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The View from the Mud: One
When it comes down to it, every festival-goer had both a collective and an individual experience of the festival . Some loved it ,others were no doubt put off festivals for life. Over the years of course , memories do play tricks . Some of the anecdotes below may be contradictory , or exaggerated, but who cares. We want to hear from you!
Share your time at Bickershaw with the world !
As we can see here, clEanup squads have been busy diligently combing the festival site to remove any items of litter and debris.........© Chris McHugo.
I remember walking from the station and instantly into the village streets and thinking to myself - where was the festival? I went into a small village store and asked directions. The boy behind the counter spoke a dialect of English I'd never heard before. What was he saying?
I managed to find a local bus headed the right way and, sure enough, I found myself at the site. It just looked like a wasteland. A few tents were up and a fence (I think). Certainly there was nothing happening. I didn't have a sleeping bag or any stuff for a few days stay. I'd just arrived! and looking around, there didn't seem too much to do so...I left!
I went back to Bickershaw and got a train out to Manchester train station. I went into a cafeteria. A guy latched onto to me. "Hi man" he said. He was speedy, short haired, edgy - a speed freak! I don't remember how he knew me (I think maybe I'd scored from him in London sometime in the past! Ha !
Anyways, I bought him a coffee. He seemed to be down on his luck. Don Maclean's "American Pie" was playing on the radio. This wasn't what I was expecting, or needed. I cut out - getting a train back to Cardiff for a coupla days.
I think that's what happened!
Then maybe on the Friday I travelled up again. This time there were other festival folk in the village. I got a crowded local bus out to the site. There were maybe 5,000 folks there. I showed my ticket and went in. I remember walking past a food van with high sides and big windows. It was stacked high with what looked to be 1000 wrapped cheese sandwiches in white bread! I made my way to an ok sort of possie maybe some fifty yards from the stage.
I got into eating the hash.
I don't remember colors. It was overcast.
The intrepid diver . Repfoto © 1972.
© ian Gomm
Brinsley Schwarz played. I'd seen 'em a few months earlier at the Paget Ballrooms, Penarth, and kinda dug their accoustic country. At the end of their set they appeared real excited The Dead were coming too!
There was a long break before The Dead arrived. Ecstasy! The band looked and sounded great. Everything I could have wished for. It was cold. The stage had little coal burners. They played and played and played!
At show end I found myself feeling so fucking cold! I was shivering out of control. I stumbled over to a big bonfire. There were a couple of folks there. We smiled. I think that fire saved my life. I was exhausted!
As I walked out of the main gate , I passed the stall selling the cheese sandwiches that I'd noticed on Friday night, most of them were still there, they'd hardly sold any of them !
Somehow I got back to Manchester Railway station. It was morning time. Sound of voices singing Night Flight made me spin around. Sure enough...there was Bert Jansch and John Renbourn carrying guitar cases, Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson and Terry Cox of Pentangle platform walking singing their current hit. Wow! They must have played a Manchester gig the night before.
I got back to Cardiff and crashed. Without a word of a lie, I woke up at 2pm the next day. I'd slept in the deepest sleep for 23 hours!
New Riders onstage , just before the Deads lengthy set. © Andrew Ransom
Dennis Poole adds this interesting snippet about his time at Bickershaw.
Thanks for asking about my memories of Bickershaw
I remember that it was May 72 and just after my 19th birthday. I had been living in Bristol and some friends I had from down their came up to see The Dead. As I was living at home in St.Helens Lancashire, they picked me up on the way.
We negotiated a deal to get in for £1 each, only to find that the organisers were letting in local families for free to "see the freaks."
The entries on the Website are correct about the arena. A really convenient marsh in the middle. People were nicking the toilet doors to make shelters because it rained a fair bit.
It was a wonderful time made all the better by several of our party bumping into old friends who seemed loaded down with £1 scores of black.
The highlights for me were CJ McDonald , Beefheart , NRPS and The Dead. I have seen a picture on a linked site and there is a view looking back out to the audience. You can see a join in the stage which marked the boundary of the sound stage and the stage for the circus acts. Our group managed to rig up some planks across the scaffolding and so sat in relative comfort, dry and within touching distance of our heroes feet.
Apart from the loony who tried to grab Bill Kreutzmann I remember a rocket was set off towards the end of the set. I remember Garcia saying "look out Bickershaw here it comes."
© Chris McHugo.
