The Archive .
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For information on today's festivals see eFestivals.co.uk
Last update June 2021 -
Best viewed at above 1920x 1024 res
thank you to Robert Ellis of Repfoto
for use of his great photos of Bickershaw, he has many more on his site, of
Dr John, Country Joe, Kinks, Beefheart, Family , Hawkwind, Grateful Dead, Donovan,
ISB and Captain Beyond as well as the site and circus performers. He also has
many other classic photos of other rock festivals and bands - his site is a
MUST visit .
The View from the Mud: 2
When it comes down to it, every festival-goer had both a collective and an individual experience of the festival . Some loved it ,others were no doubt put off festivals for life. Over the years of course , memories do play tricks . Some of the anecdotes below may be contradictory , or exaggerated, but who cares. We want to hear from you!
Share your time at Bickershaw with the world !
Photo © David Orme
The ford transit was heading up the motorway, when I asked "where are we going" Dave the driver replied "the Bickershaw festival". For the past few hours Dave had been driving round Bristol, collecting various friends, who piled into the back of the van armed with cushions and plastic carrier bags, it turned out that his friends were a collection of Bristol hippie/ dope dealers, their plastic carrier bags contained their stash.
When we got to the site, someone asked how we were going to get in, Dave said as a band thats been booked at the last minute, at which point, his mates girlfriend who had beautiful breasts amply displayed by her costume got out of the van and went up to the security guards on the backstage entrance and said as much, they opened the gates and let us in. We parked up with the rock stars and made ourselves comfortable. I cadged a black microdot off "Slim" and proceeded to have the bad trip staight from hell for the next 16hrs or so.
I remember trying to watch the Kinks, but the stage was heaving like one of those fairground swing boats. I had spent the previous week or so trying to come down off acid and speed. The speed seemed to stay in my system, so I was fairly strung out before dropping the microdot. I kept seeing people who looked as if they were dying and rotting away, like those speeded up time lapse films, at one point I rushed backstage and got a whole load of firemen to come to the front of the stage in order to help a woman who had been collapsing in the mud, when we got there, right in front of the stage, the woman was perkily bouncing away to the music, the fire crew didnt seem to mind and stayed.
Wandering around the site was like walking thru a real life Hammer horror movie, with skeletal zombified hippies staggering around ready to collapse into a pile of dust and cartillage, this carried on throughout the night and as it got light it seemed to get even weirder when I found myself hallucinating policemen, everywhere I looked there were policemen like a whole army of them, then there was an announcement from the stage about the police looking for a lost child, thats when the horribleness seemed to die away, a band came on called the "Pacific Gas and Electric" their music lifted me out of the events of the night before and totally chilled me out.
When the Dead came on later that day, I had doubts about them as a band and couldn't understand the reputation they had, but live! ---- they were in a class of their own.
In May 1972 I was seventeen and a half and lived with my parents in Horwich, a town about 6 miles from the festival site.
None of us budding 'freaks' could believe our luck, a festival with such a fantastic line-up on our own doorstep.
I'd been to the Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park and to the festival at Wheeley but this was going to be great, just a bus ride away.
I finished work on the Friday evening (my first job - in an office), headed home and waited for my girlfriend to show up.
As we were having tea and watching the local news on TV (Granada Reports), my younger brother's head filled the screen complete with wild hair and leather headband. He, being at college, had gone down to the site the day before and was being asked why he liked festivals by the interviewer. He mumbled something about them being better than football matches and the camera moved on. My dad nearly choked on his crumpet and said, " I hope no-one knows he belongs to me !"
The weather at this stage wasn't bad and girlfriend in tow off we trekked, armed with a small tent I'd borrowed from someone at work.
We arrived in the town of Bickershaw and jumped off the bus to follow the hordes heading for the site. Just then a car pulled up and a bloke with wife and kid kindly offered to drive us up to the site. We got in and they seemed a bit disappointed when they asked where we'd come from and found out it was only six miles away but cheered up when I said we'd just seen my brother on TV. "Was it that one with all the hair?" yep, that was him." But daddy chimed the daughter, I thought you said all people with long hair were just lazy" "Hush ", said mother.
On entering the site, I found my best mate who had arrived with a harem of four or five girls and was setting out sleeping bags under a large sheet of plastic. He had a errected a flag which said 'Home, Sweet, Home', in gaffer tape. This would, as the days and the weather progressed become 'Sweet Home' then eventually 'Wee Home'.
I remember it was just going dark as Hawkwind hit the stage, being introduced with the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, and now straight from the Hit Parade, 'The Sonic Assassins'. As he said "Assassins", some sort of audio effect was switched in and it became, " Assass sa sa sa sa sins". Here we go I thought as screens to the side of the stage showed giant animated UFO's and the band kicked in to a killer version of 'SilverMachine'. Life doesn't get better than this, although it was just starting to rain ! After the set we decided we needed some more inspiration so my mate and me scored some grass from a chap selling knecklaces etc. He produced a silver foil stash from under the corrigated steel base of his 'stand'. It wasn't very good.
The rain by this time was getting heavier. We returned to our 'patch'. The tent we had brought leaked like a sieve and wasn't much use at all.
Country Joe plays on apparently wet stage.
Of the acts that weekend, I remember the Incredible String Band, Donovan (my all time favourites), the Kinks - Ray Davies was so drunk he could hardly stand up, poured a bottle of whiskey over the brass section who all walked off and that was the set. I think they played 'Demon Alchohol' all the way through so that was apt. Capt. Beefheart and the Magic Band were superb. I jumped out of the tent in the small hours of a cold and wet morning (still dark) to watch them play. Tried to rouse my mate, under the plastic with his women but he wasn't for surfacing. Another friend of ours had given a tab of Strawberry Fields to my mate for safe keeping otherwise he would drop it and he had an exam on Monday, he'd said. On the Sunday afternoon as we burned beer cans (the paint on them will flame) to keep warm he asked for it back and dropped it ! Skinning up was impossible as all the skins were stuck together concertina fashion due to the sodden conditions.
I remember Country Joe MacDonald and the guy up the tower episode of course.
