The Archive

Formatted 1280 x 1024 res . Updated Sept 2011


Big thanks to our sponsor Neil !

For information on today's festivals see


Nostell Priory Music Festival.

Nr Wakefield .West Yorkshire .

August 24-27th 1984

An early festival advert : courtesy Noddy Guevara

visit Noddy's Flickr site to see many more photos of Festivals of the 80s

    Nostell Priory was actually a commercial festival which had been held before on the grounds of the ancient Priory in 1982 , where Jethro Tull and Marillion had presided over a single day event . However in 1984, the festival, like Glastonbury, acquired a large ' Free Festival' component in the form of a travellers field adjacent to the main festival. Unlike Glastonbury however , the local authorities decided to behave in an extremely hostile way to "deal with " the free festival element . This resulted in many travellers homes being trashed and them being arrested en-masse. The events that happened on the Monday are described here .

Lindisfarne Nostell Priory 1984 © Noddy Guevara

   The commercial festival was blessed with dry conditions and a largely peaceful crowd attended the event over the four days, the local press markedly amped up worries about drug dealing onsite and minor crime ( as they so often tend to do ) which tended to overshadow the musical activities of the festival, which featured a strong mixed bill of artists who would have appealed to a wide audience. The advert above misses out most of the name acts on the Monday night , Marillion headlined , with Phil Lynott's Grand Slam , The Pretenders, Midge Ure and Alvin Lee filling in the gaps . Friday night was augmented by Dr & The Medics .

   Marillion and Grand Slam had been slated to appear at the cancelled Lilford (previously Reading) festival that had been due to be held on the same weekend but which had been unable to go ahead due to the " Curse of the Rock Festival " - a hostile local council refusing to grant a licence due to worries over crime, noise, traffic and the usual crap, etc, etc, etc.....



   Nostell Priory also faced some of the same opposition from the local press and the inevitable Tory MP Mr Nicholas Winterton, who stirred up feeling against the travellers camp that was present in the campground . His incipient apoplexy was no doubt fuelled by rather naughty signs like this one featured on the left .

   The attendance figures for the festival were not mentioned in the press, which seemed more interested in the drug sales taking place in the campsite, which resembled the scene at Stonehenge Free festival, where it was common to openly advertise drugs for sale.

   Initially the local police seemed to take a relaxed attitude to this at first, the local paper fulminated against their apparent laxity " They are intimidating people and it sounds like the police are trotting out a string of lame excuses " thundered the local MP , allegations were made that the travellers had an arsenal of " shotguns, machetes and chain saws " but the police countered with " We found no evidence of that. We had no real trouble so we took no action " . This did not stop them arresting nearly the whole travellers camp on Monday when the festival was winding down , but hey who cares , they were "just travellers "........ :- (

   The Daily Mail labelled the convoy an " evil , drug pushing cult ", whereas in reality they were a loosly knit group of people who lived in vans who chose to travel together between festivals, some of whom , (but by no means the majority ) sold drugs to keep the wolf from the door .

Photo of naughty notice at the Nostell Priory Travellers field.Gratefully used under creative commons licence courtesy Deargdoom


    A total of twelve police were assigned to oversee the 22 acre site, so their presence was minimal. As for the music , the press reported that the blues rock of Alvin Lee received a total of three encores - obviously the audience was impressed by flash over substance. Headliners Marillion also went down well -which was to be expected , but Phil Lynott's Grand Slam were disappointing " lukewarm rock and uninspired presentation " were the terms used by the press. Lynott was in the grip of a serious addiction which was to lead to his death in 86 of heart failure caused by his drug abuse .

   The Band , in their first UK appearance for six years , were without Levon Helm, who refused to travel overseas for one show when the band was in the midst of a long US tour .They were joined onstage by Van Morrison on two numbers. Rumours that Eric Clapton would join them onstage did not come to fruition. Lindisfarne received a standing ovation on Saturday for their infectious folk-rock mix , they usually went down well at festivals.

A lone plod has a chat with the travellers on Saturday

The Damned warm up at their soundcheck on Friday © Baz Harrison

Nostell Priory pages.

    If you have photos, recollections, set lists, newspaper reports or tapes of this event then Contact us if you can help.

Back to the main Archive