Bruce Bradley wrote
I have a lot of memories of Bickershaw, but my clearest vision is of something that happened during Pacific Gas and Electric's set. They were in the middle of a song when a stoned and/or drunk freak leapt up and wrestled the microphone from the lead singer and started babbling incoherently. He was removed from the stage by some roadies and the song resumed, but somehow the guy got back up there and repeated his attempts at public soul-baring. The singer, in a remarkable display of cool, compassionately put his arm around the sobbing freak's shoulders and calmed him down, saying to the audience: "He just needs love. We all need some love." For some reason I found this incredibly moving at the time and still recall it with a sense of wonder. Imagine if this had been at Altamont!
I recall a very long ride in the back of my dads ford van, along with Andy Windsor, and Aden Collier. Much ruffled from the bumpy ride we ambled along to the site, met up with the rest of our crew, and settled down to what we all recall as a brilliant weekend. Funny thing is, none of us remember the rain! I do remember doing a deal with a rather dodgy looking trip salesman though. After that, mother nature wound her wonderful way through Stackridge, Hawkwind, Dr John, etc.
Much giggling, wailing, singing, tooting, and eating Weetabix went on. Perhaps that's why we didn't notice the rain. Who knows?.. Who cares, a good time was had.
I remember the high wire thing, and the diver, what a nutter! What was going on with that huge ball, or did I dream that?
My dad was good enough to pick us up after the gig too, What a star.
In those days we thought we were exercising consumer power by not paying for anything if we could get away for it. Most of us were shown the light of capitalist law abiding reason by the club wielding security guards, but one of my mates achieved a great blow against the empire. There were a couple of very conspicuous , very self conscious drug squad officers in spanking new leather fringe jackets and cowboy hats ( with walkie talkies ) and my mate - he of the shoulder length red hair, Afghan coat and silver star boots - walked confidently behind them , said "plain clothes "to the ticket steward in a voice of brisk authority and trucked on through !
DS ? NAH, shurely some miztake.........
I was organizing the press, although I wasn't hired directly by Beadle, he was hired by somebody else. Everyone was extremely nervous about being paid. I recall at one point Beadle being surrounded by lots of people screaming for money.
In those days the tabloids used to leap on festivals in the vain hope that somebody was going to have a baby or some girl was going to take off her clothes. There was no provision for the press, no press area , no telephone for miles. I spent the day dragging crates across the muddy field and tried to set up a bar. The organizers all buggered off early.
Three of us aged 18 set off from Edinburgh in a Reliant Robin with a bottle of Scotsmac and a five pound note. Handed a strange piece of fudge by a person in a village doorway on the way to the site. Family were amazing . The Kinks got everyone doing exercises. Beefheart was not too keen on the monitors "there are no monitors in this composition".
Woken next morning by DJ playing Pink Floyd's One of these Days VERY loud and a brass band . Electric yo-yo , ten bob, still got mine and it still works ...On the last day they let the locals in Bizarre sight of women pushing kids through the mud to look at the tired muddy hippy refugees. My first and last festival . Wouldn't have missed it for anything.
The official programme contained on the inside back page , the following poem , apparently a - Sun totem and chant of the Haida Indians. It went as follows
oh good sun/
look thou down upon us /
shine on us O sun,
gather up the clouds wet black
that the rains may cease to fall.
A fat lot of good that did . The promoters probably paid off the wrong sun god.
Incredible String Band at Bickershaw
courtesy Repfoto © 1972
So long ago and far away. I was 18 and I went to watch the Incredibles, I used to follow them everywhere. The only time I recall a pale sun coming out was for Donovan. All I took was an overcoat, a hat , a sleeping bag . I slept the nights in the marquees , about three deep. I remember wading through yards and yards of mud to the glorious khazi's . those pits with a hut over the top and a bar to squat on . None of the doors seemed to shut. ( at least they had doors, unlike the Isle of Wight festival bogs !)
I remember changing trains at York on the way home in the early hours , sitting on a riverbank watching the swans . The sun was shining then......
Bickershaw will never be forgotten - the black (coal-tip) mud, knee deep if you stepped of the boarded walk-ways... The rain and cold.. Cramming about 20 folks into my mates Leyland van to drive home afterwards. And reports of exotic "plague" deseases spreading due to the collapsing (sinking in the mud ?) toilet "carousel" units.
If anyone tells you Bickershaw was crap , don't listen to them . It was fine enough for us stout northern types. For me it was only marred by one of my friends foolishly allowing themselves to be sold an oxo sized cube of mud for five pounds by a bearded character with sunglasses and a a dark beret , despite the fact it was night time. We constructed a lean to shelter with some corrugated iron given us by a couple of security guards wielding pickaxe handles, who seemed friendly enough. I remember the best bands being Stackridge , Wishbone Ash , Dr John and Linda Lewis who was pretty good and a fantastic and well received set from the Kinks. And Country Joe , Brinsley Schwarz and the New Riders really got the atmosphere going.
