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Updated June 2019-.
The Elephant Fayre
Port Eliot .
St Germans. Cornwall.
July 25th-27th 1986.
Jah Warrior ,The Poison Girls, Georgie Fame, Condor Sumac, No Right Turn,Happy End, Jeux, The Band Bamboo, Danger Zone, Brown Paper Bag Bros, Rory McLeod, The Mechanics, Buddy Curtis & The Grasshoppers, Ron Kavana, Rodney Allen , English For Beginners, Ben Baddoo and Aloha.
Elephant Fayre 1986 .View of the main arena with stately home in the background . Photo © Herb
Sadly, this was the last Elephant Fayre and its demise was due , as far as organiser Rick Worthy is concerned
However one of the other organisers told us
Traveller vehicles leave the Elephant Fayre 1986
As usual, the reports are contradictory and generally subjective . Paul writes
I have just read some of the stories (and i use this word in its true meaning) about the elephant fair in 86, that i went to as a traveller, that some would have labelled "peace convoy" & I just want to clear one thing that is not speculation because I saw it, namely the burning of the ancient hollow oak tree. I was parked opposite & saw kids unknown to me from any site i'd lived on drop an outside candle (the type you used to see at festivals, bamboo stick coated in wax) inside the hollow tree, they spent a while trying to retrieve it, realised they couldn't reach it & ran off. I spent a while trying to get it & put it out, but with limited water, & the fact that it was actually out of sight, the water thrown was only wetting the inside tree without putting it out. Somebody went to "inform someone" and at sometime later the fire brigade turned up.
also want to mention the stories of child prostitution & selling of smack.
I cannot confirm or deny, anymore than the people that make the accusation,
but I find it imposible to believe that this would be anything to do with any
of the travellers, 'peace convoy' or not! As at that point smack was very much
frowned apon, & as for the child prostitution, thats a joke! I have seen
even people labelled as 'brew crew', that parents on site were happy to know
that they were on site & another person 'looking out for their kids'
Some of these people were by no means angels, but neither were they animals & I think it's easy to jump on the bandwagon and blame the easy target & felt I should come to the defence of my friends and fellow travellers
According to eyewitness acounts, a vehicle had also tried to ram the gate on one occasion. If there were people breaking in locally then their presence was disruptive to a small village like St Germans. The decision was understandable from the organisers viewpoint, as they just did not need the hassle and as locals they had to live with the people whose property had been damaged. Michael Eavis at Glastonbury took some years off due to local pressure and to devise new solutions to problems relateing to security. Perhaps the Elephant Fayre could have been revived after a years respite if the will had been there, as there was at Glastonbury.
However , one can argue that the" Peace Convoy " title that was given to those travellers who attended the Fayre may have been something of a misnomer ,as the "Peace Convoy " was ,by 1986 at least, a generic term that was applied to any group of travellers regardless of their values and behaviour ...
This was certainly how travellers appeared to the people who were trying to organise the Elephant Fayre in 1985-86, but which element of the " Peace Convoy " did they encounter? . The difficulties of working out just who caused the trouble that led to the festival being discontinued are illustrated by this report by Hampshire Council in July 86 - the precise timeframe when the Elephant Fayre festival was held.
To wit :
1.1 At its last meeting
the Authority received a report on the events surrounding the occupation
by the "Peace Convoy" of land at Stoney Cross. This report seeks
to update the members as to the current position.
Photo © Herb
Ticket courtesy Herb
As you can see , at Stoney Cross Hampshire Council was convinced that they were attempting to move the"Peace convoy" when they impounded 129 vehicles, just as much as the organisers of The Elephant Fayre were convinced that they were being driven bonkers by the antics of their " Peace Convoy " .
Clearly, by this time, the term " Peace Convoy" was being bandied about by all and sundry and was probably being used by travellers and media alike. Any group of travellers in convoy were likely to either be given the name by the press - or if they were calling themselves ' The Peace Convoy " it was possibly to use the name for convictions sake, to add confusion as to who was responsible for any trouble that occurred or just to simply screw with the polices collective heads by being pranksterish .