By late Sunday afternoon, we'd had enough and wet through, hungry and cold we decided to call it a day and head for the bus stop. Loaded up with camping gear and rucksacks to the strains of 'The New Riders of the Purple Sage', we wandered through the field towards the exit. I had a pair of baseball boots on my feet and as we walked through the wet grass, I stood on some thing with my left foot. This 'something' turned out to be the remains of a rusted old fence post which had corroded into an evil pointed, poisonous thing. It went through my shoe, wet sock and straight into my heel as I put the weight on my foot. I had to physically pull my leg off the damn thing.I went through the colours of the rainbow and then fainted for few seconds. My friends took me to the hospital tent where the wound was cleaned and a tetanus shot was administered.
We got the bus home. The following day I got up for work and my heel had become infected / septic. Thus a visit to the doctor and a sick note for a week.
Whilst off work a reporter from the local rang rang and wanted to speak to my brother, having seen the TV interview. My brother was at college. The reporter wanted to know if he was in a band. In retrospect, I should have said he was lead guitarist with the Grateful Dead !
I watched the documentary a few weeks later when it was shown with my brother. He saw the police moving his motorbike from where he'd parked it. I thought I didn't leave it there he said.
Just seen the website for the first time. Yes, I was there, I was 17 and this was my first festival. Myself and a mate (forgotten his name) went by train from Manchester with little money, no tent, food, change of clother - nothing. Totally unprepared. I suppose that Woodstock would still have been uppermost in most people's mind's at the time so the expectation was peace and love with bright sunshine. I didn't reckon on Wigan. Needless to say we had no tickets either. My earliest memory of the event was catching a bus from Wigan train station to Bickershaw and everyone on the top floor seemed to have a copy of Sounds (which featured the event) and all singing Smoke on the Water! There were some large marquees to house the untented, we kipped down in one of these and lived on a diet of chicken soup and dounuts for the two days that we were there.
I remember a guy almost naked in the pouring rain trying to sell liquid mescalin, Hells Angels terrorising everyone, no police at all that I can remember and just being amazed at what, to me anyway was another world. We didn't sleep as we listened to Beefheart - tuning up was excellent by the way. I can remember The Kinks and Donovan and doing about 2 hours of the Dead before the rain soaked through to the very bones. I think that I slept for about 2 days when I got home. the event changed my life, about a month later I left home and followed a life of music ever since. Beefheart is still played in this household and I'm a regular festival attendee. Let me know more about the 35 year celebration as I certainly intend being there.
I remember a leaflet with a charactor in it called something like Tommy Turd.
Maybe it was printed at the festival? being so tired and wet, it struck me as very funny at the time.
Also Family, the motorbike on the highwire and the village like a warzone.
I don't know how they got away with it, a once in a lifetime thing, crazy.
Photo © David Orme
Yes it was rather a blur – particularly after someone passed me the festival spliff (my 1st ever) during Hawkwind’s set and I seem to recall falling backwards from my sitting position as Stacia did something quite rude with some kind of see-through material.
The flimsy material features again in another hazy memory – but this is the puzzling thing – because I thought it was a willowy young girl dressed in diaphanous clothing, doing some kind of ballet-inspired dancing to the music of Roy Harper playing his guitar at the right of the stage. Yet you say he wasn’t there???? Who’s illusion is the right one? Am I confusing Bickershaw with Lincoln Pop Festival in the same year? I don’t remember him there. But then memory can play tricks!
(the dancing girl featured during Donovans set : Archive ED)
I also remember Wishbone Ash guitar solos seeming to float and waver across the site to where we camped by a little pond – in which, over the three days, strange arty folk erected an impressive spiral ramp up a tower and which activity culminated on the Sunday night in a procession of oddly dressed characters, chanting and drumming, led by someone in a shiny suit who, once at the top, appeared to burst into flames before plunging into the pond. End of show.
And talking of oddly dressed characters – what about those policemen with big lenses on their cameras and wearing nylon kaftans and wigs? What did they look like? They didn’t catch me anyway.
I also remember going to the bread shop for one of those massive balmcakes and seeing what I thought was Lemmy smoking a massive spliff whilst leaning against the security fencing. That might have been an illusion too because Lemmy never did that sort of thing, did he? Did he? Did I? Was it all a dream?
My God I found your site - very wonderful, especially since I had forgotten most of that weekend.
I do remember the Beefheart, Dr John and Grateful Dead stints, all glorious.
At one stage I was a victim of some black microdot rubbish and fled from the swamp creatures into the Release tent, where a beautiful girl gave me a handful of valium and a soap bubble kit. This straightened me out somewhat. Then back into the fray....
My kids wouldn't believe me if I told them
I was a young cornet player in Haydock Band back in 1972.
We went on stage the Sunday morning not a little apprehensive at the reception we might get .
The wet and cold weather was a real problem as the rather damp crowd were cowed under an assortment of plastic and tarpaulin covers and any bits of shelter they could find, what struck me as we entered the stage was the massive heaters on both sides and all the sound equipment strewn around with all the big bands names on them.
I cant remember how long we played but we got a great reception from the hippies which was a fantastic feeling as we hadn't played to such a crowd before.One of the numbers we played was ' American Patrol ' - a bit Glenn Millerish which got the crowd out of their shelters and dancing.
My mother and father were on stage as well watching us from the back.
A great memory from so long ago.
My Bickershaw began on a Friday night in the back room of a pub called The Old Arcade in Cardiff – it was part of the ‘alternative scene’ in Cardiff –if such a thing existed in 1972. Two of us were born again Dead Heads but we were without the means to get to Lancashire. We managed to persuade a third guy that it would be a good idea to drive up to Lancashire overnight. He didn’t have any money either but he had a car. We were desperate and then I had a moment of inspiration. Why not invite my younger and solvent brother to pay for the expedition. After the pub closed we drove round to my home and got my kid brother out of bed. He didn’t take a lot of persuading. We must have left Cardiff at one in the morning. Five of us. The driver’s girlfriend came along for the ride. No money, no tickets, no food. Jed – the other Dead Head brought some Spanish onions along and ate them as we laboured up the M6 in a Riley. I distinctly remember catching the driver’s ‘Oh fuck, it’s going to be one of those nights’ expression as we watched Jed consuming raw onions whole.
