No mud, only grilled flesh at Glastonbury

THIS YEAR'S Glastonbury festival might have been the last if it had descended into the mudbath of the past two years, the organiser of Europe's biggest rock festival disclosed yesterday. But the event, now in its 29th year, seemed yesterday to have been saved by the sun which made the going dry for the 60,000 who had already reached the Somerset site.

Michael Eavis, the farmer who has organised all the Glastonbury festivals, and whose wife Jean died from cancer a month ago, said he had been given a fillip by the atmosphere created by the good weather. "It is a remarkable comeback," said Mr Eavis. "I haven't seen people so happy here for a long time. No matter how brave a face we put on it, it would have killed it if we had had three washouts in a row.

"The land recovers after the mud, and we had all the clover and buttercups we needed this year, but it gets difficult makingpeople come if it's going to be a struggle with the weather."

For the first time in six years the festival didn't sell all its 100,000 tickets in advance, a change that Mr Eavis attributes to the weather conditions of the past two years. Organisers expect the remainder of the tickets will be sold eventually, as people within driving distance see that the weather may offer nothing worse than some thunderstorms in Pilton on Saturday night. Where, for the past two years, there have been festival-goers dun-coloured through mixing with mud, yesterday there were just acres of slowly grilling flesh. Sunshine, and temperatures in the high 20s centigrade, meant Wellington boot riots were replaced by a run on factor 15 sun-block.

"I can't remember when I've seen people quite so excited," said Mr Eavis. "It's as if having to survive all the mud and the rain of previous years, means that this year everyone is enjoying it all the more."

The big draws at the festival this year are the Manic Street Preachers, the indie band Gomez, REM, Texas, the Chemical Brothers, and Underworld. Also on the lengthy bill for the seven music stages are Blondie, Beautiful South, Fun Lovin' Criminals, and a few musical icons - the soul legend Al Green, former Clash frontman Joe Strummer, skiffle star Lonnie Donegan, and the punk poet Patti Smith. Over the weekend there will be 300 acts.

What some would see as another part of the festival's street credibility had also been guaranteed yesterday afternoon by the 222 crimes reported to Avon and Somerset police. Patrick Rawlings, 33, a stallholder from West London, said traders were especially on the lookout for groups of thieves.