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Updated Jan 2016

This site is dedicated to 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 .....

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Vines Cross (almost ) Free Festival

Heathfield. East Sussex.

August 1981

August 1982

August 5-7th 1983.

Here and Now , The Enid, Wystic Mankers ,Nik Turner, Zag and The Coloured Beads, Alpha Road , Freur and many others.


Zag and the Coloured Beads onstage Vines Cross Free Festival 1983 © Paul Howard

Read about their "enhanced" gig at Vines Cross at the bands site

    Although this one has gone down in history as a Free Festival, the advert clearly shows that it was not , it was instead a benefit for Heathfield Anti- Nuclear Group- but of course children could get in for free.

    Just precisely why it was billed as " Difficult to find" we know not at this present time ,one presumes that Vines Cross was not shown on maps ? Whether this was the first year of the festival or the last we cannot answer ,the festival is only reported on lists in 1983, yet attendees attest to it being run for several years .

    once again this information has receeded into the mists of time, can anyone be more precise and pull us out of our collective ignorance ?


Recollections

   Memory always fails one, I guess... But reading this reminded me of my trip to the 'Difficult to Find Festival' at Vine's Cross in 1983. It must have happened in early August as the headlining set by The Enid coincided with the anniversary of Hiroshima (6 August, I believe, altho as a professional historian I don't really do dates).

   There can't have been more than 2000 people there, but most of them were stoned. I hadn't been to any free festivals before, but I remember as a hardened veteran of Reading being surprised and delighted by the lack of law enforcement. There was a rumour that the local village bobby had popped his head round the gate once and sensibly decided to take matters no further. Dope, acid, mushroom tea and much else besides was being openly sold (some had signs outside their tents advertising their wares). The Tibetans were there, and provided an alternative festival within the festival. I have to admit to nearly losing it (hysterical laughter) seeing them hypnotically and rhythmically pound a variety of found objects (sinks and cisterns) into obsolescent oblivion (at that time 'Stomp' wasn't even a twinkle in Luke whatisname's eye--come to think of it, maybe he was there, after all he was a Brighton boy, wasn't he?--and no-one really knew much about Einsturzende Neubaten). Me and my mate Nick may have been asked politely to leave Tibetan air-space.

   There was an open-air cinema screen there as well. I remember falling asleep in front of 'Time Bandits'--one chillum too many, unsure whether I should be happy or sad that my soon-to-be-ex was fucking another guy at that moment in his Triumph Herald. We weren't getting on that well.

    As to the music...Well, as is the way with these things, I don't really remember much about it. I think Here and Now (is that right? am I thinking of someone different?) played. But all I can remember is The Enid's preposterous and highly entertaining set. You have to understand that I was just coming out of a love affair with Heavy Metal and heavy psychedelia and was beginning to get a bit critical on the rock genre's arse. But there was something deeply silly and yet, at the same time, deeply affecting about a pomp-rock act playing Elgar tunes with a heartfelt passion. More than that, the be-whiskered front-man, who looked (and spoke) like a well-educated country squire, made it make sense. His impassioned statements of patriotism and pacifism pulled the whole idiotic shambles together.

The elusive Vines Cross Flasher ...© Igor Malaprop

One more thing. The weather was beautiful.
Cheers,
James


   Also in the early 80's, before the above event, were the Vines Cross festivals. Vines cross is a couple of miles from Heathfield. They were on every year for 3 (I think) years, and attracted crowds of 2000 - 3000. I played at 2, with different bands. The Tibeteans were there one year, as were The Enid.

   The festivals were stopped after someone took a sheep from an adjoining field, and killed and roasted it.
Keep up the good work with your site, it's an excellent resource.

Benjamin Horrendous



   I was there, along with a few school friends. We would have been about (counts on fingers) 16. We had, at that point, been to the Marquee in London a few times (early Marillion, Solstice) as well as one or two Readings. Anyway - I remember we finally got to the festival site after a trip to a local offie (to obtain some cider) and a hitched ride or two.

  One bit of info I'd like to add is that on the lineup were a strange semi-electronic band (this was the 80's remember ) called Freur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freur). They'd had a small hit with a ditty called "Doot Doot. And - here's the thing - the band went on to mutate in later years into Techno superstars Underworld. Who'd have thought it?!

   I remember the Enid too. I remember hearing that they beefed up the orchestraal scale of their music with some kind of highly technical computerised tape system involving the use of VHS video tapes for sound, or data or something. In the early '80's such things were intriguing, but baffling!