In those days an ex-school mate lived just up the road from Wigan. He was a student at Lancaster University. We knew he was keen on the Dead so why not call round first thing and invite him to join us. I think we also calculated that he would have some cash. We arrived at this place called Pilling at about six in the morning. It was in the middle of nowhere. Said friend was not over pleased to see us. Whilst we were being ushered back to the car his new girlfriend appeared from the sleeping quarters. He obviously had other things on his mind. Silly boy he missed one of the greatest gigs in the history of rock ‘n roll.
A small section of the huddled masses © Keith Liggins
Anyways back to the story. We turned back for Wigan and fetched up at what looked like a council estate adjacent to a reclaimed coal tip. Worthy Farm it wasn’t. I don’t remember paying to get in. We didn’t have any money anyway. We must have got in via somebody’s back garden. Once we were on site we realised that this really wasn’t the Vale of Avalon. I remember it being very wet under foot and there being pretty solid rain. We didn’t have a tent and on Saturday night we managed to sleep in a communal marquee. I don’t suppose we had anything to eat or money for food. Even Jed had finished his onions. Our sleeping quarters were pitched on a slope and water ran through the tent. I don’t remember much about Saturday. For a start we hadn’t slept at all the previous night and secondly we were only really there for the Dead. I think we lay in our sleeping bags out of the rain. We had managed to establish source of combustible herbs. We teamed up with the most boring hippy in Britain I think. He let us smoke his dope so long as we listened to his endless discourses on how to roll the perfect joint. I do remember that Family were quite lively but then they always were. Roger Chapman was forever falling off the stage in those days. Captain Beefheart seemed to come on in the middle of the night – shit we were too tired to take much notice.
I remember Captain Beyond on Sunday. They were loud, perhaps a precursor of all those ‘orrible stadium rock bands that the States were to export in the mid 70’s. I’ve have looked at the programme since and noticed that the Brynsleys were there but I can’t remember them and I went on to really love that band. It rained all day Sunday and then the sun broke through and the Dead were on. I remember getting as close as possible to the stage. There was a fence and then a descent to a huge pool of dirty water. That gig was the finest and best gig I have ever attended – the only thing that came close was Led Zeppelin at Shepton Mallet in 1970 – that was before they became stadium monsters. I remember we stood there and imbibed the music. We knew all the songs and I recall exchanging knowing looks as each song began – we knew what to expect. The people we worshipped were there in front of us doing the songs that formed the backdrop to our lives in those days. I remember that during the set a madman got on to stage and announced that this was God’s band. I agreed with him but I think climbing on to the stage to announce it was pretty excessive. I think he was booed. The band seemed to play on and on. Stuff from American Beauty, Working Man’s Dead, Dark Star. It was awesome. I’ll never forget that gig. Jeremy Beadle I love you!
The following week the gig made the front page of the Melody Maker and there in the photograph was this line of people hanging on a fence. I always swore that Jed, myself and my kid brother were in that picture but I’ve never been able to track it down. Whenever we used to meet up over the years we would yarn about that Sunday on the coal tip in Wigan. Sadly those days came to an end. My kid brother died of cancer in 1997 and Jed passed on in 2003. So I’m telling you now. But I did have a moment of schadenfreude earlier this year that cheered me – for about fifteen seconds.
I was in a pub called the Dirty South in Lewisham. The DJ was playing a lot of pretty – by the standards of the people in the pub – obscure music. I think the DJ finished with something by the Dead. Anyway not long after the set finished the DJ slumped down in a seat next to me. I turned to him and thanked him for the music and asked if he had ever seen the Dead. I pompously informed him I had seen them at Bickershaw. The DJ replied that he had been a kid when Bickershaw took place and I felt well Glyn at least you can go to your grave happy to have seen the Dead at the height of their creative powers (American Beauty must be one of the finest albums ever produced) – this poor sucker can only listen to them on vinyl! But my new friend wasn’t finished. He said that although he hadn’t seen the Dead at Wigan in 1972 the Dead had been to see his band when they had played San Francisco! Turned out the DJ was Rev’d D Wayne Love from the Alabama Three! Hey, you know once an idiot always an idiot.
So my Bickershaw began in a pub in Cardiff and I was still talking about it in a pub in Lewisham thirty five years later. If I live another thirty five years I’ll still be talking about it. Perhaps when l get to heaven my three square yards of space will be a reclaimed coal tip with the Dead playing Tennessee Jed. Perhaps I’ll have to go to hell and listen to the likes of Captain Beyond and Aerosmith for ever and ever……………………………
Glyn – south Wales
© Keith Liggins
© Keith Liggins
I’d taken the overnight boat from Belfast to Heysham and hitchhiked from there.
I don’t remember anything during daylight.
Captain Beefheart was astonishing. I’d expected a loose shambolic sort of band, not the tight, professional outfit that played that night.
I seem to remember Rocket Morton in a white suit, alone on stage, playing the intro from "When it blows it stacks"
Also, "Alice in Blunderland" which, on record, I’d considered a fairly complex instrumental, was played note perfectly.
It all took a turn for the weird after I was given a black micro dot.
I watched the Grateful Dead through a hole in one of the big marquees at the back of the site.
Jerry Garcia’s guitar notes plucking at my solar plexus like huge rusty fish hooks. The mud, rain and my acid induced anxiety, all conspired to make the ’Dead’ sound like the biggest, corniest C+W band in the whole universe. I wanted it all to end, but they played for what seemed like an eternity.
I awoke the next morning to a grey psychedelic Paschendale. Behind my tent a band played on the open top of a double decker bus. I think they’d been playing all night. They were pretty damn good. I discovered they were the ‘Children of God’ and for a brief moment of comedown psychosis I considered joining them.
I helped a guy to push his car out of a quagmire, the wheels spun, and I got covered from head to foot in mud.
