All eyes on Kanye West at UK’s Glastonbury fes­ti­val


Glastonbury, one of the world’s big­gest mu­sic fes­ti­vals, gets un­der way Wed­nes­day fac­ing an­gry crit­i­cism from some fans af­ter rap­per Kanye West was booked for the prime Satur­day night head­line slot.

High­light­ing the five-day event’s pop­u­lar­ity, 150,000 tick­ets for cost­ing 225 pounds (US$360) each sold out in just 26 min­utes when they went on sale in Oc­to­ber be­fore the line-up at Wor­thy Farm in Som­er­set, south­west Eng­land, was an­nounced.

In to­tal, 175,000 peo­ple will at­tend Glastonbury, which started in 1970 — when ad­mis­sion was 1 pound, in­clud­ing free milk from the farm — and fea­tures hun­dreds of per­for­mances on dozens of stages from the main­stream to the down­right bizarre.

But the pres­ence of out­spo­ken “Gold Dig­ger” star West, who is mar­ried to re­al­ity TV star Kim Kar­dashian, has sparked con­tro­versy at an event known for its hip­pie roots.

Nearly 135,000 signed a pe­ti­tion dropped.

The online pe­ti­tion against West — who has sold over 100 mil­lion down­loads and al­bums world­wide and won 21 Grammy Awards, but peo­ple have to get him is of­ten crit­i­cized for self-ag­gran­diz­ing com­ments — says he should be kicked off the bill and re­placed by “a rock band.”

“Kanye West is an in­sult to mu­sic fans all over the world,” the pe­ti­tion reads. “We spend hun­dreds of pounds to at­tend Glasto (the fes­ti­val’s nick­name), and by do­ing so, ex­pect a cer­tain level of en­ter­tain­ment.”

Emily Eavis, Glastonbury’s coor­ga­nizer and daugh­ter of founder Michael Eavis, said she had even re­ceived death threats over the book­ing, adding the abuse had been “just hor­ri­ble.”

“Kanye West is mak­ing the most ex­cit­ing mu­sic at the mo­ment,” she said last month.

“He is an amaz­ing force as a per­former. For us, get­ting the big­gest star in the world was an amaz­ing coup.”

West is not the first U.S. hip-hop star to head­line Glastonbury. In 2008, Jay Z at­tracted sim­i­lar ob­jec­tions but drew one of the fes­ti­val’s largest-ever crowds and won rave re­views for a set which riffed on the op­po­si­tion he had faced from some fans.

Hawk­ing to En­ter­tain Kids

Prepa­ra­tions for the fes­ti­val were hit last week by the with­drawal of Foo Fight­ers from the Fri­day night head­line slot af­ter front­man Dave Grohl broke his leg by fall­ing off stage while per­form­ing in Gothen­burg, Swe­den.

Florence + The Ma­chine were swiftly pro­moted up the bill to re­place them.

Emily Eavis said: “There was only one per­son we wanted to call and that was Florence.”

Other big names set to per­form in­clude The Who, Phar­rell Wil­liams, Mo­tor­head, Mary J. Blige, Mark Ron­son, Lionel Richie, Patti Smith, The Chem­i­cal Broth­ers, Alabama Shakes and Hozier.

For many peo­ple, Glastonbury is about more than just the mu­sic, with a wealth of ar­eas on the 4-square-kilo­me­ter site de­voted to ev­ery­thing from cir­cus to cabaret and even a “free univer­sity.”

“There will be en­light­en­ments, awak­en­ings, sur­real hap­pen­ings, Da­m­a­scene epipha­nies and peo­ple do­ing the strangest things in public,” the or­ga­niz­ers prom­ise on the fes­ti­val web­site.

Glastonbury has kept its tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist tinge even as it has evolved into a ma­jor busi­ness over the years.

Rus­sian punk protest band Pussy Riot will be hold­ing a dis­cus­sion event on one of the stages, while char­i­ties Green­peace, Ox­fam and WaterAid re­ceive a do­na­tion from or­ga­niz­ers and have volun- teers on site.

The fes­ti­val is also fam­ily friendly and many older fans bring their chil­dren to camp with them on site.

This year, young­sters will be treated to a spe­cial guest ap­pear­ance by physi­cist and math­e­ma­ti­cian Pro­fes­sor Stephen Hawk­ing in the Kidz Field area.

Glastonbury — whose site is a work­ing farm for the rest of the year — of­ten de­scends into a mud bath thanks to the heavy rain­fall which can per­sist into the Bri­tish sum­mer­time.

Fes­ti­val go­ers this year will be re­lieved to note that con­di­tions are forecast to be mostly dry.

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