Photo © Baz
We must also remember that the minority "crusty traveller " contingent could also be a menace to other travellers who were trying to lead the quiet life , Convoy Steve tells this tale :
Happy End- well it might have been for them, but NOT for the Fayre
© Mick West
|Phil tells a great tale of an incident in the nineties - he was living on a small site in Andover, Hampshire in a double decker with some other together types in living vehicles ( his original vehicle had been destroyed by the police in the Battle Of The Beanfield in 1985 ). He had been there quite a while and had a veg garden and a business repairing and selling pallets. One day, he heard that a bunch of robbing ne'er do wells (crusty travellers) who had a history of robbing new age traveller sites, were planning to raid his site on dole day (when everyone would be down at the socal security getting their benefit) - he put two big posts deep into the ground at the site entrance , just wide enough apart to get a van through and then, when all others on the site were out he waited in hiding for the attack . . . . . . . .|
Natural justice ? well ,the polis would not have helped and Phil was hardly likely to turn to them after what had happened to him in 85...... unfortunately this was the reality of traveler life after the Beanfield, they faced aggro from almost everyone .
Travellers are just like anyone else, you get good and bad , the problem is that they all get tarred with the same brush when anything negative happens , especially once the media is on board and their demonization process starts revving up. There was no doubt that many people who took up the life were from the fringes of society, they distrusted anyone in authority- so much so that in 1983 Festival Welfare services were advising that any medical help given at festivals to travelers was to be given by people who were NOT in uniform - some travellers were even leary of the St Johns Ambulance !
By 1986 after the Beanfield and constant evictions from commons and sites around the country , most travelers had even more reason to distrust authority . This is not to excuse the behaviour of those who disrupted the Elephant Fayre, their behaviour was reprehensible , but it does put things more into perspective .
The entry to the Fayre 1986. Photo © Herb
Regarding the Fayre itself, although we now have a fair few photos of bands and the site, we have little information on what happened there, can anyone help us flesh out the last festival ?
Photo © Baz
For all the negative publicity regarding the convoys antics , so far no one who has written to us remembers 1986 as being in any way threatening , perhaps the trouble was confined to the village , the site entrance and camp ground ?
John gives his recollections of the 86 Fayre- which as far as he was concerned was - "a nice peaceful weekend in the country !"
Campsite at the Fayre 1986. Photo © Herb
I remember Elephant fair in 1986 very well.
It was my first festival. I lived in cornwall so St Germans was only a 30 minute train away. There were loads of travellers attending, lots of drugs on open sale, and various types of vegan burgers etc..
The crowd was split from hardcore hippies to more normal folk. But the greatest part of the festival for me was the introduction to live comedy. Living in Cornwall there was no alternative comedy. I recall seeing - Arnold brown, Skint video, Mark Steele and the late great Malcolm Hardee (pissed on cheap cider).
All the comics were ripping into the hippies and there was a lot of heckling of the highest class.
Of the bands not much stood out apart from Buddy Curtis and the Grasshoppers...who were pretty big at the time.
On my way home I bought some acid, I'd never taken any drugs before. I took the acid a week later in my bedroom and had a 3 hour conversation with my John Lennon picture, which was pretty cool.
But the grounds were wonderful and I recall the place was pretty peaceful given that 80% of people there were on speed or acid while everyone else was drunk. There were no police in the festival, so it was a free for all. God only knows what the locals thought about it. There were thousands of hippies attending -virtually all had dreads...what ever happened to them all? Did they all vanish after Maggie Thatcher left office?
Photo © Baz
Here is a kinetic installation I erected over the information stall. A bit of it can be seen behind the red van saying 'Rock Bottom' photo by Baz .I was relying on an electric glue gun to put it together and had to wait 'til two days before the event started to get power to put it all together. Had a great time after completing it though!
Me and three friends drove down to the festival from Buckinghamshire in a beat up Ford Granada. We were aged between 16 and 18 yrs and it was our first festival. We had no sleeping bags, no camping gear, nothing but the clothes we were wearing because we had decided to go spur of the moment. We didn’t know what to expect, or even where it was exactly, but I had heard it was a great festival from my brother and friends who had been in previous years.
When we got there, there was no one at the gates so we strolled in. From the moment we got in all of us had one of the freakiest times of our lives. The place seemed like a drug user’s paradise. There was one ‘street’ as we called it (actually it was a row of tents with a path between) that was lined with pushers selling acid and weed. We all got loaded up on various types of acid and spent the whole night tripping out in this very colourful festival that seemed really quite anarchic to us at the time. I remember there being lots of travellers, punks, fire eaters, and a friendly atmosphere but with no control or huge amounts of organisation like you see at festivals these days. The whole thing was like a scene from Mad Max. I didn’t see any of the music up close. I sat up all night on a hill to the right of the mansion as you are facing it and lit a small fire to keep warm while looking out over the festival.
