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Bickershaw . Lancashire .U.K.
Friday May 5th to Sunday May 7th 1972.

Frendz report .

      Bickershaw , a sleepy little Northern town , had certainly never seen anything like it before. Coronation St had been invaded by the day glow kids and what fun they all had. Despite promises by the promoters of a flat , well drained site, too little sun and too much rain reduced the ground to one large mud pack- and it stayed that way for the entire festival.
     On all sides one was treated to the sight of muddied stoned hippies negotiating their way across the site. Needless to say there were many casualties.
This was in fact , the worst aspect of an enjoyable festival. The Bickershaw Festival , financed by three Manchester business men, and run by Jeremy Beadle , local whizz kid, was the usual mixture of good and bad. The local farmer went to milk his cows and found they were all dry, some one had got there before him
    On the credit side there were plenty of facilities for the freaks- large dormitory tents dotted around the site, some firewood and polythene , plus a range of entertainment aside from the music , which included the Electric Cinema tent , theatre groups , an aerial display with six bi planes , fireworks plus assorted high divers, fire eaters ,acrobats and high wire bikers. So on that level it was possible to have a fairly comfortable time despite the rain
Whatever happened to Dion ?

   Biggest bummer of the weekend was the security force, yes, those deformed thugs who managed to turn Weeley into a scenario for a gangland movie were out in force and generally making their presence felt. If you're going to have a paying festival you need security but is it really necessary to hire a bunch of illiterate gangsters whose only answer to any question is " do you want a smack in the head mate ? "  One guy even admitted that he couldn't tell whether a pass was valid or not as he couldn't read.......   There were numerous incidents , especially around the stage , of people being beaten up and harassed, which is something you don't need.
    The organisers were greedy , a fact made obvious when it came to concessions . There were at least two cases of concessionaires being overcharged  by at least 100 pounds. The exclusive hamburger concession was sold to to at least three people: one guy was forced to raise his prices from 20p to 30p when a gang of heavies from another hamburger consortium threatened him . In addition to that there were at least twenty food tents on the site, a trifle unnecessary for 30,000 people.
    Thank you Andy Dunkley for playing such nice sounds all weekend.
    Despite many rumours the local police were cool . According to Release there were about 30 drug busts, a few drunk and disorderleys and unknown charges against 18 Hells Angels who were busted on the way there. There were hundreds of uniformed police out to deal with traffic and any emergencies and probably half a dozen drug squad officers wandering around the site. The only good thing about the busts was the that the police had set up an instant legal aid and analysis system which meant that all those arrested were dealt with immediately and did not have to come back to court at a later date to have their case heard.  the average fine was about 20 pounds although three people were remanded for psychiatric reports . The only large police operation came when 100 uniformed guys went through the site looking for a lost three year old child.. No doubt they caused a few cases of acute paranoia but there were no busts. Unfortunately Release's relationship with the police was better than with the promoters whose cheque for their fee for their services bounced. Add to that the fact that they had no electricity provided and food vouchers for their staff of volunteers and doctors failed to materialize  and all this despite the fact that Release had offered some of the festival promoters the use of a bad trip tent to get their heads together. However, the White Panthers liberated a number of crates of beer, juice and other useful items to keep the wheels oiled . Thanks lads.
Aside from these hassles was the music which was generally of very high quality despite a somewhat ineffective PA .The stage , designed by Ian Knight of Roundhouse fame . cost 9000 pounds to build and was probably one of the most effective yet, reducing band changeover time to a minimum. On either side of the stage there were large platforms backed by screens so most people who wanted could get a fairly close look at the bands. On the screens there were light shows and close-ups of the bands in action, an advantage if you were sitting a fair way back. The local people flocked on the site to see the hippies at play and were by most accounts very friendly ; the Frendz staff even had a drunken knees-up with a bunch of them during the last few numbers of The Dead's first set  and it was a toss up as to who was screaming for more louder when they'd finished playing . Power to the jam butty !

   Bickershaw was not the bummer it might have been . Jeremy Beadle has announced that they lost 60,000 pounds . Underground press hacks wandered the crowd in a suitably damaged condition . Many were to be seen looking for earthworms in the ground- at least I presume that's what they were doing .
    But the people got it on . Hippies have a remarkable talent for surviving in all weathers, under all conditions and still enjoying themselves, which is the only reason that things stayed together. . Video freaks got good tape of the Dead and others- more of that in future issues.

