By Maureen Cofflard, AFP
LONDON–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 �X when admission was 1 pound, including free milk from the farm �X 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 people have signed a petition to get him dropped. The online petition against West �X who has sold over 100 million downloads and albums worldwide and won 21 Grammy Awards, but is often criticized for self-aggrandizing comments �X 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 co-organizer 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.