First there were jazz festivals, then blues festivals. Then in 1967, there was the Monterey International Pop Festival. The summer of peace and love generated a whole industry of rock and pop outdoors in the sunshine (hopefully).
In the UK, the most sensational festival was in 1974 when Bill Dwyer – a LSD dealer in his 40s had the idea of putting on a free music festival on the Queen’s own land in Windsor. A few hundred people attended the first one in 1972, but with half a million flyers printed for 1974, over 15,00 turned up and camped willy-nilly on the Cavalry Exercise yard. Before the end of the festival, the police swept in and moved the long-haired youth on. Dwyer was eventually sentenced to two year’s imprisonment for organising a fourth free festival.
Mark Hudson, a young teenager who read his poetry at the festival recalls:
“There were no toilets, no water, no provision of food. The atmosphere was, as one audience member later put it, “boy scout plus acid. That first night it felt as though everyone was tripping.”
Along with Glastonbury from 1970, Hyde Park, in London was the location of early rock (Rolling Stones) and subsequently punk /Rock against Racism one-day festivals.
Mick Jones of The Clash attended another infamous festival – Phun City – an anarchist free festival near Worthing in 1970. He said of it:
“That was the first time MC5 had played. My overriding memory was falling into a ditch! That was a great festival”
The first actual punk festival was not an outdoor affair at all, but a 2-day event at the 100 Club in London featuring eight punk acts.
The first outdoor festival to bring punk into the open air was probably the Deeply Vale festivals held in Rochdale, Lancashire (1976-79) and organised by Chris Hewitt. Bands like The Fall and The Ruts played alongside the usual prog rock acts and Deeply Vale was a favourite with John Peel.
Lots of small towns then started hosting their own local band festivals, with an array of punk, blues, rock and reggae bands all coming together on municipal fields or in the gardens of big houses. A future punkgirldiaries post is going to focus on those small town festivals which I love so much!
Anyway, the importance of enormity for music festivals was established by Live Aid in 1985, but thankfully in recent years ’boutique’, specialist and family-friendly festivals have emerged within all music genres.
I’m done for now, but there’s a lot more to be said about punk at festivals. What’s your take? Please write a comment!