I had to hitch up the M6 in that state, I didn’t even have a change of clothes. I was 19.
just surprisingly come across the DVD - who would have guessed Bickershaw on DVD !
Anyway I was there with my girlfriend at that time and we stayed at her sister`s terrace house in Hindley green (I think that`s the name) I`m not sure whether we went on all the days but I can remember seeing Family, The Kinks, Grateful dead, New riders and Donovan.I remember being near the stage on the right when the Kinks were playing and looking up at Ray Davies. I remember thinking that it was a different line up to the `You Really Got Me` line up.
The guy in Grateful Dead (Bob Weir I think) was wearing a kind of home knitted pattern jumper which i thought really didn`t fit the rock star image but it was different. They played a l...o....n....g l...o...n...g time. I wondered how come a band from the US chose to play near Wigan!
I was in a band at the time based in Bolton and I remember our van driver saying that if we took our gear we might get a chance to play. So we did but we didn`t play! I remember the mud but have clear memory of the so called security guards on the entrances (or even holes in the fence I think) charging us a £5 to get in and them pocketing the money. These are my immediate memories. I`ll look forward to seeing the dvd sometime.
Proof I was there!
© Gordon Brockley
I have just been looking at the site and it brings back great memories! I was 17 when I went to Bickershaw with a friend. It was the first time that either of us had been to a festival so we did not know what to expect. We were totally unprepared, no tents, no sleeping back some money and the clothes that we had on! My dad dropped us near the site, a long way from Warwickshire.
The weather was dreadful but it really didn't matter we had a great time and what an adventure.
The line up was brilliant all the people that I liked then, and now!
I remember the Kinks as Ray Davies nearly fell off the stage. When Donovan played the sun came out, which did seem appropriate.Where can you see such a line up for so little these days?
I remember that some guys took pity on us and we crashed in the back of their car on the Saturday night.
The journey home was very "steamy" for my dad anyway, what a state we were in, but happy? Oh yeah!
When we went to Lincoln later that month, we were more prepared - tent, sleeping bags everything. We pitched up on the Friday night in a gale. We met some great lads next to us from Southport, Manfred was the guy that I became friends with, thought him and his name were great, wonder where he is now?
I have strong memories of lying in my tent watching One Eyed Jacks on the big screen in the middle of the night! Again fantastic line up, stand outs were Rory Gallagher, Stone the Crows, but I loved the whole thing. At 54 would I do it again? You bet!!
The infamous pool © Keith Liggins
I came across a Bickershaw web site a few years ago and it sure brought back fond memories. I also came across Jeremy Beadle's autobiography in a secondhand book shop (50p) which had a chapter devoted to the festival. Then a chum sent me a link to a site that was selling a DVD of the festival. I bought a copy which was very spooky to watch. There is an interview with Jeremy on the DVD which I remember well. The interviewer was one Austin Mitchell, then working for ITV. Jeremy asked me to go along with him to the interview. I got asked a few questions but they seem to have cut that from the film. I was standing just to Jeremy's left and it is me that he is smiling at when on several occasions he looks away from the camera and grins.
As I said below, I was doing a PhD at UMIST in 1972 when Jeremy Beadle asked me to help organise a rock festival at a place I had never heard of – Bickershaw. I don't think Beadle was a student then. He was working for Time Out who had sent him to Manchester to see if a Time Out in Manchester was viable. He started hanging out with me and my chums and talked me into helping out with the festival. Little was I to know that it would become my home for over three weeks! Jeremy and a few others had lined up Harry Bilkus to provide land for the festival. The original plans were very grand – an amazing stage was built which could cater for three bands being set up at the same time. Apart from the rock line up, we planned to have all sorts of other entertainment including a jazz/arts tent. Harry fancied himself as the British Max Yasger and as I recall, strolled around in a cape and fedora and called himself Count Harry Bilkus.
Anyway, my job was to put the jazz/arts programme together. The acts had been booked and once the marquee was erected, I was presented with a pile of scaffolding, wood, lights and sound equipment and expected to get on with it. By this point, money was running out! I managed to build a stage single-handed and erect the lights. I think I got a bit of help with the sound system. The only act I remember was the Ken Campbell Roadshow who were excellent and very funny. It was 1972 and I was getting more and more stoned as the days went on! When I first got to Bickershaw, some of us slept in the pub/hotel and there was this really funny guy who had been hired to cook for all of us. I can't remember his name which is a shame as we got really friendly. Once the the lights and sound equipment was in place in the marquee, someone talked me into sleeping there to guard it all during the actual festival.
Some friends of mine ran a wholefood café in Manchester called On the Eighth Day and I talked them into cooking their great wholesome food at the festival. They duly arrived with all their gear and managed to keep going for three or four days. They decided to name their stall after me - what an honour! It was called Joe's Café and I was Joe! I've lost touch with Brian Livingstone who founded On the Eighth Day and was a great guy. He was a solicitor and used to defend all the hippies who got busted in Manchester.
Security was a nightmare and the cash ran out before we had generators for electricity. Jeremy did a deal with some dubious guys from Liverpool who came up with the money for the generators in exchange for control of security. They then hired a load of locals who could be easily bribed to gain admission to the festival for next to nothing.
I notice on the web site under band line ups you list Tom MacMasters and Friends but have no other information. Tom was sort of a friend of mine who I got onto the Friday bill as there weren''t many acts available. Tom was from Manchester and was an excellent guitarist (he had a lovely Martin guitar) and singer/songwriter much in the mold of Roy Harper. The last I heard of him, he was working at the University of Salford. The friends just consisted of this gorgeous hippy lady who liked to dance while musicians played. You can see her on the DVD dancing in the background during Donovan's set. She just wandered on stage and did her thing. I must be getting old as we used to hang out together but I can't remember her name.
Happy memories include watching an amazing set by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band from backstage and sharing a joint or three with Jerry Garcia. The Dead had a guy whose job was to roll joints for them. I was amazed that the Dead insisted on a central space where anyone could stand and record the gig. I work for the Open University and am actively involved in open educational resources, open source software and new web business models such as Freemium. The Dead were the first people I ever met who understood that you could give something away and still make money from it. I have used this story around the world when I give presentations about this stuff. I have a great picture of my student union card from 1972 which I use in case anyone wonders what a respectable person like me was doing being involved in running a rock and roll festival.
