The Archive.


Big thanks to our sponsor Neil !

For information on today's festivals see

Best viewed at 1920 x 1080 min resolution.

Updated June 2019- new photos and newslatters 1982-83.

The Elephant Fayre .

Port Eliot .

St Germans. Cornwall.

July 29th - 31st .1983.

The Cure , Clint Eastwood and General Saint, Black Roots, Roy Harper, Robin Williamson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Wilko Johnson, Earl Okin Ivor Cutler ,Adrian Henri

and a host of others.



Who dem dreads idren ? Anyone know if this is Clint Eastwood or Black Roots ? © Mick West

A documentary was made of the 83 festival called Lazy Daze, does anyone have a copy ?

Benjamin Zephaniah onstage Elephant Fayre 1983

Photos © Mick West

   The third Elephant Fayre was even bigger than the 1982 bash and was split into three distinct nights of entertainment . Friday was clearly Reggae Night .

   At the moment we have lots of photos of 1983 but no eye witness accounts . The weather was hot, people were divided on how good the Cure were , and there is no mention of traveler troubles in the press reports.

I asked Mick West how he got such good photos of the artists , did he have a press pass?

."No press pass, smallish festival, just got a close as I could in the audience, 135mm telephoto on a Pentax, volume up against Siouxsies speakers was intense!! My wife was in a support dance troupe , so I was in the performers camp site and had no knowledge of the convoy people till told afterwards. Think the reggae band is more likely Black Roots??...Clint Eastwood were more show biz and no sign of Courtney Pine on sax either (he was backing eastwood)"


Courtesy Bob Butler .

Courtesy Bob Butler .

Courtesy Bob Butler .

Cover of the 1983 programme -courtesy Bob Butler .


Andrew A wrote

That's nice. Brings back old memories.
I took my children and a friend with child and we borrowed a Landy from my dad and camped out for the three days. That was the 83 one I think, headlined by Clint Eastwood and General Saint.

I got a little story about that. As you know they are all Rastas including the crew and when they travelled down on their bus they were well aware that they were a target for a police raid. Sure enough they were stopped just outside Exeter and the bus was turned out and found to be clean. However they had used a spot of intelligence and sent their stash on ahead in a car with their women.

The Elephant Fayre was always held to raise funds for Amnesty International. I can't remember the amounts but Perry handed over quite a wedge at one point.

I'll see if I can turn up anything else. There was a Festival newspaper with various schedule changes and other news. That was written and printed on the premises, somehow.

Elephant Stage © chris hewitt




Benjamin Zephaniah © Mick West

I found my old Elephant Fayre t-shirt from the 1983 Festival this morning while going through boxes of stuff, as one does.
I hit the internet and found your site.

    I worked at the 1983 show. I'm an expat Cornishman, living in New Zealand, and at the time was technical manager for our Sweetwaters festivals (1979-1984). We had had a very good year so the boss gave me a round-the-world air ticket and told me to have fun, go and see other festivals, and see what ideas I could bring home. I had just finished working for Mike Eavis up at Glastonbury 83, of all things managing the construction of his toilet blocks. It doesn't sound like a glamorous occupation but if you've ever been to a rock festival you cannot understate the value of a good clean place to go for a poo...
I met up with a guy called Charlie, who used to run (along with his overcute daughters), a catering caravan called the El Alamein Mobile Cafeteria. Charlie cooked meals for the site crew, and delicacies and drinks far into the night for those with the cash. At Charlies I met a couple of Cornishmen on the crew, who were heading down to the Elephant and suggested I come south.
I hadn't been back to Cornwall for twenty years, so off I went.

