The BBC’s Glastonbury Festival TV coverage is the “jewel in the crown” and the team behind it have thought about “how to give everyone the magic of Glastonbury”, the executive producer behind this year’s TV output has said.
The much-anticipated festival returns this week for the first time in three years after the pandemic forced organisers to cancel twice.
In celebration of its 50th year, Sir Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish and rapper Kendrick Lamar will headline the Pyramid stage, while Diana Ross will fill the Sunday teatime legends slot.
The BBC will bring audiences coverage across “all four of the linear TV networks” which has “never happened”, and it will also broadcast its “biggest offering on the iPlayer”, executive producer for BBC television Alison Howe said.
She told the PA news agency: “An awful lot goes into it. We love what we do but we work really long hours to make sure it’s as good as it can be.
“We spend a lot of time planning it, I’m thinking about it all the time, even though I work on lots of other shows for the BBC.
“It is part and parcel of your life if you work in live music coverage, it’s the jewel in the crown really so we want to have thought about everything.
“An awful lot goes into it in physical terms and then a great deal of planning, executing, considering, dealing with, and the hours on site are long, there’s no getting around that.
“But everybody who comes to work with us at the festival, they don’t really think about that, they just think about being there and having the best job in the world at that moment in time.”
Ms Howe, who has worked on festival coverage every year since 1992, said it continuously gets “bigger and better” which has “only been heightened by the pandemic”.
“What we’ve thought about this year is how to give everyone the magic of Glastonbury.
“That kind of unique position it has both physically – in that it’s in the middle of the countryside on a dairy farm – and the kind of aura where it spiritually fits and then all these great artists and performances that happens on the site,” she said.
This year, the BBC has “moved on technically” bringing Ultra High Definition (UHD) filming to the Pyramid stage which is a “big step”.
“I think that’s the beginning of a journey in terms of the technical aspects of capturing a lot of live music, it’s exciting,” Ms Howe said.
Speaking about the festival’s return, she added: “I think quite excited would be an understatement, really excited and honoured because we don’t take it for granted that we get to do this all the time.
“We have a brilliant working relationship with the Eavis family and all the people that bring the festival together, the BBC is sort of part of that family.
“There’s no question that the festival and the BBC have sort of grown together over the years.
“The whole BBC team comes together, that’s the best bit about it because that’s when the BBC is at its best I think, when it all just works together on one thing like it has done at the Jubilee and big sporting events… I hope that we do the BBC and the audience proud.”
The BBC will be broadcasting across TV, radio, BBC Sounds, BBC iPlayer and online, from headline shows on the Pyramid Stage to emerging artists on the BBC Music Introducing stage.
Coverage will be brought to audiences by some of the BBC’s best-loved presenters, including Clara Amfo, Dermot O’Leary, Jack Saunders, Lauren Laverne, Vick Hope and Zoe Ball – all broadcasting live from Worthy Farm.
Laverne will broadcast from the gates on Wednesday as the first festival-goers enter the site, while All Day Glastonbury will continue on 6 Music throughout the weekend in addition to coverage on Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra and Radio 2.
The BBC’s dedicated Glastonbury channel is set to launch on June 23, presenting a four-day stream of live performances and preview programmes.
Wells MP James Heappey said there is “great excitement” that the Glastonbury festival is returning in his constituency after a three-year hiatus.
He told the PA news agency: “It’s great to have the festival back after the pandemic.
“It contributes an enormous amount to the local economy and whilst we’re always keen that the organisers work closely with the local authorities to minimise disruption for residents, it’s with great excitement that we welcome stars from around the world, and hundreds of thousands of music lovers, to our corner of Somerset this weekend.”
Similarly, on Twitter Kylie Minogue said performing on the Glastonbury Legend stage in 2019 was “one of the most amazing moments” of her life and she hopes everyone has “the most amazing time this year.”
The Somerset festival will host around 200,000 visitors from Wednesday, with more than 80 artists set to perform, including US pop star Olivia Rodrigo, Lorde and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
However, festival-goers will face difficulties arriving at the site in Pilton amid three days of major rail strikes in the biggest outbreak of industrial action in a generation.
Only a fifth of trains were running on Tuesday as around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Jon Collins, the chief executive of Live – the voice of the UK’s live music business – told the PA news agency: “This is one of the biggest weekends of the year for live music fans, with Glastonbury and British Summer Time (festivals) both taking place for the first time in three years, due to the pandemic.
“However, fans and staff now face severe delays and potential safety risks as they are forced to choose alternative routes.
“While we recognise the legitimacy of this action, our sector is facing a perfect storm of fragile consumer confidence, rising costs, inflation, and supply chain issues, meaning we frankly cannot take the impact of further strikes threatened this autumn.
“On top of this week, any additional action will have hugely negative impacts on a sector that is already on a cliff-edge.”
In a statement, Glastonbury festival added that due to the additional traffic, festival-goers could arrive at the site from 4pm on Tuesday evening while “traffic volumes are low”.
The Glastonbury line-up also includes new acts such as Arlo Parks, Doja Cat, Easy Life, Fontaines DC and Griff, alongside established names including Crowded House, Primal Scream and Supergrass.
Pet Shop Boys will be headlining The Other Stage in a “long-awaited” performance, while former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant will appear alongside American country and bluegrass star Alison Krauss, following the release of their second collaborative album.
Three Ukrainian acts, including 2016 Eurovision winner Jamala, will bring an anti-war message to the site and there will be talks about climate change, Black Lives Matter and Russia.
Glastonbury 2022 takes place from June 22 to June 26 and tickets are sold out.