The Dead played for hours and during the interval, I came across a miserable Jeremy Beadle. The poor guy was stone cold sober – this was not the place for a sober man.
I have fond memories of those days and even though I have grey hair and grandchildren – I am still a long haired freak at heart. Happy to share more memories with you.
According to recollections after Family and the Kinks at Bickershaw (I don't remember the piano heading of stage with the full force of gravity) I curled up to sleep during the Flaming Groovies. There was this big tent where people kind of mingled and in my case crashed. I always thought I slept through Dr John. (I recently saw both his sets at the Byron Blues fest). It appears that I slept through Cpt. Beefheart. That is way worse. Capt Beefheart has entered into the land of myth & legend. Oh well.
Mind you I did catch some of the circus acts and the Dead the following day. I was woken by a colliery brass band. As well as the Everly Brothers you can hear Beatles harmonies in those Northern Brass bands.
On the saturday I only had £1.50 left and 8 black microdot so when a friendly hippie asked me could he score I negotiated 5 microdot for £4 " happy days food and drink" he gave me the fiver and I gave him £1 change we said our cheery goodbyes and departed, I unfolded the fiver to discover I was the proud owner of a 500 yen bank note [ not worth shite ] the thing that really hurt was that I gave him £1 change ; leaving me with a miserable 50p. But I hold no malice to this "!hippie gentleman" he taught me a valuable lesson in life # never ever trust someone who takes drugs !!!!!!!!!?
Your Bickershaw site mentions the Stage designed by Ian Knight, of Roundhouse fame.
Ian was one of the Stage managers at Bickershaw as well, I was the other.
Ian died in April 2010
A whole bunch of us from the Roundhouse team came up for the festival Jeff Dexter & John & Marianne Cadbury working on the Stage for example.
Ian was working on production almost up to the time he died.
Bickershaw was certainly on of the wettest festivals above and below.
© Keith Liggins
I was at Bickershaw festival as a member of the audience, so may have more to add later, but have only just come across your site, partly because a friend lent me the DVD of Bickershaw festival the other day.
However: in relation to Dr John's line up, you say
"But this is definitely innacurate, as there are mentions of a brass section and female singers in the music papers and images of them in my memory banks"
By a complete coincidence I was having a drink with Anthony Ryan-Carter (aka Tosh Ryan of Rabid Records etc.) two days ago, and mentioned Bickershaw, and he said he was in Dr John's brass section, along with Victor Brox.
Unfortunately, although Tosh had rehearsed with Dr John for this set, and was quite a good sax player, he became paralyzed with fear at the point of stepping onto the stage, so remained at the edge of the stage, and never actually played, although Victor did. This paralysis came about because backstage Dr John had provided a shoe box full of extremely strong 'Acapulco gold' for the band, and Tosh had overdone it.
best wishes for your website
Hi, Paul is my name and I was there.
I"d been down in Morroco for the winter with a bunch of Ausie surfers I'd met in Newquay. I met a couple down there - Don and Annie - who told me about the festival. I got back to London in the spring of '72 and met up with the two Brians, one who lived in North London and dealt in various substances for peoples abuse.
Brian had a chrome yellow Commer van and was going to Bickershaw - for the festival and to do a little business. I stayed at his house for about 5 days then a bunch of us headed north for Wigan with one 8 track "Thick as a Brick". There were 5 or 6 of us all with our minds in an altered state in the back while Brian drove. At on point on the M1 we were stopped by the Bobbys, checked out and told to enjoy t' festival!
We arrived at the site only to find we were a day early and told to come back tomorrow. We drove around for a bit then Brian drove up to a second gate, chatted with some one, then we drove in. Turns out the guy on the gate asked Brian what band we were, so Brian being very sharp, told him and in we went. It was the performers compound ! We were there for the whole five days, didn't pay to get in and had quite a time with various "performers" sampling Brians wares.
Now realise my mind was in an altered state the whole time I was there so I don't recall much. However I do remember Donovan playing in a brief moment of sunshine. Dr John booging the night away. The Captain introducing "The Spotlight Kid" and Rocket M peeling off the gloves, lighting a cigar and playing an amazing bass solo. Country Jo doing "1-2-3 what are we fighting for......" The New Riders playing into the sunset and the Grateful Dead playing Dark Star - ah the days of the loooooong solos. And the fireworks!
It was a great time. EVERYONE we met there had a good time - we're English, the rain didn' bother us!
Hello, Have just found your site. I drove to Bickershaw from south Manchester, with friends, in my Reliant three wheeler. We spent most of the day walking around the perimeter fence looking for a way to get in without having to pay. I remember a pub close by where a man, standing outside, was trying to convert people to christianity. There was also a red double decker bus being used by by a Christian group who were giving out food to hungry hippies. My friend was turned away because he looked too healthy and well fed.
We did eventually find a gap in the fence and my friends got in but I hesitated and security men rushed over to plug the hole. I then paid to get in and joined my friends at the front. Between acts we sat on the scaffolding under the stage. I can only remember two of the groups: Captain Beefheart and a group that I have always remembered as the Eagels but was recently told they were, I think, Hawkwind. I seem to remember that the lead singer, if not the whole group were dressed in white or light clothing.
I also attended two Buxton festivals and will have a look for similar websites as I filmed Wishbone Ash with my little super eight cine camera.
All the best
I remember Bickershaw
Some bits are now vague, like how I got there - I think I came up from South Wales with friends but, if I did, I lost them right from the off. Then I met my little brother the first afternoon, but never found him again. Next I set up my small tent and left rucksack and sleeping-bag there.
The rest of the festival is a total blank until the last night, apart a vague memory, which could be a false one, of Hawkwind playing in a tent away from the main stage. I wasn’t impressed and didn’t stay. This is strange as there were a load of acts I really wanted to see, especially Beefheart and the Magic Band, who were top of my wish list.
