The future of the Glastonbury festival is secure, but the sparkle that has been lost by tightening security and crowd control needs to be rediscovered, Michael Eavis, the organiser, said yesterday.
Mr Eavis said the decision to turn the site at Pilton, near Glastonbury, Somerset, into a fortress – with a £1m fence and £2m security operation – had severely reduced drug-dealing and other crime, and eliminated the overcrowding that marred the festival in 2000 and caused its cancellation last year.
But he said: "We need to get a bit of the old spirit back to the event. Its future is secure, I'm sure it is now, but we've got to make sure it's still popular.''
He admitted that this year's festival had lacked the edge and vibrancy that he had enjoyed in 2000. "I thought that was the best festival, to be honest," Mr Eavis said. "I think 2000 was a real beauty. But for people who were robbed it wasn't. This year, it's a different ball game in terms of crime. This year will be [remembered as] the gentle, mellow one that saved the festival.''
The consensus among regular festival goers appeared to be that the three-day event was more laid-back than in recent times.
Avon and Somerset Police said crime figures were sharply down. While 583 crimes were reported, there had been 1,322 in 2000.
This year's offences included 12 assaults, 78 robberies and 207 thefts, with 136 incidents of property being stolen from tents. Property worth more than £84,000 was stolen, including 169 mobile phones and 236 tickets. Among the 228 people arrested were three security guards for robbery and affray. There were no big drug seizures.
Fewer than 300 crimes had been reported by Saturday evening, but the figure surged overnight with about 150 festival goers having their tickets stolen, many in muggings, on their way to the festival.
A police spokesman said the security fence had proved impossible to break through, and tickets had become valuable currency to criminals intent on theft and robbery from festival goers.
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Staff at the voluntary medical centre had treated 2,000 people by yesterday, compared with 4,000 for the whole of the festival in 2000. The complaints were much less serious and there were no serious cases of drug-related illness.
A police investigation has, however, been sparked by the discovery of the body of a black man early yesterday on the road at the Springfield crossroads, near the festival grounds. Police believe that a stolen white VW camper van found near by might be linked to the death.
Mr Eavis said he was hopeful that this year's largely peaceful gathering would persuade Mendip District Council, the local authority, and Avon and Somerset Police to raise the strictly enforced limit of 100,000 tickets next year.
The police had previously expressed severe concerns about organisation after as many as double the legal limit crowded the site in 2000. But Mr Eavis said he hoped an extra 20,000 people would increase the buzz and please stallholders, some of whom were suffering reduced takings.
Although most of the travellers stayed away this year in the light of the strict ticket policy, Mr Eavis said he hoped the more creative among them would be able to take part in future years.
Musically, some felt this year's line-up lacked the star appeal of bands such as Oasis at previous festivals. Coldplay, Stereophonics and Rod Stewart were among the headline acts for 2002.
Mr Eavis admitted he was "maybe slightly disappointed'' with the playlist. "We haven't got Madonna, the Stones or U2," he said, "but there is lots of stuff we have got."
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