Jon from Bucks
Main drag at the Elephant Fayre campsite 1986. Photo © Herb
Happy times at the 1986 Elephant Fair. A friend and I travelled down from Yorkshire with our veg curry caravan. We were hippies but not part of any convoy. We were low on petrol and had no cash as we had spent it all on vegetables so we picked hitch-hikers up on the way, making a deal with them that if they lent us money for petrol we would pay them back at the end of the festival when we had made some money. We also fed them curries for the duration of the festival and kept our word on the deal.
We had a tyre blow out at Collumpton in Devon and the hitchers had to sleep on the pavement next to the van for the night, so they were getting pretty annoyed at this point.
Photo © Herb
I don't remember 'drugs openly on sale' or 'child prostitution' at all. There were a lot of 'travellers' there but most were decent folk just like ourselves. I remember we had our pitch opposite a lot of water and marshland? - I remember being pretty worried in the evening as there were a lot of drunk revellers near that water and I was always worried someone was going to drown and nobody would realise.
There must have been a huge paranoia at the time regarding 'new age travellers' because quiet peaceful people like us were being intimidated by either festival organisers or festival 'security' at the Elephant Fair. These very posh guys kept coming to our van to threaten us that they would tip our van over if we didn't leave and it was very depressing. They despised the look of us. We had to befriend other 'traders' there, Solomon the rastafarian fruit seller and another trader, I think Alan was his name, obviously a wealthy trader from somewhere on the south cost. I remember Alan communicating with the posh heavies and saying in a truthful tone "look at them, they're not going to cause you any harm, they haven't done anything wrong". I can tell you now as a family man (I was 24 at the 86 Elephant Fair) that these people who were after us had got it completely wrong and they just took one look at our dreadlocks and green van and that was it, we were public enemy number one. There may have been the 'brew-crew' type of trouble makers there but I never saw anything like that.
Photo © Herb
When the festival finished we headed in the direction of Cornwall and there was a police road block. It was unbelievable, they were stopping scores of vehicles and escorting them to this huge aircraft hanger or industrial estate in the middle of the countryside, hundreds of cars, vans & buses! There were hundreds of police in overalls with rubber gloves on doing strip & internal searches, police mechanics stripping down pipes on engines looking for drugs. Obviously they found nothing on us. All the time I had a small lump of hash under my tongue! - I befriended the police mechanic who diagnosed my van with a faulty thermostat. It was absurd, such a huge and unnecessary police operation, and ,the people being searched were just normal people, probably getting charged for small amounts of personal cannabis.
Elephant Fayre campsite and arena 1986. Photo © Herb
What made me laugh was that 2 of the top drug squad guys were actually hippy types, with long hair!
Anyway I have fond memories of the Elephant fair and it was my first landing point in beautiful Cornwall. In fact the first area that I set foot on in Cornwall! If there was any trouble there then it was your hard-core contingent who spoiled it for everyone and gave us all a bad name. But surely if there was all the drugs, prostitution & mayhem then I would have at least have heard about it, if not seen it, surely? The media demonized the travelling folk.
At the elephant fair we had a blue marina van and towed a curry caravan painted green with something like 'Natty shack Persian Curries' and pictures of rasta chalices painted in red on the sides (we were serious!!).
The pics really had me digging into my memory but all I can remember is our curry van was parked on a row of sellers, and directly opposite in the distance was water/river/marshland, so we were obviously at bottom level in the valley. When I look at your photos it amazes me how big the festi was. I just can't remember it being so big, but then again I was smoking constantly in those days so no wonder I probably spent the weekend in a bubble.
Photo © Baz
After the Elephant Fair we drove to Cornwall and I stayed there and have lived there ever since, now with 3 children (12 - 18), so the Elephant Fair was for me a gateway to another life - living in Cornwall!
It was a difficult situation with the traveller thing. I met so many alternative nice people who lived in travelling vehicles, families, people with a real love and passion, but I think the media attention focussed on the unruly contingent, which in-turn attracted and spurned the brew-crew degenerates who were seen as a real negative force by all the true travelling folk.
By 89-90 the paranoia had reached epic proportions in Cornwall. The problem was there but in retrospect I think they were making it much bigger than it was.
In 94 I ceremoniously cut off my dreadlocks and sold my beautiful travelling home as I just couldn't stand the animosity any longer - and I learnt that looks do matter!
Dave from Penzance.