In fact, I didn’t even remember them being there until my brother told me recently he’d seen them. On the other hand, if they played at 4am, as your site states, I may have crashed.
What I do remember of the first night was wandering around desperately for hours trying to find my tent in the forest of identical ones that had sprung up around it. I don’t know if I ever did, but I did have my sleeping-back and rucksack later, so I must have, but not that night which ended sleeping in my clothes in some kind of communal marquee.
Normally such complete incompetence and amnesia would be blamed on the drugs, but I wasn’t that out of it - certainly not as much as I had been before.
It’s a mystery, explainable only by frustration, cold and damp, which was finally relieved on the Sunday when someone told me there was a shop in the village itself that was selling hot meat’n tattie pies and tea. I needed the nourishment, so went to look. I found the shop - the pie was fantastic, not overpriced and washed down with a mug of good Lancashire tea, it revived my spirits completely.
On my way back to the site, I found a small group of festival-goers queuing outside the village hall, who were going in for a beer. Seemed like a good idea, so I joined them, feeling somewhat sceptical about getting in. There was no problem - don’t even think they charged us or not much.
Even more surprising was that the place was heaving with a large number of festivalistas already there and happily chatting to the locals. I’d just had time to buy a pint before the shout went up “Quiet! Eyes down for a full house!” and the bingo began with a fair few freaks joining in. I didn’t and headed back to the site after finishing my drink.
I wasn’t unaccustomed to the friendliness of North Country people but I’d never seen a town, invaded by a rock festival crowd, welcome it so openly as did Bickershaw. They were amazing, so it was very pleasant that, when the Grateful Dead opened on the last night, the organisers had brought in a load of locals and their kids to the fenced-off zone next to the stage so they could watch the fireworks. Was a nice touch.
Meanwhile I was sat on the ground amongst what I realised was sedge! There have been muddier gigs than that, but this was a flood meadow! No wonder it was so cold and damp. I don’t recall either how I got home afterwards, but will never forget the blinder the Dead played, nor the beautiful people of that small mining community who restored my faith in humanity.
Richard Anthony, Exeter
© Keith Liggins
Stayed from the Friday night to the Monday morning, my abiding memory is that even though it rained a lot I really enjoyed it. I was into West Coast bands and to see the Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Country Joe playing in Wigan was unbelievable. I found your sight a few days ago and talking about it with my wife she reminded me about the circus acts, a guy diving into a blazing tub from a great act and a guy riding a bike on a high wire above the crowd, amazing. The gates where open to the public on the Sunday afternoon as it was obvious nobody had been paying to get in anyway as the security were taking backhanders, local middle aged couples where jiving to the Grateful Dead right by the front of stage and I can clearly remember Country Joe playing a great set on the Sunday afternoon. I got home on the Monday afternoon, starving and caked in mud but had a great time.
© Chris McHugo
Hi my name is brian i was living in hindley at the time about four miles away i walked it over the fields and down the railway line. as i recall it was boggy but great i went with a mate .
at the time i was only twenty two dont remember paying to get in as someone said go round and walk through which we did.
I remember the residents did not want the event to go ahead but plenty of them made a lot of money selling tea and coffee,sandwiches, and chips, if only to be there again.
live in standish now pass the festival site many times on way to leigh and still recall the music and people around.
Somehow we got there early on the Friday afternoon. We had tickets and everything we needed. No weekend hippies among us, we had gear, and put up a little tent about 30 feet away from the stage. They used to call me jungle jerry because I knew how to camp. There was a twisted tree, not far from the stage. My friend Gypsy Rye said "thank you tree for being there", and handed out some acid. The whole thing was incredible. we saw it all up from very close, saw Donovan slip in the mud giggling. Saw Captan Beefhearts whole show leaning on the front of the stage! most amazing thing I ever saw, his voice still haunts me to this day. I remember him playing two horns at once. who can do that? he shouted "leave that alone man" at someone who had climbed up to the high speakers and seemed pissed off at some point. The day of the acid trip I think it was the string band playing when a little guy in a business coat came and sat down and said, "that's the biggest cigarette I've ever seen" Then I guess he was some kinda religious fanatic and told me I had the mark of the beast and I was evil. It sort of freaked me out. I walked away and there were some performers pretending to cough up blood which seemed all too real. A guy in a stripy clown suit picked up a burning dog end, took a drag an then vomited blood down his beard.. Maybe it was a hallucination. Then the kinks came on and somehow we decided to move camp. We couldn't take the crush anymore, right up at the stage, so we moved all the way to the other side of the field and set up as the dead came on and watched, danced and lit a fire. Wow by the monday morning we were wasted tramps, but we all headed back to my cottage in Wales with huge grins, glazed eyes, all caked in Bickershaw mud, and still plenty of hash for the ride. i'd love to see a film of the festival, and for sure will order a tee shirt.
I went to a Captain Beefheart retrospective here in Hollywood recently. Too much to tell. It's another story. But it was a great tribute with some of his surviving band members talking and playing and telling the story of what a mad unpredictable genius the Captain was, and this still gorgeous red headed woman who had become his manager at some point, telling stories, how Beefheart asked her with a grin if she wanted to feel something warm.
Thanks for a great site and info.
A little background - me and a few friends had been to (2 or was it 3 ?) Dead Wembley shows.
Some other friends had gone from London to Wigan earlier. We were in our flat in Ealing and kept wondering how the Dead would be on the Sunday. So at around 03.00 Sunday morning we piled into my mini and drove to Bickershaw arriving about 08.00 on Sunday morning.
We managed to get close to the fence near the stage. Enjoy. Part 1 - part 2 to follow.
went to Bickershaw festival with my friend from college, we were 17 at the time. We both met up with friends and spent time with them as well as together, I remember the mud. I remember the Kinks, Captain Beefheart, Hawkwind, but one of the best acts for me was Cheech and Chong. I’d never heard of them until then. We laughed so much, they were great. I bought their albums. I’ve only ever been to one festival, it was great, I loved the experience.
