The head of BBC Music Television reveals the ten vital things that have to be considered before televising this week’s Glastonbury Festival
1. Our audience
Since BBC TV joined Radio 1 at Glastonbury in 1997, the BBC offer has grown and grown. In 2015 we’ll carry 30 hours of the festival across four channels, plus live streaming in HD of six stages, the red button and online offer. It brings different audiences the version of the festival they choose.
2. The festival
We work closely with Michael, Emily, Nick and, the whole Glastonbury team. They’ve made us welcome at Worthy Farm all this time, helped us in delicate negotiations with artists and generally allowed our cameras to go where they choose.
3. The weather
We’ve had it all – flash floods, electrical storms, incessant downpours, high winds, even baking sunshine occasionally. Our new presentation position was flooded in 2005. The stream by the BBC compound now has concrete banks but you never know what’s coming
Don’t kid yourself, you need wellies. When the site flooded, I had to borrow a researcher’s gumboots to get across the BBC compound.
5. Presentation positions
For years we used to be based in the BBC compound behind the Pyramid Stage. Our brilliant designer Markus Blee wove a magic garden that simulated the world of Glastonbury Fayre. Then for BBC Three we built a treehouse adjacent to the Pyramid overlooking that huge crowd. And we opened a new position for BBC Two looking back from the hill above The Park Stage across the whole site to the Pyramid. Now the presenters and the shots feel more in the festival.
We have a core team of presenters who’ve worked with the festival for a long time. Jo Whiley, Lauren Laverne, Mark Radcliffe, Greg James, Gemma Cairney et al are music lovers and broadcasters who talk for a living. They’re very good at not getting fazed by producers who are so keen to be true to the moment that they occasionally appear not to know what’s coming next…
The headline artists have to trust our camera work, our sound mix, our production and so much more at such an important moment in their career. If that’s Blur, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young as it in 2009, that can mean going into the festival weekend not quite knowing if we are going to be broadcasting much headline action at all. Bruce’s manager Jon Landau went from agreeing 25 minutes ahead of Bruce going onstage to letting us show 90 minutes once his artist was in his stride.
If you don’t have power you can’t broadcast at all. As we discovered during that electrical storm last year. We had an electrical storm around Friday teatime and the festival had to shut off power. Including our broadcast trucks. We came on back air just in time for The One Show and BBC Three to go on air at 7pm, albeit without the usual rehearsal.
9. The wiring
The key stages and much of the Glastonbury site is now easily linked to our broadcast trucks by fibre optics. That can still involve riggers crawling along streams but our infrastructure is now larger and more secure than it has ever been. Thank God.
10. The team
The BBC broadcasts hundreds of hours at Glastonbury. That actually involves a relatively small number of people working non-stop for the whole weekend. The bulk of those people come every year. They love the festival, they love the broadcast challenge and there’s nothing quite like the elation of winding down with colleagues with whom you’ve gone to the wire and back many times over the weekend. For the love of music!
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