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This site is dedicated in the memory of

Roger Hutchinson,

who inspired me to delve deep into the magic of the free festival and who passed away Sept 3rd 2010.

R.I.P. Roger .....

Durham Dome Festival,

County Durham.UK
July 1st 1973. June 24th 1974

Domefest 1973/4 Domefest 1975 Domefest 1976 Domefest 1977 Domefest 1978 Domefest 1979 Domefest 1980


Photos from 1975 festival © Garry Marsh

 This festival was held in 1973 through till 1980 .We know very little about the earliest festivals.The alternative magazine Mother Grumble has reports on two festivals being held in Durham in the summer of 1973, under this title . This confusion was caused ,according to Alistair McCulloch because of bad weather .....

July 1st 1973

Arbre, Stella and......

I was on the periphery of Muther Grumble at the time and issue 14 of the magazine has the big picture montage/report ( of the festival on 1 July 1973 (to which you refer) but issue 13 ( has an advert for a festival which was due to be held the week before on 24 June 1973.

On Sunday 24 June 1973, I went up to the river bank in Durham where it was to be held to find it deserted (apart from a stage). (It was a wet and damp day.) I went to the Muther Grumble office in the city centre and found someone there who told me it had been postponed because of the weather and that it would be held on the next week on Sunday 1 July. I legged it back up a week later (I lived in Darlington about 18 miles south of Durham at the time and hitched up and back on both occasions) to find it on and a good time was had by all.

There was only one festival in 1973, but two dates because of the cancellation!

Keep on truckin’…..

    So its great to have that issue cleared up , we can now definitely say there was only the one festival that year and we can all stop looking to eyewitnesses ans photos from that event , cos they don't exist. Check out the info on the Mother Grumble site.

I was a student at Durham University (Engineering) from 1973-76, and I inherited the building of the domes, sometime after the first festival - presumably in 1975 and again in 1976. So I learnt about geodesic domes and repaired the damaged wooden structures, which were stored at Fowler's Yard in Durham, for the second & third festivals. There were three domes - the stage was an elliptical dome with a cutaway front about 60ft wide, and then there were two smaller domes amongst the audience, a Bindu dome - (an onion or Taj Mahal-shaped dome) and a standard hemispherical dome, each about 30ft in diameter. Someone else built the stage. I just built the two smaller domes and then enjoyed the two festivals! The events were for one day only and I remember them with great affection!

The (beside the-) audience domes were uncovered, just wooden frameworks, and the interior space was mostly used as a play area by the younger children, with a few climbing up the outside! That worked out fine in 1975, but in 1976 the bindu (onion-shaped) dome (which, because of it's shape had less inherent strength than the round one), had more than 20 larger children/teenagers climbing all over it at once and partially collapsed on one side! I don't think anyone was hurt but the structure was rather badly damaged!
I imagine something similar must have happened at the first festival in 1973, as I had quite a lot of struts to replace and hubs to rebuild to make the domes serviceable for the 1975 fest.

The struts were about 2" x 2" square timber, with hexagonal & pentagonal 3/4" thick plywood hubs, and with long metal bolts securing the struts to the hubs.

I am pleased to see that the entire Domebook 2 is now free to download. (I still have the original (and indeed my rucksack dome!) somewhere in the loft). That was my main guide to constructing them.

Me and my friends wore big round badges (which were all the rage at the time) home-made, with a picture of a dome and "I'm dome-esticated" on them to the festival!
Kind Regards,
Steve Sutherland

I was a 15 year old local that helped build the original geodesic dome that was used for the 1st Domefest in 1973. I think!!! A band called Stella may well have been part of the line up featuring Ian Martin ,guitar,now of Martian fm fame, Steve Duffy, vocals, of web poetry fame, Colin prior,Bass, of van crashing fame, Ian the drummer - barnfather &wilkes? And another guitarist, maybe called Martin, of a curly haired and quiet nature!
Mick Bird

I came across these pix from the Durham Domefest 1975, which took place on the banks of the river (what?) in about June/July/August. The band on stage are/were ARBRE from Wallsend, they are still going as the Caffrey Bros ( or .com).

Maybe you can find more about the Domefests, they may have been just one day events, can't remember, but we ONLY went to this one for one day!
All the best

Garry Marsh

June 23rd 1974

There was a Durham Domefest in June 1974. The reason I know this is that my band played there – Keplers Ellipse. The line up of our band was organ, guitar, bass, flute and vocals, and myself on drums. We played an organ dominated set consisting of caravan, camel, van der graaf and a rock version of bachs fugue in d minor. It was a great experience with a huge crowd lined up along the river bank. Unfortunately, being so caught up in the whole ambience of the day I didn’t take any photographs but hopefully someone else might have and will forward them to your site.

I can’t remember which other bands were on that day except that we somehow managed to blag the spot just before the headlining band which was Jack the Lad. They were absolutely magnificent.

Dave Henderson


just been reading your item on the durham domefest and it brought back memories.
In 1973 the first ever domefest, we were the opening band called Geezer Tarquin were on the bill but they were our rivals so we went to the Dun Cow
In 1974 we were booked to be the headline band but supertramp played Dunelm House the night before and offered to play. We were asked if we would step down a rung.
What a bummer,
we still played it was a privilege to be on the same stage as supertramp.

I remember the Durham students union who organized all the bands to play at Dunelm House in the early seventies such as Free, Deep Purple, Skid Row etc. before they made it big.
They also looked for local band to play as backing bands.

The first ever Domefest 1973 was a try it and see. All the local bands deemed it a success so the following year some of the bands who played previous year where asked again. The band Geezer which i was a drummer for where asked if we would finish the night.
Supertramp were on a British tour of universities performed the night before. When they offered to play at Domefest we were asked if we would play before them. It was a night i will never forget.

Thanks for the memories

Tony Lumley

am at the time, he may even have driven me over on the way to work. I've no idea who I went with that first time, it could have been my brother or maybe I even went on my own. I know the following year I got the bus through to Durham with my girlfriend as the bus ticket is stuck in my scrapbook!
It was mostly local bands, some of which I would have known from Friday nights at the Mayfair in Sunderland. There was a mix of styles from punk to rock with the odd folk singer thrown in as well. In 1980 an unknown band with a strange name appeared and it was quite a surprise a few months later when Prefab Sprout came to national attention!
I often wondered why I didn't go again after 1980 but looking at this site it would seem that was the last one - a victim of Thatcherite cuts no doubt!
Bye for now
Kevin Geraghty-Shewan

Domefest 1973/4 Domefest 1975 Domefest 1976 Domefest 1977 Domefest 1978 Domefest 1979 Domefest 1980


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