For information on today's festivals see eFestivals.co.uk
We are looking for the documentary film that was made of the Watchfield festival, can anyone give us information about its creation and current whereabouts ?
The Watchfield Free Festival .
23-31st August 1975.
Dedicated to UBi and Sid , now both passed away ,who persevered against all odds to establish a Peoples Free
Festival and who endured jail time for their pains .....
Photo© Nick Day - via Garry Gibbons
|Civil aid Kitchen|
The festival that never was....Windsor Free 1975
Re the windsor/watchfield 1975 page..
In 1975 I read about the 4th Windsor free festival being banned and the
We went there on August 23rd a bit stunned to find only about a dozen
We went back to the picnic site at the agreed time the next day,
Dave Morris - January 2020
Watchfield was the successor to the Windsor Free Festival ,which was supposed to reoccur in 1975, but which did not take place. The reasons for this were complex. After the violence that occurred in 1974, there was pressure on the government to supply an alternative site to Windsor in 1975- but this was easier said then done. Bill Dwyer and others wanted the festival to return to Windsor , but he and Sid Rawle were jailed for contempt when they attempted to distribute flyers encouraging people to attend the 1975 festival (although a dozen people did actually turn up for the 'Windsor Feast' - a freak picnic which was overseen by 350 policemen and a coterie of journalists who must have been extremely bored as nothing contentious happened).
Ubi Dwyer under arrest for impersonating Winston Churchill , but really looking far more like Groucho Marx .....
wearing sheriff's badge (security) and in the centre, looking very young
with the combat jacket is none other than Stephen Budd, whom you may have
heard of. Hangs out with the prime minister these days... hmmmmm.
The blessing of the hippie sinners at Watchfield 1975.
Photo © Nick Day 1975.
A letter from a member of Stage crew A , still determined the festival must go on !
courtesy Ken Horne, from the collection of the late Alan Jones
If this was not enough , the fuzz then brought another nine charges against the civil servant regarding his infamous conduct at the 74 festival, including one where he was alleged to have broken the window of a fire truck whilst tripping .This was sufficient to have him thrown into gaol - thus missing the 75 festival season . But Ubi was not totally forgotten- amongst other luminaries gathered at Windsor was the playwright Heathcote Williams , who held up a sign which read, "hello Bill , wish you were here . Love from the Windsor Picnickers ."
Clipping from UK tabloid press revealing all about the evil entities who planned the festival....
Meanwhile before these events were unwinding at Windsor , preparations had been taking place to try to find another site and to avoid the horrid confrontations of 1974. A number of options -Old Windsor and Bramshott Common- were quickly shot down by determined citizens groups who wanted no part of a free festival in their neck of the woods. See below ......
Eventually Watchfield- a disused airfield in Berkshire,(left ) took the place of the bash at Windsor Great Park . Despite more opposition from the usual coterie of Tory MP's and local farmers, the site was finally agreed upon , after assurances it would only be a one off event , that a sum of 10,000 pounds would be set aside to clean up the site afterwards and some basic facilities would be supplied . Of course, as far as the Government was concerned the advantage of Watchfield was that (as well as being a semi derelict dump which no one cared much about anyway ) , it was a long way away from any Royal Castle- as the proximity of the festival site at Windsor to the royal abode was undoubtedly an embarrassment to the authorities . I mean we can't have hippies crapping near her Majesties back yard can we ?
Articles and unattributed photos courtesy Ken Horne, from the collection of the late Alan Jones
So the move was a win for the freaks inasmuch that they were given somewhere to hold their festival without it being illegal , but the straights also won because they had shifted the freaks and their noisy paraphernalia to an out of the way site which wasn't anywhere near as pleasant - or symbolic - as the Great Park at Windsor. After three years of festivals at the one site, it was a definite climbdown for the counterculture to move to a less convenient and meaningful site, but at least it wasn't on the same turf as the Thames Valley Police,who had become notorious for their anti freak attitude after the 1974 debacle.
IT /Maya had a different view of things......
There were still tense incidents though , a reminder that a lot of hostility had been built up after Windsor between the freak community and the police.
A sergeant and a constable patrolling the site found an unattended stolen motor car (14 were located by police at the festival in all). Their examination of the vehicle to see whether or not it could be driven caused an announcement to be made from one of the stages to the effect that the police were searching cars on the site for drugs. There was an immediate assembly of people round the officers. Three other officers including a Chief Inspector, seeing the sergeant and constable in difficulties, went to their aid. The five officers then found themselves surrounded by about 300 people, some of whom were chanting, beating drums and demanding the exclusion of the police from the site. The Chief Inspector shouted to the crowd that the police were removing a stolen vehicle. He was joined and assisted by some of the organizers, the mood of the crowd changed and the people dispersed.