© Chris McHugo
I was in my first year at Manchester University, just a short train ride to Bickershaw. I was already a confirmed Dead Head (still am) and this was a unique chance to see them, since they so rarely came to the UK. And of course a lot of other great bands, some of whom I'd seen at the Isle of Wight a couple of years earlier.
The train was full of freaks and other festival goers. I walked up and down selling acid. Very good pure stuff on blotting paper. Ten shillings a hit. I apologize if anyone felt ripped off, because it was hard to control the quantity dropped on to each square of paper. But my girlfriend and I kept the crystallized stuff for ourselves!
There's a lot I don't remember about the festival. I was walking around a lot, selling. For instance, if asked I'd have sworn that I'd never seen Cheech and Chong. But I remember plenty of the other acts.
We were pretty close to the front - close to the giant mess of wet in front of the stage! What I remember most clearly, as I'm sure do plenty of others, was that it was constantly raining and wet - not that it mattered a bit: everyone was SO HAPPY to be there - until just as New Riders came on, when the sky cleared into a glorious sunset. And then the Dead came on, playing their hearts out as usual. Outstanding! I've only managed to see them one other time (Wembley, 1990).
I was pretty much out of my gourd, really into the music and the whole vibe. Had a great case of mind meld at one point: people were calling out for certain songs to be played, and Bob Weir responded. I don't remember what he said, but it was perfect and I called out 'Right on!' - and at exactly the same moment another chap off to my left called out 'Right on!' in exactly the same tone of voice and at exactly the same moment. We looked at each other; it was a perfect moment.
Bickershaw gave me one of the highlight experiences of my young life. I will never forget it.
© Chris McHugo
I just popped into your site after my wife asked me what was the craziest festival I went to.
Bickershaw won by a mile.
Memories: The Dead, the rain, drunken Ray Davis, the rain, the Brass Band, the rain, Dr- John and the swamp in front of the stage after they emptied the water-tank, the rain, lots of acid.
When Dr.John came on stage in his 'moon' outfit holding a wand full of glitter, my brother was sitting on the front of the stage completely off his box, with his legs dangling over the edge.
Dr. John walked to the front and sang, "They call me Dr- John, the night tripper...", then tapped my brother over the head with the wand. The glitter fell out in front of his eyes (God lnows what he saw), he just said, "Wow", and fell straight off the stage face-first into the mud.
That night he hung up his clothes over the tent-string to dry. The next morning his clothes were gone.
The tents were also cleaned out by thieves on the Monday as the festival was closing.
The rain... but a big hand of aplause for the Red Cross tent, and the folks in the village selling hot tea from their doorsteps.
It was great looking at the site, reading the memories and looking at VERY wet people.
I have no idea how i got there, but remember the last bit, a local gave us (me and mate Sue) a lift to the site. He said don’t jump up and down too much it’s an old coalfield. This is one of the few festivals I remember some of the bands I was usually off me nut on acid. Yes grateful dead we did the can-can and sang along, dr john, beefy, country joe, I managed to go up the front for donovan, it was very muddy so that must have been after the high diver. We didn’t understand why that happened. I have been convinced that canned heat played too must have been somewhere else. it’s a blur. Later I settled down and did a PhD in biophysics hahahahaha
I was in my last year of teacher training college, loved music and had been invited by a guy to attend Bickershaw with him - arranging to meet him there. When I arrived, I found him with another woman, so I took off on my own. I had no tent, knew no-one, but had the best weekend ever and am hooked on outdoor festivals/gigs for life! Yes, it rained nearly all the time and the mud was really bad (especially when wearing loons!), but the music was the best line-up I've ever seen.
I remember dancing on, what seemed like, a boxing ring next to the main stage when Hawkwind were playing, loving the Incredible String Band, Family and the Kinks, and many others, and trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep in a plastic lined paper sack provided by the organisers!
I finally managed to get a bit of sleep on the Sunday and woke up in time to hear New Riders and Grateful Dead in the sunshine! Bliss!
I left the festival caked in mud and exhausted, but it was a life changing experience and I'm so glad I was there.
I was the sound engineer for Mike Westbrook at the time. I think the other members of the band included George Kahn on sax and Alan Jackson on Drums.
The site was already pretty muddy on the Friday morning when Mike performed. Then there was a high dive act where a guy jumped into a small round tank of water. When he had finished he simply let the water out which flooded the audience in front of the stage.
Also remember a Jaguar car getting stuck in the mud and the usual groupies hanging round the stage.
We didn’t stay to see much but it was better organised than the earlier Phun City Festival where I had performed my lightshow.
Thanks for bringing back the memories.
Love & peace
just read your article about the magic band at bickershaw festival. Very interesting.
A link from The Magic Band page on Facebook took me there (tonight). It was uncanny, because I had written this on the FB page:
"I was working at that festival (1972) and the Magic Band were great. (Before, or after, The Kinks, 3 or 4am.) The stage seemed huge and I particularly remember Mark and Bill's routine on King Bee, with Mark weaving across the front of stage with the buzzing bass and scampering back again when Bill played the "sting" on electric guitar.
The theatre group I was with went across in advance from Leeds to Manchester to get advance payment. The main organizer was a student, and totally out of his depth dealing with the Rock Business. Before the festival ended he ran away; the pressure was too much for him!
When it was over, I went up on the stage at night and looked out at the desolate sea of rubbish and sodden ground. The guy I was travelling with, we couldn't leave because the truck had sunk into the mud and wouldn't budge. Also, his dog ran away during the festival when there were fireworks, and never reappeared.
Ah - the glamour of show biz!"
Then I read your article and added on FB:
"This is really odd. In my post in this thread, I relate how my friend's dog disappeared when there were fireworks at Bickershaw Festival. And now I just read the article via the link here. Reading on, Don mentions a collie which barks and wanders onto the stage. My friend's dog was a collie."
The "theatre group" we were with was called Welfare State, based then in Leeds, and moving to Lancashire in 1973. I forget how we got the lorry off site. The AA refused to come to our aid, so I suppose we must have eventually paid a farmer with a tractor.
I haven't heard any of the recordings of this show, but I do clearly remember "I'm your King Bee" being performed, because it was so theatrical.
