The Archive

For information on today's festivals see eFestivals.co.uk

Last update Jan 2008.


The National Jazz, Pop , Ballads and Blues Festivals.

1961-1975

 


National Jazz and Blues Festival menu.
   The National Jazz and Blues festivals are probably the longest running of the UK rock festivals. Organised by the National Jazz Federation , closely linked to the famous Marquee Club ,the festival is still running to this day - albeit under a different title, with a completely different sort of music to the period covered in this site and at a different venue - but nevertheless, the continuity is there. The Reading Festival, as the National Jazz and Blues Festival is now known , hasn't a hint of jazz in its line-up anymore and its blues content is pretty spartan too , primarily its a heavy metal/rock festival and a heavy drinking one at that, but that's beside the point and beyond the scope of this web site to cover.

   1965 to 1970 were for me the heyday years of the National Jazz festival .This was when the festival gradually shed its rather stuffy Jazz and Ballad image and developed into a showcase for some of the best of the United Kingdom's jazz, rock,  pop, blues and folk artists. True, after 1964 The Rolling Stones - who first appeared at the Festival in 63 and were the headliners in 1964- had by that time outgrown the festival, but there were still the likes of The Yardbirds, The Who,Cream , Spencer Davis , Traffic , Small Faces , Jethro Tull , The Nice , Family , Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall , Jeff Beck  , Blodwyn Pig, Pink Floyd , Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention , Pentangle , Arthur Brown , Tyrannosaurus Rex , Bonzo Dog Band , Colosseum , Joe Cocker and many other artists of note, the list is apparently endless , but it is predominantly British . The imports were mostly the jazz element to the festival which tailed off markedly from the mid sixties to almost nothing by the early 70s.

     However, eventually , the lack of major draw cards from overseas was to prove a factor that would cause these festivals to be overshadowed by other bigger events such as Bath and the Isle Of Wight. It certainly stopped me from going to most of them , as I could get to see the likes of Family or the String Band when they toured locally, whereas I went to the big festivals because I got to see lots of bands from overseas that rarely ventured to the UK all in one hit. Because of this, the Nat Jazz festivals always ended up being fairly small scale events, with audiences around the 60,000 mark over a three day period- which was not necessarily a bad thing, as whilst the economies of scale prevented the mega-groups being part of the card, it also allowed most people to have a decent view of the stage , avoided huge traffic jams and enabled reasonable access to facilities such as food stalls and toilets without the hour long queues that resulted at places such as Bath -and most notoriously - the last Isle Of Wight show.

      So, to sum up. The Nat Jazz Festivals were fairly cosy, low key events which showcased the cream of British talent for at least a decade. Usually they were well organized, made money and were conveniently placed near London with good transport connections. The weather- often the jinx of UK festivals - was usually good, so people could forgo the sea of mud, crowd huddled under sheets of plastic as the stage is swept away by the wind, conditions that prevailed at some of the festivals of the 70s. Although the festivals escaped that legendary status that was conferred to their larger and more shambolic competitors , they deserve their place in the sun . I think they have been unjustly overlooked and if you care to look through the material contained in the site, I think you will come to agree with this viewpoint.


The National Jazz Festival Menu.
   The pages for each year contain the festival line-up, posters, programmes, photos and reviews from the press or audience members- if available.At the moment, information on the 61 to 64 festivals and the post 1970 festivals is pretty thin. I welcome any additions.
   I'm compiling a list of recordings that were made and which have circulated amongst tape traders, if any film exists this will also be detailed. The eventual aim is to compile a master list for all years but this will happen when more details on recordings are available. If you know of any, or can help with more data of any kind.- Contact me and I'll add it to the site.
 

I'd like to acknowledge the help of Neil Rice, Wolfgang Fuerst, Mike Godwin, Chris Jones, Kieran McCann, Benjamin Horrendous, John Gillatt ,Tonny Steen , Jon Morrow. Pieter van der Wal , Austin Reeves , Richard Novell and Gary Muth , who have all donated memories and/or memorabilia to enable me to develop this site. Thanks to Ross who sent me a complete list of all the artists who appeared from 1961 to 1975. To all you guys , a big thanks, particularly to Wolfgang, Pieter , Gary and Kieran - who donated HEAPS.


The early festivals.

You can find out the complete line ups of the first festivals if you follow the links below.
 
  1961
1962
1963
1964

Festivals 65-83

Most of these have fairly complete documentation BUT we are always on the lookout for MORE !.
Richmond 1965
Windsor 1966
 Windsor 1967
Sunbury 1968
Plumpton 1969
Plumpton 1970
Reading 1971
Reading 1972
Reading 1973
Reading 1974



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