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Last update July 2008. New recollections.

The Knebworth Park Festivals.

Knebworth Park Concerts

August 4th & 11th 1979.

    Festival Welfare Services .

Holes in the fences between the gents and ladies loos allowed perving by the guys on the gals © Stephen Vaughan

Typical rubbish fueled fire in the arena during the concert 8-5-79

© Stephen Vaughan- visit his Flickr site to see more Knebworth pix

   Its easy to forget that behind every major (and often minor ) UK outdoor concert or festival was an unpaid and dedicated group of volunteers who gave up their time to minister to the concert goers who needed services that promoters could ( or would not ) provide, such as first aid, information, drug counselling , support and other essential activities . In addition, they also provided feedback to promoters and councils so that festival services could improve as the years progressed .We have the reports for the 1979 Knebworth festivals and reproduce them here , they provide a fascinating glimpse as to what went on behind the scenes and are a fitting tribute to all of those who helped out at these events over the decade.

Festival Welfare Services .

KNEBWORTH PARK CONCERT, August 4 1979 Field Worker's Report

Friday 3rd Aug

   I arrived at midday on Friday, August 3, to find the campsite already crowded, with more festival-goers arriving continuously. Most appeared to be coming by public transport the campsite, FWS was provided with a marquee beside the ticket office and campsite manager's office. The promoter had also provided three large 'crash' marquees. The welfare groups (Stevenage CVS, St John Ambulance, Release,The Samaritans, Source and Civil Aid) arrived during the afternoon and early evening. Some difficulties were experienced by welfare personnel arriving by vehicle, as vehicle passes had not been received from the promoter's office until Thursday, August 2 and many of the vehicle passes could only be collected on site.
   A site meeting for all welfare groups was held at 8.30 pm to discuss arrangements for manning the information points on the campsite and the arena, and to introduce the groups and their services to each other. Also present at the meeting were representatives from St. Mary's Church in the Park, who would be providing free refreshments in the church throughout Saturday.
   The water supply on the campsite was slow in arriving, and the campsite 'roundabout' toilets were already full by Friday evening. The information point received many complaints about the campsite toilets from the public.

Mud glorious Mud 8-4-79

Photo © Ove Stridh

   Later on Friday evening the campsite became extremely crowded. Not only were tents packed very closely together, but people without tents were lying down in-between the tents and filled the allocated walkways. There was a great deal of confusion as to whether or not an overspill campsite was to be used. A few people were camping in a field down Old Knebworth Lane, but no facilities or supervision were provided. On the main camping area, vehicles were being sent into an adjacent cornfield. It appeared that at times there was little co-ordination between the campsite management, the car-parking staff and the Police.
    Late on Friday evening the crowds on the campsite became extremely impatient to get into the Park, and crushed up against the Park gates. It was virtually impossible for any of the welfare personnel to get through the gates into the Park to survey the other points where welfare would be provided the following day. The atmosphere of the crowds outside the gate was very tense.
   The gates into the park and into the arena were opened at approximately 4 am on Saturday morning. The FWS agencies had been on standby in the Information marquee in the arena provided by the promoter, and set up their operation when the crowds entered the arena.


Photo © Ove Stridh 8-4-79

   Throughout Saturday, FWS member-agencies shared the Information marquee with Stevenage CVS, British Rail and the Police. The marquee also served as a meeting point for lost people, and FWS set up makeshift notice boards for people to put messages on. The promoter had intended to fly a large balloon over the marquee to indicate that it was a meeting point. This did not materialise, so Stevenage CVS organised a 'Lost People' flag to attach to the marquee. During the early part of the day, most enquiries at the Information point were for the whereabouts of facilities within the arena, including to FWS agencies. Later in the day the information people were extremely busy dealing with enquiries about lost friends, lost and stolen possessions and means of getting home. Many people were very distressed, cold and tired, especially those who had been in the arena for several days without adequate camping equipment. It was several hours after the concert ended before the majority of distressed people in the arena had either located their friends lifts home, or been guided down to the crash marquees on the campsite, which were very full. The British RaiI agents were very helpful in assisting people with rail travel difficulties.

