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Jo & Cerys: Our essential guide to getting into the Glastonbury groove

 

With more than 150,000 revellers set to descend on Worthy Farm for another Glastonbury, Joe Nerssessian catches up with the BBC stalwarts Jo Whiley and Cerys Matthews, who will be broadcasting live from the now world-famous festival.

Next week, as in almost every year towards the end of June, dozens of the world's biggest music stars will descend on a small village in Somerset to throw one hell of a party.

The first time was 47 years ago, when dairy farmer Michael Eavis charged people a £1 entry fee (including free milk) to see a line-up topped by T-Rex.

In that time, Glastonbury Festival Of Contemporary Performing Arts - to give the event its full title - has seen its attendance boom from 1,500 to more than 150,000, and it has forged itself as one of the world's greatest festivals.

The real buzz arrives when the city of colourful tents rolls out in front of you, according to Glastonbury veteran Jo Whiley, who will return once again this year for the BBC's radio and TV coverage alongside Lauren Laverne, Huw Stephens, Clara Amfo and a host of others.

"It reminds me of when you're a kid in the car on a long journey," she says, "and your mum and dad say, 'Who's going to see the sea first?' and when you get that first glimpse, you get a physical reaction to it - it's just a really special feeling.

"It's a really special place, especially at night, when the sun is going down and the hazy colours are beautiful."

This year's event will see Radiohead return to the Pyramid Stage on the 20th anniversary of their apocalyptic Glastonbury set.

Thom Yorke and co will be joined at the top of the bill by newcomers Ed Sheeran (right) and Foo Fighters.

Sheeran is coming off the back of a stellar six months in which he has dominated the UK charts following the release of his third album, Divide, and will be "brilliant", Whiley claims.

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Ed Sheeran

"Ed's never been a man who's shy of a big crowd," she says. "Nothing is daunting for him. I've never seen him fazed by anything. This will be a huge moment in his career and he'll make every single second matter."

She expects the Foos to "pull out all the stops" after the band had to withdraw from the festival in 2015 after Dave Grohl broke his leg.

Glastonbury also caters for mid-Noughties nostalgia fans. Busted, KT Tunstall and Scouting For Girls are all set to perform, and there is also a notable appearance from Liam Gallagher, making his solo debut at the event.

Meanwhile, grime continues to enjoy its moment in the spotlight with collective Boy Better Know headlining the Other Stage. Stormzy is also back and the genre's godfather, Wiley, is returning four years after he lashed out at heavy rain at the festival in a barrage of tweets.

But Glastonbury's muddy reputation has never been a problem for the rapper's near-namesake, as the BBC's Whiley believes any bad weather just enhances the experience.

"The more rain, the more madness that comes with it and the more stories there are," she laughs.

"It's painful because your legs kill you if you've been sludging in mud for four days solid. But it's always good fun and you always see those mud people who have been rolling around in it caked in the stuff, from the top of their heads to the tip of the toes.

"Thank God I'm not one of those people, but they make good telly and they make good stories."

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Jo Whiley

For her BBC colleague, Cerys Matthews, it's the magic of Eavis that has maintained Glastonbury's community spirit. Singer-turned-broadcaster Matthews first attended the event as a member of Catatonia and will return this year to once again present for Radio 2.

"I think a lot of that is at Michael's door," she says. "He's such a wonderful, wonderful man and a great character and that was one of my first highlights ever at Glastonbury.

"When we played it as Catatonia in 1998 or 1999, he was side stage. They never give encores because the schedule is so tight, but he came on and said, 'Cerys, do a couple more songs.'

"At the end of those songs he gave us all a blanket because it had been pouring with rain.

"So it's that personal touch again, and I think what makes it so great is memory-makers like that and it boils down to good people and finding like-minded people. We're not reminded about that enough, about community."

Like-minded people hits the nail on the head too for Whiley. She describes turning up on site as being like a family reunion.

"People who I've worked with at Glastonbury, cameramen and women, BBC production staff, police officers, everyone just happens upon each other for that one weekend of the year and everyone is accepting," she says.

"You arrive and you're with like-minded people, your people. People who dress outrageously, who love music and behave outrageously. I just look at them and go, 'These are my people'."

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Cerys Matthews

Last year's event was overshadowed by Britain's EU referendum, with thousands of festival-goers waking up to a Leave vote on the Friday morning. Political discussions dominated conversation and dozens of EU flags were hoisted into the air by Remain-voters.

Whiley compares that odd feeling to the death of Michael Jackson a few years earlier, which also broke overnight on the Thursday.

"I remember turning up on the Friday morning and walking round in an absolute daze and doing a radio show as people were trying to come to grips with him dying," she says.

"It's good to be amongst a community of people when something traumatic happens like that," Whiley adds, which is exactly what this music extravaganza has retained above all else.

  • Jo Whiley and Cerys Matthews are part of the BBC presenting team bringing coverage of Glastonbury 2017 to BBC TV, Radio, Online and iPlayer

From hard rock to dance and politics

FRIDAY

If you're heading down to Worthy Farm, perhaps don't go too hard on Thursday night as opening the Pyramid Stage - and festival proper - on Friday morning are two former Hacienda DJs who reinvent club classics with a full orchestra. Graeme Park and Mike Pickering will be joined by New Order's Peter Hook and the Manchester Camerata Orchestra in the prestigious opening slot. The aforementioned Radiohead will take to the same stage several hours later while Anderson Paak And The Free Nationals, The Flaming Lips, Lorde and the BBC's Annie Mac are also among the Friday performers across the festival.

SATURDAY

In what could possibly be dubbed the worst kept secret in Glastonbury history, Foo Fighters will headline on Saturday night, two years after they pulled out when Dave Grohl broke his leg. In a great example of Glastonbury's diversity, Alt-J are heading up The Other Stage while Liam Gallagher, Wiley and Solange are all playing.

SUNDAY

Ed Sheeran takes to the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night, a year after another huge British export did the same. While Adele played Saturday night, Sheeran will have the added responsibility of closing the festival. In the afternoon 'legends' slot, which has previously blown the socks off experienced performers such as Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton, will be funk heroes Chic ft Nile Rodgers. Elsewhere, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will be speaking at The Left Field if politics is more your thing, and grime collective Boy Better Know will headline The Other Stage.

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