Although uniformed officers were tolerated if they were involved in policing activities that the crowd saw as being acceptable, the attitude towards C.I.D. and the Drug Squad was one of hatred. Unfortunately , some sort of police presence was needed ,there were the usual thefts to deal with , but unlike Windsor , there was also some nasty hostility between rival groups of Hells Angels -in addition , some traders complained of demands made of them to pay protection money ....
(we wonder who might have
made such threats ?........)
recalls . . .
|Aha - Watchfield, I remember the feeling of having won a very significant victory - we had been given a site by the government and this was a first which was something to celebrate. There was a large aircraft hangar on the airfield which the angels took over as theirs and also a 3 storey control tower which had a phone in it so any one who wanted could sit there looking over the festy and chat to the daily press , who kept ringing up wanting gossip or news of awful disasters and all we would do was tell them how cool everything was and what a groovy festival they were missing.|
I remember policemen walking around in two's and hippies joining hands and dancing around them in an anticlockwise circle to counterbalance their negative energies . we were camped up near a bunch of jolly folks who stayed up all night regaling everyone in the vicinity with tales of porridge and who had a huge flag emblazoned upon which were the immortal words 'The Hull Institute of Advanced Buggery' - whatever happened to them ?.
I remember listening to the Gong set and thinking how fucking good Steve Hillage was . . .
I especially liked the daily site meetings where everyone sat around and said their piece and policy was made and site matters were discussed and it felt like real democracy in action !.
I also remember leaving the site at the end and feeling that I was leaving the real world and entering a horrible false reality .
We have news of the Hull Institute of Advanced Buggery , from one of their erstwhile members
I was at the Watchfield Festival. I'm originally from Hull and was with the group who were known as the Hull institute of Advanced Buggery. I helped make that flag in the back yard of my friends Bones house. Myself , nick traves, chris traves, danny traves, bones, bones wife penny, big pete, fleure, among others ( I can't remember the other names),were the ones who made it.bones came up with the slogan. He intended to drive down there on his motorcycle and sidecar but changed his mind as the sidecar was an old coffin he'd stolen from a funeral home. Thought he might draw attention to himself !. We drove to watchfield in nick traves ford transit, unfortunately it had irish number plates and we got stopped it seemed every 10 miles. We got arrested just outside Luton on the way back home. Police gave us a hard time.
We were all at windsor the year before and witnessed most of the violence.
They were great times. hope this gives you a smile. I live in florida now and miss hull a lot.
would like to go back to watchfield for old times sake.
However, if one was anywhere near the biker gangs , the festival had a different reality .
Yes I remember the Watchfield free festival. We tried to sleep in a big hangar but the Hell's Angels were really out for trouble and kept running over people as they tried to crash in their sleeping bags. The whole site was dominated by violence after a day or so of friendly hippiedom. I recall the Road Rats and Windsor chapter Angels were particularly hostile.
At one time there was a fire going made of tyres and milk crates which must have been twenty or more feet high. The whole site was shit. Hardly any bands played though Gong were good as ever. Generally a very weird one, though there weren't too many police about.
Perhaps Bernards experiences were not typical
In 1975 I was 19 and I living in Swindon, Wiltshire, England. Working for an equipment supply company. One Friday we were sent to deliver electrical generators to the Watchfield Free Festival site. It was an eye-opening experience. The guy ( Martin ) who worked with me and I went back on the Saturday, and stayed there a week, much to the anger of our boss. I don't remember too many of the bands that played now, I do remember seeing Arthur Brown and Hawkwind.
The Watchfield stoned policemen story.
This they proceeded to do and were never seen again. And every body says there were no police on site at Watchfield. Ho hum its the blethering fool again I blame it all on driving to festivals at 2 in the morning having drunk intemperate amount of beer and smoked large amounts of Leba............you get the idea .......now where did I put that tent pole where's the fucking mallet .......WHAT YOU MEAN THE TENT PEGS ARE STILL IN LADBROOK GROVE......oh well the sun will be up soon,pass me the chillum................
photo © Nick Day
As to who played on the higgins stage I have no memory at all (I blame it on the drugs meself) What I do remember is going there with my girlfriend at the time by the name of Perry and not seeing her again for about 5 years (she went off to live with the tepee crew in Tally ) such was the heady days of festivals ,I would be interested to know if anybody can remember the bottomless bucket of creation at Stonehenge one year.Also at Stonehenge we used to run a badge stall y'know make your own on site.Would be interested to know if any of our original badges are still out there. Keep up this wonderful site I'll rummage through the remains of me brain for a few decent memories meanwhile I'll wish you love and peas
NB: Most of these small images have larger counterparts if moused over and clicked :-)
Hi, I was at Watchfield 74 and remember the "shit in a ditch" campaign! The autorities thought it a good idea to deliver some chemical toilets but the general concensus was that they were ecologically unsound. I also remember Stray setting up their own PA and playing a great set. Someone (actually Spike, I knew a Spike from Bradford on Avon. Maybe one and the same) on the Watchfield page mentions the Bottomless Bucket of Creation at Stonehenge. There was an old bottomless tin bucket suspended from a rope tied between two trees and an old friend of mine, Rex came up with the name. Everyone else picked up on it.