The wicker Elephant
A mate and I went down from Manchester to the Elephant fayre on bikes , me on a 650 triumph Bonneville and my mate on a Suzuki GS1000. I got the tickets from Piccadilly records in Manchester. We didnt have tents, just draped some sheets between the bikes. I don't remember any trouble, though at times especially at night, the carpark/campground had the feeling of a separate festival with a ragtag collection of vehicles and impromptu entertainment together with various unofficial stalls selling food and drink. Luckily I took a few photos and kept the ticket and some badges.
1986 was the only Elephant Fayre I attended. I don’t remember much about it but that I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere and I was sorry to hear there wouldn’t be a 1987 edition.
We arrived late on the Friday and pitched tent as it grew dark. We gathered some wood, made a small fire, had a bite to eat and went to sample some of the performances. We returned to find most of our remaining wood stolen as we had left it on our “doorstep” and not inside the tent. We had a gas stove for tea brewing etc and I believe we abandoned the idea of keeping a fire going the next day as it became so difficult to find the wood. We were kept awake at night by music, which went on till dawn.
Next morning, it was probably a good thing there were no scheduled performances before midday as it took nearly all morning to get water. I joined a huge line of people queuing for the one tap I could find. Users had the luxury of a pallet to stand on while they filled up, and people approached it one at a time as it was surrounded by a huge moat of mud. At one point, about 20 people ahead of me, some girl stripped off to her undies and washed her face and neck with soap, then the rest of herself arm by arm, leg by leg, feet etc, soaping and washing as she went. Another stood and filled their 5-gallon water container and could barely carry it away. The rest of us patiently waited to fill a one- or two-gallon container and looking back it seems unbelievable that no one protested about those hogging the only tap.
In the afternoon I think we caught some Urban Warriors, Mint Juleps, the Happy End and some mad circus performers with chainsaws. After we first saw Urban Warriors there started up a drum beat on any dustbin lid or oil drum around the site, and there were plenty of them. Others filled beer cans with stones for accompaniment. They performed several times during the weekend and the drumming and rattling increased throughout. Once again it was hard to sleep the second night with a nearby tent in the camping field playing spacey music all night, even drowning out the distant drumming.
I remember seeing Urban Warriors three times and Happy End twice – both excellent. If anyone knows what happened to the UW I’d love to know. Sarah from the Happy End went on to perform “Don’t leave Me This Way” with the Communards and is still touring now, apparently. Fire-eaters/dancers seemed to be everywhere – I remember sitting on the ground somewhere ready for a performance and some guy came along and put his paraphernalia in a small space on the floor behind us, lit up his sticks and start juggling right in the middle of the crowd. He soon cleared a small space as burning oil flicked all around him.
I don’t remember any serious trouble, though there were plenty of drugs available for sale and quite enough hippies complaining about the amount of tin cans being discarded and trees being hacked down for firewood. The toilets were pretty disgusting as was not uncommon in the 80’s festivals. The impromptu drumming was at fever pitch as we departed as it grew dark on the Sunday, so if there was any trouble it might well have arisen out of that. Anarchy was definitely alive and well at the Elephant Fayre 86.
I stumbled across your website while researching some stuff online and was really interested in the articles about the Elephant Fayre in 1986 as that was the first festival of its kind that I'd been to. A "friend" dropped an acid tab in my cider to make sure I enjoyed myself, and I have to say I had a hoot! By the time we left, the place looked like a nuclear wasteland, with bodies and all kinds of shit strewn about the place, but I think it's the kind of experience every young person needs at least once in their life!
I've attached a picture of the three girls in our merry band with the wasteland in the background, I hope it helps,
was just watching TV and there was something about Festivals and I remembered a memorable weekend.So I booted up the PC typed "elephant fayre" into Google and came across your site.I
remember a London despatch riding buddy named Brian Nolan who we nicknamed "Warlock" who said to me one weekend "do you fancy going to a festival in Cornwall".It looked like sunny weather so I said I would go.I was about 21 in I think 1986.We just threw a tent and some kit in my hand painted 1970 Beetle and hit the road.Brian liked a little smoke and the drive down we just floated, it was all good and a mellow drive as I recall.When we got in we drove diagonally across down a sloping field and I was so bored or out of it I did a big handbrake turn spinning the Bug about three times.I parked by Brian's mates Datsun.We proceeded to get wasted.
As night fell we took in a few stages just wandering aimlessly slowly getting hammered on a combination of Beer and Hashish.I don't remember much until the following afternoon except crawling into my sleeping bag smashed.
