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The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome 1978.

Camberley, Surrey .

Saturday July 15th 1978.


Bob Dylan

Eric Clapton and Band

Joan Armatrading

Graham Parker and The Rumour



Photo © Chris Cooper

Festival Welfare Services Report .

Festival Welfare Services Committee Report on Welfare Facilities At the Picnic. Blackbushe Aerodrome, July 14-16th 1978

    It is estimated that approximately 200,000 people attended The Picnic on Saturday 15th July. There were people camping on the site for several days before and after the event. Festival Welfare Services organisations working on the site were St John Ambulance and The Samaritans.

Campsite Facilities
     Although there had been much advertising that there would be no camping at Blackbushe either before or after the event, the organisers had made basic provisions for people to camp, and a special charge of £1 was made on Friday night for vehicles to park overnight.
0n the campsite/car park there were toilets and water taps, although the latter were difficult to find, especially in the dark. The toilets were both the octagonal variety with a communal trough or double-sided rows of 8 sharing a trough. The bench seats in the rows of toilets were built too high and tended to get messy. There seemed to be plenty of firewood provided for campfires, although some live wood was torn down, especially from the perimeter hedge.

    Tickets could not be found on sale on the site on Friday night and security around the arena fence was very heavy. Many people left the campsite on Saturday morning and did not return to camp on Saturday night, although their numbers were replaced by many more people deciding to stay overnight on Saturday because of the solid traffic jam of cars trying to leave the site. Many of these campers had not come prepared to stay and had not brought along any camping equipment. Many of the food and drink stalls, especially on the campsite, did not stay open for very long after the concert ended and there were a lot of very cold and hungry people wandering around the campsite looking for somewhere to buy food or drinks.

Photo © Chris Cooper

    The "crash" marquees were very well used and there was plenty of space in them. They were not supervised, which caused some anxiety to the younger campers, especially young girls who would have welcomed the security of knowing that someone was "in charge". It is felt that it would have been better if the "crash" marquees and other welfare services on the campsite had been more centralized.

© Jens Christian Berg see more like this at his webpage by clicking on the link.


Arena Facilities

    There were many stalls inside the arena selling a variety of food, tinned drinks and merchandise, although prices were high. The information point was extremely well advertised by large balloons flying above it. Next to it was the Samaritans marquee, the Police information point and one of the St John Ambulance units. The St John Ambulance units were very well sited around the arena, especially at the front near the stage.

    Toilets and water in the arena were not always easy to find, especially, without the aid of the map on the back of the official program. This could have been improved by having large site plans in the "festival" style and although not overcrowded, many complaints were heard about the smell, the dirtiness of the cubicles and the wetness of the ground around the toilets. The water taps were well located and there were plenty of them.

Photo © Chris Cooper

    Provisions for rubbish disposal were very scant and the accumulation of litter increased very rapidly throughout the day, making it virtually impossible to walk anywhere within the arena without treading on litter of some form. The provision of a children's entertainment and play area in the arena was an excellent and well-used facility. The information points were very busy all day, but unfortunately the lost children's area and the information tent closed down at
8.30pm on Saturday evening and the Samaritans-dealt with many enquiries after then. From our previous experience it has been shown that the number of enquiries increases enormously towards the end of concerts, especially with people wanting to know how to get
home or wanting to meet up again with lost friends. It seems essential that all the information services remain fully operational until everyone has left the arena.

Transport Facilities

Getting vehicles onto the site before the concert was very well managed, but after the event was over the situation was chaotic and potentially dangerous. There appeared to be very few Police or attendants on duty in the car parks and directing traffic from the site onto the roads. This chaos was further confused by the vast crowds of pedestrians walking to the railway station and along the roads.

Photo © Chris Cooper

The bus services from the site to the station ran only once, being cancelled because of the danger to pedestrians on the roads. Derailment on the track caused serious delays to the train service to and from Waterloo, and crowding at the station became very uncomfortable. The cause of the delay at the station was not related back to the waiting crowds, so people did not know why, or for how long they would have to wait. It would have been better, if at all possible, to have more services running to London from another station on a different track.

General Comments


Photo © Chris Cooper

a. Police control of the crowds was very good (except at the railway station after the event) and many comments were received from festival-goers on how helpful the Police had been.

b. The use of large balloons as markers for the information point worked extremely well and should be taken up by promoters of all large outdoor events. The problem of finding lost friends at an event of this size causes extreme distress to people, especially if they have traveled a long distance to the event and might be stranded if they can't meet up with their friends again.

c. It is obvious that the provision of sufficient toilets in a clean state, both inside and outside the arena is essential for people's enjoyment of events of this nature and expense should not be spared in providing good toilets.

Photo © Ian Fry

d. Many requests were made to the Samaritans and others for the Release tent which was not present, and it is felt that there was a need for Release to have attended the event, to provide a counselling service.

e. Behaviour generally in the crowd was good, although there was some aggression at the front of the stage, with people pushing forward and tin cans being thrown. There appeared to be few drug problems.

Penny Mellor,
Field Worker.
10th August 1978

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