Another northern theatre / performance group there was the John Bull Puncture Repair Kit. Sometimes their work was quite extreme, and Bickershaw was no exception. In the area we would now call the mosh pit, they had previously buried something in the ground. During one of the afternoons they arrived there with a wheelbarrow and wearing hard hats. Digging with spades they claimed to be digging up a bomb. Many of the people near by were very stoned, so must have been fairly bemused. A metal object was discovered, and soon afterwards there was a loud explosion, sending the object flying upwards. At that moment I was in the area backstage, where there were caravans and so on. This metal thing looking like a colander had soared above right over the whole stage and hit the ground not far from where I was standing. All good fun, ay?
Dave George Holland
Just found your site. Me and my son were watching BB4 old guitar heroes. And it brought back memories of Bickershaw.
I was a 10 year old at the time living in Leigh. Me and friends played in the fields at the back of our houses which boarded the festival site. It was the sound I really remember and I was determined to go.
I walked to the festival from my home. It was about a mile is so.
When I got near the site I remember people sitting on plastic sheets on the road side. I sat down with them. Again it was the sound of the music.
I wandered into the site itself but didn't stay long. As a young girl it was a bit scarey but good to?
I wandered home and got in loads of trouble for being out so long.
Hey guys ..I was there..memories?...I spent 3 days and nights mainly on my back staring into space. .people would stop and spend a few moments talking with me...I was known as "the guy who couldn't move"..I used to think it was the strength of the dope but looking back I think I had a virus not helped by hitchhiking 250 miles in relentless rain and sleeping in a muddy field for 3 days..I do remember though the 50 ft sheet of polythene that was home to many of us ..and the guitar solo that seemed to last for hours from Grateful Dead at the end..couldn't do it now at 69..but proud to be amongst the festival pioneers of the lats 60's - early 70's...thanks to all those that stopped to talk to me...love and peace...
© Chris McHugo
On your Bickershaw web page I notice you have the Flamin Groovies set list, but not the complete band line-up. The missing members are James Ferrell, guitar, George Alexander, bass; Danny Mihm, drums.
T Burke Edwards, Napa, California
" leave that alone man, leave those things alone. "
I confess I only found your website recently. I was stirred to find out more after all this time by finding out by accident that Jeremy Beadle organised the Bickershaw affair.
This came as a bit of a surprize to me. I shall have a much deeper look later tonight.
Anyway, the explanation for the comments is an old friend of mine, Big Bob Ireland, who, totally gassed, managed to find himself on the back apron of the stage.
It is unclear how this came about as he was basically operating on auto-pilot, his brain having fled for safety. The same can be said about the group of friends who had come with him, but that is another story.
He attempted to piss at the back of the stage, at which point the Captain got hacked off and shouted at him. Apparently Bob then made his exit via the opening where the equipment was being hauled up to he stage but suffered no damage being as limp as lettuce.
The sudden ejaculation from the Captain roused me from my prone drunken position in the crowd and left me wondering what went on. It was only later I found out what had happened from the people who had been around Bob at the time.
I travelled there on my BSA DBD34 Clubmans Goldstar, leaning it against the back of a friends transit. I had already shot home on Saturday after the Friday night for a bath (fell in a drainage ditch Friday night after too much beer and too many hotdogs) and returned Saturday afternoon in time for, I presume, the Incredibles and certainly Donovan, who was very good.
When I decided to leave on the Sunday, the Goldie would not start (probably the damp) and it took me some time to coax it into life. This hold up proved to be unfortunate for a couple of people who had been travelling in the transit, as the delay in me moving the bike allowed some Police to stick their heads into the Trannie and bust them.
They have not spoken to me since.
I was 20 in 72 and the only other festival I had been to was Weeley (which was great). I and a couple of mates cadged a lift to Bickershaw from a chap we vaguely knew but who had a 3.2 ltr Jaguar with leather seats and everything. He took us on the understanding that we would share the cost of fuel, which we did to the best of our limited ability. We drove to Bickershaw from Rochester in Kent.
We spent most of the journey stoned so it passed fairly quickly. The driver didn't smoke which was probably just as well. We arrived at the site early Friday afternoon in pouring rain, and found a parking space and a place to pitch our tent shortly after. None of us had tickets so the first task was to see if we could figure a way to get into the arena.
After darkness had fallen on Friday night my friends and I joined other bands of hippies patrolling the perimeter fence, which was high and made of corrugated iron sheets buried about 12 inched in the ground and supported by scaffolding on the inside. By pure good luck we arrived at a place where someone had managed to bend the metal just enough for people to squeeze through. We were mindful that there were security thugs patrolling the inside of the fence for this very situation, and so we squeezed through and then scattered and ran through the darkness into the crowds. We knew that the gap would be found and closed fairly quickly, but I estimste thst 20 to 30 people gained admission before the gap was closed. Once inside the arena it was possible to come and go as much as you liked because the gatekeepers gave out pass cards each time you went to leave the arena.
I remember lots of joints, at least one little tablet, lots of music, crowds, rain and mud, and lots of plastic sheeting.
One iconic moment for me was during Donovans set. He was singing, and a dancer was dancing high up behind him when the setting sun suddenly bursst through the clouds right behind the dancer. It was a beautiful moment,
It may have been cold and wet but I didn't really notice. I remember a fantastically enjoyable festivalm and I will always be glad that I managed to get there.
I heard that a krishna guy got beat up at Bickershaw and a burger van or stand was robbed. On the good side, the sax player from hawkwind was wandering round the audience with an oriental / cleopatra looking woman on either arm, and it was a complete gas to see local pit village skinhead girls take their ties off and wear them as headbands during the Dead set. It was one of the most interesting audiences I have ever seen. i was fifteen and the skin girls were younger than me, it was the crombie / two tone trousers period, button nosed mill girls like pubescent lisa stansfields. No skinhead males, but I bet one or two snuck in in disguise, a woolly hat and a camo jacket and no one would have noticed them. There were recognisable plain clothes cops there.
The View from the Mud: One
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Updated June 2021