It wasn't Mudstock for me but a glorious , self indulgent weekend which I've treasured ever since as its the closest I've ever got to experiencing what those American hippies were going on about. I have the 10p official programme in front of me as I write.
We all piled into my Hillman Imp with a half pound of dope and not much else. There were all these circus acts and theatre groups which kept freaking us out. Late one night I remember a guy in flames jumping off a very high tower into a tank of water . And somebody riding a motorbike over the crowd on a tight rope , picked out in the darkness by a searchlight. .
I was 13 and we walked to the festival . No one gave us a lift and it took five hours. We had no money and only a packet of ginger nut biscuits between us. We managed to cadge a pass out which got one of us in and locating the others in turn by banging on the corrugated iron fence and then threw the ticket over in ball of mud. This was repeated until we were all inside.
My claim to fame was climbing to the top of the scaffolding gantry in the middle of the field. I was the person Country Joe McDonald told to " get the fuck off " . By the time The Dead were on we'd found our way under the stage through a gap in the boards and we could reach out and touch their boots. They gave us a far warmer greeting over the microphone. Garcia broke a string at one point and gave it to one of my mates.
Knackered but with spirits lifted , we gushed about our experiences at school the next day " yeah, it was just like Woodstock, a whole city man "
F. J Burke.
© Chris McHugo.
I stumbled upon your great site tonight- we've been talking about Bickershaw recently as we've become born again Incredible String Band fans (sad sods that we are).
My only question concerns Country Joe- he did play "Jean Desprez" from "War War War" despite what your tape may tell you- now as then I love this song.
I stayed the night after the Dead had finished- when I woke up on Monday morning, I will never forget the scenes of utter devastation and mud on that Monday morning (although I've forgotten most other things); it was all so deserted too. I remember thinking that the world had ended and no one had bothered to tell me,
I have just found your web page about Bickershaw, and it has brought back some good memories .I remember going to Bickershaw on the Friday tea time to meet two of my mates who were already there, when I got off the bus at the site I thought that I would never find my two mates, but they just happened to be at the bus stop, how lucky was that ?.
I don't remember the rain being that bad, but I do remember Wishbone Ash being absolutely Brill, also Family, but the Kinks were a great disappointment.
I have treasured these memories ever since that great weekend, and am coming up to my 31st year as a Drummer in a variety of bands, and most of that is due to Bickershaw.
Ray Davis of the Kinks, proof positive he was as pissed as a newt
Just visited your great site. I saw your JPG 'crowdy' and recognised myself immediately. I would love to know what I was doing when the photograph was taken. I am the one with the tea cosy hat, 3rd row, 4th from the right and I am stood with some friends from Manchester. It's really good that someone like yourself has provided these web-sites. Thanks a lot, they have brought back such great memories.
From SP (who taped during the festival )
Having been to the Hollywood and Bath festivals in 1970, I was disappointed when we reached the festival site. Probably the rain didnt help but the whole atmosphere was bad it felt like (and probably was) an industrial wasteland. From somewhere we commandeered a huge plastic sheet which, when it rained, we could sit on and pull up, over, and around ourselves, leaving a small hole at the front to look through and point the mike out of. Apart from when the Dead were on, it just seemed to rain most of the time. Being a student, and a newcomer to taping, I didnt have, and couldnt afford, many tapes, so Id gone with enough to tape about 10 hours (although with the unlikely possibility that the Dead would actually play for 9 hours, I wanted to save as much as I could for them). I did manage to tape bits of other acts mainly ones I thought my brother might like as he hadnt been able to make it to the Festival. So I had some parts of Hawkwind, Country Joe, Wishbone Ash and bits of Stackridge and Jonathon Kelly. When the Dead came on, I hadnt learned to just leave the tape rolling so I switched off and on between songs, thus missing all stage talk except the Happy Birthday bit. Sadly, only my tapes of the Dead remain - shortly after the festival I taped over the other music.
Memories of the music are very patchy. I remember Country Joe doing an excellent set and completely throwing the crowd with his "Fish Cheer" which went Gimme an F ("F"), gimme a U ("U"), gimme a C ("C"), gimme a K ("K"), gimme an N (long pause ..er "N?"), gimme an I ("I"), gimme an X ("X"), gimme an O ("O"), gimme an N ("N"), whats that spell? ("FUCK NIXON"), etc.
