Michael and Emily Eavis have dismissed criticism of the 2008 Glastonbury Festival and said this year's event could be the best yet.

Tickets sales for this year have been comparatively slow - though more than 126,000 people have still paid £155 for a ticket - and with New York rapper Jay-Z headlining the Pyramid stage, fans and music journalists had criticised an apparent changing of tack from the legendary Somerset festival.

But in an interview with the Sun newspaper, festival organisers the Eavises have promised this year's gathering will have the "best atmosphere... in a long time".

"It's upset us having to defend the festival this year," admitted Emily Eavis, who has played an increasingly important role in booking bands for the festival in recent years.

"It's our home, we invite people here and it's the best party in the world."

The pair dismissed suggestions that the weather could again be a problem for festivalgoers after several muddy years, explaining that a new drainage system which cost £100,000 has been installed.

"The prospects are good for the end of June and we're due a good year," added Michael Eavis, who founded the festival more than 30 years ago.

The booking of Jay-Z has proved the major sticking point for the press with the likes of Noel Gallagher saying his appearance was "wrong" while other artists have said that as the best rapper in the world, he should take centre-stage at the best music event on the planet.

Emily Eavis explained some of the media reaction by saying: "People don't like change and there's an element who want it to be a Coldplay or a Radiohead — but the best thing we can do is give people something different."

She added: "Last year The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and The Who were all bands people expected to headline Glastonbury. A lot of people who don't understand why Jay-Z is headlining haven't seen him live.

"He is phenomenal. Every time someone comes to this festival they discover new music — this year it will be a headliner."

Glastonbury 2008 takes place at Worthy Farm in Somerset on June 27th, 28th and 29th.

06/06/2008 15:24:33