Dave has this recollection of the bands who played
Having been living at nearby Amesbury that year in the squats (we had three houses) I remember it quiet well as to getting to the site was for the most part trouble free most of the time,my memory of the bands were as mentioned elsewhere,on the first Friday night a riproaring set from the fabulas 101ers,and finished two weeks later with Arthur Brown and Vivian Stanshall.
from dave now living in luton.
From Stephen Budd
photo © Nick Day
was a junior stage manager on the main stage (aged....15). significant memories.....(apart
from getting the clap for the 1st time)
: Being in the geodistic dome behind the main stage watching a guy cut up a couple of weights of red leb and then the Chief Constable of Thames Valley walks in, sees what is happening but because he is about 300 yds behind police lines is unable to do anything and shrugs !
: Being interviewed by Mavis Nicholson for Radio 4 whilst tripping
: The guy all dressed in white who stood about 20 yds in front of the main stage with his arms up in the air for the whole 2 weeks every day 14 hours a day !
: Helping to rig the roof whilst Hawkwind were playing underneath me....all tripping
: 'the fabulous main stage joint rolling competition' which was really a con by the road-crew to get as many free joints as possible.
: Steve Hillage coming down about 3 or 4 days before the festival started with Miquette in his 1960's Cortina to see wether it was cool for Gong to play and ending up mstaying andf jamming around the campfire...
: rolling spliffs on the side of the stage during the Gong set to give to Mike Howelett
: Helping Nik Turner up when he fell over during Hawkwinds set
: Paul Rudolph of Pink Faries playing with Hawkwind (or did I hallucinate that..)
: The Global Village Trucking Company, Stray, Traffic, Spectre, Gong can't remember who else.
: when the Angels left the hanger (hooray !) and pissed of leaving us to have fun.
: the free Hari Krishna food
: Lord Melchett being very groovy
: Radio Free Watchfield !
: The first appearance of the red, white and blue acid....
Watchfield 1975 My first real festival. Threatened with murder by a Hell's Angel, who was probably off his face on some of the rather strong hallucinogens I recall. I had my picture taken by an Australian photographer which later appeared in Woman's Own magazine, to my mother's shame (I had very long hair, and was sporting a rather gorgeous turquoise velvet full length cloak with gold trimming). I remember Gong, stalwarts of such occasions, and Edgar Broughton Band, without whom no free festival was complete. A wonderful festival at a great venue. The police were cool too (as far as I was concerned - they certainly saw me with a spliff or two!)
photo © Nick Day
was 17 and my older brother took me to Watchfield . I took my first LSD
and had the most amazing time of my life. You mention the Police. I remember
two uniformed Police wondering around the site and when they came up to
us I was totally paranoid thing they would arrest us because we were smoking
dope. However there were a bunch of welsh lads near us who were offering
the police a go on their chillum which I could not believe. The police just
laughed it off and strolled on.
For me the festival was a great time and I must have been oblivious to any bad vibes going on.
Hi I've just found your site - very interesting!
I was a roadie for Strife and can aim you in the direction of a couple of photos of the band at Watchfield - in glorious technicolour! They are at www.strife-music.co.uk (under photos).
My memories of Watchfield are pretty vague - when we arrived it was suitably chaotic - there was trouble with the PA. I remember that the band before us (sorry I can't put a name to them) played a pretty good version of Love's 'Alone again or'. We then decided to use our own PA in order to give some time to repair the festivals PA which was distorting badly. The guys played well and injected a bit of energy into the proceedings. (it was flagging a bit at the time) The bands were being filmed for the local cable television - is there still some footage available? I was in the centre of the crowd wearing my luminous green beany hat (a gift from the band - "where's the prat in the hat?) mixing the sound. The crowd were up on their feet and I had a job to keep people from stomping on the mixer! - a couple of encores and it was over. The festival PA had been fixed so we loaded the gear back into the van. East of Eden followed us on stage - kicked off with "Jig-a jig" I think. Rob (the other roadie) and I walked round the site for a while - it was going dark, and the camp-fires created a great atmosphere. Then it was back on the road - we were one of the hardest working bands at the time - no time to stop and watch.
All the best
Martin - The Bean
I lived in the nearest house to the festival but camped there all week having to look out for mum and dad as they didnt know I smoked . Steve Winwood and friends not Traffic played in 75 there was no festival in 76 at watchfield. Thames water who I worked for had thousands of buckets in a warehouse to give out as they thought the loos wouldnt cope . They were in a right panick over the festival.
