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Goodbye to the Glastonbury promoter who made it great

Michael Eavis parts company with festival management after decade of success

Adam Sherwin
Thursday 28 June 2012 10:17 BST

Wanted: a manager to run Britain's biggest music festival. Must have Jay-Z on speed-dial and be willing to get their wellies dirty.

Glastonbury is about to enter a new era after Michael Eavis parted company with the festival promotion company that helped ensure the event's long-term future.

The 10-year relationship between Melvin Benn, the licence holder at Glastonbury through his Festival Republic company, and the Eavis family, has come to an end, both parties announced in a statement.

Mr Eavis, the dairy farmer who owns the Somerset site, brought in Mr Benn in 2002 to help manage the festival, which was struggling to keep out gatecrashers as its popularity soared.

Mr Benn's company, then called Mean Fiddler, took a 20 per cent stake in Glastonbury and brought a new professionalism to the operation, improving security and helping gain a series of licence renewals, which have secured the festival's future until 2017.

The capacity was increased to 177,500, with superstar headliners including Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen and U2 playing at the event, which began as a haven for hippies in 1970.

Mr Benn and Mr Eavis have now agreed "the time is right for both parties to go their separate ways". Mr Benn said other Festival Republic events, including Latitude, Reading/Leeds and an expanding European operation were now his priorities.

The split will allow "Michael [Eavis] and the Glastonbury team to pick up the reins again and build for the future", the statement said. Mr Benn will oversee the selection of a new operations director.

Mr Eavis said: "I'll be sorry to see him go but he has masses of responsibility with all of his shows across the world and now is a good time to part company. I've got just about the best team in the business and Emily (his daughter) and Nick (Dewey, Emily's music manager husband) are heading up the next generation to take on more responsibility as well."

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It was "business as usual," with registration now open for ticket applications for the festival's return next June, a spokesman for Glastonbury said. Mr Eavis admitted that the decision to take a "year off" during the Olympic summer had proved prescient. "Looking across the farm, I think we were very lucky to choose a good wet year to take out – amazing bit of luck," said the farmer, who already has a "very promising line-up" booked for 2013.

A Glastonbury spokesman said the end of the Festival Republic link would not mean a return to a smaller gathering. A new operations director was needed to manage the 40,000 contractors now employed to stage the event.

Festival Republic held an advantage when booking headline names, since it is majority-owned by Live Nation, the concert giant, which signed exclusive deals with Jay-Z and U2. Festival Republic will retain its stake in the operational company that runs Glastonbury, in a "long term arrangement that genuinely secures the future of the festival," a spokesman said.

Mr Benn said: "I am committed to ensuring as smooth a handover as possible to the new team in Pilton and to enjoying Glastonbury for many years to come as a festival-goer myself."

Mr Benn and Mr Eavis first worked together during the Eighties, when travellers tried to enter the site. By 1990 the tension has escalated, with clashes between travellers and the festival security teams resulting in 235 arrests. Mr Eavis said: "Melvin definitely earned his stripes running the gates for us during the Eighties. This was a difficult time dealing with the closure of Stonehenge, the Battle of the Beanfield and the travellers and my attempts to accept them here at Worthy Farm was exciting but very challenging."

Click here or on "View Gallery" for four decades of Glastonbury in pictures

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