June 25-27th 1971.
- The Total Town -
really ? Its been 1,000 years since "Redrigum" was first mentioned in the
Anglo Saxon chronicles.To commemorate this fact the town staged a festival
running form 12 th June to July 10 th and embracing as fun fair, exhibition,
shopping festival , carnival , classical recitals , sporting events a tournament
and of course the Pop Festival.
"The festival is a declaration of faith in Reading as the very model of the balanced community of the future" and that's from the official programme!.
To put the festival on Reading called in the NJF Marquee organisation . After all they had been doing this kind of thing for 12 years y’know. A site was allocated twixt Sweet Thames and an industrial estate and preparation began. Veterans of past National Jazz and Blues Festivals will know the set up well. Harold Pendleton in overall charge , Jack Berry on beer and bands , Harry Issacs flashing around in a mini moke and of course the Red Umbrella caterers , led by their jovial rotund hood Alan Carter . All seemed set for another small commercial festival.
, The Thames Valley Police , based at Kiddlington,
were also feeling festive , a big operation was brewing . The
Evening Post, the local daily paper , carried tidings of " large
special squads ". In London, Time Out carried
a prophetic warning and the Reading Chronicle
, a local weekly ,carried a front page story headlined "17,000
pounds, the price of Pop Peace " which revealed that the
Thames Valley police force were forking out 17 grand to keep a crowd of
between 25,000 and 50,000 pop fans in order . "Just
why the public should be expected to bear this financial burden is
obscure " mumbled the Chronicles’ indignant editorial . Anyway ,
the public did and nearly a quarter of the police force turned out to rock
Then early in June the weather turned nasty and the whole years rain fell at once . Not surprisingly , this reduced the site to a quagmire, its proximity to a marshy riverside only accentuating this . Whether the festival should have gone on at all following the weeks of torrential rain is debatable . However, it did . Some say the result was a disaster, some say a groove , each to his own....
"Local shopkeeper- They were wonderful , perfect ladies and gentlemen . I’d love to see another do like this . I think I speak for most of the shopkeepers in Cavershaem Road. "
A group of local activists discovering that Release wasn’t going to attend the festival and foreseeing heavy police activity, decided to set up a legal/welfare organisation . They called a meeting of local freaks and students from Reading University and decided on policy, duty rosters . etc. Harold Pendleton promised them a tent and other facilities and they started the site operation of Friday afternoon. It soon became apparent that ADE were being screwed by the Marquee organisation and heated exchanges between ADE and Myra Hickely only highlighted this fact.
The following information is from a phone conversation from a spokesman from ADE "There were officers from several outside drug squads called in mainly from Brighton and the Met and as the numbers of arrests rose a bust fund was set up. This was announced by Andy Dunkley , the compere. " passing the hat raised 490 pounds. ADE’s very modest expenses came to 15 pounds, leaving 475 banked.
Provisionally ADE would like to see some money used to support private prosecutions against certain police officers and some used to contest dubious arrests on the grounds of random arrest and harassment . They think that it is possible that a favourable court ruling could negate other drug convictions on the same grounds. However, if the above isn’t possible , they will obtain transcripts of the court proceedings and distribute the money as fairly as possible.
The police attitude towards ADE was hardly cooperative. At one point they refused to disclose the whereabouts of the holding station and were generally reticent about releasing names of those charged. An ADE helper inquiring about Brian X who was arrested on site , was told that there was no record of Brian’s having been charged . Moving next door to the court, the ADE man saw Brian in front of the magistrates. Surprise , surprise !
Two people distributing ADE handbills at Reading Station were stopped by the police who confiscated the bills , mumbling about " giving these to the DPP "
ADE affirmed that there were ‘ over 50 plainclothes officers on site during Saturday ‘ and that there were four searches to every arrest. They have reports of male drug squad officers searching chicks , people being photographed and fingerprinted against their will and without magistrates orders and of people being held incommunicado.
police set up a large tent colourfully decorated with posters declaring
" don’t let them get away with it " just inside
the main entrance. They also requisitioned a large warehouse and yard on
the nearby industrial estate where they set up their special command HQ.
The yard was used to stable police vehicles and as a landing point for
the helicopter which prowled over the site. A temporary charge
room was set up in a church hall in York Road . Reading
Technical Collage made a laboratory available to forensic scientists
to enable them to analyse substances seized without undue delay. The Borough
police station in the heart of the town proceeded with business as usual,
but the adjacent magistrates court was working overtime .Sittings continued
until 11.15 pm on Friday and Saturday , so even the local magistrates participated
in The Reading Police Festival.
Apart from those busted at the festival site many people were busted around the town and especially in the vicinity of the railway station .
As to the drugs squad in hippie drag, the official line would seem to be - no. But the staff on site , ADE and assorted members of the audience report seeing hippies talking into their coats and of hot panted chicks sprouting telescopic radio aerials. We all remember the Isle Of Wight.
The following facts about policing the festival are
from an interview with the Police Press Officer. Chief Inspector Crump.
Chief Inspector Crump. could make no statement about Police policy and he objected to the use of a tape recorder during the interview.
The special squad was drawn form the Thames Valley Police Force and outside police forces were called in. In all there were 550 men in the squad but duty was spread over 24 hours, so no more than 200 officers were on duty at any one time .The majority of these were uniformed and Chief Inspector Crump refused to comment on allegations of drug squad officers wearing hippie clothes and long hair.
were never more than 20-25 officers on site at once he claimed. II5 people
were charged, of these 965 were drug charges and the outstanding 20 charges
were for petty theft , disorderly conduct and offensive weapons.
The majority of the drug charges were for Cannabis with a fair number of LSD charges thrown in. Although there were several busts for speed , there were none for hard drugs , by which the Chief Inspector meant heroin .
The early festivals.
You can find out the complete line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below .
Most of these have fairly complete documentation .But new contributions of any sort are always welcome regarding any of the festivals.
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