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The Knebworth Park Festivals.
Knebworth Fair : 6-24-78.
Genesis,Jefferson Starship, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Devo, Brand X, Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Festival Welfare Services .
Knebworth Park Concert,
June 24 1978
Local Welfare Groups Report
The local welfare group was recruited and organised by Jan Hitchens, Probation, Chris Kell, Council for Voluntary Services, and Peter Bailey, social Services. Operations were coordinated with Penny Mellor of Festival Welfare Services.
There were twenty-eight volunteers. Each worked in a voluntary capacity but under normal circumstances, two were probation officer, three worked for Social, Services, four were voluntary associates of the Probation Service, two youth workers, one a community worker, four social work students, two teachers, one a hostel warden and the remainder were family and friends of the nucleus. Volunteers normally worked three hour shifts but a few worked for up to thirty-six hours at a stretch. The volunteers provided a large pool of local knowledge on subjects as diverse as bus connections and Social Services procedures and between them they spoke seven languages; a facility which proved extremely useful.
Town Centre Information Points
These operated from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on Wednesday and Thursday and from 9.30 am to 8.00 pm on Friday. Information included advice regarding accommodation' transport, the pedestrian route to Knebworth, local shops and entertainment and emergency changes in program or schedule. Due to inclement weather the Information Point was placed under cover and was not readily noticeable. Signposting to the point was difficult as "unofficial looking" notices were persistently removed. It may be necessary to clear this with British Rail and the Borough Council on a subsequent occasion and to explore the possibility of an awning for the stall to shelter workers from rain and wind.
The Canyon Adventure Playground was made available for camping from Wednesday onwards and was heavily used. Camping was peaceable and there was a happy atmosphere. Campers were allowed to store equipment during the day in a secure room. The youth worker responsible for the site was forced to work over long hours on Wednesday night so a volunteer spent the night at the site on Thursday. The Festival campsite opened on Friday morning; a great improvement on previous years when the campsite remained closed until evening and Stevenage was packed with homeless campers burdened with equipment for the entire day.
Campsite Information Point.
This was manned from 10.00 am on Friday until 8.00 am on Sunday. No information tent was provided until the afternoon on Friday so that three volunteers huddled wet and unnoticed in a corner for much of the day. Things improved dramatically with the arrival of a portakabin,which because it was warm, dry and above all, visible, proved a valuable central referral point for welfare agencies as well as a base for the Information Point. I very much hope that similar provision may be made at future festivals. The Information Point was unfortunately placed at some distance from the main body of campers and may have been more usefully placed nearer to the south end of the campsite.
Two volunteers were kept very busy overnight at this position until they moved to the arena in the morning. Two volunteers relieved civil aid workers here in the afternoon, releasing them to repair the field telephone cable and a team of four volunteers manned the point overnight. I understand that few demands were made of the workers on Saturday night and it may be that on future occasions volunteers may be more usefully deployed in the administration area where welfare workers were sorely pressed at that time.
Arena Information and Welfare Tent.
The arena point was manned from early on Saturday morning until midnight. Shifts changed every two hours and local volunteers worked in conjunction with the other welfare agencies, their shifts changing half way through our own. Thus the point was manned continuously by our workers and by civil aid from 8.00 am to-10.00 am, the Samaritans from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon, Release from 12.00 noon to 2.00 pm, Source from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm, British Youth for Christ from 4.00 pm to 6.oo pm,Civil Aid from 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm, Release from 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm and British Youth for Christ from 10.00 pm to midnight. This arrangement worked very well.
The welfare tent served as a permanent base for Release, Samaritans and the local group and although I understand that the Samaritans were rather short of counseling space, for our own organisation, the arrangement was excellent. It was noon before we were provided with an information table but after that time the tend had space to operate efficiently for both information giving and counseling. Printed signs saying "Information and Welfare" provided by the promoter proved extremely helpful.
