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Updated Jan 2016

This site is dedicated to the memory of Roger Hutchinson, who inspired me to delve deep into the magic of the free festival and who passed away Sept 3rd 2010.

R.I.P. Roger .....

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Tangmere (Seasalter ) Free festival.

August 27th 1976. Broadoak Valley. Kent.

Roger's adventures in Kent -Seasalter free festival 1976

Story and Illustrations by Roger Hutchinson

Part One - "Getting There"

    It was mid morning, in late August, when Pete’s van sighed to halt outside my parents house in Romford. So much for the early start time, I fretted. I had been ready for hours with a pile of equipment piled up by the back gate although none of us knew where we were heading that day.
   Tangmere Free Festival was a People’s Free Festival that had run onto the rocks of the middle class establishment in a big way. Firstly, the original site, an airfield that historically served an active part in the Battle of Britain, had been ruled out due to much opposition from the surrounding people of Sussex. The festival focus moved to Broad Oak Valley in Kent but local farmers muck spread the proposed site- rendering it useless. As a result, the posters I had created to attract people to the festival lay largely un-distributed, as the information was confusing and ultimately useless. Frequent phone calls to a number in London had kept informing us that we needed to keep calling until there was news and that would not be forthcoming until a new site had been identified and squatted on. So it was a case of waiting, ready to move at a moments notice.
  When Pete arrived, he demanded to know where we were going and I replied that it must be south of the Thames since rumours had indicated that everyone wanted the same area as Kent otherwise no one would be around to occupy the site when they were really needed. So, with all my kit safely on board the ageing Austin LD Black Maria, the four of us, Pete, his girlfriend , her brother and I , headed off for the new Dartford Tunnel with the intention of ringing the phone number when we got out on the other side.

   There, at the busy services and above the roar of passing traffic, a simple message was given over the payphone about the new site for the People’s Free Festival. I scrambled back into the small cab and grabbed the tatty roadmap while the strange names still remained fresh in my mind. That’s it! I stabbed the road map of Kent where a name matched the name given out earlier, we all peered at the unpromising spot along the flat coast of north Kent. Seasalter ? Pete pulled the van back out into the traffic, now with a destination to aim at, the general relief created a need to celebrate , so I produced a bottle of home brewed apple wine that disappeared down our throats, leaving a grin on all our faces.


   A mighty clang startled us out of our motorway revelry as the van passed under a bridge and Pete, fearing that something had come loose on the roof rack, pulled over to the hard shoulder as soon as it was safe. A brief inspection from the ground revealed nothing amiss, so, puzzled , we piled back in and headed off again. As we approached the junction where we had to turn off for the north coast I noticed a number of similar old vehicles ahead, indicating to turn off. The narrow lane that zigzagged through the flat fields towards a flat horizon slowed the traffic ahead and we became the end part of a convoy of six smoky vehicles. All was fine until Pete spotted a blue flashing light ahead. Shit ! Pigs ! Everything stashed ? Totally -we reassured him . The convoy slowed to a halt blocking the lane. Leaning out, I could see the police officers moving down the line towards us and I sat back steeling myself for the usual nonsense.
    The old brown Bedford truck in front started up and moved over to the left side of the lane and as it did so a police officer with an impassive expression waved us on. With surprise and guilty relief we drove past the unfortunate occupants of the other vehicles in front as the teams of officers frisked them and emptied their contents out the back doors of the vans. The reason for our escape was that the roadblock only had a five vehicle capacity and we were number six ! So we were allowed to politely crawl past and within minutes were in sight of the Festival.
    It was situated just to the west of the small seaside (mud) settlement of Seasalter overlooking (by a metre or two) Whitstable Bay and we were all sure that the site was below sea level at high tide. Not that we saw much of the sea since a high embankment, along which ran the road, hid it from our view and mental notes to check it out were forgotten as soon as the enthusiastic action of the police became clear. We passed a Rolls Royce, parked just beside the entrance and a couple of policemen who were noting number plates- then we turned left down through the open gate and onto the site. It was a large grass field surrounded with wide reed and water-filled ditches in an area called Graveney Marshes and this was the only entrance. It was a little strange in comparison to all other festival sites but it was Home ! – We were home and dry after months of speculation and planning!
   We drove slowly through the growing camp as tipis, benders and tents of all shapes and colours were in various stages of erection by a happy throng. At the far end of the site a crew were carefully creating a large covered stage from a pile of scaffolding with a matching mixer and lightshow tower. Pulling to a halt a few tents back from the audience area, we climbed out and breathed in the very fresh sea air and looked about. At that stage there must have been about a thousand people on site and looking back to the raised road we could see more trucks, cars and those on foot converging from both directions.
    The whirl of erecting tents, making camp and checking out the neighbours with a few recreational drugs and breaking open more home brew brought us to dusk and it was only then that Pete called from the top of the van as he unloaded the last of the camping equipment from the roof rack.
"What’s this?" He queried, holding up a gleaming stainless steel hospital bedpan.
Discussion ensued as to how it had got lodged in amongst the packs of gear- then I remembered the loud bong from the roof, much earlier on the journey down. Ignoring the possible intent of this "gift", I took the clean pan and set it in the centre of the carpet that covered the grass under the white canopy. It was a perfect receptacle for candles and fag ends and a real discussion point for all visitors to our magical environment with its comfortable cushions. As we sat there lounging with friends, new and old, it was a perfect end to an eventful day and now we also had a whole festival to look forward to.

Roger Hutchinson

Seasalter adventures part 2

Return to Seasalter main page


Free Festivals List

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Free festivals and small fayres held in the United Kingdom between 1967-90.

1967-69.

 1970-79  
1980-92

 

  • Windsor Peoples Free Festival 1972-74
 
 Free festival related articles
Pay Festivals- Benefits for Travellers aid.
 

Main list of Free festivals 1970-1985

Free rock festivals of the 70s and 80s

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The aroma of a free festival -by Roger Hutchinson

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Travellers Tales Convoy Steve's tale of how the freaks outsmarted the fuzz at Greenham common.

Zorch -House band for the free festival set ? A fanzine page on the UK's first electronic band .

Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe-surreal pranksters of the Traveller community .

Acidia Lightshow Lightshow for Windsor festival and Stonehenge in the 1970s.

Traveller Daves Website - Chock full of of free festival photos !

Many, many thanks go to Roger Hutchinson , Big Steve , Roger Duncan, Celia, Will , Chazz, Jeza ,Chris Hewitt ,The Fabulous Time Tortoise , Peter Piwowarski - ( 70s music site/photos ) Martin S, Steve Austin ,Traveller Dave, Herb, Tim Brighton, Vin Miles, Haze Evans , Noddy Guevara, Chris Brown, Janet Thompson, David Stooke, Gary Gibbons , Nigel Ayers, Rich Deakin ,Glenda Pescardo,Justin Warman,Brian F, Steve Bayfield, Kev Ellis, Paul Seaton and many other minor contributors for their help in providing the archival material related to these free festivals which has at enabled us to construct the site .

Any info to add ?-well don't just sit there , Contact us


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