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The Great Western Express Festival.

Bardney . Lincolnshire.
May 26th-29th 1972.

The biggest press enclosure ever seen at a festival ? Towers that really impede crowd view by being so close to the stage ? , not good planning M'lud !!! .© Viv Hawkey

       Why would anyone try to hold rock festivals in early May in Britain ? Surely this was the act of optimists of the highest order , as the chances of rain ( always high in Britain anyway)  multiply tenfold .But although the organizers of these festivals were hard headed businessmen , not hippie idealists , this was precisely what both the promoters of the Bickershaw Festival  AND  The Great Western Festival did in the early summer of 1972.

   As a result, both festivals lost LOTS of money and degenerated into mud bowls, yet somehow, the music went on, in most cases the bands delivered and the die-hard festival goer's in the audience stuck it out despite appalling conditions to prove yet again that we British truly show our best ( and also our most idiotic ) side in the face of adversity.

Photo© Ian Cater

     The Great Western Festival had a good line-up of bands, but it unfortunately suffered from  the usual tortured saga of promoters who were opposed by the local villagers wherever they tried to locate their site. As a consequence they were forced to shop around and therefore the arrangements of the festival were rushed, leading to further complications and foul-ups . The festival was held over four days -a very ambitious move not seen since the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970. The weather however, unlike the IOW, was foul for much of the weekend and this severely limited the number of people who attended. Music press reported up to 50,000 were there , but this might be an inflated figure. According to many of our attendees , people got in for free and then were given passouts, which they sold to potential; paying customers. As a reuaslt the festival lost around 50,000 quid, a lot in 10972, althougth no doubt m'lud Harlech could afford to loose a few grand.

    Music press sources reported, before the festival commenced

Photo© Peter Dawson

    The Great Western Festival—the festival they couldn't stop — takes place next weekend at Tupholme Hall, Bardney, ten miles from the centre of Lincoln. It has been fraught with difflculties from the word go and even now Great Western are under court restrictions. Originally the Great Western company announced their intention to hold a festival at Canterbury this weekend many months ago. Local feeling ran high and an alternative site had to be found—and local feeling ran high everywhere the festival organsiers looked for an alternative site.

    It wasn't until last week that the last rumblings in the courts died down—and the organisers were obliged to give an undertaking that the festival would not be conducted in such a way as to cause a nuisance. Thus the onus is on Great Western to prove to the country that they can hold a well organised event: the outcome of the Night Assemblies Bill fiasco and future legislation depends very much on what happens next weekend.

    On the eve of the biggest festival to be held in Britain for two years, the organisers made a desperate appeal to fans to behave sensibly. If the fans cause a nuisance, the organisers of the Great Western Express, at Tupholme, near Lincoln this weekend, face possible imprisonment — " and it may be the end of festivals in this country".

     Stern measures have been taken by the High Court to protect the local residents. If things go wrong, actor Staniey Baker and backer Lord Harlech together with chief booke; John Martin, may end up in jail
''The court has slapped an injunction on three points: congestion of roads, trespassing and noise. if any of these occur, we face a maximum prison sentence of six months," Martin told the press this week. " But we are going ahead with the festival."
    Latest additions to the festival are Wishbone Ash, Atomic Rooster, Status Quo and Curtis Muldoon, but it became evident this week that Sly Stone will not be appearing despite contracts having been exchanged. The Beach Boys will take over Sly's bill topping spot on Sunday.

Fun with a foam machine at the Great Western festival 1972 © Cynthia Bateman


Message to fans

This message from the organisers to fans attending the festival was printed in the press.


Tupholme is your festival . The law has said that you can have your festival if you do not cause a public nuisance.

The law has also implied that it does not think you are capable of doing that.

Mr Justice Golding clearly defined what constitutes a public nuisance.

His list of the three major problems was ; congestion of local roads which might interfere with agricultural traffic.

People trespassing in neighbouring fields and property and undue noise away from the immediate festival site.

If just one of these complaints attaches itself to the festival , the consequences go far beyond local irritation.

And only you . with just a little thought and consideration -can prove the pessimism of the law to be wrong.

Together we can show local people that their natural fears are unjustified. If not then a lot of those who fought for this event to face grave consequences . And be assured that Tupholme will be the very last time that a festival can be held in Britain.

Andy and Pete freezing their bollocks off at Lincoln 1972 © Ian Cater


The sun , the sun !!! © Ian Cater

   Overall it might have been worse, the festivsl maintained and did not collpase to the same extent that Bickershaw did, security was there throughout and bands went on to some sort of schedule. There were the usual spate of arrests, 124 in all, some scumbags ripped off their fellow festival attendees but the vast majority of the arrests -85 in all ,concerned people busted for drug possession or sale.

Photo © Peter Dawson


Rashly, the organisers boasted of plans for another festival at the same site later on in the summer - with the Stones as headliners ! This of course did not eventuate , although the same team did put on a festival at Grangemouth which was not a financial success.

    This site contains all relevant information we can find about this festival, known recordings, set lists,  bands who played, band personnel , time-line, press articles , links to other sites dealing with this festival and oral histories of those who attended.

great western menu

  we have been endeavouring to collect audience or sbd tapes of the performances at this festival , so I can effectively review the performances, provide set lists and band line-ups. The intention is to also display as many personal histories of the festival as possible.

If you can contribute in any way, with tapes, reviews from the music press, photos or personal histories, please Contact us

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