Civil aid catering station © Nigel Leach
Window panes, red white and blue blotters mountains of microdot, all known forms of hemp (we operated an informal swap club for eight days) Never saw a hells angel but anyone mad enough to try and kip in the same aircraft hangar with the Windsor Chapter, well...
the 'traffic' gig comprised of viv stanshall stevie winwood and the afro rythm section, who played til dawn and had everybody dancing more than ive ever seen at a free festival before...rebop kwaki ba was fantastic, as were viv stanshalls tights which kept changing from luminous green to vivid purple, though that might have just been me.
The free hari krishna food was so bloody brilliant i probably put on weight for the only time during the seventies, so good it made me a vegetarian Buddhist. in the middle of the day, during the middle of the week, when Watchfield got real quiet and only the hardcore remained, it felt more like living in a small village of freaks than a festival. Never saw the cops meself, fell into a lot of ditches though...
My mate Jeff drove us in a classic citroen safari estate, complete with small mary-jane plant drying on the bonnet, and that damn car didn't want to leave any more than we did, bless its little mechanical heart, for it refused to start when we tried to split. Watchfield was a real turning point, it captured the last dregs of the spirit of an era which almost choked to death on its own vomit shortly after, and has definitely never been the same since...The ghosts of all those battle of britain airman must have finally realised what they were fighting for...It was definitely 1975. ...
Another long trip on the Ducati 250 from Cambridgeshire to Berkshire saw me arrive at Watchfield. I'd seen Gong twice that summer at the Hammersmith Palais. A nearby tent at the festival had been playing Gong non stop. I remember being half asleep in the tent one evening and hearing Gong again, thinking that doesn't sound quite right. I poke my head out to find they were playing live on the stage. The Watchfield airfield was really big and the festival quite spread out, which meant you could loon about on the bike riding up and down the runways. I spent one evening lying on the bike seat and tank watching the bands play on the Polyrhythm Stage. I think there were at least 3 stages playing most of the time. Another abiding memory is being hungry as I was broke and couldn't find any food. I guess I hadn't yet learnt how to enjoy Vegan muesli with apple juice in a paper cup.
Excerpt from a punk newsletter of 1977 , an article on Free Festivals.courtesy Brian F
I seem to have gone the opposite way to history. During the early festivals I can remember, I seemed to be straight a lot of the time, but met a lot of groovy people; With Watchfield, it was almost oblivion.
This was the festival that took over from the infamous Windsor Free Festival, and was really all about making a free festival happen with little trouble.
My only trouble aside from hitching down there, which took ages,( it was hot, it seemed to take days was being hassled by the Thames Valley Police, en route at least 3 times; But once on the site I met more interesting people, and somehow missed a load of bands. The PA always seemed to be breaking down, there always seemed to be a guy called tall Steve on stage, and we finally gave up to go back to our tents, for more various forms of fun.
I met Rose and Aiden from Southern Ireland. Aiden told me all he had in the world was in his back pocket. When I pointed out his wallet was falling out, he exclaimed, "Jesus, that's all I have". I met another Rose who was an opera singer and belted out her arias every morning in the nude. Another time after once again giving up on the music at about 1am, we all crashed out only for a strange noise from the stage to reawake us. I think they were called Zorch (anyone remember them?) a kind of weird synth band;
Traffic were also supposed to have played, and I saw a couple of members from Hawkwind, but then again so what?
Yes the Hari Krishna guys banged out some great food, and there was lots of dope, overhead police presence, and a member of the Clergy from Reading(!) on stage.
I wasnt aware of any aggro, though some people did mention it, but overall there was a sense of being part of a community of people who wanted to preserve the festivals. It was less chaotic than some of the Stonehenge affairs, and was also remarkable for the "little scenes" , of artists, percussionists, acoustic guitarists, fab food, and some weird and wonderful people; Unlike just about all the other festivals, Watchfield seemed more about the event itself than just music. Oh yeah and I bumped into Scottish Frank, last seen being carted off to jail in Marrakesh!
I was at Watchfield. I was 16. Got my O level results while I was there from a public phone in a hangar. The festival blew our minds. First time I had dope, (ate it in a Mars bar,) saw lots of people staggering around naked and generally dug the weirdness. I particularly remember watching a couple of slightly older girls on an acid trip one night lying on their backs gazing heavenward and giggling at the notion of the stars being God’s little peepholes. One more amusing recollection – they announced over the PA that the drug squad agent was the guy with "light" tattooed on one tit and 'bitter" on the other.
Thanks for the site.
Dolores at Watchfield
Please can I say a big hello to Roy, from Wooden Lion, who helped me out with getting in touch with you direct…and to also say hi to anyone who I might’ve met at these festivals here…you can contact me via my music page on myspace:
All good wishes from
Played bass in the band After the Shallows at Watchfield (band name was my idea - stupidity of youth - aged 18). We were prog rock - no surprise there. I remember arriving playing and leaving. Wierdly, I remember the smell of perfume or perfumed talc on stage. Would have loved to have found photo.