The next day whilst walking round we were approached by some spaced out "hippies" a guy and a girl regaling tales of South America.It turned out they were selling "Mexican Mushroom Wine" ,we bought a couple of glasses each and parted company.About forty minutes later the four or five of us realised we were all incredibly stoned and were starting to hallucinate it got incredibly colourfull and amazing in the late afternoon sunshine.A real good trip for about four or five hours.
As I recall there were a number of black guys walking around the whole site shouting "black 'ash for cash".Frankly those who weren't stoned soon were after they arrived.The whole vibe was incredible, just peace and love all around.
The Elephant circa 1986 © Leigh
Elephant fayre 1986 was my first experience of festival life and turned out to be a mixed bag.Was living in a tent near St Ives, having finished art college in Farnham that summer, when i came across a poster for the festival in a record shop in Penzance.I thought this was for me and my mate Graham and duly bought two tickets. Sent his to him in London and come the time met him in St Germans. It was only when we got to the entrance he discovered his wallet missing along with his cash and ticket! Also,he'd forgotten the two man tent! I had to give him my remaining cash to buy a new ticket and grub once inside while i hitched back to St Ives to collect my one man tent,along with whatever food i had stashed there, which was still pitched in a farmers field. By the time i hitched back to the festival, found him and got organised ,i was seriously fucked off.
Waking up early next morning to the rising sun , music coming from all directions,and the sight of thousands quietly easing themselves and their kids into action banished the negative vibe of the previous night!! I felt as if i'd come home,as if i'd woken up a different person. Having been raised in rural Presbyterian Scotland,it was a revelation to witness the unfettered creativity of so many families in an environment mainstream society would have found morally and culturally toxic.
Then back to practical reality. Because of Grahams"mishaps" we had no cash with which to aquire our much anticipated "weekend stimulus".(Well lets be honest-spiritual fulfillment can only get some of us so far down the road to enlightenment.) Anyway,once again i had to polish off my thumb and hitch to Plymouth to the nearest cash machine. Mission accomplished i at last managed to relax into the atmosphere of the site. Wandered about in a daze for hours on end. I can't recall much about the bands i saw but vividly remember seeing Arnold Brown and Mark Steele. I'd never seen live comedy before and thought they were the buissness. Just walking around ,sitting at fires,tasting new(and sometimes grossly awful)food and being able to approach complete strangers with confidence seemed more than enough to me.-Though i did find some of the travellers very tribal i later,through closer contact and shared experiences,understood why.
A seige mentality seemed to prevail among many but it never dampened their abilty to party.
Perhaps my memories are slightly rose-tinted,and partly due to the wonderfully mellow weed we scored that weekend (unlike the mindfuck skunk of today)but i don't recollect any violence or intimidation.
We hung about till the day after and an abiding memory is walking across the site at dawn.Buses,vans and trailers seemed to be scattered throughout the landscape while the breeze blew the weekends debris across acres of trampled grass. I remember feeling quite sad and forlorn but as the years went by realised this was a common sight and emotion.
Saw Graham off on the train to London,took some mushrooms we'd scored that morning, put my thumb out and spent a few weird hours being driven towards the home counties by a couple of dutch school teachers.
Elephant Fayre was a great festival for me,others not so great (treworgey is another story!),but above all it was a testemant to the kindness of drivers who were so willing to pick up skanky sods like me throughout the mid to late 80s. If i was to do it now i'd probably still be walking. Thanks to them all (apart from the old guy near Devizes who wanted to take me home and..!!!!!)
This is a bit of a ramble but you did say to write in with your memories!
My memory of the travellers is primarily with the aftermath. In '86 I did my school work experience as a runner for the festival, and there were a few places I felt uncomfortable about going, primarily on account of being pushed to try drugs, and being only 15 found this quite scary. I remember seeing people sliding underneath the fence, and in previous years when the fence surrounded only the festival site itself there were always a wall of people beside the main fence with wire cutters.
There was talk of child prostitution and abuse, but I never saw any of that - I tended to keep clear of the campsite - the only time I went in selling candles there were too many scary elements, which had not been there in previous years. What I know of the trouble is entirely hearsay from adults who were involved.
They employed security but they were absolutely hopeless. It was the security group who trashed the toilets at the Cricket club, which was the main entrance into the site.
A lot more people made their way into the estate itself - I always took a track across the fields to the site, but at the end of the festival had a couple of strange encounters, one with a lone bloke sleeping in a ditch, the other with two men on a motorbike who stopped beside me and watched as I walked past on the field. which was very unnerving.
