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The Weeley Festival.
Clacton On Sea . Essex.
August 27th-29th 1971.

  Music press coverage .part 2

    The tiny village of Weeley with its population of around 1,000, will not forget August Bank Holiday, 1971, for a long time. Not only because of the rock fans who swelled the population a hundred fold, but because of the scars left behind when an army transforms a village into a medium sized city for three days.
    Weeley is now on the map, alongside Shepton Mallet, the Isle of Wight. Plumpton and even Woodstock. The residents who peered through their lace curtains at the multitudes on the roads and the immense traffic jams, have joined the growing numbers of hosts to giant rock events. Weeley was a giant event. It was made a giant event because thousands of young people had nothing else to do over the weekend traditionally devoted to the great British rock festival. The bill alone, which was all British, cannot conceivably have attracted such a crowd.
    Every single group on the bill has played regularly in Britain already this year, so the chance-in-a-lifetime opportunities to watch acts like Dylan , Zappa, Who , Leonard Cohen , Hendrix , Zeppelin and the like - which the lOW's and Bath presented - were not there.

    The music seemed to be secondary to the event. The idea of setting up a city of young people for three days motivated thousands to hitch down the A12 last weekend, And for their £1.50 each, they had excellent value for money.

    The Weeley Festival was put on for charity, the first festival to do this. It was organised by the Clacton Round Table, a group of respectable businessmen, who wanted to get away from fetes and donkey Derbys. There were moments of ridiculous chaos and there were moments when the vibrations were so good the event could have lasted all this week . The timetable was abandoned. Groups appeared when they arrived . Some had to wait hours to get on the stage , others were more fortunate and went straight on. Some were forced to depart without playing because there was no time.
    A spot of bother involving the Hell's Angels and security men left a nasty taste in everyone's mouth. Reports in the national press suggested that violence was rife throughout the entire weekend. This was not the case. The actual trouble started around lunchtime on the Saturday and lasted around a couple of hours.

    Musical highlight was undoubtedly the Faces on Sunday evening. Lindisfarne too could have played for three hours without boring the huge crowd. T. Rex -the bill toppers - had a hard time but Marc Bolan won the crowd over to his side with remarks like "I'm Marc Bolan, you’ve probably seen me on Top Of The Pops."

    The continuity was at times, appalling. The absence of a regular disc-jockey resulted in lengthy delays between acts when the fans became bored . The twin record deck on the stage wasn't always manned and at times anybody on the stage could put on an album they wanted to hear.
In charge of the production was Colin King, a veteran festival organiser, who was brought in by the Round Tablers as a consultant. He took a huge job on his wiry frame and kept a cool head.
    The weather was kind to the event. Although the nights were cold, it stayed dry over the weekend - perhaps too dry, for tents caught fire, and several fans were rushed to hospital with burns. Collections for fans whose possessions were lost in fires raised considerable sums , a gesture which surely reflected the family spirit among young people.
    No report of the festival would he complete without mention of the police. The backstage area was regularly patrolled by around 20 officers, and to my knowledge there were no arrests for drug offences. They were there simply to prevent a recurrence of the Hell's Angels incident. They were friendly, polite and understanding and, when the motive behind their presence was realised, they lent a feeling of security where uneasiness once prevailed.

    Vic Speck , the Round Table promoter , endeared himself to the fans by walking around the camp sites and talking to people. Although the festival was declared free late on Saturday night he will have made a considerable amount of money for charity.
A programme note stated that Weeley was not a "bread trip." After expenses, every penny will go towards Bangla Desh, Shelter, Release and other charities. One hopes that whoever knocked down the fences realised that.

-CHRIS CHARLESWORTH


part 1.


Updated Jan 2016

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