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

© Chris McHugo

    Definitely one of the WETTEST  rock festivals of all time. The Bickershaw Festival was , nevertheless, a LOT of fun. I know the crowd here doesn't LOOK happy, but I can assure you they had a ball when the bands were on-stage .

This site 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 us

Photo © Chris McHugo

        Its been a fair while since I updated the Bickershaw site, mostly because very few NEW items have arrived in that time period and also I had a period where I was depressed at the state of the world , that a lot of contributions were going to social media and also that I got very little feedback from doing this job. Its hard to sit here for many hours, do huge amounts of research , fixing up images etc , then put out something and.....theres no response.

However I am nothing if not persistent , so heres what I've received over the past few years. About 15 new images, a fair few stories and comments and a few bits and bobs I've missed because I was too down to regularly check my email .Hope your enjoy the new items and above all , keep on truckin' !

To set you off , heres a post I've cribbed from the livel music archive written by a guy called"Scottish chap" . It gives you a good idea of just how good this festival actually was. ( exceprt hes wrong about Dr John and the Kinks, Dr John was amazing and the Kinks were shambolic and as drunk as skunks............

Memories are made of this

We had bought tickets in advance to be sure of seeing this legendary California band about which we knew little, and drove down from Scotland on the Thursday. The promoters had scheduled the festival for early May because weather records showed there was a tendency for dry spells about then. In the event the first two and a half days were grey and wet, turning much the site into ankle deep mud. It wasn't particularly cold, but it was rather grim and with inadequate provision for litter the site quickly got messy and untidy. The backdrop to the site was Coronation Street-style terrace housing. There was no trouble with the local people but they did quietly resent us and had tried to stop the festival. The local working men's club had a Union Jack flying at half mast on our account.

The promoters had provided large marquees for sleeping and I seem to remember that it worked quite well. The toilets worked too, but you could smell them about 70 metres away. They were a whole experience in themselves: look through the seat and there was an open pit containing an amazing stew of colours 'that no one knows the names of').

I don't know what happened to security; they seemed not to have shown up. People soon started to dismantle parts of the corrugated sheeting that formed the only enclosure to the site and it quickly became a free festival. Attendance was estimated at around 70,000, but apart from advanced sales, I doubt that many people paid to get in.

But despite the weather and despite being a financial disaster the show went on and only a couple of advertised acts didn't show (Pacific Gas and Electric was one). Can't complain though, Hawkwind's space odyssey was worth the discomfort, with a light show that was exceptional for the times. Stackridge finished a quirky set with Purple Spaceship Over Yatton, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Dr John in top hat and with a cane, finished off that night but he was way out of his tree on something and didn't give a good performance.
( have to disagee , DR J WAS GREAT )

I think the Kinks were on the next night. Ray Davies was pissed, but functioning well and was clearly enjoying himself. The stage organ was out of tune so he and keyboards player attacked it beer cans and pushed it over, then went on playing with the grand piano while one of the stage crew remonstrated at them. They played a good set. In between sets DJ Andy Dunkley playing good music such as "this oldie but goodie" which turned out to be Subterranean Homesick Blues.

I remember a small, giggly, young Linda Lewis with a huge afro and a huge voice range. Family gave a good set, with Roger Chapman in good form. Quiver seemed pretty average. Cheech and Chong suggested that we all have a minute's silence for J. Edgar Hoover who had just died. It was probably that same night that the stage announced that the Night Assemblies Bill (an infamous private member's bill that was a serious threat to future festivals) had been talked out of parliament. This raised a big cheer amongst Bickershaw's muddy hippies. I didn't stay up for Captain Beefheart, but there was another big cheer when he came on.

Sunday morning was bright with bluish skies, although not too warm. I think Donovan performed sat crosslegged on a mat, but that might be my imagination. Country Joe MacDonald was certainly there, getting us all chanting: "And what have you got?" "Fuck Nixon". He was an excellent raconteur telling about trying to get a U.S. cop to illegally utter the F-word. But the weather soon got grey and wet and I think it was raining again when the Flaming Groovies played. The New Riders came on in the rain but it eventually started to clear and so they tried to charm the clouds away with their country rock before the Dead came on. And it worked. And for the first time during the whole three days there was a clear sky and it was dry for the whole of the Dead's set (around five hours from memory, minus a break of some 40 minutes). There was even a glorious sunset about half an hour after they came on, which was as good as Hawkwind's light show.