   The rear half of the Information marquee was screened off for Release to use as their counselling space. The promoter had been asked to provide a marquee in the administration area for Release to use to care for people with drug problems, who needed to be taken out of the arena. This marquee was not provided, and consequently Release could not effectively perform their services. The Samaritans erected their own work tents in the arena, and also in the administration area. Both points were kept busy during the day, but more especially so later on Saturday night. St John Ambulance and Red Cross had first aid points inside the arena, and a hospital centre in the administration area, where ambulances were stationed. They dealt with a great number of casualties (approximately 12,000), suffering from a range of afflictions, from minor injuries to serious accidents, fits and births. Two Release doctors assisted the St John and Red Cross doctors. Co-operation between the agencies was good with Release and the Samaritans taking over patients from the medical centre when the recovery area was crowded.

Sunday 5th August

   After the concert, FWS agencies and security staff checked the arena for casualties unable to move. The campsite was very busy after the concert. The 'crash' marquees were full with very tired people, and those who had lost their friends and means of transport or were unable to return home that evening. The Source team manned the marquees, to fill them efficiently and prevent disturbances.The campsite Information point was busy throughout the night. By midday on Sunday only a few festival-goers remained on site, and the FWS agencies pulled out.

Overseas visitors to Knebworth enjoy a quick fag

Photo © Ove Stridh 8-4-79

Field Worker's Report ,

Friday August 10

Photo© Ken Walton 8-11-79

    I arrived at midday on Friday August 10 to make preparations for the arrival of the welfare organisations later in the day. On the campsite, all the marquees from the previous weekend were still erect, although people had been using them during the week and they were very messy. Also, signs for the marquees which the promoter had agreed to supply had not materialised. Water for the campsite was available, and the promoter's team was in the process of building more campsite toilets. Unfortunately, these were not Iit at night, but worked much better than the 'roundabout' units.

   The same welfare organisations as the previous weekend arrived during the afternoon, and a site meeting was held in the evening to discuss manning the information point and changes in the arrangements from the previous weekend. The campsite manager had wanted FWS to run a left-luggage service on the campsite, as so much property had disappeared from the campsite on the previous Saturday when people left their tents to go into the arena. FWS and Stevenage CVS had tried to ascertain the liability involved in running a proper left-luggage service, but had encountered much legal confusion, and had therefore decided that the service would have to be very limited. People who understood that FWS held no responsibility for their property left in the welfare tent were given tickets as identification for their property. The service was free of charge, and only a small amount of property could be deposited, as the marquee was not designed for leaving luggage.
   The numbers arriving on the campsite on Friday evening were greatly reduced from the previous Friday, and the space available for camping was comfortable. However, the drizzling rain sent people without proper camping equipment into the 'crash marquees' which rapidly became full. There were many foreign visitors whose English was very poor, wanting information and advice.

Saturday 11th August

    At about midnight the fence into the park was breached, and a surge rushed towards the arena. Again at around 3a.m. another party broke through and the turnstiles to the arena were opened. FWS teams were on standby in the arena and opened up the facilities as soon as the second wave arrived. It was still drizzling as people rushed to the stage in near darkness to select their places for the concert.
    Throughout the day the information point in the arena was almost as busy as the previous Saturday dealing with enquiries. Access to the information tent was easier as the perimeter trackway was not crowded. Access to other facilities was easier too. There appeared to be a better selection of food and drink in the arena at the second concert.
Queues on the GPO telephones in the arena were long most of the day, especially in the evening. Unfortunately the telephones were closed down before the end of the concert; the information point received many enquiries and complaints from people trying to make telephone calls when the concert ended later than expected, and the nearest other telephones were in Stevenage.
    Again, FWS had not been provided with a trip tent in the Admin area, to which to take people who could not be left in the arena. However, Release erected two of their own tents there, and the Samaritans brought their mobile centre into the Admin area. Release doctors worked with the St John and Red Cross doctors. The first aid services dealt with approximately 800 casualties over the weekend. On Saturday evening, FWS agencies helped security staff to clear the arena. Some people unable to get home were helped either to the 'crash marquees' on the campsite, or were able to shelter in the vacated concessions marquees in the arena.

