Updated Jan 2012 new recollections
thank you to Robert Ellis of Repfoto
for use of his great photos of Bickershaw, he has many more on his site, of
Dr John, Country Joe, Kinks, Beefheart, Family , Hawkwind, Grateful Dead, Donovan,
ISB and Captain Beyond as well as the site and circus performers. He also has
many other classic photos of other rock festivals and bands - his site is a
MUST visit .
The View from the Mud.
When it comes down to it, every festival-goer had both a collective and an individual experience of the festival . Some loved it ,others were no doubt put off festivals for life. Over the years of course , memories do play tricks . Some of the anecdotes below may be contradictory , or exaggerated, but who cares. We want to hear from you!
Share your time at Bickershaw with the world !
I remember walking from the station and instantly into the village streets and thinking to myself - where was the festival? I went into a small village store and asked directions. The boy behind the counter spoke a dialect of English I'd never heard before. What was he saying?
I managed to find a local bus headed the right way and, sure enough, I found myself at the site. It just looked like a wasteland. A few tents were up and a fence (I think). Certainly there was nothing happening. I didn't have a sleeping bag or any stuff for a few days stay. I'd just arrived! and looking around, there didn't seem too much to do so...I left!
I went back to Bickershaw and got a train out to Manchester train station. I went into a cafeteria. A guy latched onto to me. "Hi man" he said. He was speedy, short haired, edgy - a speed freak! I don't remember how he knew me (I think maybe I'd scored from him in London sometime in the past! Ha! Anyways, I bought him a coffee. He seemed to be down on his luck. Don Maclean's "American Pie" was playing on the radio. This wasn't what I was expecting, or needed. I cut out - getting a train back to Cardiff for a coupla days.
I think that's what happened!
Then maybe on the Friday I travelled up again. This time there were other festival folk in the village. I got a crowded local bus out to the site. There were maybe 5,000 folks there. I showed my ticket and went in. I remember walking past a food van with high sides and big windows. It was stacked high with what looked to be 1000 wrapped cheese sandwiches in white bread! I made my way to an ok sort of possie maybe some fifty yards from the stage.
I got into eating the hash.
I don't remember colors. It was overcast.
The intrepid diver . Repfoto © 1972.
Brinsley Schwarz played. I'd seen 'em a few months earlier at the Paget Ballrooms, Penarth, and kinda dug their accoustic country. At the end of their set they appeared real excited The Dead were coming too!
There was a long break before The Dead arrived. Ecstasy! The band looked and sounded great. Everything I could have wished for. It was cold. The stage had little coal burners. They played and played and played!
At show end I found myself feeling so fucking cold! I was shivering out of control. I stumbled over to a big bonfire. There were a couple of folks there. We smiled. I think that fire saved my life. I was exhausted!
As I walked out of the main gate , I passed the stall selling the cheese sandwiches that I'd noticed on Friday night, most of them were still there, they'd hardly sold any of them !
Somehow I got back to Manchester Railway station. It was morning time. Sound of voices singing Night Flight made me spin around. Sure enough...there was Bert Jansch and John Renbourn carrying guitar cases, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox of Pentangle platform walking singing their current hit. Wow! They must have played a Manchester gig the night before.
I got back to Cardiff and crashed. Without a word of a lie, I woke up at 2pm the next day. I'd slept in the deepest sleep for 23 hours!
Dennis Poole adds this interesting snippet about his time at Bickershaw.
Thanks for asking about my memories of Bickershaw
I remember that it was May 72 and just after my 19th birthday. I had been living in Bristol and some friends I had from down their came up to see The Dead. As I was living at home in St.Helens Lancashire, they picked me up on the way.
We negotiated a deal to get in for £1 each, only to find that the organisers were letting in local families for free to "see the freaks."
The entries on the Website are correct about the arena. A really convenient marsh in the middle. People were nicking the toilet doors to make shelters because it rained a fair bit.
It was a wonderful time made all the better by several of our party bumping into old friends who seemed loaded down with £1 scores of black.
The highlights for me were CJ McDonald , Beefheart , NRPS and The Dead. I have seen a picture on a linked site and there is a view looking back out to the audience. You can see a join in the stage which marked the boundary of the sound stage and the stage for the circus acts. Our group managed to rig up some planks across the scaffolding and so sat in relative comfort, dry and within touching distance of our heroes feet.
Apart from the loony who tried to grab Bill Kreutzmann I remember a rocket was set off towards the end of the set. I remember Garcia saying "look out Bickershaw here it comes."
Bruce Bradley wrote
I have a lot of memories of Bickershaw, but my clearest vision is of something that happened during Pacific Gas and Electric's set. They were in the middle of a song when a stoned and/or drunk freak leapt up and wrestled the microphone from the lead singer and started babbling incoherently. He was removed from the stage by some roadies and the song resumed, but somehow the guy got back up there and repeated his attempts at public soul-baring. The singer, in a remarkable display of cool, compassionately put his arm around the sobbing freak's shoulders and calmed him down, saying to the audience: "He just needs love. We all need some love." For some reason I found this incredibly moving at the time and still recall it with a sense of wonder. Imagine if this had been at Altamont!
I recall a very long ride in the back of my dads ford van, along with Andy Windsor, and Aden Collier. Much ruffled from the bumpy ride we ambled along to the site, met up with the rest of our crew, and settled down to what we all recall as a brilliant weekend. Funny thing is, none of us remember the rain! I do remember doing a deal with a rather dodgy looking trip salesman though. After that, mother nature wound her wonderful way through Stackridge, Hawkwind, Dr John, etc.
Much giggling, wailing, singing, tooting, and eating Weetabix went on. Perhaps that's why we didn't notice the rain. Who knows?.. Who cares, a good time was had.
I remember the high wire thing, and the diver, what a nutter! What was going on with that huge ball, or did I dream that?
My dad was good enough to pick us up after the gig too, What a star.
In those days we thought we were exercising consumer power by not paying for anything if we could get away for it. Most of us were shown the light of capitalist law abiding reason by the club wielding security guards, but one of my mates achieved a great blow against the empire. There were a couple of very conspicuous , very self conscious drug squad officers in spanking new leather fringe jackets and cowboy hats ( with walkie talkies ) and my mate - he of the shoulder length red hair, Afghan coat and silver star boots - walked confidently behind them , said "plain clothes "to the ticket steward in a voice of brisk authority and trucked on through !
DS ? NAH, shurely some miztake.........
I was organizing the press, although I wasn't hired directly by Beadle, he was hired by somebody else. Everyone was extremely nervous about being paid. I recall at one point Beadle being surrounded by lots of people screaming for money.
In those days the tabloids used to leap on festivals in the vain hope that somebody was going to have a baby or some girl was going to take off her clothes. There was no provision for the press, no press area , no telephone for miles. I spent the day dragging crates across the muddy field and tried to set up a bar. The organizers all buggered off early.
Three of us aged 18 set off from Edinburgh in a Reliant Robin with a bottle of Scotsmac and a five pound note. Handed a strange piece of fudge by a person in a village doorway on the way to the site. Family were amazing . The Kinks got everyone doing exercises. Beefheart was not too keen on the monitors "there are no monitors in this composition".
Woken next morning by DJ playing Pink Floyd's One of these Days VERY loud and a brass band . Electric yo-yo , ten bob, still got mine and it still works ...On the last day they let the locals in Bizarre sight of women pushing kids through the mud to look at the tired muddy hippy refugees. My first and last festival . Wouldn't have missed it for anything.
The official programme contained on the inside back page , the following poem , apparently a - Sun totem and chant of the Haida Indians. It went as follows
oh good sun/
look thou down upon us /
shine on us O sun,
gather up the clouds wet black
that the rains may cease to fall.
