Emily Eavis has thanked Glastonbury festivalgoers for their commitment in attending the event, saying she thinks “the best people in the world come here”.
The 42-year-old co-organiser of the event was speaking the day after the festival opened its gates for the first time in three years after it was cancelled twice amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The music offering this year features headliners Billie Eilish, Sir Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar, with Diana Ross filling the Sunday Teatime Legends slot.
Eavis told the festival’s on-site newspaper, the Glastonbury Free Press: “We offered refunds, but so few people took us up on it.
“That commitment people showed to us is absolutely not taken for granted and it meant so much. I genuinely think the best people in the world come here.
“Bands always say this audience is the most generous, respectful and up-for-it crowd there is. So I would like to say thank you to everyone who’s supported and stuck by us over the last three years.
“And now I just hope you all have an absolutely amazing time.”
Festival-goers have already been warned to pack for all eventualities – and take their wellies – at Glastonbury, with light showers predicted on Friday and Saturday, followed by more heavy rain on Sunday.
The weather warnings come as late arrivals may battle more travel disruptions with another rail strike taking place on Thursday, likely adding to the transport issues revellers face with poor driving conditions and floodwater on roads.
Eavis said that having to cancel Glastonbury in 2020 and 2021 was “a very sad and quite traumatic thing to have to go through”.
She added: “Particularly when you cancel and you don’t actually know when you’ll be back. But there’s been no escape from the pandemic – everyone has been hit by it to some degree.
“And ultimately, this is just a festival; there were greater things going on in the world. But to be able to open the gates again and bring people back together for the purpose of pure joy is such a wonderful thing.”
Punters may be swapping sun cream for umbrellas at Worthy Farm as the weather is set to turn from “wall-to-wall sunshine” and high temperatures on Thursday morning to “heavy thundery downpours” in the afternoon.
Over 200,000 people are attending Glastonbury’s near 800-acre (3.2 million square metre) site in Pilton, Somerset this year, according to statistics shared by the festival.
That total at Worthy Farm includes 138,000 tickets sold and 67,000 staff, and the venue includes 500 marquees, 100 performance stages and 101 bars, as well as one “secret one”.
The festival also raises over £2 million for charities per year, for 500 causes.
Having spoken previously about the money lost as a result of the cancellations, she said: “We’ve definitely been through some financial struggles.
“It’s been very hairy. People forget that we’re still an independent festival.
“It’s a long road for us to recover from the last two years, but the important thing is that we’re back. And it feels so great to be able to focus on exciting things again.”
Fewer than one in five trains ran on Tuesday after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on Network Rail (NR) and 13 train operators staged the first of three walkouts, with strikes happening on Thursday and more planned for Saturday.
Glastonbury is not the only music event set to be disrupted by the strikes this week, with The Rolling Stones performing at the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park on Saturday and the Red Hot Chili Peppers due to take to the stage at the London Stadium on Sunday.
Last minute changes to the Glastonbury line-up include rocker Terry Reid dropping out of his Sunday afternoon slot on the Acoustic Stage. He will be replaced by Glenn Tilbrook, lead singer and guitarist of Squeeze.
Wolf Alice, who are performing on the Pyramid Stage on Friday, tweeted in the early hours of Thursday morning to say they were stuck in Los Angeles due to their flight being cancelled.
In a tweet to British Airways they wrote: “@British_Airways is there anyway to get us to England from La before we are supposed to play glastonbury on Friday afternoon our flight has been cancelled :(.”
A reply from the airline said to message and they would “see what we can do for you”.
The band also tweeted: “Has anyone got a private jet in La?” adding: “Our flights been cancelled and we need to get to glastonbury not joking.”
Among the staff at the festival this year is Naomi Smyth, who has been to every edition of the Worthy Farm festival since 2000 and said being back after the Covid pandemic means “a hell of a lot”.
“There’s a lot of people that I see here that I don’t see anywhere else and a lot of micro families,” the 40-year-old, who works for Lost Horizon Studios to produce Glastonbury’s Shangri-La installation, told PA.
“I didn’t realise how important it was that we see each other every year in this context and do this thing until I came back.”
Asked for her favourite Glastonbury memory, Ms Smyth recalled the 2019 edition, adding: “I took my two-year-old daughter to Lizzo and she was so full of joy.
“She remembers it every time I play Lizzo in the car… introducing her to this environment was interrupted for a couple of years but it will continue now.”