Sunday 12th August

   Enormous quantities of litter were left in the arena and it was extremely hazardous for vehicles driving in the arena as people were asleep or sheltering under piles of plastic, and could easily have been mistaken for rubbish.
   The FWS agencies and Stevenage CVS running the information point had devised a centralised message-leaving system, alphabetically arranged in notebooks by christian name for recipients, which worked much more effectively than the system of covering the sides of the marquees with individual notices. Also, after the concert, at a prearranged time, all people waiting to meet up with friends were sent by the FWS groups and the Police from the arena down to the campsite, to prevent the movement of people back and forwards which happened the previous weekend. Again, co-operation between FWS groups and the Police was very effective.

Photo © Ove Stridh 8-4-79

   The general feeling of the FWS groups attending the second concert was that although it had been considerably smaller than the first (estimated attendance 80,000 on August 11), they had dealt with a proportionately much larger number of distressed people and general enquiries. Those attending the second concert seemed older and tougher, and there were some 'hard drugs' on the site. also, there were more foreign visitors.

   Although the facilities provided by the promoter for the welfare groups were adequate, several promised facilities did not materialise. There were no signs provided for the welfare and information tents, or for the lost people's meeting point. At the second concert good stage announcements were made giving the position of the lost people's meeting point and the welfare service. '

Photo© Ken Walton 8-11-79

   Again FWS recommends that at future concerts the promoter provides large site plans showing the layout of the whole site and the position of the facilities on it. This would greatly reduce the number of enquiries dealt with at the information point.
    Finally it should be mentioned that Stevenage CVS not only helped to man the information points in the arena and campsite, but also ran an information service in Stevenage town centre during and prior to both festivals, providing invaluable local knowledge.

Penny Mellor 16th August 1979

General Comments
1. The arena was very crowded during Saturday and access around the perimeter walkway was very slow. This made it difficult for the emergency services to obtain rapid access.
2. Food and drink available both on the campsite and in the arena was quite varied and reasonably priced, although there were long queues on stalls in the arena throughout Saturday.
3. Toilets inside the arena were of a much higher standard than in previous years. There were queues to use the toilets nearest to the stage and these became quite messy as the overcrowding made it difficult for Civil Aid to service them regularly. Some smell arose from the toilets in the evening, but this was mainly due to people urinating in the vicinity of the toilets, especially along the perimeter fence, and due to some of the urinals being broken.
4. Some difficulties were experienced by F.W.S. volunteers personnel in entering the arena with ordinary tickets which were issued by the promoter, as they had to queue when the turnstiles were busy, and consequently were late to take over their turns on shift in the Information point. Similar difficulties were encountered when personnel wanted to leave the arena after their early shift to go back to the campsite for a shift, before the pass out system in the arena was initiated.
5. Otherwise F.W.S. volunteer personnel found the promoter's staff extremely co-operative and helpful in assisting F.W.S. in performing its services.
6. Liaison with the Police was good, and an excellent understanding seems to have been reached between the Police and the work of the welfare services.
7. F.W.S. feel that the prohibition of the sale of alcohol in the arena is extremely wise. Plenty of alcohol can be brought into the arena, and from the experience of F.W.S. at other festivals, licensed bars within the arena appear to lead to a more violent and troublesome atmosphere.
8. Most problems dealt with by F.W.S. arose from the sheer volume of people attending the festival (estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000) - and especially from the number of very young people who had not attended a festival before, and were unprepared for camping in rough conditions. Generally the crowds were well-behaved and fortunately the weather was kind.
9. Although certain pieces of equipment which the promoter had agreed to provide for the welfare services did not materialise, it was felt the promoter's facilities were sufficient in the circumstances. Resources would have been severely stretched, however, had the weather been bad.

Knebworth Home


    The events in this tangled chain can be read in Freddy Bannister's book, " There Must Be A Better Way " , which chronicles his adventures in promoting the giant concerts at Knebworth from 1974-79. More info about these concerts can also be found at the Knebworth House site and at Rip Gooch's site, which contains substantial portions of text from the now defunct book Knebworth Rock Festivals, by Chryssie Lytton Cobbold.

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Knebworth Concerts 1974-86


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