A fat lot of good that did . The promoters probably paid off the wrong sun god.
Incredible String Band at Bickershaw
courtesy Repfoto © 1972
So long ago and far away. I was 18 and I went to watch the Incredibles, I used to follow them everywhere. The only time I recall a pale sun coming out was for Donovan. All I took was an overcoat, a hat , a sleeping bag . I slept the nights in the marquees , about three deep. I remember wading through yards and yards of mud to the glorious khazi's . those pits with a hut over the top and a bar to squat on . None of the doors seemed to shut. ( at least they had doors, unlike the Isle of Wight festival bogs !)
I remember changing trains at York on the way home in the early hours , sitting on a riverbank watching the swans . The sun was shining then......
Bickershaw will never be forgotten - the black (coal-tip) mud, knee deep if you stepped of the boarded walk-ways... The rain and cold.. Cramming about 20 folks into my mates Leyland van to drive home afterwards. And reports of exotic "plague" deseases spreading due to the collapsing (sinking in the mud ?) toilet "carousel" units.
If anyone tells you Bickershaw was crap , don't listen to them . It was fine enough for us stout northern types. For me it was only marred by one of my friends foolishly allowing themselves to be sold an oxo sized cube of mud for five pounds by a bearded character with sunglasses and a a dark beret , despite the fact it was night time. We constructed a lean to shelter with some corrugated iron given us by a couple of security guards wielding pickaxe handles, who seemed friendly enough. I remember the best bands being Stackridge , Wishbone Ash , Dr John and Linda Lewis who was pretty good and a fantastic and well received set from the Kinks. And Country Joe , Brinsley Schwarz and the New Riders really got the atmosphere going.
It wasn't Mudstock for me but a glorious , self indulgent weekend which I've treasured ever since as its the closest I've ever got to experiencing what those American hippies were going on about. I have the 10p official programme in front of me as I write.
We all piled into my Hillman Imp with a half pound of dope and not much else. There were all these circus acts and theatre groups which kept freaking us out. Late one night I remember a guy in flames jumping off a very high tower into a tank of water . And somebody riding a motorbike over the crowd on a tight rope , picked out in the darkness by a searchlight. .
I was 13 and we walked to the festival . No one gave us a lift and it took five hours. We had no money and only a packet of ginger nut biscuits between us. We managed to cadge a pass out which got one of us in and locating the others in turn by banging on the corrugated iron fence and then threw the ticket over in ball of mud. This was repeated until we were all inside.
My claim to fame was climbing to the top of the scaffolding gantry in the middle of the field. I was the person Country Joe McDonald told to " get the fuck off " . By the time The Dead were on we'd found our way under the stage through a gap in the boards and we could reach out and touch their boots. They gave us a far warmer greeting over the microphone. Garcia broke a string at one point and gave it to one of my mates.
Knackered but with spirits lifted , we gushed about our experiences at school the next day " yeah, it was just like Woodstock, a whole city man "
F. J Burke.
I stumbled upon your great site tonight- we've been talking about Bickershaw recently as we've become born again Incredible String Band fans (sad sods that we are).
My only question concerns Country Joe- he did play "Jean Desprez" from "War War War" despite what your tape may tell you- now as then I love this song.
I stayed the night after the Dead had finished- when I woke up on Monday morning, I will never forget the scenes of utter devastation and mud on that Monday morning (although I've forgotten most other things); it was all so deserted too. I remember thinking that the world had ended and no one had bothered to tell me,
I have just found your web page about Bickershaw, and it has brought back some good memories .I remember going to Bickershaw on the Friday tea time to meet two of my mates who were already there, when I got off the bus at the site I thought that I would never find my two mates, but they just happened to be at the bus stop, how lucky was that ?.
I don't remember the rain being that bad, but I do remember Wishbone Ash being absolutely Brill, also Family, but the Kinks were a great disappointment.
I have treasured these memories ever since that great weekend, and am coming up to my 31st year as a Drummer in a variety of bands, and most of that is due to Bickershaw.
Ray Davis of the Kinks, proof positive he was as pissed as a newt
Just visited your great site. I saw your JPG 'crowdy' and recognised myself immediately. I would love to know what I was doing when the photograph was taken. I am the one with the tea cosy hat, 3rd row, 4th from the right and I am stood with some friends from Manchester. It's really good that someone like yourself has provided these web-sites. Thanks a lot, they have brought back such great memories.
From SP (who taped during the festival )
Having been to the Hollywood and Bath festivals in 1970, I was disappointed when we reached the festival site. Probably the rain didnt help but the whole atmosphere was bad it felt like (and probably was) an industrial wasteland. From somewhere we commandeered a huge plastic sheet which, when it rained, we could sit on and pull up, over, and around ourselves, leaving a small hole at the front to look through and point the mike out of. Apart from when the Dead were on, it just seemed to rain most of the time. Being a student, and a newcomer to taping, I didnt have, and couldnt afford, many tapes, so Id gone with enough to tape about 10 hours (although with the unlikely possibility that the Dead would actually play for 9 hours, I wanted to save as much as I could for them). I did manage to tape bits of other acts mainly ones I thought my brother might like as he hadnt been able to make it to the Festival. So I had some parts of Hawkwind, Country Joe, Wishbone Ash and bits of Stackridge and Jonathon Kelly. When the Dead came on, I hadnt learned to just leave the tape rolling so I switched off and on between songs, thus missing all stage talk except the Happy Birthday bit. Sadly, only my tapes of the Dead remain - shortly after the festival I taped over the other music.
Memories of the music are very patchy. I remember Country Joe doing an excellent set and completely throwing the crowd with his "Fish Cheer" which went Gimme an F ("F"), gimme a U ("U"), gimme a C ("C"), gimme a K ("K"), gimme an N (long pause ..er "N?"), gimme an I ("I"), gimme an X ("X"), gimme an O ("O"), gimme an N ("N"), whats that spell? ("FUCK NIXON"), etc.
The Kinks were totally pissed/stoned when they came on in the evening. I dont recall the songs they played but at least once during the set they threw loads of beer over each other and their instruments and, from memory, were pretty shambolic throughout. Stackridge were new to me but I subsequently bought a couple of their albums so I must have been impressed with them. The only songs I can say for sure that they played were Slark, Let There Be Lids, and Purple Spaceships Over Yatton. Similarly Jonathon Kelly was new to me and I thought he was wonderful. So far as I can remember he played unaccompanied. When I bought his album immediately after the festival, most of the songs were familiar so I guess his set included many of them. Wishbone Ash were OK. At the time they were one of my brothers favourite bands so I taped quite a bit of their set (again, sadly, gone forever).
Beefheart, to my eternal regret, was unknown to me then. Within a year, I came to love his music and realised that I had missed a performance by the classic line-up. I say "missed" we didnt actually miss it, but wed decided to crash for the night and wandered round for a couple of hours trying to find our tent (with the Magic Band performing as a soundtrack in the background), only to realise that it had been stolen and spending the night in one of the communal tents that were there.
On balance I enjoyed the festival, but it doesnt hold the same memories for me that Hollywood and Bath in 1970 do.
Stacia of Hawkwind stoicly writhes onstage despite the cold
Why I should suddenly decide to do a search for something that happened 30 years ago is a mystery to me, but I did, and was led to your pages about the Bickershaw Festival. I was a 21 year old acid head who also happened to be drunk too, so my memory of the festival is more than hazy. The little I remember could easily be false memories. I seem to remember Hawkwind had had their gear stolen shortly before and had to use someone elses. Stackridge's maybe, if what I remember is true? Walking down a lane from the pub and a limo passed and some guy with a bushy beard and glasses waved at me and my pal. Gerry himself had waved to me! A good thing as I have no recollection of seeing the Dead's gig at all.
