New age of pounds 75 pop

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The Independent Online
It's back, and this time it means business. Glastonbury, the legendary three-day festival of music, arts and alternative life, is set to return in June after a two-year absence - and the organisers hope it will be bigger, slicker and harder to sneak into than ever before.

There's another difference: none of the thousands of fans, who will have paid pounds 75 a ticket, find out which bands they're going to see until two days before gates open.

However, if you wanted Dylan but got Sacha Distel, you might try complaining to the local member of parliament, who by then could be 60-year-old dairy farmer Michael Eavis - better known to a generation of hippies, as Mr Glastonbury, the grand wizard of alternative alfresco entertainment.

Tomorrow, Mr Eavis's application for a licence to increase attendance at the festival from 80,000 to 100,000, goes before Mendip District Council. In the Eighties, he took the council to court three times over its refusal to grant a licence - and won.

From a ragged gathering of 1,500 flower children in 1970, the festival, organised by Mr Eavis and held at his home, Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset, has become Britain's largest outdoor music event. Despite the growth of rivals such as Reading, Phoenix and Womad, Glastonbury regularly pulls in an official crowd of up to 80,000 a day as well as several thousand "fence-hoppers" who manage to find a way on to the 400-acre site.

Twenty-seven years ago the first - and only -- attraction was Marc Bolan, but by 1995 Oasis and Pulp were headlining, with 150 other groups and solo artists. The first Glastonbury was a word-of-mouth affair, but the most recent produced a turnover of pounds 5m and was televised by C4. This year, BBC2 and Radio 1 are offering continuous coverage and highlights.

But the increase in size and in emphasis on big names has become a headache for the organisers. "Thousands of fans turn up to see Oasis, rather than for the whole festival," says Eavis. His solution is to withhold the names of the stars.

The Glastonbury Festival, 27-29 June (0839 668899).