The Kinks were totally pissed/stoned when they came on in the evening. I dont recall the songs they played but at least once during the set they threw loads of beer over each other and their instruments and, from memory, were pretty shambolic throughout. Stackridge were new to me but I subsequently bought a couple of their albums so I must have been impressed with them. The only songs I can say for sure that they played were Slark, Let There Be Lids, and Purple Spaceships Over Yatton. Similarly Jonathon Kelly was new to me and I thought he was wonderful. So far as I can remember he played unaccompanied. When I bought his album immediately after the festival, most of the songs were familiar so I guess his set included many of them. Wishbone Ash were OK. At the time they were one of my brothers favourite bands so I taped quite a bit of their set (again, sadly, gone forever).
Beefheart, to my eternal regret, was unknown to me then. Within a year, I came to love his music and realised that I had missed a performance by the classic line-up. I say "missed" we didnt actually miss it, but wed decided to crash for the night and wandered round for a couple of hours trying to find our tent (with the Magic Band performing as a soundtrack in the background), only to realise that it had been stolen and spending the night in one of the communal tents that were there.
On balance I enjoyed the festival, but it doesnt hold the same memories for me that Hollywood and Bath in 1970 do.
Stacia of Hawkwind stoicly writhes onstage despite the cold
Why I should suddenly decide to do a search for something that happened 30 years ago is a mystery to me, but I did, and was led to your pages about the Bickershaw Festival. I was a 21 year old acid head who also happened to be drunk too, so my memory of the festival is more than hazy. The little I remember could easily be false memories. I seem to remember Hawkwind had had their gear stolen shortly before and had to use someone elses. Stackridge's maybe, if what I remember is true? Walking down a lane from the pub and a limo passed and some guy with a bushy beard and glasses waved at me and my pal. Gerry himself had waved to me! A good thing as I have no recollection of seeing the Dead's gig at all.
The only ones I can say I remember with anything approaching certainty were Hawkwind, Linda Lewis and Family. Still, the weekend did start off with a call at a shop who brewed their own wine which we bought 24 bottles of on the way to the site. The stuff was so potent that 4 bottles exploded in the car.
Wonderful times, and great to find someone has elected to keep the memory alive. I wish I could say the same for my own memory, but your website just woke enough memories to let me relive one of the great weekends in my life.
Bickershaw- I took 12 guys from college and hustled tickets so we all got in for next to nothing, bought visquine and timber and built a shelter, first Newcastle Brown Ale. Waking up in the middle of the night with a bunch of bikers round our fire and the Kinks on stage doing Lola.
just been to the Bickershaw site, and it brought up a few memories of a truly splendid week-end. here are a few things I've just written down. six of us went up there in nick fountain's Beetle. Already off our heads and getting off on the swirly carpets in the motorway services. Nick driving with his head out of the window to keep himself awake. When we got there we met other people from Berko who had already built a warm, dry shed out of drainpipes, corrugated iron and plastic sheet.
There seemed to be no shortage of shelter-making materials, There was a railway line running through one corner of the field, which started the week-end with a very useful wooden fence......
Of course, the memories are seen through a fog of time and drug abuse, but here are some of the remaining snippets, which might ring a bell with others:
There was a big football match the same week-end...on the front of the festival gig-guide there was a picture of some freaks with speech bubbles, one saying "have Leeds scored yet?"and the other saying "no, but I have"
- There was a guy selling ring doughnuts from the back of a van...he was keeping his dog in the festival spirit by feeding it quid deals of paki black.
- Very good black micro-dots.
- There were warnings of danger from falling down mine-shafts, because the whole area had been heavily mined for coal.
- A girl, tripped out, arms outstretched, an orange in each hand, just saying "stackridge, stackridge" over and over again.
- A beautiful sunny day (!!), walking with an aquaintance, both tripped out. He couldn't make out the skylark responsible for that singing like magical running water, he'd assumed it was just part of his trip, he'd never heard a skylark before.
- Inside one of the big free tents was a chicken- house with about a dozen chickens in it.Sharing it with them were four shop-front dummies seated around a fully laid table.
Nowadays we'd call that installation art, no?
- While it was raining outside, learning to blow bubbles injected with smoke by using an empty biro tube. When they burst you get a nice smoke ring.
- the stage base was made of scaffolding. Me and Mike Myers climbed up underneath, to where the monitors were, on a raised bit in front of the band. Through the gap we could see Jerry Garcia's legs, only a couple of feet away,(as it were!)
- Some people promoting non-verbal communication, which turned into an excellent running joke for the whole week-end, mainly consisting of exaggerated mime, and a lot of pointing at things.!!