The only ones I can say I remember with anything approaching certainty were Hawkwind, Linda Lewis and Family. Still, the weekend did start off with a call at a shop who brewed their own wine which we bought 24 bottles of on the way to the site. The stuff was so potent that 4 bottles exploded in the car.
Wonderful times, and great to find someone has elected to keep the memory alive. I wish I could say the same for my own memory, but your website just woke enough memories to let me relive one of the great weekends in my life.
Bickershaw- I took 12 guys from college and hustled tickets so we all got in for next to nothing, bought visquine and timber and built a shelter, first Newcastle Brown Ale. Waking up in the middle of the night with a bunch of bikers round our fire and the Kinks on stage doing Lola.
just been to the Bickershaw site, and it brought up a few memories of a truly splendid week-end. here are a few things I've just written down. six of us went up there in nick fountain's Beetle. Already off our heads and getting off on the swirly carpets in the motorway services. Nick driving with his head out of the window to keep himself awake. When we got there we met other people from Berko who had already built a warm, dry shed out of drainpipes, corrugated iron and plastic sheet.
There seemed to be no shortage of shelter-making materials, There was a railway line running through one corner of the field, which started the week-end with a very useful wooden fence......
Of course, the memories are seen through a fog of time and drug abuse, but here are some of the remaining snippets, which might ring a bell with others:
There was a big football match the same week-end...on the front of the festival gig-guide there was a picture of some freaks with speech bubbles, one saying "have Leeds scored yet?"and the other saying "no, but I have"
- There was a guy selling ring doughnuts from the back of a van...he was keeping his dog in the festival spirit by feeding it quid deals of paki black.
- Very good black micro-dots.
- There were warnings of danger from falling down mine-shafts, because the whole area had been heavily mined for coal.
- A girl, tripped out, arms outstretched, an orange in each hand, just saying "stackridge, stackridge" over and over again.
- A beautiful sunny day (!!), walking with an aquaintance, both tripped out. He couldn't make out the skylark responsible for that singing like magical running water, he'd assumed it was just part of his trip, he'd never heard a skylark before.
- Inside one of the big free tents was a chicken- house with about a dozen chickens in it.Sharing it with them were four shop-front dummies seated around a fully laid table.
Nowadays we'd call that installation art, no?
- While it was raining outside, learning to blow bubbles injected with smoke by using an empty biro tube. When they burst you get a nice smoke ring.
- the stage base was made of scaffolding. Me and Mike Myers climbed up underneath, to where the monitors were, on a raised bit in front of the band. Through the gap we could see Jerry Garcia's legs, only a couple of feet away,(as it were!)
- Some people promoting non-verbal communication, which turned into an excellent running joke for the whole week-end, mainly consisting of exaggerated mime, and a lot of pointing at things.!!
- Doctor John, scattering glitter from his gris-gris bag..an amazing setall round.
- A guy in a costume like a large blubbery mound of rubber. He'd lie quite still, and then suddenly attack unsuspecting tripped out passers-by.
- Sitting on some straw bales outside one of the food tents. Black smoke from a generator billowing around the place...one of the street theatre/non-verbal communication guys wandering around with a piece of metal flue-pipe as if trying to catch the smoke.
Bickershaw was one of my first festivals, and easily one of the best.
Many thanks and keep up the good work..I'm off to investigate the first Windsor festival sites!!
(I was the one with the stuffed parrot sewn to my shoulder)
Here's my story for what its worth. I was in the lower sixth at Salesian College, Bootle at the time,and a couple of the lads and I decided to go to the festival. One of the brothers at the school mentioned that he was volunteering in one of the first aid tents and that he could take a couple of us in his Morris Minor. Bingo. That took care of the transportation issue and another friend had a car to take up the rest of our motley crew.
We all bought tickets, bar one, who made up his mind to go at the last minute. We got there Friday and as we were looking for a ticket for our chum, it dawned on us that there was a discrepancy in the prices we paid for our tickets and those being offered to us. A couple of us decided to try our hand at this buying and selling tickets lark, and in a couple of hours made back our original outlay and got our friend in for free.
As everyone has mentioned the weather was ugly, so our next task was to set up some kind of shelter as we had sleeping bags but no tent. A couple of us bagged a spot just forward of the gantries and the rest went in search of building materials. We managed to snag some large pieces of plastic, some bales of hay and we had noted that some enterprising souls were using corrugated iron. That seemed like a good idea, so off we went to tear down some of the wall that had been put up to enclose the arena. Once we had all our stuff, we built a cabin that stayed up and waterproof throughout the festival. In fact it was so big, that is was able to accommodate us and about half a dozen Manchester Uni. folks who were smart enough to ask if they could share (It didn't hurt that they were mixed males/females and one was really cute). The even better news for us school kids, was that they had a ready supply of drugs and we took full advantage (the brother not being around as he was off volunteering).
Captain Beefheart on soprano sax
Having been busy the early part of the evening I missed the first bands, but got to enjoy the latter half of Hawkwind along with Wishbone Ash and Dr John. I didn't think anyone could have such a sonorous voice as Dr. J., until of course Captain Beefhart appeared the next day with his memorable opening "The Spot-light kid is back" and went on to give the outstanding performance of the festival.
I don't really remember too much else on the Saturday, though I enjoyed the Family set and agree that the Kinks sucked. As an aside, I saw the Kinks half a dozen times and half of them were excellent and the others crap. It all depended on whether Ray Davies was sober or not.
As for Sunday, maybe I was too tired or had taken too many drugs, but I only remember Country Joe being ok and NRPS being totally boring. I had looked forward to seeing the Dead, but about halfway through their set (3am?) our Salesian brother said he needed to get back, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything when we left.
Musically, I may have been to better festivals (well more consistent lets say),e.g. 1st Knebworth headlined by the Allman Bros. Band, with outstanding sets from John McLaughlin not to mention Van Morrison etc. but I still treasure my memories of Bickershaw.
I met a group of 3 ladies who were there , I actually lived in Wigan at the time. they were very interesting people, and followed the Children of God group. They wanted to go home to Yorkshire , and had no transport, so I took them. we had an interesting chat along the way. I do not know their names unfortunately, but I can't see too many local people offering lifts to strangers all the way to Yorkshire.I would love to hear from them though.They knew my name was John, and I had a new Austin 1100 purple in colour, I was 21 at the time. If any of them wish to contact me my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope this reminds someone of those great days.
I was hitch hiking north when a van full of freaks picked me up and asked me if I was going to Bickershaw. When I found out it was the first rock festival of the year in England I figured that would be a great way to spend my birthday (May 6) so I went with them. No ticket, no tent, no plan, but I have to say that despite the rain and mud (and there was a lot of that) I had a great time.
I got there the night before the festival began and managed to find a load of straw for ground cover and slept in a ditch. That was the only night (or day) that it didn't rain. Second night I scored a spot in one of the dormitory tents the festival had to offer and would have stayed there longer except that there were these jesus freaks that would come in REALLY early in the morning singing at the top of their lungs. (They meant well enough I guess.) On Saturday I met a really far out couple from somewhere in the south of England who invited me to share their tent for the next two days. The tent was fairly dry and we got fairly high. By some weird twist of fate they were given an extra gate pass so I got to see all the acts on Saturday and Sunday. I wish I could remember their names, I'd like to be able to thank them for befriending a traveling Yank.
By the end of the festival everything I owned was covered in mud and smelled like burnt wood, but it was one of the premier experiences of my backpacking trip through Europe that summer.
I really like your website, brings back a lot of good memories.