Line up was probably:
Patrick Case - Guitar, vocals (most recently of Immense - Bristol band)
Adrian Snellgrove - keyboards (2 mellotrons!)
Andrew Williamson - Bass
Derrick? - Drums
just discovered this site and was amazed to see the picture of the lawnmower
in the photogallery.
friend of mine, Martin, hitched down seperately and was dropped some distance
from the site, so as he had quite a lot of kit with him, he 'liberated'
a lawnmower from someones garden , strapped his kit to it and pushed it
the remaining few miles to the festival site. He got quite a few laughs
as he entered the site and after 'liberating' my sign , attached it to
the lawnmower and proudly parked it outside of his tent for the rest of
I seem to remember a bunch of crazies taking doors off the old buildings and roping them to the backs of cars, then being dragged at high speed up the old runways standing on the doors surfing, thought it was one of the highlights of the festival and totally impromptu!
Want to say thanks to a guy called Scripto, if he ever sees this, who helped one of my mates out at the Release shelter. Said mate had dropped some acid and got the paranoias due to a stage announcement in the middle of the night saying something I think about tents being set on fire or some sort of trouble, so got him over to Release with him (6' 4") hanging on to me for dear life!
Thanks for the memories, love this site.
What a brilliant website and what fantastic memories.
Civil aid catering station © Nigel Leach
I loved this Festival. The friendly carnival atmosphere was incredible and sadly introduced me to a life of cynicism of the press, as what many of them wrote did not reflect what I experienced in any way.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. The photos have also amused my teenage kids to think that I could have been part of such an event and could ever have had such long hair!
Free food kitchen © Alun Anderson
I was enthused to come across your website of the Watchfield Festival. I attended some of Festival with a number of people from the Nag's Head, High Wycombe; Paddy Dalton, Jerry ?, Steve Merrall (deceased), Julie ?, Terri Meli and a pig farmer (Steve?) from around that area. I remember I had just come over from the Reading Festival, while the others had been camped out for a few days. When I arrived, I remember that our lot had a big piece of plastic for a tent and that one could walk about and receive the free newsletter updating everyone on what was good and what was cut - I remember one tent had a cash register in it.
I ended up on an extensive hike for many hours with someone I didn't really know - we got lost for hours initially in search of the source of the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon music that came on over the sound system. I remember we got lost near the biker encampment and that felt very, very heavy. As we roamed about, I remember two people crawling up a small hill and just staring at the rope holding the mound of dirt in place. The peak moment came in the early morning. I don't know if the band was shut down early or if this fellow just got up on the stage after they were finished. The audience was definitely tripping along as this fellow with bright red hair began singing or rather mumbling about blue suede shoes. When he tried to get down from the stage, the crowd wouldn't let him as he had become the audience.
We ended up finally finding our tent in the morning, where the gang was all set to go for another few days. I remember the experience as being very intense. Ironically, many years later in St. Louis, Missouri, I met a guy by the name of Dave Phillips who had moved to the U.S. -- he too had witnessed Watchfield and the ginger haired guy singing blue sueded shoes -- it is such a small world!
Just found you excellent site brought back memories mostly a blur to be fair. Remember being in same hangar as Road rats not much kip but my crowd wernt intimidated either in those days. I recall meeting Sid Rawle but how and why escapes me nowadays. Can't really remember any of the bands think this was the last festival I went to end of an era and all that. One more thing anyone recall some nutjob being busted for posing as a doctor and dispensing medication at site. I went to first aid post for painkillers and later wondered what I was given when reading about it in the papers. Happy days looking back.
Mick Osler. Coventry
© Tim Brighton
I was about 13 years old, living in nearby Swindon and went to Watchfield with some older friends. I remember Zorch started their set by firing a flare over the crowd. Before they had progressed very far the rain came down and they had to abandon it. My mates sister was 'married' at the festival with Sid Rawle officiating.
This fantastic website brought back many memories - thanks so much.
I was there for one day. I remember a tense atmosphere, wild and edgy. A blonde girl on a big motorbike rode at top speed through the crowd and everyone was jumping and diving out the way. There was constant talk of cops in the crowd disguised as hippies selling drugs and around the airfield cop cars circled the site. The only band I remember is Strange Days. For me it marked the end of the peace festivals, as violence was in the air with the Angels ... or maybe I was just getting older and sitting around naked in the mud had lost its charm.
Darryl Vincent (Now St. Sukie de la Croix in Chicago)
With regret I don’t have any photos or video footage, but I lived at the farm (which looked like a castle) at the end of the little road next to the airfield and came up to watch everyday. My first ever festival, I was 12 and really quite entranced by the whole thing and quite scared when some seemingly giant, leather clad, rather hairy bikers walked straight through a barbed wire fence. I don’t think it did them any harm!
