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Torpedo Town Free Festival.

Part 2

Brambles Farm , Old Port Farm , Wickham and Bramdean Common's .

Near Waterlooville - Hampshire.

1991- Liphook, Hampshire.

Part 3-1992-Otterbourne Hampshire.

1987-1991.


1987-1991

Thought I'd drop you this line about my memories of 3 Torpedo Town festivals:

I went to 3 Torpedo Town festivals which according to your archive, must have been either 1989 or 1990, 1991 and 1992.
I remember the first Torpedo Town festival that I went to as having a particularly friendly vibe to it. I went down with a group of friends and we had a great time. Even the local police were very friendly, directing lost festival-goers (ourselves included) to the festival site. Either before or after that festival, I got to know a really nice bloke called Kevin who was involved with organising the festival and the next year, he invited us to go down there with a PA, lights and loads of flouro décor and we ran a soundsystem all weekend as Club Dog.
Spiral Tribe set up a massive soundsystem elsewhere on the site which I remember, pissed off some of the more 'old school' non-ravey travellers, particularly as the Spiral Tribe rig ran 24/7 for all 3 days at full pelt!

Looning front of stage Torpedo Town 1987 © Steve Bubble.

The 'rave' element was made more noticeable by the addition of a large contingent of straighter 'ravers' (the outdoor rave scene and the free festival scene were still pretty much mutually exclusive at that point) who arrived on the Saturday night in droves in their cars, wearing clean trendy clothes, but then departed on the Sunday morning/afternoon leaving loads of rubbish in their wake (empty food and drink containers).

Despite the slight antagonism between the festival old guard of spacerock-loving hippy travellers and the younger dance music enthusiasts, I remember the weekend as being a lot of fun, again, with a really nice vibe.

The 1992 festival was a whole different story. By then, the 'brew crew' contingent had become a large and increasingly visible aspect of free festivals and I remember encountering lots of seriously drunk and out of it, very abusive and quite menacing people all through the weekend of the festival. Soon after I arrived, having asked after Kevin, I was told that he'd got into an argument with some crusty travellers earlier that day, someone had set a dog on him and that he'd had to go off to hospital. I don't know if this was true , but I don't remember seeing him on site that year. That news sort of set the tone for the weekend and what with the various punch ups and arguments that I saw over the three days, my outstanding memory of the festival was of it feeling like a dangerous place to be.

It was such a shame as the first 2 Torpedo Towns that I went to, particularly the first, still rank amongst my most favourite of free festivals.
Michael Dog


MO Blues Band play on a very low stage at Bramdean common 1987 © Kev Ellis

Bramdean 1987 © Kev Ellis


Torpedo Town was another festy of the time – our friends band were booked to play, so we pootled on down. Police were good as gold, but refused to give us a lift down to the site in return for beer ( surprisingly). There was a lot of buggering around band wise, as there was a rumour going round that certain people wanted a rave instead and if any bands tried to play, they’d get their stuff trashed. In the end nothing seemed to get sorted, so band went home and we kipped in the van.

Hope this helps
Cheers
Flounder


Bramdan Festival 1987
I don't remember much about the music at this festival - it was memorable from my point of view for the infamous punter rebellion. What do you mean you haven't heard of it? It was a nice bit of people power prevailing over cynicism, so it deserves to be remembered.

The festival was, as with Wickham, on a beautiful common in fantastic weather - stages were set up and it was all set for a great weekend of music and chilling in the sun. Hawkwind arrived in their big blue mercedes truck. Bands were jamming in the afternoons. An assembly of typically mid-eighties freaks from sites, squats and everywhere else you could imaging congregated, and despite police "interest" things looked likely to continue for a few days at least.