I was 21 a couple of days after the festival and must have the been the only 'hippy-chick' whose mum wouldn't let her stay overnight at her first opportunity for riotous living!!! I lived in St. Helens, desperate to see Donovan and had no intention of missing him so had to agree to the curfew. Before you think I was a goody two shoes, just bear one thing in mind - you don't know my mother.
I met my friends, Val and Paul from Stourbridge, at Lime Street station, begged sleeping bags from my parents for them to borrow and we made our way by bus to Bickershaw. From the moment we got off that bus it poured with rain. We all bought pass outs for half price and got in with them. It was already dark and muddy but I managed to work out where to meet up the next day and had to catch the last bus back home - didn't get to see or hear anyone!!
On the Saturday I dragged myself out of bed early and was on my way before the rest of the family were about to see what kind of food I was grabbing for my friends - they had hardly any money with them and were starving when I left them the night before. But I had one intention only on that Saturday - that was to see and hear Donovan live. Nearly an hours travelling and another hour walking round looking for my friends before I fell over them asleep in the mud. I just knew I was going to be in the shit over the state of those bloody sleeping bags!!! They were full of stories of how wonderful it had all been the night before, which was why they were still asleep at lunchtime. I was green with envy and wondering if it would be worth risking the wrath of a maternal rollicking to stay overnight.
What sticks in my mind of the Saturday was finding the toilets - well an excuse for toilets. Giant hole in ground full of something that looked like the set of the Magic Christian. The cubicles were arranged around the outside of the hole like the spokes of a wheel and you had to go in two's so one of you could stand in front to shield the other from an audience.
The other thing I remember though was everybody was happy - even though the weather was crap. People weren't miserable - which is strange for dirty northern towns in the rain. Now I knew most of them were stoned - even I wasn't that naive, but this was more than that. Maybe it was like the spirit of the blitz. We were all in the same boat, things couldn't get any worse and there was good music to look forward to.
I honestly wasn't interested in seeing anyone other than Donovan though I was aware of Linda Lewis (only because they announced Donovan as the next but one after her) which made me pay attention at that point and by this time we had found a spot around the lighting scaffolding facing the stage. At this stage in the afternoon people had started to leave their disposable sleeping bags on the floor and they provided some kind of protection from the mud underneath them (or so we thought). I sat enthralled all through Donovan's set and sang my heart out along with him. The sun even struggled to come out specially for him. I've never taken any drugs of any kind but I was high on atmosphere (and maybe some passively ingested from other people). They could have bottled the air that day and sold it for $1.00 a go!!
Just before the end of Donovan's set I decided I was going backstage to meet him. I couldn't believe how easy it was to get around the back of the stage and approach the act personal area. Lo and behold there he was walking towards me by himself - I just froze in my tracks and then watched him go into a caravan and leave the door open. My moment had arrived - but I couldn't go any further. I realised that this was his private life; he'd entertained me for about 45 minutes and I had no right to be there. Imagine being able to get that close to the bands private lives nowadays. I just took one last look and walked away to try to find my friends again.
No wet arse for the Don , he rides in comfort !
I don't know who came on after that and I didn't care at the time though now I wish I had took more notice. I didn't realise how many of the greats were actually there. By then I realised how wet and dirty I was, and had noticed that I had a big patch on the arse of my beige trousers where the mud had soaked through the paper sleeping bags we thought were safe to sit on.(thank God I didn't meet Donovan at the time). I considered a bout of maternal disobedience and then thought 'nah I fancy a hot bath, a clean bed for the night and clean clothes for the final day'.So I headed for home once again. Managed to miss my bus and hitch hiked. My lift turned out to be a motorbike (another bit of maternal disobedience) who took me to the East Lancs Road - hippy chick to biker girl in one afternoon!!! However my next lift brought me back to reality - an old guy in a Robin Reliant - I never told my mates that one - who took me all the way ----- to St. Helens!!!
My memory of the Sunday was of quite a good day. I seem to remember the sun was shining - but by then it was so muddy that nothing was going to dry it out until all those feet got off the mud. I met another friend, Vikki from Manchester and we set off to find the other two, but never did meet up. Vikki and I decided that we were not sitting in the mud and climbed to the top of the scaffolding opposite the stage area. We got away with it for quite a long time, until others noticed us and climbed up. I must admit that it was beginning to move and feel a little insecure. But I have one thing to say - F. Burke it was ME that was the last one down off the scaffolding when Country Joe was telling us off. If you and your mates hadn't come up there we would have been left alone. We were there for over an hour by ourselves with a brilliant view. I enjoyed the Country Joe set and have vague memories of "The New Christie Minstrels" doing a couple of songs (remember three wheels on my wagon?) I'm also sure that I heard a band introduced as The Electric Orchestra somewhere around late afternoon though I noticed that they were not included on the list of bands who played. Can someone please confirm that they were there.
Vikki and I never did find Val and Paul but I got a letter a few days later with an apology and a left luggage key for the sleeping bags at Lime Street Station. It took me a couple of days to get to Liverpool to collect them. They'd been removed from the storage area and put in a collection room - I think the smell had something to do with it. I had to pay excess storage costs to get them back and when my parents saw them, I had to pay to have them dry cleaned as well. The moral of the story is, don't lend parents stuff to people you hardly know!!!!!
But at the end of it all, I ENJOYED MYSELF. I must have been the only person there who stayed completely level headed but it was still an experience I wouldn't have missed for the the world. I'm still amazed at hearing of big name bands who appeared there and I missed out on them by not being able to stay over and maybe it would have been worth the aggro to have stayed - would have certainly saved myself alot of money on busfares.
One last thing, thank you for this website and a wonderful trip down memory lane.
I was lying under a plastic sheet with a couple of mates, having consumed lots of hash fudge, and laughing insanely through most of Hawkwind's set, for no particular reason. Our laughter seemed contagious and soon, half the world, it seemed, was laughing: we wondered how Hawkwind took this...
I saw a local-looking guy - tweed jacket, workers boots, flat cap, obviously off his head on something - taking off his jacket, whirling it round his head, coins falling out of the pockets, and flinging it away into the crowd and the mud.
I met a girl sitting on her own in an Afghan dress, looking a bit sorry for herself. I said "Are you OK?"; she replied, "I'm cold and wet, I've lost my friends and I've got no knickers on!" We spent the night together in a marquee, inside a paper sleeping bag.
It was Dr John, I think, who scattered shiny stuff around the stage during his set; later that weekend, while dancing in the mud but on another planet, I looked down at my mud-caked jeans and saw myriad glistening jewels...
There's a picture on the sleeve of The Dead's Europe '72 album which shows the front of the crowd at Bickershaw and I'm just there, with lots of hair and a green waistcoat.
Dr John , the king of goofer dust
Steve Houghton has 8mm film of the festival
Most of the footage is of the festival build up, the stage being built and there is some stuff on the site showing all the people in front of the stage. There is a small amount of footage of live bands,but I don’t know who they are though. There is lots of footage in and around the village as it gets busier, my dad ran the local club at the time and there is footage of the hippies in the club. I think the film is about 45mins and last time I watched it was fine. I haven’t watched it for over ten years, hopefully its ok. I am going to get it transferred to video. My best mate who I am still in touch with is called Morris Cohen and it was his dad who set the festival up in the first place with the local farmer at the time. Harry Cohen was the organizer and was interviewed on tv, he used to be known as the count. He used to wear a Dracula type cloak with a top hat and cane. He was a right character, sadly he died last year.
