For many years, Oxfam and Glastonbury have grown together – inspired by a shared belief that change is always possible.
It’s been 24 years since Michael and his Glastonbury Festival team chose Oxfam as one of the festival’s main charities. The event has grown and grown in that time – 250,000 people set up camp at Worthy Farm last June – and the values that have remained at the heart of Glastonbury will resonate with many Oxfam supporters.
“We’re all trying in our small way to make a difference,” Michael says. “The main motivation for me and all the people who work here is that they have a sense of purpose to be useful and to make a difference to the state of the earth. I think that’s an essential attitude to have, and it’s very rewarding as well.”
“I’ve got 40,000 people – including all of the Oxfam stewards who volunteer each year – helping me to make this festival work, and I really do feel that shared sense of purpose and vision to do something to make a difference.” Michael Eavis
Michael and his team chose to support Oxfam with an eye to: “helping people who were suffering hard times in the here and now”.
As he remembers: “We really felt we could see where the need was. We’d see all of the TV pictures about famine and general hardship across Africa, and Oxfam’s work seemed very hands on. You could see where the money was going. That’s what inspired me and my wife Jean. She was a big cheerleader for supporting Oxfam.”
Michael has since seen Oxfam projects first hand in Africa and Asia. “I’ve been so impressed with it all,” he says, “and so pleased to be part of all this progress across the world.
“We went to Kenya, Mozambique and Gambia in Africa, and also visited north Vietnam, where people were replanting mango groves, which was fantastic. In a lot of places we saw the difference Oxfam’s irrigation projects make, getting water to remote areas in farmsteads.
“The need for water was clearly tremendous, and to see what was happening and to know we played a small part in that was fantastic. As a farmer myself, I’m very aware of needing to have enough water for cattle to drink and to water crops. Not that we need much help here!”
Oxfam’s campaigners have a prime spot close to the festival’s main Pyramid Stage, and thousands of people commit to fight poverty with us at Glastonbury each year. Well over 2,000 Oxfam stewards also volunteer at the site, and the organisers make an amazing donation – around £600,000 this year – to our work after every event.
“I think we’re really big on raising awareness at the festival,” Michael says. “There are a quarter of a million people here on the farm, and then all the people watching on TV right across the world. That spreads knowledge of Oxfam to millions of people. The publicity value is pretty enormous.”
Michael describes himself as “a believer in the human spirit” and has no doubt that people can achieve amazing change together – citing the fall of the Berlin Wall as an example which made a huge difference to European politics. “It was the will of the people that brought that wall down,” he says. “That was extraordinary power we saw happening right there.”
And as for the future? 2018 is a fallow year, so the next Glastonbury won’t be until 2019. “I’m already regretting the year off,” he smiles. “I always do. There are benefits to it, in agricultural terms, but I miss the festival!”
When it returns, Michael says, the partnership between Glastonbury and Oxfam will stay as strong as ever, as Oxfam supporters keep striving to create a much fairer and happier world to live in. “Oxfam is in our blood,” he smiles, “It’s in our veins. We’re here for the long haul.”