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Ribblehead Free Festival

Blea Moor ,Settle ,North Yorkshire

 

28th – 31st August 1987.

26th – 29th August 1988.

25th – 28th August 1989.

24th – 27th August 1990.

23rd – 25th August 1991.


    In the late part of the 80s and early 90s a small festival was held under the shadow of the famous Ribblehead railway viaduct in North Yorkshire . Attracted by the near proximity of magic mushrooms, a very small scale festival was held which then began ( as all of these things do ) to mushroom ( if you will pardon the pun ) into something that attracted the eye of the authorities and which also attracted people who were not as mellow or responsible as the earlier attendees.

Ribblehead 1987 © Mel Cameron Radford

 

View of the festival site 1987. © Traveller Dave

Stoney Cross. Visit Traveller Dave's site to see many more photos of Free festival Vehicles and sites from the late 80s .

    As you can see the by the photos the 1987 festival was miniscule , the crowd increased exponentially in 88 and there were some unpleasant incidents with a crowd of brewheads apparently setting onto Dice George and trashing his bus .

We have very little information about Ribblehead, we know that the stripped down version of Hawkwind - Hawkdog, played on the 27th August in 1988 accompanied by fire displays from both the top of the viaduct and around the stage , that there was some agro, but not much else.

Dave Brock had this to say about Ribblehead

"I mean Ribblehead was a real piss-off. People were getting stuff nicked all over the joint. If you can't go to a festival where you can leave your van unlocked or whatever... Years ago there never used to be all the scenes of nicking that go on now. I mean you could leave stuff laying around and you wouldn't get people pilfering it or trying to get in the van... having a look in the window to see if there's anybody in there so that they can go in and nick stuff."

Brock elaborated on his disillusionment with the scene as it was developing in the late 80s

"The whole idea of it is to have a nice time, to relax, meet up with loads of friends and generally have a good time without f***ing vehicles steaming round and knocking kids over.
"I mean there's not so many kids. People used to always take their kids to festivals. There's not so much of that now. Except certain ones, you know what I mean, there's certain festivals that people think 'Oh yeah, let's take the kids there, 'cos it'll be alright.'"


"Then you get a certain sort of people who want to be associated as being the 'brew crew', if you see what I mean. It's like... You get that. I noticed ... I can't remember which festival it was... there was a load of them all fucking falling around... And a load of bikers turned up and they all scuttled off.

 

In a way I look at it like an indian encampment where you get people riding their horses through. You've got the braves and the warriors and different tribal elders and all this whole pecking order. And you get loads of the reckless and wild people who couldn't care a fuck getting involved in all these scenes. But that's when the indians used to have their tribal members who'd come round and knock a few heads together and they'd all stop. OK, you go so far and that's it."

From this , circa 1987.....

To this in 1988- growing , but not in collective consciousness... Photos © Traveller Dave

Photos © Janet Thompson

Dave Brock : "It's that difficult situation of anarchy and law and order. A lot of people want anarchy but then it's back to the same old syndrome of the haves and the have-nots. Quite often anarchy's greed, isn't it. You've got to have some sort of order no matter where you are... any sort of tribal meetings or whatever... Even natives now, they have a sort of order inside the tribe where, OK, you've always got to have somebody that's responsible for something that's going on

FE: Why do you think it changed? What happened?

"It's the same as anything. It goes into sort of... corruption. People lose respect for each other. And so a lot of people just couldn't give a fuck what goes on. And then if they get hit over the head with an iron bar that's their hard luck - but they run to the police. Can you believe it? You get some people that are into anarchy and when all of a sudden it gets out of hand they run to the opposite side. Because you've got to have some sort of order, I reckon. So that people can bring their kids and go about their business."

"In a way I look at it like an indian encampment where you get people riding their horses through. You've got the braves and the warriors and different tribal elders and all this whole pecking order. And you get loads of the reckless and wild people who couldn't care a fuck getting involved in all these scenes. But that's when the indians used to have their tribal members who'd come round and knock a few heads together and they'd all stop. OK, you go so far and that's it."

Yer get a damn good birds eye view from the viaduct !

© Janet Thompson

Kids having fun at Ribblehead © Janet Thompson


FE: A lot of travellers do seem to identify with North American Indians, particularly the Hopis and their prophecies..

Dave: "It’s that sort of romantic sort of lifestyle... It's not really romantic living in a van and getting hustled to move. I mean a lot of... I suppose teenagers that don't actually live that lifestyle... look at it from the other side as being romantic living in this van... must be wonderful to just drive around... They don't think how you have to get your diesel or whatever. And having to clean the thing out. And getting things breaking down. They don't see all of that. It's like the indians, it's given that romantic idea of riding horses and not having to live, and shit in holes, and hunt, and have to skin animals, and dig roots, and... do all of that... and have lice... That's what goes on isn't it really... They won't be able to go for their bath every few days there!"

"You look at some of them at a festival who are really fucking dirty because they want to be looked at. They want to say 'look at me everybody'...I mean you don't have to be like it at all. You can clean yourself with a saucepan of water... have a shower... well, not a shower, you just pour it over your head. And wash yourself."

Festival Eye 1989


The festival moved its site by 1990 , as Bishbosh remembers

Ribble Head 1990 (not Viaduct)
By now I had got a job working loading vans in a Bakery, usually nights, good money and a good laugh after sussing the job out. Five Cov Poly graduates ended up working in the loading bay.

We went up North to this in Clives Leyland FG350, converted to a mobile kitchen. He was tryin to make a business selling good veggie food in Coventry, For this festie, Clive stocked up to sell veggie burgers..excellent quality and cheap. I bought ten crates of Special Brew to sell and we had an ounce of very cheap hash that was almost unsmokable…but still got ya stoned…cheap hash cakes sold well and we gave loads away. The site was in beautiful countryside, I can’t remember exactly where.

Quite a few Scottish travellers were here, at least 1500 people or so. I don’t recall a stage, but there were several small raves and a couple of café-bars with a P.A playin music. A real good vibe on site and some excellent dutch acid..purple ohms and strawberries…Clive stopped cookin when the acid came on.
Bought more hash..nice pollen and smoked many a chillum.

Bishbosh

The site at Mallerstang Common in 1991 © Janet Thompson

 

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