  Somewhere at home I have a T shirt from the festival (will scan it if I can find it). Very very skinny-fit - I was a mere slip of a lad then. The "logo" of the festival said "In Support of Peaceful Thought". Which caused my rather right-wing mother to sneer, as if it had said "We want to be Commies". Hey ho. Innocent days.
cheers - nice website

Paddy


Wow! Really amazed to find your site. I was one of the organisers of the Vines Cross Festivals. Originally they were supposed to be a way of publicising the activities of Heathfield Anti Nuclear Group (HANG). Years 1 and 2 were fairly small scale affairs and had not been too much of a hastle to organise. Year 3 however saw us come up with the bright idea of advertising the festival at Stonehenge a couple of weeks prior to the Vines cross event. The advertising was more successful than we had imagined it might be and led to numbers far in excess of those we expected. We gave up on any idea of charging as we were being overrun and we were all too stoned to keep it together anyway.

   As the site says year three saw the ritual slaughter of a sheep, allegedly a tame pet one by the name of Hillary!!!!! This amongst other things led to us making the national press with the headline "Hippies butcher Hillary the sheep" Hillary proved to be the final nail in our coffin and the Vines Cross Festivals came to an untimely end.

   Most of the original organisers are still just about alive and kicking and in our more lucid moments can be persuaded to recount wildly exagerated stories about "the good old days"

Mark Haffenden

ticket courtesy Ray Russell

Hi there,
I love the website, and thought you might be interested in a piece of ephemera from the difficult to find Vines Cross Festival. I was one of the very few who actually bought an advance ticket, and for years felt a complete chump for having done so. Of course, I now have a tangible souvenir (image attached!) Unfortunately, I'm not sure I have any reliable memories to share because I took a box of Merrydown Cider with me...
Love and peace!

Ray Russell


hi
wow man ! this has bought back a few memories i had no idea were there. i saw it advertised in the world's coolest 2nd hand record store (opposite weekes in t/wells), whose female proprietor used to put little roaches in her ordinary rollies which is a habit i continue to observe to this day. she also sold me 3 pink fairies albums that changed my life.

about 10 of us went in a motley collection of clapped-out old bangers and it was bloody hard to find. some fiercely potent cider in plastic gallon bottles, lots of beautiful hash and real dutch acid means the musical memories are somewhat fractured in continuity but here & now were anarchically brilliant. likewise the enid's monster set was the epitome of english lunacy, was robert john godfrey wearing plus-fours or was that somewhere else? i'm convinced nik turner was there too with some form of inner city unit.

luckily my girlfriend didn't run off with anybody else, in fact she's asleep about 20 feet away. at least one or two of the couples in our 'party' did implode that night though. it must have been that cider !

i gather from your e-mail address that you have ended up 'over here' as well . were you too at glastonbury 1981 ? mother gong had a song in their set called 'let's all go and live in australia' that certainly proved portentious for me.

just to put things into context, the reason i wandered into my past tonight and hence stumbled across this site was that earlier this evening i saw a distressed teenage girl walk out of geelong police station at dusk in the rush hour and sit down in middle of the road, quite prepared to die. i dragged her to the curb just before the next batch of traffic came howling through. swiftly realising that to any other onlooker, incuding probably the cop shop's security cameras, it might appear as if a 6'5" leather clad giant had just physically manhandled a young woman and pausing only to tell her that nothing could be worth losing your life for, i promptly proceeded on my way to catch a bus home that i had had to wait 3 hours for only because i'd missed a train connection by literally a minute earlier in the day in melbourne. i'm not religious nor in the slightest bit superstitious but i've had a genuine 'sliding doors' moment today that has caused a bit of soul searching and a peer into my own teenage memories to see if it was ever that bad. luckily i found your site and convinced myself that we were a lucky bunch.
cheers, you've helped

simon


Free Festivals List

Any info to add- well don't just sit there ! Contact us

Free festivals and small fayres held in the United Kingdom between 1967-90.

1967-69.

 1970-79  
1980-92

 

  • Windsor Peoples Free Festival 1972-74
 
 Free festival related articles
Pay Festivals- Benefits for Travellers aid.
 

Main list of Free festivals 1970-1985

Free rock festivals of the 70s and 80s

Related Articles

The aroma of a free festival -by Roger Hutchinson

Dome construction instruction sheet (download-140k)-by Roger Hutchinson

Travellers Tales Convoy Steve's tale of how the freaks outsmarted the fuzz at Greenham common.

Zorch -House band for the free festival set ? A fanzine page on the UK's first electronic band .

Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe-surreal pranksters of the Traveller community .

Acidia Lightshow Lightshow for Windsor festival and Stonehenge in the 1970s.

Traveller Daves Website - Chock full of of free festival photos !

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 .

Any info to add ?-well don't just sit there , Contact us


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