- Doctor John, scattering glitter from his gris-gris bag..an amazing setall round.
- A guy in a costume like a large blubbery mound of rubber. He'd lie quite still, and then suddenly attack unsuspecting tripped out passers-by.
- Sitting on some straw bales outside one of the food tents. Black smoke from a generator billowing around the place...one of the street theatre/non-verbal communication guys wandering around with a piece of metal flue-pipe as if trying to catch the smoke.
Bickershaw was one of my first festivals, and easily one of the best.
Many thanks and keep up the good work..I'm off to investigate the first Windsor festival sites!!
(I was the one with the stuffed parrot sewn to my shoulder)
Here's my story for what its worth. I was in the lower sixth at Salesian College, Bootle at the time,and a couple of the lads and I decided to go to the festival. One of the brothers at the school mentioned that he was volunteering in one of the first aid tents and that he could take a couple of us in his Morris Minor. Bingo. That took care of the transportation issue and another friend had a car to take up the rest of our motley crew.
We all bought tickets, bar one, who made up his mind to go at the last minute. We got there Friday and as we were looking for a ticket for our chum, it dawned on us that there was a discrepancy in the prices we paid for our tickets and those being offered to us. A couple of us decided to try our hand at this buying and selling tickets lark, and in a couple of hours made back our original outlay and got our friend in for free.
As everyone has mentioned the weather was ugly, so our next task was to set up some kind of shelter as we had sleeping bags but no tent. A couple of us bagged a spot just forward of the gantries and the rest went in search of building materials. We managed to snag some large pieces of plastic, some bales of hay and we had noted that some enterprising souls were using corrugated iron. That seemed like a good idea, so off we went to tear down some of the wall that had been put up to enclose the arena. Once we had all our stuff, we built a cabin that stayed up and waterproof throughout the festival. In fact it was so big, that is was able to accommodate us and about half a dozen Manchester Uni. folks who were smart enough to ask if they could share (It didn't hurt that they were mixed males/females and one was really cute). The even better news for us school kids, was that they had a ready supply of drugs and we took full advantage (the brother not being around as he was off volunteering).
Captain Beefheart on soprano sax
Having been busy the early part of the evening I missed the first bands, but got to enjoy the latter half of Hawkwind along with Wishbone Ash and Dr John. I didn't think anyone could have such a sonorous voice as Dr. J., until of course Captain Beefhart appeared the next day with his memorable opening "The Spot-light kid is back" and went on to give the outstanding performance of the festival.
I don't really remember too much else on the Saturday, though I enjoyed the Family set and agree that the Kinks sucked. As an aside, I saw the Kinks half a dozen times and half of them were excellent and the others crap. It all depended on whether Ray Davies was sober or not.
As for Sunday, maybe I was too tired or had taken too many drugs, but I only remember Country Joe being ok and NRPS being totally boring. I had looked forward to seeing the Dead, but about halfway through their set (3am?) our Salesian brother said he needed to get back, and I didn't feel like I was missing anything when we left.
Musically, I may have been to better festivals (well more consistent lets say),e.g. 1st Knebworth headlined by the Allman Bros. Band, with outstanding sets from John McLaughlin not to mention Van Morrison etc. but I still treasure my memories of Bickershaw.
I met a group of 3 ladies who were there , I actually lived in Wigan at the time. they were very interesting people, and followed the Children of God group. They wanted to go home to Yorkshire , and had no transport, so I took them. we had an interesting chat along the way. I do not know their names unfortunately, but I can't see too many local people offering lifts to strangers all the way to Yorkshire.I would love to hear from them though.They knew my name was John, and I had a new Austin 1100 purple in colour, I was 21 at the time. If any of them wish to contact me my e-mail is email@example.com
I hope this reminds someone of those great days.
I was hitch hiking north when a van full of freaks picked me up and asked me if I was going to Bickershaw. When I found out it was the first rock festival of the year in England I figured that would be a great way to spend my birthday (May 6) so I went with them. No ticket, no tent, no plan, but I have to say that despite the rain and mud (and there was a lot of that) I had a great time.
I got there the night before the festival began and managed to find a load of straw for ground cover and slept in a ditch. That was the only night (or day) that it didn't rain. Second night I scored a spot in one of the dormitory tents the festival had to offer and would have stayed there longer except that there were these jesus freaks that would come in REALLY early in the morning singing at the top of their lungs. (They meant well enough I guess.) On Saturday I met a really far out couple from somewhere in the south of England who invited me to share their tent for the next two days. The tent was fairly dry and we got fairly high. By some weird twist of fate they were given an extra gate pass so I got to see all the acts on Saturday and Sunday. I wish I could remember their names, I'd like to be able to thank them for befriending a traveling Yank.
