tent would kill everything off immediately."

By editing the amateur film together with BBC footage, Temple has created a fantasy festival. "There are many ways you could make a film about Glastonbury but I wanted to do it from the crowd and make the audience feel they're among them."

The film contains coverage of 40 of the most memorable performances seen at Worthy Farm. Featured acts range from Radiohead and Faithless to David Bowie, Björk and The Velvet Underground.

With Eavis taking a year out from Glastonbury, Henderson thinks the film will plug a gap. "When we sold tickets for the festival last year it sold out in less than an hour." And at least you can watch this Glastonbury in the dry.

'Glastonbury' is released on 14 April