Round about that time, a large section of the travelling community had acquired the tag of "brew crew" and were getting a reputation for intimidation and alcohol-fuelled violence. They stood out in stark contrast to the trippy hippies and the two camps of festival goers seemed unable to live in harmony. The crusties hated and derided the ethnics, the ethnics feared the crusties and wanted them to disappear so their more laid back idyll could be reinvented. But the "crew" weren't going anywhere.

lucky Daves tent- which turned out to be unlucky for him ! © Lucky Dave

At Bramdean a bunch of crusties who everyone called "The Brew Crew" (though the tag could apply to anyone who earned it) began to thieve from other festival goers. They considered non-travellers to be merely "punters", there to be abused, robbed and intimidated. I remember at another festival (Bablock Hyde near Oxford) being encircled by a gang of them demanding that I buy acid from them, getting very scarey and threatening violence if I didn't comply - I had been saved on that occasion by more "punters" arriving on site and coming to my rescue. It was getting to be like that at Bramdean.

My water containers were stolen - annoying and petty but hardly crime of the century. Someone else lost their boots from their tent porch. Clothes went missing, tools, anything that wasn't locked in a vehicle was fair game. One guy was part-way through carving a statue of the buddha - the half-finished artwork was nicked. By mid-festival there were dozens of angry but essentially peaceful (if not pacifist) victims. The "crew" were having it all their own way.

Two guys from Plymouth - known as The Brothers, told me they were arranging a bit of vigilante action - everyone was to meet at our truck (ie. the one that was half mine) at two o'clock. O God - would I get seen as a ringleader cos it was my vehicle? Anyway, the gathering duly happened and was a large assortment of weekenders and travellers who had had stuff stolen. One was the well known "Willy X", sporting open face helment and swinging a hefty bike padlock as a weapon - most of the others were not in a mood for violence. The Brothers reckoned stolen stuff had been spotted in a bender at the bottom of the site so down we marched.

© Lucky Dave

The owner of the bender came out and shouted abuse as we arrived, Willy swung his chain around and there was a face off a bit like the meeting of two macho dogs.

Accusations were thrown but the crusty dude in the bender screamed his denials. While this shouting match was going on, one guy piped up - "hey, that's my stuff". He walked up to the bender and picked up his tat - can't remember what it was, but others followed suit - the sides of the bender were rolled up and most of us were able to retrieve the horde of stolen items inside - the intel provided by the brothers had been spot on.

While all this was going on, with the bender guy shouting abuse and continuing to deny the theft despite the fact that he was obviously guilty, a knackered old bus was quietly pulling off the site, not to return. While a lot of stolen stuff was retrieved, quite a bit was sneaked off site on that bus - including the uncarved Buddha.

Still, those that got together to stand up to the intimidation and theft were pleased to have done something. At least on that occasion the cynics didn't get away with it!

Reading the account online (http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/torpedo-town-free-festival.html) has reminded me that Litter-picker Martin got beaten with a cricket bat by a crusty woman - I remember that and I remember seeing him with his bloodied face afterwards - very sad. I don't remember him being the source of the tip off about the stolen stuff in the bender but it could well be true - it would explain why he was beaten for picking up litter near someone's bender or fire (which as I recall was the reason he got attacked).

I'm sure the Joneses of Ophir Gardens had a part to play in all this but my memory is too hazy! After all this mayhem, Hawkwind played, but the mid 80s was not their finest hour musically (sorry to any fans who take issue with that!) and it was nice from the point of view of a big band supporting a festival rather than as a great gig.

Garga


Hawkwind play Torpedo Town Free Festival at Bramdean common 1987 © Steve Bubble

After ’86 being so good next year I went back with a bigger crowd of mates to Torpedo Town ‘87. The site was great - Bramdean Common. I’ve been back there many times since to park up for the night, it’s just off the A272 between Petersfield and Winchester. My mate had borrowed a large family tent from his parents for us all to fit into – big mistake. We had made ourselves a target for brew crew! We were picked on incessantly throughout the weekend and had a load of stuff nicked. We were jeered at as “weekenders” because we didn’t live in a bus and weren’t black with wood smoke and engine oil (which was the ‘in’ look at the time). A funny incident was when a brew crew came roaring up to our camp fire on a motorbike and then threatened to push his bike on to the fire. “Give me your stuff or we all go up!” he shouted.