I then went to the first Big Green Gathering on the same site.
It is now the site of Watchfield’s Wind Farm, small but iconic.
Thanks for supplying all this information, I had no idea that I had been treading the same hallowed turf as so many legends!
My best wishes
So glad to discover this site. I hitched over to Watchfield on Wednesday 20th August. A fair few folk who'd been dossing round the Clodgy and the Sea Mews squat in St. Ives eventually found their up way there too. A "Sea Mews 2" was set up in the big hangar. I remember the dramatic arrival of the Angels, a long, long convoy roaring in down a runway, a stream of headlights breaking through the dusk; Road Rats and Satan's Slaves came later. We stayed clear and avoided trouble with them, likewise from the odd and obvious plain-clothes policeman nosing around.
Of more concern was the availability of firewood and free food; Mother Earth kitchen, tea from the Christians, hash cake. Cries of "Wally". My diary tells me that the bands playing on Monday 25th included "East of Eden", "Gong", and "Conventional Douglas" - don't remember any of them, too much to smoke, though I do recall seeing "Hawkwind" a couple of days earlier; at the Polytantric Stage C on Saturday 30th were Stevie Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Viv Stanshall. Aerial exhibits included Concorde, five helicopters trailing coloured smoke and a bit of Aorora Borealis. I eventually left on the 2nd September, replete after a fortnightful of happy days. Cath, Jan, Fran, Joe the Eagle, Jaffa, Lynn, Sharon, Max and all the rest - thanks for the memories.
At 17 I was at working on a 'head' stall at Watchfield with my boyfriend 'big Jim' Bowler and his pal called MIn and several others from the Hemel Hempstead area. We jumped in the van with some stock, a tent after picking up random people on the way. I remember Hawkwind and some very stoned people wondering over to the stall drawn by the psychadelic trinkets I had artistically arranged. I don' t recall much attention to business except that a fair chunk of the takings was spent on a substantial stash of dope. Other than that it's all rather hazy!
In 1974 aged 16 at the free festival in the Windsor Great park my pal Deirdre and I left before the police turned. At the Knebworth Festival she was tripping so badly that she missed Pink Floyd set whilst I saw the lazer light show, the rocket and the clocks on the giant screen.
With several decades hindsight it was a good time to live in the Home Counties!
I just searched online for ages and found this photo of me at Watchfield 1975. I was looking for it cos I remembered it. It was a centre page spread in a 'redtop' paper (Sunday Mirror?). I'm the one in the black
glasses. I got back to work (Post Office sorting office in Holloway N7) on the Monday and was called up for a disciplinary hearing - they showed me a copy of the paper (which I'd not seen) and claimed I was 'bringing the Post Office into disrepute'... ha ha ha...
I was at Windsor the year before, slept inside a huge folded over carpet and was bone dry in the pissing rain, met Sid there but don't remember much.
Then dumped my job as a carpenter in Reading, I had just turned 19 I think and went to Watchfield and hooked up with Sid and slept in his teepee.
I remember some Italian guy turned up straight from the himalayas with some hash he'd rubbed himself that oozed oil, we got very stoned and Sid was great company.
It's funny because later I worked for Felix Dennis on a skateboard magazine, the first, and Mark Williams, IT, Bike, NME etc also worked there and way later when I revived the magazine in the late eighties he was the publisher.
It's funny as I was reminded of all this when Steve Hillage liked some comment I made on a mutual friend's post on fb and I thought "is it?" and it was.
In between I did a load of totally apparently unrelated things (to an outsider).
Now live in the mountains of Portugal. Sid was one of the very few really authentic people from that time, as was Felix and Mark. Mark did serious time in Rykers, now lives in the Welsh Borders.
Felix and Sid are all dead but they left their mark, a great forest in Felix's case.
Nice to remember. Haven't lived in the UK for 30yrs. It's a foreign country.
I was the youngest member of a band called Astral Synthesis in 1975, at 16 years old. All the other band members were in their 20’s and working paid jobs during the day, but I was still in school so I had time on my hands. They asked me to try to arrange gigs. I wrote to the organisers of Watchfield festival enclosing photos of the band and got a reply a week or so later. We were on! We were to show up at the Polytantric stage on Tuesday night at 9pm. I couldn’t believe it. The Polytantric was the main stage, and 9pm was a really good slot! We were billed on the band list as “Synthesis”.
We had our own PA system; Sims Watts festival stacks. The same kind of system used by Pink Floyd in their early days. We also had our own lighting system. We couldn’t afford the Acidica light show people, so we devised our own lighting with our own handmade light console. From a distance it could be mistaken for a VCS3 Synthesiser. We also had a reel to reel tape deck with a synthesiser back track which we played on various numbers.
