Meet Ben Challis, who helped bring Glastonbury Festival to our screens

THE town of Keswick was never known for being very rock ‘n’ roll, but somewhere in the sleepy lanes lives a man who holds a very special place in music history.

Ben Challis worked for over 25 years as a solicitor for one of music’s most iconic events and a staple of UK festival season – Glastonbury.

After leaving Kings College University, Ben was called to the bar in 1985, with every intention of becoming a lawyer.

However, after being a full-time entertainment agent in college and building those relationships, Ben was offered a job as a lawyer with music promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

Ben said: “I started with Harvey, I had to call my schoolmaster who was so nice about it…he said you’d never be offered a job like that again, that’s is a dream job for you.”

After working in the industry alongside Harvey and on other projects for eight years, Ben joined the festival in the early 90s after a rather original interview with festival owner Michael Eavis at Worthy Farm.

On meeting Ben said: “I got a phone call from Michael Eavis saying I’d like to meet you, you’ve been recommended to me… because I have this opportunity to put Glastonbury on TV.

“So I went to meet him at Worthy Farm. He claims we met at a burger bar in Leicester Square, which we may have done too, but I certainly met him at Worthy Farm; he m drove around the farm in that old Land Rover just chatting.

“We finished it and I thought it went pretty well. At some point he got out of the car and went dowsing. That’s not a lie.

FRIENDS: Ben Challis with Michael Eavis at the 1998 Festival. Photo: Sean Preston

“I thought, ‘what’s going on?’ I’m in this crazy wonderful place and after we drove around for a while he said next time you come bring me some of your eggs and I’ll give you some of my milk.

“I remember getting in my car thinking…next time I get off? Wait, next time I get off! That’s pretty good, isn’t it.

“So when I think about how I got the job, it’s because of someone I knew and luck, but I’ve always said it was fun – the harder you work, the luckier you are.”

Ben was then employed by Michael to negotiate and carry out a television deal, as well as being the lawyer for the Channel 4 deal, initially in 1994.

The BBC then came knocking in 1997 and the rest, as they say, is history, with Glastonbury being broadcast by the institution ever since.

“I don’t regret for a minute what I did because for me it’s the perfect career. I have lawyer friends who tell me that you have the best job in the world.”

Ben lived his dream working as part of the festival team for many years, traveling to Glastonbury every year he worked. When asked what it was like to be part of the Glastonbury family, Ben said he had had “magical” moments throughout his time.

News and Star: ALIVE: Glastonbury welcomes 200,000 visitors, staff, performers and crew during the festival weekend.  Photo: Ben ChallisLIVE: Glastonbury welcomes 200,000 visitors, staff, performers and crew during the festival weekend. Photo: Ben Challis

He said: “It’s just kind of a huge, amazing spread of tents, just being on the site – it’s just huge, it never seems to end, so there’s always something to do, something thing to see.

“Almost anything you want happens. Anything you want to see, anything you want to hear, anything you want to do, somewhere you can do it.

“I did all kinds of stupid things. I went to a wedding there, I gave a friend of mine to get married in the chapel of hate and love with a hat pink fedora and a fur coat.

“You have all kinds of things going on, it’s just magical…it’s literally mind blowing. There’s great music, obviously the music is amazing, but it’s corny to say a lot of people don’t go not for the music, they go there because it’s Glastonbury.

“When you have that dynamic, when you have a crowd together, you’re all on the same side, you all want it to work and you have bands that go out of their way and just give the classic performance of their lives, which they do at Glastonbury – people show up and they’re so much better than any other performance in their lives, I think, because they know it’s Glastonbury.”

News and Star: WINNER: Ben Challis at the 2017 Live Music AwardsWINNER: Ben Challis at the 2017 Live Music Awards

Ben has now retired from the festival. However, he said the festival will always be a part of him.

He said: “I think I’ll eventually become more distant over time because I’ll know I’m not involved in his management, but 27 is a big chunk… I don’t think you can’t. not think that much of my life has been Glastonbury.

“I always say ‘we’ about the festival – and I should stop doing that at some point.”

Jan G. Gilbert