On the positive side, Hawkwind played. A buzz went round when Huw Lloyd Langton was spotted – Hawkwind were on site! That night I was coming up on acid as Assault and Battery sucked me into spiraling psychedelic vortex ….I also definitely remember seeing Ozrics and Dr Brown (or a group with Dr Brown bods in it?).

unknown singer © Lucky Dave

I guess this festival was marred by all the thieving and intimidation and we heard someone had been beaten up just for picking up litter. On the Monday there was a big confrontation after all the nicked stuff had been found in a bender.

Lucky Dave


I was at the 1987 Torpedo Town festie at Bramdean Common, having trained and bussed it out of London with a couple of mates. I can confirm that Hawkwind did play twice and I also saw the Ozrics play twice. There were rumours that Roy Harper was on site but never saw him play.
My enduring memories of that festie were being "persuaded" by a machete wielding crusty that buying certain organic stimulants from him would be in my best interests and then the long walk back to Petersfield station to get a train back to London.
Oh happy days!
Duncan (now in Colorado)


Steve Bubble was involved in organising the festival in its later years , here are his memories of the festival from 1987-1991

Having moved to Portsmouth in 1987, I met some people, in Cholderton Woods funnily enough, who ran the Solent Free Information Network, or F.I.N., part of a network of "F.I.N." publications, who published festival lists and news etc at festivals in the local Portsmouth area. A couple of the people involved organised the Torpedo Town Free Festival which was traditionally held on or near the site of the Marconi arms factory in Waterlooville a few miles outside of Portsmouth, and grew out of a protest against this company.

I had been to the Torpedo Town Free Festival in 1986, my first free festival in fact, and was blown away by the nature of the event. People living in the most amazingly decorated old vehicles and busses, a feeling of togetherness, an appreciation of music and art and an anything goes attitude. I saw an amazing mixture of music, from punk bands to folk bands weird bands, unlistenable bands, it was all there… an impromptu town of around 4000 people, mostly off their heads on acid I think.

Hawkwind are there somewhere ! Honest !

Torpedo Town Free Festival at Bramdean common 1987 © Steve Bubble

1987 site © Steve Bubble.

I loved it and wanted more, and got more, starting to go to more festivals, I was hooked! The following summer saw Torpedo Town on the road, police were out to prevent another happening, rumours saw Butser Hill blocked off, whist a phone number announced Bramdean Common was the actual site. We raced off for a 40 minute drive to find vehicles struggling to find the site tucked behing a village on the A272. An ancient common where gypsies used to gather, indeed there is a little tin church at the edge of the woods, built in 1883 for the gypsies who used the common. This could have been a fantastic festival, if not for the violence that marred the event.

Like anyplace where a large group of people gather, you always get your idiots, in the late 80’s it was the "brew crew", a bunch of alcohol soaked thugs who stole peoples drinks, property and made a proper nuisance of themselves via intimidation – this was probably the worst time that the festivals experienced. I remember seeing "Rubbish" Martin ( Martin was the guy you were guaranteed to see at the end of just about any free festival – clearing up people’s rubbish that the minority had left behind) getting beaten senseless by a gang led by a girl with a cricket bat at Bramdean Common in 88, he’d exposed a bender full of gear stolen from other festival goers and paid the price…

1987 was going to be the last Torpedo Town – the organisers were so disillusioned by the theft and violence and the air of intimidation that prevailed at some of the festivals at this time, they called it a day and this was understandable.

I’d met Kev, one of the organisers, by this time, and the following summer had seen my trying to persuade him to carry on and not be defeated by a minority, but he was having none of it. Again, the following year, 1989 and he was not convinced… maybe, he said.. but it wasn’t going to happen, and didn’t. I told him that I was going to advertise it for 1990, so he’d have to sort something out then.

Courtesy Steve Bubble.

3rd – 6th August 1990 – Bramshot Common.