By the end of the festival everything I owned was covered in mud and smelled like burnt wood, but it was one of the premier experiences of my backpacking trip through Europe that summer.
I really like your website, brings back a lot of good memories.
© P Rouchon .
I was 21 a couple of days after the festival and must have the been the only 'hippy-chick' whose mum wouldn't let her stay overnight at her first opportunity for riotous living!!! I lived in St. Helens, desperate to see Donovan and had no intention of missing him so had to agree to the curfew. Before you think I was a goody two shoes, just bear one thing in mind - you don't know my mother.
I met my friends, Val and Paul from Stourbridge, at Lime Street station, begged sleeping bags from my parents for them to borrow and we made our way by bus to Bickershaw. From the moment we got off that bus it poured with rain. We all bought pass outs for half price and got in with them. It was already dark and muddy but I managed to work out where to meet up the next day and had to catch the last bus back home - didn't get to see or hear anyone!!
On the Saturday I dragged myself out of bed early and was on my way before the rest of the family were about to see what kind of food I was grabbing for my friends - they had hardly any money with them and were starving when I left them the night before. But I had one intention only on that Saturday - that was to see and hear Donovan live. Nearly an hours travelling and another hour walking round looking for my friends before I fell over them asleep in the mud. I just knew I was going to be in the shit over the state of those bloody sleeping bags!!! They were full of stories of how wonderful it had all been the night before, which was why they were still asleep at lunchtime. I was green with envy and wondering if it would be worth risking the wrath of a maternal rollicking to stay overnight.
What sticks in my mind of the Saturday was finding the toilets - well an excuse for toilets. Giant hole in ground full of something that looked like the set of the Magic Christian. The cubicles were arranged around the outside of the hole like the spokes of a wheel and you had to go in two's so one of you could stand in front to shield the other from an audience.
The other thing I remember though was everybody was happy - even though the weather was crap. People weren't miserable - which is strange for dirty northern towns in the rain. Now I knew most of them were stoned - even I wasn't that naive, but this was more than that. Maybe it was like the spirit of the blitz. We were all in the same boat, things couldn't get any worse and there was good music to look forward to.
I honestly wasn't interested in seeing anyone other than Donovan though I was aware of Linda Lewis (only because they announced Donovan as the next but one after her) which made me pay attention at that point and by this time we had found a spot around the lighting scaffolding facing the stage. At this stage in the afternoon people had started to leave their disposable sleeping bags on the floor and they provided some kind of protection from the mud underneath them (or so we thought). I sat enthralled all through Donovan's set and sang my heart out along with him. The sun even struggled to come out specially for him. I've never taken any drugs of any kind but I was high on atmosphere (and maybe some passively ingested from other people). They could have bottled the air that day and sold it for $1.00 a go!!
Just before the end of Donovan's set I decided I was going backstage to meet him. I couldn't believe how easy it was to get around the back of the stage and approach the act personal area. Lo and behold there he was walking towards me by himself - I just froze in my tracks and then watched him go into a caravan and leave the door open. My moment had arrived - but I couldn't go any further. I realised that this was his private life; he'd entertained me for about 45 minutes and I had no right to be there. Imagine being able to get that close to the bands private lives nowadays. I just took one last look and walked away to try to find my friends again.
No wet arse for the Don , he rides in comfort !
I don't know who came on after that and I didn't care at the time though now I wish I had took more notice. I didn't realise how many of the greats were actually there. By then I realised how wet and dirty I was, and had noticed that I had a big patch on the arse of my beige trousers where the mud had soaked through the paper sleeping bags we thought were safe to sit on.(thank God I didn't meet Donovan at the time). I considered a bout of maternal disobedience and then thought 'nah I fancy a hot bath, a clean bed for the night and clean clothes for the final day'.So I headed for home once again. Managed to miss my bus and hitch hiked. My lift turned out to be a motorbike (another bit of maternal disobedience) who took me to the East Lancs Road - hippy chick to biker girl in one afternoon!!! However my next lift brought me back to reality - an old guy in a Robin Reliant - I never told my mates that one - who took me all the way ----- to St. Helens!!!