We hired a van, loaded all our gear, and arrived at Watchfield at about 5pm. The atmosphere was amazing. Thousands of freaks in all their finest regalia drifting across expansive fields with three stages set up at various locations. As soon as we arrived I went to the stage to find out when we’d have to set up. The ‘bad' news was that some members of Traffic, had turned up and were going to do a jam session with some other band on the Polytantric. So we had been bumped to play at about 11pm on the middle stage after Traffic. So at about 10.30 we started setting up our equipment. We were doing our sound check when Traffic ended, and everyone started walking back to the main camp area right past our stage. People thought our light mixing table was a synthesiser and word got out that a cool band was going to play. So we got a good crowd gathered. I had recently made a long brown robe with a hood, a bit like a franciscan monk would wear and i had a metallic green telecaster guitar, so that added a kind of mystical air to the band, all of us looking like arch freaks with long straggly hair.
This was it! Sound check complete, we were ready to go. Every single one of us was as nervous as hell. This was our first gig, and it was huge. We began our first number and everyone started dancing to the rhythm. We were starting to get into it, when there was a loud crack of thunder and the heavens opened up with torrents of heavy rain. The stage had a flimsy plastic cover, which quickly started catching the water and filling up, threatening to burst all over our live equipment. There was complete panic. Everyone ran for cover. We scrambled to get everything powered off. Water started cascading on parts of the stage. It was completely crazy. We had to unplug all the gear, get the main amps into the van, grab all the lights, guitar foot pedals, everything! Finally we got everything piled into the van. We had no idea how much damage there might be. It was all a huge disappointment. I wanted to stay on, but they all wanted to leave! I had no choice. In silence we began the drive back home. For the rest of the band, that was enough of free festivals. But for me it was just the beginning. I eventually ended up on the convoy, it was all good times, Stonehenge, Glastonbury, Deeply Vale, Inglstone Common, the Pscilly fair at Pontrhydygroes. I was fortunate in that I left the UK for Ireland the year before the bean field, which basically marked the end of the glorious days of the British free festivals. I never returned to England for any length of time after that as I eventually settled in India.
Hi, I was at Watchfield, I went on my own and was very kindly 'adopted' by Nigel and Ken Leach and the Bath City Civil Aid crew, I worked with them in their kitchen, then was invited back to Bath with them, I remember being threatened by two Hell's Angels for not being deferential enough and being saved by the intervention of one of their colleagues, a large fellow called Fruit, who vouched for me, saying I was 'a good bloke', I had served him numerous cups of tea, and when he ran out of funds I continued to keep him supplied (I think he was TT), I'm sorry I can't remember the name of Nigel's partner, she was very kind to me, and when I was leaving Bath to come back to Scotland she presented me with a Rose from their garden, I remember us having to get out and push their double-decker bus up the hill to Nigel and Ken's house which was their HQ!
I am Graham. I went to watchfield festival. I had been at Windsor in 74 when the police moved in. I went in an Austin A30 took an A.M transmiter tuned to 222mtrs medium wave. I ran it off a car battery and managed to transmitt some pre recorded shows by putting the mike on a casset player an doing live p.a cuts inbetween . Got some nice response including a gorgeous bird flashing me for a request.. In some way I was informed that the bill were tuned in (as it was a criminal offence). The station was 'Radio Sweet Grass' free nation radio unfortunately I had no way of recharging the battery so we had to go off air, I honestly dont remember much off the festival,you know how it goes.
Peace & Luv the Gman.
Although I was at Watchfield as a 17 year old, I was particularly interested to see the comments by Edward Collier re his turquoise cloak. I’m wondering if he’s the same Ed from the Cheltenham area who had a cloak such as he describes, and with which I ended up. I had always admired that cloak and one day a chap approached me and asked if I wanted to buy it. He said he’d bought it from Ed, so I immediately said I’d love it. As it happened, he’d not bought it, but I didn’t realise this until it was too late – it had been pinched from me in Bath in the meantime, where it I believe it ended up in the shop of a theatrical costumier. If he is the same Ed, then I apologise for the loss of his cloak.
I've just found your site. Back in 1975, my wife and I were leading a National Trust 'Acorn Camp' at their nearby Coleshill Estate. Our task as volunteers was to help create a wooden barrier to protect the banks below Buscot Weir on the River Thames; a water supply pipe had been exposed by erosion and was in imminent danger of collapsing.
At the last minute, the National Trust asked us to occupy an empty Elizabethan farmhouse opposite to Great Coxwell Tithe Barn just in case squatters moved in from the Watchfield Festival. It made an interesting base though there was no furniture; we had to sleep on the floor as expected. No squatters came, but one day we were in the woods cutting down branches when the Police turned up. They thought we were from the festival, but we explained that we were working for the National Trust. Soon afterwards, the Police returned with a box of ice lollies.