Paradox play in the great outdoors - Torpedo Town 1990 © Mandy Price

I designed a poster and sent it off to Festival Eye, where it duly appeared, listed as a "mystery festival", despite having happened for years. I don’t think Kev was that impressed, he didn’t say as much, but he did nothing to make me think he was going to be organising anything, so I started phoning people up, starting with Bob Dog at Club Dog (a London haven for festival goers in the colder season). Bob, rather helpfully gave me a list of bands most likely to want to appear at a free festival and helped by spreading the word too, but it was all a bit last minute. People and travellers were gathering near Petersfield and I’d sent out maps to many people via the “Friends of Torpedo Town address” that had been traditionally used for correspondence, for a site which, rather stupidly, I hadn’t realised was an S.S.S.I (Site of Special Scientific Interest) due to the rare flowers and fauna found there.

The site 1990 © Steve Bubble .

 

I was working right up until the start of the festIval, listening to local radio who were keeping listeners up to date on the numerous encampments of festival goers springing up as the weekend drew nearer. On the Friday morning, a number of vehicles attempted to gain access to the initial, badly chosen site and it was getting pretty intense, I was getting calls saying we desparately needed somewhere else to go! A traveller mate Nick was checking out alternative sites nearby and eventually found a large Common that hadn’t previously been looked at, right on the Hants, Sussex & Surrey border. Ideal, as the police couldn’t quite seem decide who’s area it was in, each force just wanting us out of their own particular county. Another friend who was with a massive breakdown truck, who just happened to have one of the early mobile phones was up near the A3 with a convoy of traveller vehicles, I gave hime the name of the new site – and people headed up there, by this point I’d hopped in the truck and bombed up the A3 myself.

There were vehicles everywhere all somehow heading to the same point at about 2pm – people where at the site entrance and having to dig to make it wide enough to get the coaches in – the main site entrance was on the actual dual carriage way. Police, meanwhile had coned of one of the lanes to allow vehicles to queue and enter. The site was massive, about 650 acres I seem to recall, a huge dustbowl of a site and it was one of the hottest weekends of the year, and a great little festival was had. There were a couple of sound systems there, the first I’d ever seen at a festival, booming house with some nice lights flickering around the valley, mesmerising onlookers as the darkness closed in – it was a new sound to many!

There was a bit of agro between travellers and the young free party goers, especially when it emerged that some young entrepreneurs where charging an entrance fee to unsuspecting arrivals in cars, the was a rumour that a couple of coaches arrived for a rave that they’d paid 25 quid for, whether this was really true I never found out.

 

There was a massive amount of fine wine and port on site, liberated from one of the large houses wine store at the bottom of one of the large gardens. People kept coming – probably 8-1000 at any one time, as the tv and radio stations stated clearly where the site was. Sarah Greene apparently owned one of the nearby houses and stories of people using her swimming pool circulated. A few bands played, notably the Dicemen, a punky ska band, who were excellent! The festival actually lasted a fortnight, police insisted we had another week, as they didn’t want the whole site crossing the county for the Cissbury Ring Festival the following weekend – the second weekend’s party was entitled, Tornado Town, and the site filled up once more for a second celebration, splendid!!

Paradox at Torpedo Town 1990 © Mandy Price

Torpedo Town 1990 © Steve Bubble

Rake 1990
As I recall the 1990 festival was at a place called "Rake" somewhere on some heathland in Hampshire. I was there - it was my last festival before heading off to India that Autumn which led to a big change in direction for me. It was a bit tired - there was a rave scene happening and live bands were considered dinosaurs by all the newly converted traveller-ravers, so as I hadn't caught on to E or raving at that time I was pretty bored. I did see a band called Safe and a reggae band from Portsmouth play. There was a waist-deep but really extensive lake half a mile from the site and I remember wading around in it with Laura Hazelchild - there were other wading hippies all round the place - a really surreal site. Well, that exhausts my Torpedo Town archive - coming back from India I was duly converted to the whole E scene for all of two months then, disIllusioned with the travelling scene, I got out (swapping bender for squat in Bristol). Wickham Festival is one of my fonder memories where the free spirit and the experimental music all really came together.
Cheers

Garga


Torpedo Town Free Festival 1991

9-12 August 1991 Liphook, Hampshire

Crowd estimates ranging from 10,000 - to 25,000 attend the festival on MOD land .

More details at the Spiral Tribe archives link above .