There were two groups that stayed for nearly a fortnight after the festival. There was a motorcycle group who attacked a farm worker's Landrover with pick axes, and the travellers, who set fire to one of the ancient oaks. In the end the police were called in when it was decided it was time to move them on. They were unable to do anything, as they couldn't act until someone was physically hurt, so it was up to the farm workers to do the donkey work. A woman poured a cup of boiling tea over my father, and someone else went into a van, cut themselves and claimed it was done by my father. Eventually one of the vehicles was inadvertantly towed into a tree and they all left. Oddly enough Dad went on a skiing holiday some years later on one of these last minute deals, and found himself in the company of the man who'd been the leader of the peace convoy at that time. I think they got on quite well!
I have to say that the bad vibes were almost entirely in the camp site. I had a fantastic festival in 86, as I did every year, and met up with the same gang of kids I'd been growing up with at the festival.
A song about growing up at the Elephant Fayre (listen to the song by following the link to Wurlitza's web site)
1982 and it’s Elephant Fayre, the tents are going up so we stand around and stare. I’ve got a rara skirt and my hair is all matted, but I feel real cool in my John Player Special jacket. We’re dancing to The Beat and the music’s getting faster, Lil’s falling off hay bales with both her legs in plaster. I’m pushing to the front and they’re spitting at the stage - I think they’re really cool, though I’m only half their age. Wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s, wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s.
1984 and it’s Elephant Fayre, the tents are going up, but I’m not really there. I’m thinking bout John with his khaki jacket, his soft goth black hair, and my chest is knotted. My brother pierced his ear with a hatpin that he found, we watch punks in their sleeping bags rolling round the ground. Wind up Bert Hollocks, who’s shouting Run you little bastards, and hang around the beer tent, collect deposits from the glasses. Wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s, wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s.
We go out to parties, get off with whoever, whenever. Then at one party Karen’s dad says d’you want to see a blue movie girls? But it’s not blue I say, just some strange bloke and a woman in a hotel room doing something weird with a telephone and he might have said well what did you bloody well expect, Derek Jarman’s The Tempest? but he was too busy with Sharon and Shelly, so we drink some more punch, jump off the garage roof, mess in the road, and all the while the hundred clocks in the place going tick tock tick tock and Karen’s mum downstairs watching Queen on the TV.
1986 and it’s Elephant Fayre, we’re painting the stage green I’ve got pink streaks in my hair. Mum’s pulling up mushroom signs and storming round the site - we’re selling donoughts and candles in the beer tent late at night. I’m reading peoples palms for 50 pence a time, get paid in hash cakes and lemonade and lime. The trailers with their peace and love smoulder on behind and the witchy woman with the wild black hair who hisses buy buy buy. Wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s, wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s.
Now we go out clubbing to the Harbour Lights at night, just a bunch of mothers, looking for something bright. It’s just like it was all those years before but no Sarah Batten spinning cartwheels ‘cross the floor. The kids outside ask us for ID we don’t need to carry and the talk is just breastfeeding and who’s getting married, but I think back to the time when this wasn’t so and wonder whatever happened, where did it all go? Wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s, wild in the 80s, wired in the 80s.
Deely boppers, gypsy earrings, pink heart necklaces, boxer shorts, salmonella, magic pictures, Arthur Scargill, Sinclair C5, crepe soled shoes, leopard skin trousers, fluorescent socks, stripy legwarmers, Margaret Thatcher leather skirts, pink stilettos, Wham, kiwi fruit, stubble burning, padded shoulders, blue eye shadow, space dust, Duran Duran, Sunday markets, puff ball skirts, chopper bikes, CND badges, army jumpers, combat trousers, Captain sensible, mascara, Boy George, naked mud wrestling, Smash Hits, microwave ovens, Barbara Woodhouse, cow parsley fags, Grange Hill, Souxie and the Banshees, space invaders, mosquito bites, teacher’s strikes, Betamax videos, Ghostbusters, Babycham, rubix cube, sniffing tipex, Mrs Crabby Quinn.
Hi just came across your excellent website!
Went to all the Fayres - including the 'Beat benefit' and while it hasn't bought back exact memories of 'when and where' - one of the posters was quite right everyone was on Speed and Acid (and mushrooms and weed!).
I remember one year being camped with our group at the foot of the campsite hill - i'm going to hazard a guess at '86 - because of a post from that year mentioning ladies stripping off for a wash - I do still remember that vaguely erotic scene to this day! hey i was younger then!