My memory of the Sunday was of quite a good day. I seem to remember the sun was shining - but by then it was so muddy that nothing was going to dry it out until all those feet got off the mud. I met another friend, Vikki from Manchester and we set off to find the other two, but never did meet up. Vikki and I decided that we were not sitting in the mud and climbed to the top of the scaffolding opposite the stage area. We got away with it for quite a long time, until others noticed us and climbed up. I must admit that it was beginning to move and feel a little insecure. But I have one thing to say - F. Burke it was ME that was the last one down off the scaffolding when Country Joe was telling us off. If you and your mates hadn't come up there we would have been left alone. We were there for over an hour by ourselves with a brilliant view. I enjoyed the Country Joe set and have vague memories of "The New Christie Minstrels" doing a couple of songs (remember three wheels on my wagon?) I'm also sure that I heard a band introduced as The Electric Orchestra somewhere around late afternoon though I noticed that they were not included on the list of bands who played. Can someone please confirm that they were there.
Vikki and I never did find Val and Paul but I got a letter a few days later with an apology and a left luggage key for the sleeping bags at Lime Street Station. It took me a couple of days to get to Liverpool to collect them. They'd been removed from the storage area and put in a collection room - I think the smell had something to do with it. I had to pay excess storage costs to get them back and when my parents saw them, I had to pay to have them dry cleaned as well. The moral of the story is, don't lend parents stuff to people you hardly know!!!!!
But at the end of it all, I ENJOYED MYSELF. I must have been the only person there who stayed completely level headed but it was still an experience I wouldn't have missed for the the world. I'm still amazed at hearing of big name bands who appeared there and I missed out on them by not being able to stay over and maybe it would have been worth the aggro to have stayed - would have certainly saved myself alot of money on busfares.
One last thing, thank you for this website and a wonderful trip down memory lane.
I was lying under a plastic sheet with a couple of mates, having consumed lots of hash fudge, and laughing insanely through most of Hawkwind's set, for no particular reason. Our laughter seemed contagious and soon, half the world, it seemed, was laughing: we wondered how Hawkwind took this...
I saw a local-looking guy - tweed jacket, workers boots, flat cap, obviously off his head on something - taking off his jacket, whirling it round his head, coins falling out of the pockets, and flinging it away into the crowd and the mud.
I met a girl sitting on her own in an Afghan dress, looking a bit sorry for herself. I said "Are you OK?"; she replied, "I'm cold and wet, I've lost my friends and I've got no knickers on!" We spent the night together in a marquee, inside a paper sleeping bag.
It was Dr John, I think, who scattered shiny stuff around the stage during his set; later that weekend, while dancing in the mud but on another planet, I looked down at my mud-caked jeans and saw myriad glistening jewels...
There's a picture on the sleeve of The Dead's Europe '72 album which shows the front of the crowd at Bickershaw and I'm just there, with lots of hair and a green waistcoat.
Dr John , the king of goofer dust
Steve Houghton has 8mm film of the festival
Most of the footage is of the festival build up, the stage being built and there is some stuff on the site showing all the people in front of the stage. There is a small amount of footage of live bands,but I don’t know who they are though. There is lots of footage in and around the village as it gets busier, my dad ran the local club at the time and there is footage of the hippies in the club. I think the film is about 45mins and last time I watched it was fine. I haven’t watched it for over ten years, hopefully its ok. I am going to get it transferred to video. My best mate who I am still in touch with is called Morris Cohen and it was his dad who set the festival up in the first place with the local farmer at the time. Harry Cohen was the organizer and was interviewed on tv, he used to be known as the count. He used to wear a Dracula type cloak with a top hat and cane. He was a right character, sadly he died last year.
Yes ,I remember Bickershaw as being very wet ,I arrived there on the friday evening with no ticket and bribed one of the locals who was guarding a hole in the fence ,I saw hawkwind ,stackridge ,wishbone ash ,johnathon kelly and dr john. Spent some time during the night under the stage drinkin free beer and smokin free dope,woke up in the morning cold wet and tired decided to call it a day and went home. On the way out I was given a pass ticket to get back in which I sold to someone coming in ,as I recall I made a profit . really enjoyed this site ,brought back memories
I just came across your very comprehensive site on the festival. What a hoot! I was there for the Sunday show only, and I arrived late in the day at that.
I was the New Riders' secretary and had flown in from San Francisco, arriving after much delay just before the New Riders went on. I remember whomever was putting on te festival took it on faith that I was who I said I was and let me in but I couldn't get backstage until John "Marmamduke" Dawson heard me screaming from the audience and announced that their secretary had arrived and pointed me out. I was overwhelmed with fans (an experience that I had never had - it was kind of fun) and someone finally got me backstage. I don't remember much else except that it was rainy and muddy and a little cold for the time of year.
Anyway, thanks for the memories!
