AFTER 24 years of free love and good vibrations - as well as much disharmony with the locals - the future of Europe's biggest (and often muddiest) rock festival, at Glastonbury, is in doubt. Michael Eavis, organiser of the event, tells me he will not stage the festival again unless a delicate dispute with the Performing Right Society is satisfactorily resolved.
The PRS, which collects royalty payments for its 26,000 members, has until now charged the festival pounds 35,000 for the services of Suede, the Velvet Underground and their like, but has now decided to double the fee to pounds 70,000. 'We've been doing them a favour for a long time,' a spokesman said. 'We used to think they were different from other events, but they're not.'
Mr Eavis has his own theory for the increase, however. He suggests the PRS needs more money to help to pay for an pounds 11m computer project scrapped earlier this year. He says he has 'played fair' and stuck to his principle of ensuring that any profits go to charity or the following year's festival. 'We have 1,000 volunteers working here for free. Most of our music doesn't even concern the PRS; it's not people like Phil Collins playing here, its people on didgeridoos,' he says.
NO DOUBT stung by accusations of wastefulness last summer, when it spent pounds 55.5m of taxpayers' money on its new headquarters in Leeds, which includes a 25m heated swimming pool, squash courts, gym and sports hall, executives at the Government's Benefits Agency appear to have tightened their belts for Christmas. If the Christmas card received by the BBC's social affairs editor, Polly Toynbee, is anything to go by, the agency feels postage should be paid for by the recipient, not the sender. 'I had to pay a 34p surcharge for the card,' Ms Toynbee told me with some venom. 'I've no idea why they sent me one in the first place.'
JOHN MAJOR's Parliamentary Private Secretary, Graham Bright, has been criticised in some quarters for not keeping the Prime Minister in touch with backbench opinion. Unfair, some say, because all Mr Major needed to do was read the newspapers (which he did religiously until recently). Come the new year, we should discover the Prime Minister's true feelings about his PPS with the publication of the New Year Honours. A knighthood for Mr Bright, I'm told, although this isn't necessarily the accolade it sounds - some MPs receive their summons to the Palace en route to retirement or the sack.
A move for Mr Bright is certainly on the cards in line with the beefing up of the Downing Street operation (Chris Meyer replacing Gus O'Donnell as Mr Major's press secretary, and the possible creation of a new co-ordinating post, to be known as Minister of State). However, I'm told he may remain by the Prime Minister's side until the summer, when a job in a department such as environment or transport is a possibility.
A CURIOUS addition to the vocational A-levels John Patten is encouraging students to take. At Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, students can now do their homework for a certificate in windsurfing.
SPORT's growing infatuation with fashion and advertising has already resulted in cricketers wearing pyjamas and footballers being covered with lager advertisements. Now, I gather, three-day eventers are also getting the treatment. Both the British and German teams wear traditional black hats and white jerseys, but in future - partly to differentiate the teams and partly to give the British a bit more pizzazz - they may wear a new strip designed by the St Martin's School of Art. Team members are not pleased. 'Why can't the Germans change?' moaned William Fox-Pitt, one of the senior stars. 'It should be something distinguished and simple, not stripey or starry.'
A DAY LIKE THIS
22 December 1916 Ishobel Ross, a nurse serving with the Scottish Women's Hospitals unit in Serbia, records in her diary: 'Today we saw an enemy aeroplane chased by a French one. It was very exciting to watch as they darted across the sky dodging in and out of the clouds. They eventually disappeared from sight. The pilots are brave whatever side they fight on. Tonight was a great night. There was a Slava (party) in our tent on the strength of our Christmas box from Colonel Withers. Hughie, Sheila, James, James, Dr Scott, Ethel, Adam, Woody, Dr Muncaster, and I were all there. We had the tent arranged beautifully with our trunks in the centre for a table, and we had roast turkey, tongue, fruit salad and cream cake, sweet and champagne. We made such a noise that Matron came up three times to scold us and we are to be reported to Dr Bennett in the morning. We enjoyed it all immensely and feel very indebted to Colonel Withers.'Reuse content