Wasn't too warm mind, so they put some sort of giant heater on the stage which made it more comfortable for the band but it also made their guitars go out of tune, requiring frequent tune-ups. (I thought this was supposed to be one of the reasons the Europe '72 album had no tracks from Bickershaw.) Anyway the heater eventually packed up and the band played better in the second set as a result.

Meanwhile the crowd had lit fires and there were huge clouds of marijuana smoke wafting towards the stage causing Bob Weir to remark "I don't know what you're burning down there, but it smells awful". I had never used any illegal substance before, but we split a tab of acid and it started having effects while Bill the Drummer was playing the solo to The Other One. It's quite an interesting number when you are tripping. And then Pigpen took us through Lovelight and then I bopped my way through Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, and into Not Fade Away. This was one of the ten best days of my life and I was buzzing the whole evening and the whole of the next day (the intro to Lovelight going round in my head) as we drove back to Scotland, and I even felt some effects on the Tuesday as I was back at work planting spruce trees in yet more rain up in the Scottish Highlands. Halcyon days.

Postscript: Yeah show ended with Lovelight/Goin down the road/Not fade away. Wow, a never to be forgotten set - from Dark Star on is just out of this world. One More Saturday Night was the encore. The last six tracks on here are the New Riders.

Sent to me by anon, he and his brother at the festival, to show how long ago this was, these lads wpould now be way over 50 !

   Well folks, its happened again , and we have to thank Chris Hewitt of OZIT records for sweating it all out and assembling whatever footage he could find of Bickershaw. His company has brought out a new extended version of the Bickershaw DVD that they released a few years back. It runs for about 4 hours and it contains much of the footage shot by the TV companies who covered the festival at the time, as well as footage from Jeremy Beadle that he intended to use to make a documentary of the festival. There is a little bit of new undiscovered footage of bands onstage, including the Grateful Dead, but overall theres not a lot of it . Regretably, there wasn't a film company recruited to film the festival as such, what we have here is little snippets of bands onstage, almost no complete songs from the festival itself which is a real shame .

   As usual with these festival related OZIT Dvd's , its a mixed bag, warts and all. Probably the best aspect of this release is that theres nearly an hour of Festival Site footage, which is mostly fun to watch to see if you can glimpse yourself walking around the site and the village . This extended version contains all the material that OZIT could find and attempts have been made to provide visuals to accompany audio ( mostly audience sourced ) that exists of the various acts . This is a bit repetitive as the available footage and images are not always sufficient to provide an interesting visual experience . However, for those who don't have the recordings, you do at least acquire the sound which you can just listen to if you get bored with the visuals .

    That said,be aware that theres some footage that is from all over the place in this production, if theres not enough from the actual festival the producers have chucked in stuff they happened to have found from the same era , such as The Dead from Copenhagen 1972 , some shots taken at Desolation Hill from the 1970 Isle of Wight festival and some audio that sounds like its studio stuff.

    However, theres a lot of new audience and site footage which is interesting and it certainly brings back the memories.If you were expecting something like the Isle of Wight movie- you will be disappointed. However, we should be glad that OZIT are making an effort to get this stuff out into the public eye, its better then it mouldering away in a vault at a TV studio even if its not perfect quaility

    Ozit assure me that they don't make much from these productions and I think they should be supported as they at least are making rare items available to the public, just don't expect Hollywood , cos you ain't gonna get it ......

Read our review of Volume one here

Have a butchers at the Bickershaw Festival T-Shirt


Volume 1 click on the image to read the review and see a larger version

Volume 2

Jan 2008 : Jeremy Beadle , Bickershaw organiser dies of pneumonia

As you may know Jeremy Beadle died of pneumonia last week and had been fighting cancer for a couple of years- he was due early in 2008 to give me a film interview looking back at Bickershaw his memories of the fesival and looking at it from todays perspective- sadly now his thoughts will never make it onto the proposed interview film....

He loved the dvd- he loved the Archive website and he loved the pictorial book on Bickershaw I am working on- he did endless work for charities and he always believed in backing the mavericks and the outsiders because he was one himself owing to his illness as a child

He told me he worked on the Wembley Rock N Roll festival as well as Bickershaw- but Bickershaw was his real favourite and we spent a morning together in October him trawling through our paper archives and recalling how I had done promotion work for the festival for him in 1972

RIP Jeremy beadle you gave 40,000 muddy fans a life changing experience at Bickershaw

Chris Hewitt - Ozit records

The Bickershaw Menu

If you have any info regarding the festival please get in touch Contact us

Updated May 2023

Other Bickershaw links.



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