 

Free festies stalwarts Mark, Colin & Kev Nukli on the Wangos Stage : Torpedo Town 1991 © Drue Zell

1991 : Jean & Tony standing, Colin & Mark Nukli and John seated © Drue Zell

 

It was a good year for festivals, the numbers were picking up a crosspollination was occurring between the travelling and rave posse’s.The buzz was amazing, and I started work on the next year’s event before the year was out, already thinking that this was a great site, but unlikely to be accessible the following year. I was right, the site was blocked almost as soon as the last vehicles had moved off, but there were plenty more open spaces that we’d already looked at. Spring saw many visits out to various commons, and as we visited the previous year’s site – we crossed the road to look at some M.O.D. land, a reasonable space we thought!

Bands were contacted, another list from Bob Dog, they themselves were hoping to bring a small stage and p.a. with them, Wango Riley’s Travelling Stage were keen to come, having recently been acquired by Elm and Ash, bands were phoning up, stalls, a circus, soundsystems, it was feeling like it was going to be a good one! A small low log barrier was the only thing blocking the site, so I bounced on one of the logs which snapped like a dry twig, and I hastily put it back together and it looked good as new, it was easy to pull aside on the day of the festy.

This time I’d persuaded Oxfin to run a phone line, a single number, to tell people where it was going to be, a few people knew in advance, but I’d stressed on the posters that the site would only be announced at mid-day on the Friday, it was at 1pm when we actually arrived at the site to find large festival vehicles heading up and down the A3 once more. We ducked in and removed the already broken pole as vehicles began to stream in, the police duly arrived, a couple of high ranking officers who seemed slightly impressed that by the time they’d found out where it was, dozens of coaches and trucks were already onsite – "so you’re the advance Party then", the more senior one asked, " yep, the rest will be here shortly", I replied with a grin that stretched from ear to ear! I stayed on the gate by the main road for hours, watching people and friends arriving, a never ending procession it seemed. When I walked round the corner back into the site a festival had begun, Wango’s were there, and Spiral Tribe had turned up picking a wonderful circular clearing behind and to the side of the main stage and the club dog stage, there were smaller party rigs all around the site, and still the vehicles kept coming. I recently found a newsletter from the spiral Tribe on their archive site written by Charly Hall, one of the many dj’s onsite!

right: Mark Nukli Torpedo Town 1991 © Drue Zell

 

Wango Rileys stage at Torpedo Town 1991 © Steve Bubble

Knackered after taking all those photos , Drue has a fag beside Kev's truck.© Mark Huxley

Posters for the 1991 festival courtesy Steve Bubble, image left © Angus . Right © Steve Bubble and Chocks

Courtesy Steve Bubble, drawing © Pete Loveday

A fantastic festival was had, no trouble, bar a coach catching fire by a candle – no injuries though, and all round good press in the media, there was footage of parents dropping kids off for the day on the local tv news!

Sadly, Dinah McNichol went missing on her way home from the festival, found recently having been murdered by her lift, that was the only downer on the weekend…. I thought at the time that it didn’t look good for her, very sad!

 

 

 

The 1992-Otterbourne Hampshire festival has its own page, travel there now ......

 

 

left to right Kev Nukli, Jean, Mark Nukli, Steve and Dean in front of Kev's Transit ambulance © Drue Zell


1982-86
1987-91
1992

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Many, many thanks go to Roger Hutchinson , Big Steve , Roger Duncan, Celia, Will , Chazz, Jeza ,Chris Hewitt ,The Fabulous Time Tortoise , Peter Piwowarski - ( 70s music site/photos ) Martin S, Steve Austin ,Traveller Dave, Herb, Tim Brighton, Vin Miles, Haze Evans , Noddy Guevara, Chris Brown, Janet Thompson, David Stooke, Gary Gibbons , Nigel Ayers, Rich Deakin ,Glenda Pescardo,Justin Warman,Brian F, Steve Bayfield, Kev Ellis, Paul Seaton and many other minor contributors for their help in providing the archival material related to these free festivals which has at enabled us to construct the site .

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