Anyway we had camped by a couple of fallen trees which made a 'V' in which we lit our fire - the trees got shorter as time progressed ! We had a Glastonbury Flag up and after arriving early on the Thursday(?) and all having promised not to get wasted until Saturday, 'friends' began dropping by - result - totally off our faces by mid afternoon...the day progressed, I became fascinated by some silver foil.....and handed over my whole supply of speed to an ex ladyfriend to 'take a gram' (doh!!!!!!) during the evening one of our party (who had to work on Friday) decided a cup of tea would sort him out before driving back to Plymouth....he became fascinated by how blue the calor gas was and received some pretty good burns...
Another year we were camped at the top of the field and on the friday night after a weekend of overindulgence, and having dropped 'extra' acid to watch 'Aliens' in the film tent - we returned to camp and spent the night around the fire before deciding the burning logs would look pretty cool rolling down the hill (happily many people had departed by then - so no injuries occured.
I remember John Cooper Clarke - very popular back then playing in the tent bloody hilarious he was and obviously on industrial grade amphetamines..and another time Keith Allen(?) doing a set and asking how many of us were 'climbing the speed mountain' - to tumultuous applause - I believe various baggies were passed to him !
It was decided that on a Sunday (not sure which year as usual) and having been awake for three days it would be a great idea to 'pre-roll' our spliffs for the day.....we quickly set up a producion line in one of our larger tents where one would stick the rizlas together another make the roaches - you get the picture....of course by the time the first one was rolled we thought we'd smoke that one while we were working......I expect you can guess the rest.... by about 11 we were all totally screwed ....but we had about four! ready rolled spliffs of varying quality to show for our three or four hours work !...
In all always had a magical time at the Fayre, the 86' coincided with a lifestyle change for me (giving up recreational drugs!).... so I didn't really mourn its passing..Atmosphere wise it was much like a very small Glastonbury - which I also attended from '79 - '86 - no police on site - chemicals freely available and a very chilled vibe.
One last memory that goes with mine.....a serious case of the late night munchies by the fire and shouting out for someone to feed me - cue total stranger from a nearby camp with a tin of sardines that he/she fed me (totally buggered and couldn't really stand up unaided)...my mouth the next day....uuuuuuuugh...still lots of these 'random acts of kindness' made the Fayre special.....
For some reason the acid we had this particular night made the bottles of cheap english fizz we had (only stuff left i expect!) and whose name now eludes me tasted like 'Bazooka Joe' Bubble Gum - wonderful on the night...but was I sick the next day.....
...oh and bloody Hot Knives...you couldn't get off the campsite and to the main arena without ending up totally buggered.....50p a go!
Everything was done on 'festie' time......it might take two hours to get to or from camp as you saw so many people you knew and stopped for a brew or spliff or snort..usually you would have missed or forgotten what you were going out or back for.
We've 'recently' (2004) started to go to festivals again - small ones Bearded Theory and Beautiful days - both of which have a touch of the anarchy and freedom of the Fayre - but older and wiser now eh??????....Nah just older.
I'm older and not much wiser now,, but we annually visit Port Elliot Estate courtesy of 'Perry' - a fellow Harley Rider who opens the estate each (early) August for the Harley Riders of Great Britain to camp in the grounds....its difficult to visualise how it was without the 'landmarks'.
Anyway thanks for your time, its been nice to remember (a bit) of my misspent youth.
A respectable member of society..yeah right!
I didn’t get to the Fayre again until 1986 (I since found out from your site this was sadly the last one.) I went down with a boy I knew from college (a loosely-termed kind of boyfriend) and two of his male friends, one of whom I found out later was a skag-head (or recovering skag-head) and the other a bit of a sometimes nice/sometimes scary madman. I was 20 yrs old.
On the journey down in his clapped out Ford Fiesta I discovered that only me and ‘hippy’ Paul had actually bought entry tickets – the other 2 guys were expecting us to smuggle them in!!! We stopped off at a supermarket on the way and I chipped in for petrol and bought various bits of food but apart from Paul's tent we had no real camping supplies.
When we arrived it was all a bit chaotic at the gate – the 2 hangers-on burrowed under a pile of jackets and sleeping bags on the back seat and we waved our tickets out of the window. Unbelievably we just drove straight in (although I think me and Paul got wrist-bands?); I think we paid for camping only as I wasn’t overly interested in the bands that year – I wanted to come back and re-capture the chilled out euphoria I had felt briefly 4 years previously and wallow in a whole weekend of punk-hippyness.
We set up camp and then our 2 ‘guests’ started trying to flog gear from the tent – blue Mexican mushrooms I think, and some tabs and weed. I couldn’t believe it … but I had nowhere else to go, so I just kind of sat apart from them and tried to act cool. When they started calling out ‘Hash … tabs … mushrooms … blow-jobs!’ and laughing at me I tried to laugh along but I was a bit nervy.