Yes ,I remember Bickershaw as being very wet ,I arrived there on the friday evening with no ticket and bribed one of the locals who was guarding a hole in the fence ,I saw hawkwind ,stackridge ,wishbone ash ,johnathon kelly and dr john. Spent some time during the night under the stage drinkin free beer and smokin free dope,woke up in the morning cold wet and tired decided to call it a day and went home. On the way out I was given a pass ticket to get back in which I sold to someone coming in ,as I recall I made a profit . really enjoyed this site ,brought back memories
I just came across your very comprehensive site on the festival. What a hoot! I was there for the Sunday show only, and I arrived late in the day at that.
I was the New Riders' secretary and had flown in from San Francisco, arriving after much delay just before the New Riders went on. I remember whomever was putting on te festival took it on faith that I was who I said I was and let me in but I couldn't get backstage until John "Marmamduke" Dawson heard me screaming from the audience and announced that their secretary had arrived and pointed me out. I was overwhelmed with fans (an experience that I had never had - it was kind of fun) and someone finally got me backstage. I don't remember much else except that it was rainy and muddy and a little cold for the time of year.
Anyway, thanks for the memories!
Photo © David Orme
The ford transit was heading up the motorway, when I asked "where are we going" Dave the driver replied "the Bickershaw festival". For the past few hours Dave had been driving round Bristol, collecting various friends, who piled into the back of the van armed with cushions and plastic carrier bags, it turned out that his friends were a collection of Bristol hippie/ dope dealers, their plastic carrier bags contained their stash.
When we got to the site, someone asked how we were going to get in, Dave said as a band thats been booked at the last minute, at which point, his mates girlfriend who had beautiful breasts amply displayed by her costume got out of the van and went up to the security guards on the backstage entrance and said as much, they opened the gates and let us in. We parked up with the rock stars and made ourselves comfortable. I cadged a black microdot off "Slim" and proceeded to have the bad trip staight from hell for the next 16hrs or so.
I remember trying to watch the Kinks, but the stage was heaving like one of those fairground swing boats. I had spent the previous week or so trying to come down off acid and speed. The speed seemed to stay in my system, so I was fairly strung out before dropping the microdot. I kept seeing people who looked as if they were dying and rotting away, like those speeded up time lapse films, at one point I rushed backstage and got a whole load of firemen to come to the front of the stage in order to help a woman who had been collapsing in the mud, when we got there, right in front of the stage, the woman was perkily bouncing away to the music, the fire crew didnt seem to mind and stayed.
Wandering around the site was like walking thru a real life Hammer horror movie, with skeletal zombified hippies staggering around ready to collapse into a pile of dust and cartillage, this carried on throughout the night and as it got light it seemed to get even weirder when I found myself hallucinating policemen, everywhere I looked there were policemen like a whole army of them, then there was an announcement from the stage about the police looking for a lost child, thats when the horribleness seemed to die away, a band came on called the "Pacific Gas and Electric" their music lifted me out of the events of the night before and totally chilled me out.
When the Dead came on later that day, I had doubts about them as a band and couldn't understand the reputation they had, but live! ---- they were in a class of their own.
In May 1972 I was seventeen and a half and lived with my parents in Horwich, a town about 6 miles from the festival site.
None of us budding 'freaks' could believe our luck, a festival with such a fantastic line-up on our own doorstep.
I'd been to the Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park and to the festival at Wheeley but this was going to be great, just a bus ride away.
I finished work on the Friday evening (my first job - in an office), headed home and waited for my girlfriend to show up.
As we were having tea and watching the local news on TV (Granada Reports), my younger brother's head filled the screen complete with wild hair and leather headband. He, being at college, had gone down to the site the day before and was being asked why he liked festivals by the interviewer. He mumbled something about them being better than football matches and the camera moved on. My dad nearly choked on his crumpet and said, " I hope no-one knows he belongs to me !"
The weather at this stage wasn't bad and girlfriend in tow off we trekked, armed with a small tent I'd borrowed from someone at work.
We arrived in the town of Bickershaw and jumped off the bus to follow the hordes heading for the site. Just then a car pulled up and a bloke with wife and kid kindly offered to drive us up to the site. We got in and they seemed a bit disappointed when they asked where we'd come from and found out it was only six miles away but cheered up when I said we'd just seen my brother on TV. "Was it that one with all the hair?" yep, that was him." But daddy chimed the daughter, I thought you said all people with long hair were just lazy" "Hush ", said mother.
On entering the site, I found my best mate who had arrived with a harem of four or five girls and was setting out sleeping bags under a large sheet of plastic. He had a errected a flag which said 'Home, Sweet, Home', in gaffer tape. This would, as the days and the weather progressed become 'Sweet Home' then eventually 'Wee Home'.
I remember it was just going dark as Hawkwind hit the stage, being introduced with the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, and now straight from the Hit Parade, 'The Sonic Assassins'. As he said "Assassins", some sort of audio effect was switched in and it became, " Assass sa sa sa sa sins". Here we go I thought as screens to the side of the stage showed giant animated UFO's and the band kicked in to a killer version of 'SilverMachine'. Life doesn't get better than this, although it was just starting to rain ! After the set we decided we needed some more inspiration so my mate and me scored some grass from a chap selling knecklaces etc. He produced a silver foil stash from under the corrigated steel base of his 'stand'. It wasn't very good.
The rain by this time was getting heavier. We returned to our 'patch'. The tent we had brought leaked like a sieve and wasn't much use at all.
Country Joe plays on apparently wet stage.
Of the acts that weekend, I remember the Incredible String Band, Donovan (my all time favourites), the Kinks - Ray Davies was so drunk he could hardly stand up, poured a bottle of whiskey over the brass section who all walked off and that was the set. I think they played 'Demon Alchohol' all the way through so that was apt. Capt. Beefheart and the Magic Band were superb. I jumped out of the tent in the small hours of a cold and wet morning (still dark) to watch them play. Tried to rouse my mate, under the plastic with his women but he wasn't for surfacing. Another friend of ours had given a tab of Strawberry Fields to my mate for safe keeping otherwise he would drop it and he had an exam on Monday, he'd said. On the Sunday afternoon as we burned beer cans (the paint on them will flame) to keep warm he asked for it back and dropped it ! Skinning up was impossible as all the skins were stuck together concertina fashion due to the sodden conditions.
I remember Country Joe MacDonald and the guy up the tower episode of course.
By late Sunday afternoon, we'd had enough and wet through, hungry and cold we decided to call it a day and head for the bus stop. Loaded up with camping gear and rucksacks to the strains of 'The New Riders of the Purple Sage', we wandered through the field towards the exit. I had a pair of baseball boots on my feet and as we walked through the wet grass, I stood on some thing with my left foot. This 'something' turned out to be the remains of a rusted old fence post which had corroded into an evil pointed, poisonous thing. It went through my shoe, wet sock and straight into my heel as I put the weight on my foot. I had to physically pull my leg off the damn thing.I went through the colours of the rainbow and then fainted for few seconds. My friends took me to the hospital tent where the wound was cleaned and a tetanus shot was administered.
We got the bus home. The following day I got up for work and my heel had become infected / septic. Thus a visit to the doctor and a sick note for a week.
Whilst off work a reporter from the local rang rang and wanted to speak to my brother, having seen the TV interview. My brother was at college. The reporter wanted to know if he was in a band. In retrospect, I should have said he was lead guitarist with the Grateful Dead !
I watched the documentary a few weeks later when it was shown with my brother. He saw the police moving his motorbike from where he'd parked it. I thought I didn't leave it there he said.
Just seen the website for the first time. Yes, I was there, I was 17 and this was my first festival. Myself and a mate (forgotten his name) went by train from Manchester with little money, no tent, food, change of clother - nothing. Totally unprepared. I suppose that Woodstock would still have been uppermost in most people's mind's at the time so the expectation was peace and love with bright sunshine. I didn't reckon on Wigan. Needless to say we had no tickets either. My earliest memory of the event was catching a bus from Wigan train station to Bickershaw and everyone on the top floor seemed to have a copy of Sounds (which featured the event) and all singing Smoke on the Water! There were some large marquees to house the untented, we kipped down in one of these and lived on a diet of chicken soup and dounuts for the two days that we were there.