Hi, I was telling my daughter about my festival experiences as a & I got around to Bickershaw Festival & thought have I sent my recollections of the event or at least what I can remember from back then to UK Rock Festivals site.
Well, here it is. If it's too long or off subject feel free to ignore or edit
Anyway here goes.
It all started when a few days after I had crashed my motorbike I went to see friends in a flat just up the road from the infamous (to residents of a similar age to me) Hat & Feather in the 'Bohemian/hippie area' of the City of Bath where I live.
When I went into the flat there were my friends & a slightly older guy (Micky) I knew of (I went to primary school with his younger brother). While chatting it came up that there was a festival starting the next day & The Grateful Dead were playing, they were going & Micky asked if I wanted to go, I pointed to my visible injuries, mainly head/facial stitches/bruises/abrasions (I didn't wear a crash helmet back then) & arm in a sling, I replied they may not want to look at my face if they were tripping (which was our regular weekend pastime back then), Micky was not phased, no problem he said, so I agreed & he drove me to where I was living picked up my sleeping bag & we (about 9/10 of us, boys & girls) were off in a VW Transporter Panel Van from a local hire company. Sims Car/Van Hire.(can't do that now without seats & belts).
On the way up (past Birmingham) just off a roundabout, we spotted 2 girls hitch hiking (Bickershaw sign) we stopped & squeezed them in. I didn't take a lot of notice of them, we stopped at a fish & chip shop, behind me in the queue was a pretty girl, when we got back to the van I was last but then noticed the pretty girl was behind me, she was one of the girls we had picked up, I let her in first but now I was beside the draughty sliding side door, but luckily now also next to the girl (stick with me here, this is my most memorable part of event). Well, we 'got on' well together, there was a mutual attraction, she didn't seem phased by my injuries, maybe she liked 'bikers', anyway when we got to the site traffic was heavy, we pulled over near the site to let the girl & her friend out, they were meeting up with others so I got out to walk her & friend on to the site, I arranged to meet her later
(unsurprisingly that never happened, no mobile phones back then) & headed back to the van.
I walked back to where we'd been dropped off, no sign of the van, it was now getting dark, cold & starting to rain & I was denim clad (jeans & Jacket), no real coat in fact I had nothing, no money, ticket etc.
Well this is great I thought nearly 200 miles from home with nothing, perhaps they had gone to the car parking area so I followed signs to a distant car park & up a rough track & into a vast field full of vehicles & no lights, shit I'd never find them in amongst that lot. There was no point staying there so I walked back the way I had come & on to the site which was a mass of jumbled vehicles, tents, stalls & people, I was now getting pissed off, what the fuck was I going to do?
Then, nearly fully dark by now, I spotted in front of me a VW van with Sims Van Hire sign on the side stuck in the mud, surely I couldn't be that lucky, I walked up to the door opened it "Oh hi Pete". I said, "What the fuck do you mean hi Pete? What the fuck? You left me behind when I got out with the girls". Were they taking the piss? No, they were all too stoned to notice I had left the van with them,
Anyway, we eventually extricated the van & drove back out onto the road & saw a space in the site but on the other side of a bank & barbed-wire fence. Through we went (bizarrely somebody brought wire cutters ) & set up a huge frame tent, 'skinned up' & settled down.
The next day somebody apparently a dealer had delivered/left us a bag of 'black mic' acid & speed (Black Bombers) from then on my memory grows very vague, did I even eat anything? What day was it? Vague recollections of standing in the mud & hearing Cheech &Chong/New Riders' /Donovan/Kinks (pissed)/Flaming Groovies & the 'Dead, I do actually remember wading through very deep mud at the flooded front of the stage (some fool had drained the high dive pool) I went with one of the girls with us, we went there to 'see' Country Joe, who had apparently had his wallet & passport stolen/lost according to the MC announcement. We didn't get a very good view of Joe, the stage was so high & we were too close but the sound was great. Early evening a bright strip of the sky appeared in the distance & the wind gathered strength as Grateful Dead were due on stage, it got colder, but at least the rain stopped, I think, & their music lifted the spirits of all of us wet, muddy & cold young people.
Jeremy Beadle certainly was 'game for a laugh' when he put this on just outside Wigan, never known for being the driest area of the country.
I never encountered mud & rain at a festival like that until many years later at one of the many Glastonbury festivals I attended (working & not) when they had to bring in divers to check tents totally underwater next to the old railway line & the site was surrounded by thunderstorms & the main stage was apparently hit by lightning.
A festival attendee with a ferret down his trousers
© R Hutchinson
The View from the Mud: two
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Updated May 2023