We took the volunteers to the festival one evening. Very loud - and a lot of nudity. We made sure that our charges returned safely to our lodgings because we had another day of work to do.
All the best,
We played at Watchfield 1975. The name of our band was JEG. We were all 18. I went to Windsor 1974 and wrote to Adam Free asking to play at Windsor 1975. I still have the letter he sent me, he asked me to write to Harry Higgins in Leeds. We played on the Saturday on the Harry Higgins stage. I played a double neck guitar and we played for two hours in front if a great crowd many naked who were dancing to our music. When we finished we were asked to play again because the band who were meant to be on after us hadn't turned up. I remember our drummer, Graham 'Floyd' Skinner, went through his snare drum head and so he tightened up the floor tom and our manager / roadie Dave 'The Foz' Foster threw gravel constantly onto it and it sounded just like a snare. After we played we got wasted and I can't remember anything else. When you search Watchfield 1975 on YouTube, you'll find RegTwinNecks - that's me.
I recently came across the website of the German progressive rock band Tibet that existed from 1972 to 1980.
Reading their biography I was quite surprised to learn that they played at the Windsor free festival in 1974 and the following year at Watchfield.
The latter is also mentioned on your UK Rock Festivals website, but I found no indication of them playing at Windsor on the site.
They also have a lot of pictures (though small ones) from both gigs in the gallery section of their website:
Maybe you would like to contact them for more details and for permission to use some of their pics on your website.
Hi guys, I was at Watchfield and many other festivals in the 70's. I thought you'd like to know about one of the bands appearing. There are various references in the bumf to a group referred to as '101'; these were,in fact, The 101'ers, who were Joe Strummer's outfit prior to The Clash. For me, they were far and away the highlight of the whole do, standing out by dint of their appearance (besuited) and their music (high energy pop-r'n'b). They were so great that the following year, I made the trek down to London (from Stoke) to see them again at the North-East London Polytechnic. This was in May 1976, so must have been one of their last gigs before Joe joined The Clash. I chatted to Joe about the Watchfield show at this gig and he was very friendly. I went on to see The Clash at Eric's club in Liverpool (twice), and again at the Victoria Hall in Hanley, S-O-T, where we met again and shared a reefer. The other group I remember really digging at Watchfield were the Jive Bombers, but I'm a bit hazier about them. Anyway, thanks for the excellent site.
All the best, Mark Oliver.
I went to Watchfield with my mate Richard in my silver Volkswagen Beetle. We set up our tent up at the top of the slope near the shit ditch, to the left of the Tower as you look at it. I then settled back to have the greatest 9 days of my life. 9 days of sun, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. On day two I had discarded my top. On day three I was down to denim shorts - but it was still too hot so I made myself a thong. By now I was mating with a young lady I met at a bonfire one night, her name was Cheryl. Quite close to us was the inflatable snake which I nearly died on when playing on it, some guys decided to twist it up. I was locked inside one of the tight bends and I couldn't breathe. Just as I was about to pass out, they released it and I thankfully popped out. My abiding memory was when I was tripping at an unknown stage and at the end of each song I would spin around and crash to the ground watching the stars spin out of control. After the last track I stood up to come face to face with about ten bright headlights. The Angels were coming straight for me and I just froze. The roar of their cycles made it even more intimidating. But as they pulled alongside me they just gently manoeuvred around me. I only have one regret. Eleven years later my wife ( who I met after Watchfield ) burnt all my photos of the festival when we fell out. I still have a mental picture of 3 of us standing by our tent and a few others. But the loss is inconsolable. At 63 years old I'm still rocking and Watchfield will forever be my utopia.
Harry the Hat.
I was, for my sins, the organiser of a travelling (moving about not travellers) kitchen in the Seventies.
Performed, with Welfare State at Bickershaw. worked at Bath Arts Workshop and was involved in the various Bath Festivals.
We did catering at Watchfield, Knebworth (twice), Glastonbury (twice) and Several political/protest rallies, that dont get a mention on the great site you have. - Torness - against a nuclear power station eventually built, - Rock against Racism -Victoria Park, Hackney, and Brockwell park, Lambeth.
The numbers we fed were often quite large for instance at Watchfield the kitchen was open the whole ten days getting through some 8 tons of food feeding around three and a half thousand a day(and night).
I have some pics of the Watchfield kitchen and odd shots of Knebworth.
Oops, also off the radar perhaps because it was more than a little pretentious was 'The International Youth Festival of Hope for Mankind' see what i mean? in Haslemere. This was ten days of almost continuous rain where we did 3 meals a day for 1000. Though i think the rain reduced that to more like 500!
There are reports of a festival held in 76 but this definitely did NOT happen, the action moved to Seasalter
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Free rock festivals of the 70s and 80s
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