Anyway … we must have set up camp on what you might call the ‘main drag’ or drug street, because all around us people were shouting and selling every kind of drug you can imagine. ‘Hot Knives’ were definitely popular! There was a rumour about the Police being on site, but that didn’t seem to keep anyone from pushing drugs, or trying to sell drugs to every passer-by. The guys I was with sold some tabs to what sounded like (from their accents) local Cornish lads; they were lairy and threatening -- if the drugs were no good they said would come back and axe us all in the tent. I was definitely having an edgy time, not a chilled out time!!!
But … I did relax into it once the guys had sold all their stuff. We smoked some nice grass together (although again it was mentioned that sex could be payment?!) and did two unforgettably magic and funny acid trips over the next 2 nights. The scenery was so peaceful and beautiful, it was a perfect moment for me. And we listened to GONG ('Would you like some teeeeee???!') all night which was hilarious at the time.
I also remember sitting under the wicker elephant looking up at the stars until some nasty man at the top started weeing on everyone below!
I don’t remember eating anything or drinking water or going to the toilet at all … weird. The toilets stank and it was a hot weekend so when the wind blew in our direction….Urgghh! I couldn’t bear to go near them and I held on until i could go behind a bush.
I do remember sitting on the banks of the pond and I had loads of open mosquito bites on my arms and shoulders and some crusty traveller kids in the water started throwing mud at us … it got into the bites and was infected, I found out when I got home.
The mood definitely changed for the worse by Sunday – there were more and more crusty traveller types arriving and everyone was stealing off everyone else and there was a frightening scene with someone being threatened with an axe. The rumour was someone got hacked in the leg?
I think everyone was running out of money and by then everything became about getting money and drugs. Even laid-back hippy Paul was beginning to feel a bit edgy about the atmosphere.
On Saturday I had thought to stuff £15 down my sock and I never took it off. Lucky I did, as that night someone came into our tent and snatched my canvas bag – and I was using it for a pillow at the time!!! A bit scary. So my wallet was lost, my bank card, some clothes, a Snoopy watch and various precious bits and bobs.
Later that day I noticed EVERYONE was selling stuff – crusty dads were giving crusty children scraps to set up ‘stalls’ -- a half-used pack of sausages or a tin of beans sitting on a plank; … really sad and a bit pathetic. You could tell they had nicked food from someone’s tent and were trying to convert to get any cash they could.
Also, I remember a lot of lovely trees were ripped up or sawn up (green, living trees – no good for firewood) to try and burn them. So much for the hippy love of nature. L
Well, we clung on for the last night but it wasn't much fun and then Paul dopily said he had no money left for petrol to get us home. Lucky I still had my £15!!! That could get you quite far back in the ‘80s .We set off for home and we were stopped by the police on one of the roads as we were leaving the festival; don’t know whether it was my ‘nice’ accent or what -- but the police let us continue on our way. It looked like they were stopping and searching plenty of other hippy vans and cars by the side of the road.
When I got home my mum was shocked to see the state of me. I was thin, dirty, my arm was swollen up, I had no money or bag and I hadn’t been able to sleep properly the whole weekend.
Still, wouldn’t have missed it for the world, even though the atmosphere was threatening and dangerous at the end. I can see why the organisers didn’t want to continue the festival at that time, but I would love to be in those grounds again and see it through my eyes now as a ‘respectable’ (ahem) mid-40s business woman.
By the way – thanks organisers from 1986! I reported my stuff stolen at the site and never expected to see any of it again. But a few weeks later a crumpled envelope arrived with a few precious photographs and a wallet (empty but cashpoint card was still there!) that happened to have my name on it. Would love to have my Snoopy watch back though …
Thanks for listening to my ramble. Thanks for the site.
I went to the IOW festival when I was a little kid , I have just one memory of the festival that is clear, all the people,hippies I guess, with their wild clothes and hair as we went in. My Mum told me many years later that we had seen Jimi Hendrix but I don't remember that.I was only four after all.Still it must have had some influence in my life as I was for many years an avid festival-goer. Henge, Glastonbury, Elephant Fayre,Treworgey Tree Festival and many others.The Elephant was far and away the best of them all and I still resent the convoy-gits for trying to spoil it. All the best, your site brought back many happy memories.
1986 Site map
courtesy Ray Weston
1986 Time line
courtesy Ray Weston
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