The pattern of information given changed throughout the day; the morning differing with where do I go for ... questions and the evening with questions of the "what time is the train for Manchester?" variety.
The stream of enquiries relating to lost people, property, children was constant throughout the day and there was a steady rate of referral on to the police, Release, the administration area, First Aid and the Samaritans. For part of the afternoon British Rail worked with us, having been I suspect, displaced from the Sounds tent but they unfortunately disappeared before the maJor influx of railway enquiries.
Emergency Facilities In The Town Centre.
After the Festival in 1975 the social Services drill hall plus two church halls were opened for the first tIme to provide overnight accommodation for those stranded in Stevenage. About 400 people were cared for overnight, workers combing the station for people who appeared or who had young children. Free coffee and tea were served and a few blankets were provided.
In 1976 the promoter was approached to finance this venture and he stated that as he intended in future to provide sleeping marquees on site, he was not prepared to advance any money for arrangements off site. The drill hall was nevertheless made available that year but as the weather was warm and British Rail extremely efficient it was little used.
There was no festival in 1977.
This year it was decided that the hall would be made available but that it would be given low priority in staffing. Several volunteers were already working night shift and it was felt on the experience of 1976 that these workers would be more useful elsewhere. Consequently the decision regarding opening was deferred until about 8.00 pm on Saturday. At that time weather conditions were reasonable and bearing in mind the exhaustion of our volunteers (some of whom had already put in twenty-four hours work) it was decided not to open the hall. In the light of subsequent events this decision was unfortunate. The night became very much colder and despite British Rails continued efficiency people were waiting some considerable time in very cold conditions. The police were extremely helpful in this connection and in fact many young people were allowed to sleep in the police garages. The drill hall could have alleviated this need considerably. It must be emphasised however, that the responsibility for this state of affairs must lie with the-promoter. He undertook to provide four large sleeping marquees and, on this basis, we were reasonably happy to provide emergency accommodation without his financial support. On the day' however, he was found to have provided only two marquees and even these were of a smaller size than expected*ed. Many people, even on the Friday night' were forced to find what shelter they could in the woods surrounding the campsite. This situation is deplorable.
We were provided with four car passes which is probably the right number for our operation There were three main pickup times for volunteers coming to the arena and two cars did each trip. Transport back to Stevenage was less efficient and had not some volunteers met friends in the audience, they would have had to walk home. This must be re-examined.
The activities of the local group for the Knebworth Festival of June 24th 78 ran, on the whole, more smoothly than in previous years. Although there were unfortunate delays, the accommodation provided for welfare groups both on the campsite and in the arena was of a high standard, making our operation easier and more efficient. We particularly appreciated the signs provided, an innovation from previous years.
Once again a major problem for festival goers was losing touch in the crowd with friends who had their money or return tickets. One man lost touch with his brother at 9.30 am and still had not found him when the festival ended; an Italian girl's friends had her plane ticket
home. We have over the years, pressed for a flagpole or something similar from the promoter to fly a "lost people's" flag, but in the face of continuing failure we may have to ourselves explore the cost of a large banner saying for instance "Lost People's Meeting Point"' which we can fly over the Festival Welfare Service tent.
Given the sufficient warning it may be possible to approach local scout groups, etc. in the hope of borrowing flagpoles.
The matter of sleeping accommodation for festival goers must be re-examined in the light of the discussion above. The promoter should be asked either to provide a realistic number of sleeping marquees or to give financial support to local efforts. I personally feel the former solution preferable in that it would minimalise disturbance in Stevenage but marquees are booked well in advance during the summer months and it is unfortunate when, as in this case, the promoter is ringing around the countryside in an attempt to book further tents when the campsite is already open.
The welfare group was not this year involved in lost children as the police regarded this as their own responsibility. I would consider that in future festivals, as in the past, some advantage may be gained in sharing this responsibility with our Social Services Department in an attempt to control care proceedings.
29th June 1978
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Knebworth Concerts 1974-86
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