I remember a guy almost naked in the pouring rain trying to sell liquid mescalin, Hells Angels terrorising everyone, no police at all that I can remember and just being amazed at what, to me anyway was another world. We didn't sleep as we listened to Beefheart - tuning up was excellent by the way. I can remember The Kinks and Donovan and doing about 2 hours of the Dead before the rain soaked through to the very bones. I think that I slept for about 2 days when I got home. the event changed my life, about a month later I left home and followed a life of music ever since. Beefheart is still played in this household and I'm a regular festival attendee. Let me know more about the 35 year celebration as I certainly intend being there.
I remember a leaflet with a charactor in it called something like Tommy Turd.
Maybe it was printed at the festival? being so tired and wet, it struck me as very funny at the time.
Also Family, the motorbike on the highwire and the village like a warzone.
I don't know how they got away with it, a once in a lifetime thing, crazy.
Photo © David Orme
Yes it was rather a blur – particularly after someone passed me the festival spliff (my 1st ever) during Hawkwind’s set and I seem to recall falling backwards from my sitting position as Stacia did something quite rude with some kind of see-through material.
The flimsy material features again in another hazy memory – but this is the puzzling thing – because I thought it was a willowy young girl dressed in diaphanous clothing, doing some kind of ballet-inspired dancing to the music of Roy Harper playing his guitar at the right of the stage. Yet you say he wasn’t there???? Who’s illusion is the right one? Am I confusing Bickershaw with Lincoln Pop Festival in the same year? I don’t remember him there. But then memory can play tricks!
(the dancing girl featured during Donovans set : Archive ED)
I also remember Wishbone Ash guitar solos seeming to float and waver across the site to where we camped by a little pond – in which, over the three days, strange arty folk erected an impressive spiral ramp up a tower and which activity culminated on the Sunday night in a procession of oddly dressed characters, chanting and drumming, led by someone in a shiny suit who, once at the top, appeared to burst into flames before plunging into the pond. End of show.
And talking of oddly dressed characters – what about those policemen with big lenses on their cameras and wearing nylon kaftans and wigs? What did they look like? They didn’t catch me anyway.
I also remember going to the bread shop for one of those massive balmcakes and seeing what I thought was Lemmy smoking a massive spliff whilst leaning against the security fencing. That might have been an illusion too because Lemmy never did that sort of thing, did he? Did he? Did I? Was it all a dream?
My God I found your site - very wonderful, especially since I had forgotten most of that weekend.
I do remember the Beefheart, Dr John and Grateful Dead stints, all glorious.
At one stage I was a victim of some black microdot rubbish and fled from the swamp creatures into the Release tent, where a beautiful girl gave me a handful of valium and a soap bubble kit. This straightened me out somewhat. Then back into the fray....
My kids wouldn't believe me if I told them
I was a young cornet player in Haydock Band back in 1972.
We went on stage the Sunday morning not a little apprehensive at the reception we might get .
The wet and cold weather was a real problem as the rather damp crowd were cowed under an assortment of plastic and tarpaulin covers and any bits of shelter they could find, what struck me as we entered the stage was the massive heaters on both sides and all the sound equipment strewn around with all the big bands names on them.
I cant remember how long we played but we got a great reception from the hippies which was a fantastic feeling as we hadn't played to such a crowd before.One of the numbers we played was ' American Patrol ' - a bit Glenn Millerish which got the crowd out of their shelters and dancing.
My mother and father were on stage as well watching us from the back.
A great memory from so long ago.
My Bickershaw began on a Friday night in the back room of a pub called The Old Arcade in Cardiff – it was part of the ‘alternative scene’ in Cardiff –if such a thing existed in 1972. Two of us were born again Dead Heads but we were without the means to get to Lancashire. We managed to persuade a third guy that it would be a good idea to drive up to Lancashire overnight. He didn’t have any money either but he had a car. We were desperate and then I had a moment of inspiration. Why not invite my younger and solvent brother to pay for the expedition. After the pub closed we drove round to my home and got my kid brother out of bed. He didn’t take a lot of persuading. We must have left Cardiff at one in the morning. Five of us. The driver’s girlfriend came along for the ride. No money, no tickets, no food. Jed – the other Dead Head brought some Spanish onions along and ate them as we laboured up the M6 in a Riley. I distinctly remember catching the driver’s ‘Oh fuck, it’s going to be one of those nights’ expression as we watched Jed consuming raw onions whole.
In those days an ex-school mate lived just up the road from Wigan. He was a student at Lancaster University. We knew he was keen on the Dead so why not call round first thing and invite him to join us. I think we also calculated that he would have some cash. We arrived at this place called Pilling at about six in the morning. It was in the middle of nowhere. Said friend was not over pleased to see us. Whilst we were being ushered back to the car his new girlfriend appeared from the sleeping quarters. He obviously had other things on his mind. Silly boy he missed one of the greatest gigs in the history of rock ‘n roll.
Anyways back to the story. We turned back for Wigan and fetched up at what looked like a council estate adjacent to a reclaimed coal tip. Worthy Farm it wasn’t. I don’t remember paying to get in. We didn’t have any money anyway. We must have got in via somebody’s back garden. Once we were on site we realised that this really wasn’t the Vale of Avalon. I remember it being very wet under foot and there being pretty solid rain. We didn’t have a tent and on Saturday night we managed to sleep in a communal marquee. I don’t suppose we had anything to eat or money for food. Even Jed had finished his onions. Our sleeping quarters were pitched on a slope and water ran through the tent. I don’t remember much about Saturday. For a start we hadn’t slept at all the previous night and secondly we were only really there for the Dead. I think we lay in our sleeping bags out of the rain. We had managed to establish source of combustible herbs. We teamed up with the most boring hippy in Britain I think. He let us smoke his dope so long as we listened to his endless discourses on how to roll the perfect joint. I do remember that Family were quite lively but then they always were. Roger Chapman was forever falling off the stage in those days. Captain Beefheart seemed to come on in the middle of the night – shit we were too tired to take much notice.
I remember Captain Beyond on Sunday. They were loud, perhaps a precursor of all those ‘orrible stadium rock bands that the States were to export in the mid 70’s. I’ve have looked at the programme since and noticed that the Brynsleys were there but I can’t remember them and I went on to really love that band. It rained all day Sunday and then the sun broke through and the Dead were on. I remember getting as close as possible to the stage. There was a fence and then a descent to a huge pool of dirty water. That gig was the finest and best gig I have ever attended – the only thing that came close was Led Zeppelin at Shepton Mallet in 1970 – that was before they became stadium monsters. I remember we stood there and imbibed the music. We knew all the songs and I recall exchanging knowing looks as each song began – we knew what to expect. The people we worshipped were there in front of us doing the songs that formed the backdrop to our lives in those days. I remember that during the set a madman got on to stage and announced that this was God’s band. I agreed with him but I think climbing on to the stage to announce it was pretty excessive. I think he was booed. The band seemed to play on and on. Stuff from American Beauty, Working Man’s Dead, Dark Star. It was awesome. I’ll never forget that gig. Jeremy Beadle I love you!
The following week the gig made the front page of the Melody Maker and there in the photograph was this line of people hanging on a fence. I always swore that Jed, myself and my kid brother were in that picture but I’ve never been able to track it down. Whenever we used to meet up over the years we would yarn about that Sunday on the coal tip in Wigan. Sadly those days came to an end. My kid brother died of cancer in 1997 and Jed passed on in 2003. So I’m telling you now. But I did have a moment of schadenfreude earlier this year that cheered me – for about fifteen seconds.
