Security worries at Glastonbury as Radiohead and REM line up for festival

Culture Correspondent
Thursday 27 February 2003 01:00

The headliners at this year's Glastonbury festival will be Radiohead, REM – and unprecedented levels of security.

While organisers had not officially confirmed the line-up for the festival yesterday, Radiohead's own website announced that the band would top the bill on the festival's main stage on Saturday 28 June. REM are lined up for Friday night and Prince is expected to close the at the 150,000-ticket event on Sunday 29 June.

However, police said yesterday that they had warned organisers they would no longer subsidise the costs of fighting crime and keeping order. The Avon and Somerset force wrote off £350,000 last year after recouping only £651,000 of its £1m policing bill. The neighbouring Devon and Cornwall and Dorset forces also had unrecoverable costs estimated at £119,000.

Glastonbury 2003 is being allowed to go ahead in spite of objections from a few villagers. Last year organisers put 12ft- high fences around the site, helping to minimise crime at the festival but displacing problems to nearby villages that later complained of burglaries and public disorder. The cost of a ticket goes up from £97 to £105, excluding a booking fee.

Last night, Avon and Somerset police said it would be stepping up its security operation, including initiatives to prevent people being mugged for their tickets or sold forgeries. A spokesman said: "Unfortunately there was a problem outside the fence. People who couldn't get in took their frustrations out on the local community and that is not acceptable. We want to recoup all costs of this year's policing operation from the organisers."

As part of this year's extra policing, additional resources will be allocated to patrolling nearby lanes and installing more road signs and lighting.

Michael Eavis, the festival founder, is also planning to spend £100,000 on installing 50 CCTV cameras in the nearby village of Pilton, the scene last year of disturbances caused by people who had planned to gatecrash the festival but were thwarted by the improved fencing. In an interview on the Glastonbury website, Mr Eavis said: "Last year people were told they could not gatecrash because of the new fence, but about 100 turned up and were a nuisance. There were problems with trespassing and one person broke into two houses and stole clothing and jewellery."

Feelings ran high in the village before a seven-hour meeting of Mendip District Council on 17 February, when a licence was granted for the festival. Many local people are supportive of the event, which has made Glastonbury internationally famous. Weeks ago, the homes of prominent anti-festival campaigners were painted with messages, including: "Glastonbury to Stay, Eavis Rules OK".

Melvin Benn, managing director of Mean Fiddler, the company jointly promoting the festival, told the council trouble would be kept down by the introduction of security measures, such as the appointment of a "village sergeant" to help to keep order in Pilton.

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The licence was awarded after Chris Martin, the frontman with Coldplay, lobbied Mendip council. In an e-mailed letter he called the festival the best live music event in the world. He added: "As a musical and cultural event, the Glastonbury festival is, on both a national and global level, absolutely unparalleled.

"It has launched the careers of countless artists, from Robbie Williams to Radiohead, and has hence played an important part in turning music into one of Britain's most successful exports."

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