The Music
    Fridays musical entertainment was pretty tepid apart from our old mates Hawkwind( Dikmik gets the Frendz nomination for spaced oddity of the festival ) while Nik " Thunder Rider "Turner ties with Dr John and Zoot Horn Rollo for the best dressed freak who blew a cosmic note or two. Otherwise the poor sods in the audience had to content themselves with anything from miserable folkies like Jonathon Kelly to the equally feeble Wishbone Ash. However, if you could stay awake during all this mediocrity , it was worth it all just for a glimpse of the immaculate Dr Jon Creaux and his nine piece band . Here is a real showman , dressed in white top hat and tails, his beard studded with silver pins , throwing Gris Gris glitter everywhere. He made Leon Russell look like Edmundo Ross. The Doctor took his band , complete with horn section, hotshite drummer and two little yummy gospel wailers - through the  tightest changes imaginable , playing lead guitar on the stuff like " Walk on Guilded Splinters " and unbelievable piano on the rest including "Twilight Zone " , "Glowing " and a great selection of R&B killers like " Let the Good Times Roll " and "Iko Iko ". It was all good show biz voodoo, but don't think he isn't capable of the real thing .
   Saturday saw a morning of jazz which Frendz intrepid rock and roll reporter slept through . I awoke to hear Maynard Ferguson blowing his paunch out on "McArthur Park"  and promptly fell asleep. An afternoon of folk failed to inspire me - Linda Lewis did her usual cutesy act ,the Incredibles were a trifle too precious for my liking , whilst Donovan did a "Greatest Hits " act which  was nice. He might also be very precious but at least he's professional about it . Rock appeared in the form of boogie beast Captain Beyond   a new American band who play the same old licks over and over and go nowhere fast. Tell ya , these guys are so hip they even do a 25 minute drum solo. Sam Apple Pie were a surprisingly good rock and roll band , while Cheech and Chong gave the kids some light comedy relief.Family played their usual  set- a few hot licks and broken mike -stands, while the Kinks disappointed. Ray Davies - more effeminate and camp than ever  ( camp in the Noel Coward rather than the Alice Cooper sense) as well as being pissed as a newt- led what was essentially a mediocre live rock band through a boring set. Doing numbers like the "Banana Boat Song " and " Baby Face ' didn't help matters much either  and an encore of " Hootchie Cootchie Man " was nothing short of farcical.
    But never fear, The Flaming Groovies were on next laying out some cool assed jive. These boys are real gone  - they sat around the stage before their performance drinking whisky, clicking their fingers , talking' jive . When they hit the stage, the magical connection was lit. Young girls wept, policemen  handed in their badges and joined the church, and some evil bikers staged a mini Altamont down the front of the stage while the  groovies bopped through " Jumpin' Jack Flash " , ''Nervous Breakdown " Lou Reed's " Sweet Jane" , " Teenage Head " , a couple of newies like "Slow Death " and " Shake The Joint  " just like a juke box with balls.
After the gig , the bass player fell the full length of the steps to the stage, watched by the entire Frendz staff who were busy getting reacquainted with Captain Beefheart . Our fave rave got us all on the stage and played his usual total bizarro mind-fuck of a set. Superlatives defied us all so we promptly crashed out after the set, snarfing N. P and dropping pork pies.
    Sunday saw us up and raring to go . A fine set by the Brinsley's didn't stop the rain pouring down, but still sent out them good vibes we hippies are prone to talk about in elitist circles.

 Country Joe was good, no more, no less and he left the stage for the New Riders of the Purple Sage who played a two hour set packed with goodies . Buddy Cage on pedal steel and Spencer Dryden on drums really stood out but this is a unit , now totally independent of the Grateful Dead's assistance. Nice harmonies , nice music , nice songs, what more could you ask for ? 
                The Dead , that's what . 

 When Garcia and drums took the stage, the whole thing became a real festival . Everything was together and the Dead played for five hours maybe more. Fireworks exploded, freaks danced and the band went through every change conceivable . A beautiful "Dark Star" and a sizzling Pigpen work out on "Good Lovin" might be considered stand outs but really it was all music flowing like river . At 1am the Frendz collective slid off the planks , fell into the truck and hit the road south whistling "Casey Jones" and snorting boiled sweets

Photos by Pennie Smith

Jeff Dexter, that cuddly D. J arrived in a black Rolls Royce accompanied by seven chicks and several expensive bottles of whisky.
Ace reporter Nick Kent arrived on a tandem with a  pint of Guinness in a duffle bag . Bozo the beat and Joyce the voice could be seen getting their rocks off.

This page is a homage to the festival and those who attended. If you were there and want to share your experiences or have photos, tapes then contact me

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Updated May 2023

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