I was in a pub called the Dirty South in Lewisham. The DJ was playing a lot of pretty – by the standards of the people in the pub – obscure music. I think the DJ finished with something by the Dead. Anyway not long after the set finished the DJ slumped down in a seat next to me. I turned to him and thanked him for the music and asked if he had ever seen the Dead. I pompously informed him I had seen them at Bickershaw. The DJ replied that he had been a kid when Bickershaw took place and I felt well Glyn at least you can go to your grave happy to have seen the Dead at the height of their creative powers (American Beauty must be one of the finest albums ever produced) – this poor sucker can only listen to them on vinyl! But my new friend wasn’t finished. He said that although he hadn’t seen the Dead at Wigan in 1972 the Dead had been to see his band when they had played San Francisco! Turned out the DJ was Rev’d D Wayne Love from the Alabama Three! Hey, you know once an idiot always an idiot.
So my Bickershaw began in a pub in Cardiff and I was still talking about it in a pub in Lewisham thirty five years later. If I live another thirty five years I’ll still be talking about it. Perhaps when l get to heaven my three square yards of space will be a reclaimed coal tip with the Dead playing Tennessee Jed. Perhaps I’ll have to go to hell and listen to the likes of Captain Beyond and Aerosmith for ever and ever……………………………
Glyn – south Wales
I’d taken the overnight boat from Belfast to Heysham and hitchhiked from there.
I don’t remember anything during daylight.
Captain Beefheart was astonishing. I’d expected a loose shambolic sort of band, not the tight, professional outfit that played that night.
I seem to remember Rocket Morton in a white suit, alone on stage, playing the intro from "When it blows it stacks"
Also, "Alice in Blunderland" which, on record, I’d considered a fairly complex instrumental, was played note perfectly.
It all took a turn for the weird after I was given a black micro dot.
I watched the Grateful Dead through a hole in one of the big marquees at the back of the site.
Jerry Garcia’s guitar notes plucking at my solar plexus like huge rusty fish hooks. The mud, rain and my acid induced anxiety, all conspired to make the ’Dead’ sound like the biggest, corniest C+W band in the whole universe. I wanted it all to end, but they played for what seemed like an eternity.
I awoke the next morning to a grey psychedelic Paschendale. Behind my tent a band played on the open top of a double decker bus. I think they’d been playing all night. They were pretty damn good. I discovered they were the ‘Children of God’ and for a brief moment of comedown psychosis I considered joining them.
I helped a guy to push his car out of a quagmire, the wheels spun, and I got covered from head to foot in mud.
I had to hitch up the M6 in that state, I didn’t even have a change of clothes. I was 19.
just surprisingly come across the DVD - who would have guessed Bickershaw on DVD !
Anyway I was there with my girlfriend at that time and we stayed at her sister`s terrace house in Hindley green (I think that`s the name) I`m not sure whether we went on all the days but I can remember seeing Family, The Kinks, Grateful dead, New riders and Donovan.I remember being near the stage on the right when the Kinks were playing and looking up at Ray Davies. I remember thinking that it was a different line up to the `You Really Got Me` line up.
The guy in Grateful Dead (Bob Weir I think) was wearing a kind of home knitted pattern jumper which i thought really didn`t fit the rock star image but it was different. They played a l...o....n....g l...o...n...g time. I wondered how come a band from the US chose to play near Wigan!
I was in a band at the time based in Bolton and I remember our van driver saying that if we took our gear we might get a chance to play. So we did but we didn`t play! I remember the mud but have clear memory of the so called security guards on the entrances (or even holes in the fence I think) charging us a £5 to get in and them pocketing the money. These are my immediate memories. I`ll look forward to seeing the dvd sometime.
Proof I was there!
I have just been looking at the site and it brings back great memories! I was 17 when I went to Bickershaw with a friend. It was the first time that either of us had been to a festival so we did not know what to expect. We were totally unprepared, no tents, no sleeping back some money and the clothes that we had on! My dad dropped us near the site, a long way from Warwickshire.
The weather was dreadful but it really didn't matter we had a great time and what an adventure.
The line up was brilliant all the people that I liked then, and now!
I remember the Kinks as Ray Davies nearly fell off the stage. When Donovan played the sun came out, which did seem appropriate.Where can you see such a line up for so little these days?
I remember that some guys took pity on us and we crashed in the back of their car on the Saturday night.
The journey home was very "steamy" for my dad anyway, what a state we were in, but happy? Oh yeah!
When we went to Lincoln later that month, we were more prepared - tent, sleeping bags everything. We pitched up on the Friday night in a gale. We met some great lads next to us from Southport, Manfred was the guy that I became friends with, thought him and his name were great, wonder where he is now?
I have strong memories of lying in my tent watching One Eyed Jacks on the big screen in the middle of the night! Again fantastic line up, stand outs were Rory Gallagher, Stone the Crows, but I loved the whole thing. At 54 would I do it again? You bet!!
I came across a Bickershaw web site a few years ago and it sure brought back fond memories. I also came across Jeremy Beadle's autobiography in a secondhand book shop (50p) which had a chapter devoted to the festival. Then a chum sent me a link to a site that was selling a DVD of the festival. I bought a copy which was very spooky to watch. There is an interview with Jeremy on the DVD which I remember well. The interviewer was one Austin Mitchell, then working for ITV. Jeremy asked me to go along with him to the interview. I got asked a few questions but they seem to have cut that from the film. I was standing just to Jeremy's left and it is me that he is smiling at when on several occasions he looks away from the camera and grins.
As I said below, I was doing a PhD at UMIST in 1972 when Jeremy Beadle asked me to help organise a rock festival at a place I had never heard of – Bickershaw. I don't think Beadle was a student then. He was working for Time Out who had sent him to Manchester to see if a Time Out in Manchester was viable. He started hanging out with me and my chums and talked me into helping out with the festival. Little was I to know that it would become my home for over three weeks! Jeremy and a few others had lined up Harry Bilkus to provide land for the festival. The original plans were very grand – an amazing stage was built which could cater for three bands being set up at the same time. Apart from the rock line up, we planned to have all sorts of other entertainment including a jazz/arts tent. Harry fancied himself as the British Max Yasger and as I recall, strolled around in a cape and fedora and called himself Count Harry Bilkus.
Anyway, my job was to put the jazz/arts programme together. The acts had been booked and once the marquee was erected, I was presented with a pile of scaffolding, wood, lights and sound equipment and expected to get on with it. By this point, money was running out! I managed to build a stage single-handed and erect the lights. I think I got a bit of help with the sound system. The only act I remember was the Ken Campbell Roadshow who were excellent and very funny. It was 1972 and I was getting more and more stoned as the days went on! When I first got to Bickershaw, some of us slept in the pub/hotel and there was this really funny guy who had been hired to cook for all of us. I can't remember his name which is a shame as we got really friendly. Once the the lights and sound equipment was in place in the marquee, someone talked me into sleeping there to guard it all during the actual festival.
Some friends of mine ran a wholefood café in Manchester called On the Eighth Day and I talked them into cooking their great wholesome food at the festival. They duly arrived with all their gear and managed to keep going for three or four days. They decided to name their stall after me - what an honour! It was called Joe's Café and I was Joe! I've lost touch with Brian Livingstone who founded On the Eighth Day and was a great guy. He was a solicitor and used to defend all the hippies who got busted in Manchester.
Security was a nightmare and the cash ran out before we had generators for electricity. Jeremy did a deal with some dubious guys from Liverpool who came up with the money for the generators in exchange for control of security. They then hired a load of locals who could be easily bribed to gain admission to the festival for next to nothing.
