Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Greatest Deanery Synod Ever?

Last night Michael Eavis was the guest of our Deanery Synod. This coup may have delivered the finest guest speaker a Deanery Synod may have ever had but I sort of felt that the definition of Deanery Synod - a group of people waiting to go home - came to the fore again. If we hadn't had him as our guest what would have been the point of meeting? The business of synod took about fifteen minutes at the end.

He came not because we have our tentacles stretching into the world of rock - that would be hard to imagine given the age make-up of our synod - but because our vice-chair is a farmer's wife and he is known through that connection.

That said, in terms of charisma, when a person has that much reputation, and is late, there is a rock-star sense that everything will start when he arrives. He arrived, wearing shorts on a cold February night, and carrying an enormous cake. A local rector, who had started the task of leading worship, had no choice but to give way until the fuss had died down. What happens to a person, when they cross that line into celebrity, that they have no realisation of what is going on in a room?

Anyway it turned out that Eavis, a member of Pilton Methodist Chapel, is a delightfully humble man, who wants to make the world a better place, wants more than anything else for it to be fair ('I hate my punters being ripped off by food concessions') but within that context wants to make a difference locally. He is proud of bringing £100m into the Somerset economy, of providing fair-rent housing locally for those who could not afford to live in and around Pilton and of providing contracts and employment. He employs fifty people now.

At 78 years of age he is still the hands-on, decision-making head of the festival, swimming every morning at 7.00 a.m. then breakfasting at 7.30 and talking to all the staff at 8.00. He makes a lot of decisions 'because somebody has to make the decisions'. He plans to go on for ten more years.

Asked about the music he says he loves it but is more a rock person than a dance, folk or jazz lover. 'There are twenty-five stages' he tells one questioner, gently.

He has a stutter, although it eases as he gets going.

Asked about the things left behind we are treated to the life story of a tent - the aluminium poles being sold for scrap, the canvas being baled and sold to China. We learn that the most amazing thing anyone has ever left behind is a T20 tractor. It was stored in a barn and claimed after ten years. Questions are begged. We learn that he '...has a lot of wellies - if you want wellies talk to me.'

During the festival the cows are put back in their winter accommodation for three weeks but they are given nicer things to eat to make it up to them. Fairness, even down to the way the animals are compensated, rings out of his testimony.

He describes himself as Methodist because there are no problems there about what you believe. 'We sing Wesley hymns and have a fundamental belief that there is something good going on out there.'

He sees the festival, which grew our of his love affair with a woman at the height of flower-power in the late 1960s, as a place where people can come and re-charge. One really gets the sense of his vision of  a place where the closest he can get to a Utopian vision is set out before people. Here we behave reasonably, look out for each other, trust each other and learn to get on.

It was good to hear him and to some extent the lack of slick, of public-speaking polish and a party-line to force down our throats helped us to warm to him. We didn't feel like a Deanery Synod most of whom wouldn't touch his festival with a barge pole but a group of interested and interesting individuals listening to each other. Good night out.

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