I notice on the web site under band line ups you list Tom MacMasters and Friends but have no other information. Tom was sort of a friend of mine who I got onto the Friday bill as there weren''t many acts available. Tom was from Manchester and was an excellent guitarist (he had a lovely Martin guitar) and singer/songwriter much in the mold of Roy Harper. The last I heard of him, he was working at the University of Salford. The friends just consisted of this gorgeous hippy lady who liked to dance while musicians played. You can see her on the DVD dancing in the background during Donovan's set. She just wandered on stage and did her thing. I must be getting old as we used to hang out together but I can't remember her name.
Happy memories include watching an amazing set by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band from backstage and sharing a joint or three with Jerry Garcia. The Dead had a guy whose job was to roll joints for them. I was amazed that the Dead insisted on a central space where anyone could stand and record the gig. I work for the Open University and am actively involved in open educational resources, open source software and new web business models such as Freemium. The Dead were the first people I ever met who understood that you could give something away and still make money from it. I have used this story around the world when I give presentations about this stuff. I have a great picture of my student union card from 1972 which I use in case anyone wonders what a respectable person like me was doing being involved in running a rock and roll festival.
The Dead played for hours and during the interval, I came across a miserable Jeremy Beadle. The poor guy was stone cold sober – this was not the place for a sober man.
I have fond memories of those days and even though I have grey hair and grandchildren – I am still a long haired freak at heart. Happy to share more memories with you.
According to recollections after Family and the Kinks at Bickershaw (I don't remember the piano heading of stage with the full force of gravity) I curled up to sleep during the Flaming Groovies. There was this big tent where people kind of mingled and in my case crashed. I always thought I slept through Dr John. (I recently saw both his sets at the Byron Blues fest). It appears that I slept through Cpt. Beefheart. That is way worse. Capt Beefheart has entered into the land of myth & legend. Oh well.
Mind you I did catch some of the circus acts and the Dead the following day. I was woken by a colliery brass band. As well as the Everly Brothers you can hear Beatles harmonies in those Northern Brass bands.
On the saturday I only had £1.50 left and 8 black microdot so when a friendly hippie asked me could he score I negotiated 5 microdot for £4 " happy days food and drink" he gave me the fiver and I gave him £1 change we said our cheery goodbyes and departed, I unfolded the fiver to discover I was the proud owner of a 500 yen bank note [ not worth shite ] the thing that really hurt was that I gave him £1 change ; leaving me with a miserable 50p. But I hold no malice to this "!hippie gentleman" he taught me a valuable lesson in life # never ever trust someone who takes drugs !!!!!!!!!?
Your Bickershaw site mentions the Stage designed by Ian Knight, of Roundhouse fame.
Ian was one of the Stage managers at Bickershaw as well, I was the other.
Ian died in April 2010
A whole bunch of us from the Roundhouse team came up for the festival Jeff Dexter & John & Marianne Cadbury working on the Stage for example.
Ian was working on production almost up to the time he died.
Bickershaw was certainly on of the wettest festivals above and below.
I was at Bickershaw festival as a member of the audience, so may have more to add later, but have only just come across your site, partly because a friend lent me the DVD of Bickershaw festival the other day.
However: in relation to Dr John's line up, you say
"But this is definitely innacurate, as there are mentions of a brass section and female singers in the music papers and images of them in my memory banks"
By a complete coincidence I was having a drink with Anthony Ryan-Carter (aka Tosh Ryan of Rabid Records etc.) two days ago, and mentioned Bickershaw, and he said he was in Dr John's brass section, along with Victor Brox.
Unfortunately, although Tosh had rehearsed with Dr John for this set, and was quite a good sax player, he became paralyzed with fear at the point of stepping onto the stage, so remained at the edge of the stage, and never actually played, although Victor did. This paralysis came about because backstage Dr John had provided a shoe box full of extremely strong 'Acapulco gold' for the band, and Tosh had overdone it.
best wishes for your website
Hi, Paul is my name and I was there.
I"d been down in Morroco for the winter with a bunch of Ausie surfers I'd met in Newquay. I met a couple down there - Don and Annie - who told me about the festival. I got back to London in the spring of '72 and met up with the two Brians, one who lived in North London and dealt in various substances for peoples abuse.
Brian had a chrome yellow Commer van and was going to Bickershaw - for the festival and to do a little business. I stayed at his house for about 5 days then a bunch of us headed north for Wigan with one 8 track "Thick as a Brick". There were 5 or 6 of us all with our minds in an altered state in the back while Brian drove. At on point on the M1 we were stopped by the Bobbys, checked out and told to enjoy t' festival!
We arrived at the site only to find we were a day early and told to come back tomorrow. We drove around for a bit then Brian drove up to a second gate, chatted with some one, then we drove in. Turns out the guy on the gate asked Brian what band we were, so Brian being very sharp, told him and in we went. It was the performers compound ! We were there for the whole five days, didn't pay to get in and had quite a time with various "performers" sampling Brians wares.
Now realise my mind was in an altered state the whole time I was there so I don't recall much. However I do remember Donovan playing in a brief moment of sunshine. Dr John booging the night away. The Captain introducing "The Spotlight Kid" and Rocket M peeling off the gloves, lighting a cigar and playing an amazing bass solo. Country Jo doing "1-2-3 what are we fighting for......" The New Riders playing into the sunset and the Grateful Dead playing Dark Star - ah the days of the loooooong solos. And the fireworks!
It was a great time. EVERYONE we met there had a good time - we're English, the rain didn' bother us!
Hello, Have just found your site. I drove to Bickershaw from south Manchester, with friends, in my Reliant three wheeler. We spent most of the day walking around the perimeter fence looking for a way to get in without having to pay. I remember a pub close by where a man, standing outside, was trying to convert people to christianity. There was also a red double decker bus being used by by a Christian group who were giving out food to hungry hippies. My friend was turned away because he looked too healthy and well fed.
We did eventually find a gap in the fence and my friends got in but I hesitated and security men rushed over to plug the hole. I then paid to get in and joined my friends at the front. Between acts we sat on the scaffolding under the stage. I can only remember two of the groups: Captain Beefheart and a group that I have always remembered as the Eagels but was recently told they were, I think, Hawkwind. I seem to remember that the lead singer, if not the whole group were dressed in white or light clothing.
I also attended two Buxton festivals and will have a look for similar websites as I filmed Wishbone Ash with my little super eight cine camera.
All the best
I was sweet 16 it had been some weekend then on Sunday The Dead came on. It changed my outlook on life to say the least. From that moment on I was a Deadhead. I was standing on the scaffold to the right of the stage and the music just washed over me, and to this day I can see Jerry playing, his hair blowing in slow motion in the breeze. I didnt know it then but this was The Grateful Dead at their pinnacle It just doesnt get any better than that . Later that year I was thrown out of school they said I wasnt suitable. They werent far wrong
O Happy Days
Bickershaw was my first festival. It changed my life, turning me from a soul-loving Mod into a rock n roller for life.
My mate's family had a corner shop opposite the site and I was helping out there. I was invited to the festival by some Welsh people who sneaked me in.
At Bickershaw, I snuck round the back and up the stage steps when the Kinks finished because I'd smoked my first grass and was blown away by the brass section. As they filed off the stage I shook them all by the hand and congratulated them on a superb set.
It was muddy as hell but we all sat round a campfire and talked music and politics. Unfortunately the camp fire was in one of the crash tents. I fell asleep and awoke just in time. The tent was full of smoke to - literally - one inch above my face. I crawled out and opened all the tent flaps before going to look for my new friends. A narrow escape and a timely lesson.
C. A. JONES
The Bickershaw Menu
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