Roy Harper



Rip, Rig and Panic

    After a bit of hard talking with the site staff, I ended up working there as a festival volunteer. When I got to the site there were about thirty or so people there, and it was one of the most beautiful places I had been to. Since there were so few there, we were free to go where we wished. The grounds were fascinating, with the ruins and the overgrown paths and gardens.
For the first day or so I was moving stuff from point A to point B until I got put on the fencing crew. Ended up working with a guy doing the scaffolding on the ticket gate - it turned out to be Lord Eliot. He's a good man with a spanner.
When the fences were up someone, naturally, had to keep an eye on them to make sure they stay where you put them and that not too many people jump over them - very painful on a picket fence...
Thus passed the first day and night. I think I 'helped' about a dozen people stay outside the fence.



stunt riders

The stately home

    I ended up working as security at the Theatre tent, which was mostly good fun except when Ivor Cutler took the floor. Most everyone at the Fayre wanted to go and see him, and the tent wasn't big enough by half. I ended up being Mr Nasty on the door, and somehow managed to keep what seemed like half the festival outside the tent and in reasonable humour. Not the easiest shift I've done. The theatre team were very impressed and literally passed the hat round on the spot, which was amazing as volunteer's pay isn't much.
The Stunt was quite amazing - the photo doesn't quite do it justice.

One serious mohawk

    Just on sunset an African band there set the crowd alight. They were supposed to play on a small stage in the village, but to my suprise walked off it into the middle of the crowd and set up there on the grass.
"Where we come from there are no musicians" said the bandleader. "We have never played to an audience in our lives. Instead, in our villages, we all make the music". They divided us up into different groups, each clapping or singing different parts, and we partied, sang, and danced for hours.

The Big Top © chris hewitt

The mudman © chris hewitt

Trailer Stage © chris hewitt

A whicker Elephant never forgets !

© chris hewitt

    I saw a bit of the Cure - not much though, as we had some exciting times with people coming over the picket fence. By the time that was sorted, I'd ended up by Port Eliot House, which had an ivy covered stone wall between the estate and the village. I was just having a pee in the flowerbed when a grapnel came whistling over the wall and caught in the ivy about four metres above ground. I said something rude, and was moving toward the wall when one of the bushes nearby got up, climbed the wall, cut the rope with a knife, climbed back down, grinned at me, and went back to being a bush again. Lord Eliot, as befitting one of his station, had a small detachment of army squaddies for his personal security, and they had this area well under control. Very handy people to have on your side on a dark night. I promised the bush I'd find somewhere else to pee and left them to their job.

The stage -early eighties © Ben

    Much of the rest of the show was a blur. Large numbers of interesting molecules were loose in my brain and it was August before I really noticed.
I left after about another day of rolling up fence sections and hitched my way back up to London and a bath.
Johnny Irons

I remember the elephant fayre. It was a lovely, lovely festival!
We were students from the Plymouth College of Art. The atmosphere was relaxed and the weather was very hot!
I remember wondering down the hill one morning after having woken up in my stiflingly hot tent and spotting this geodesic tent called the `Pleasure Dome`...
I handed over my 50p and was given a heavy thick blue plastic bag. I stripped off and put my clothes in the bag.
I walked around into the main part of the dome where there were wooden pallets with rows of shower nozzles and all of these people taking a refreshing shower.. boys, girls, men, women and everyone was beaming at the fun and novelty of it all!
There were big bass bin speakers directed at the showers, pumping out some righteous reggae and depending what state you were in, it was bloody wonderful!
To top it off just when you thought it couldn't get any better, one of the guys turned on a couple of taps and the water came out blue, then green and red and everyone just freaked out in ecstasy!!
Oh happy times!
Mat Hughes

Hey There!
I’ve been taking a little trip down the 80’s memory lane, and thought I’d send you my recollections of the “83” Elephant Fayre. I’m a California surfer/photographer, and had been traveling around Europe and the UK since September of “82”. I lived with some friends in Folkestone during the spring of “83” and had planned to drive my VW van down to Cornwall for a month of surfing. I had been told about the Elephant Fayre by these friends, so I stopped in on my way down.
The “82” pic by Roger Hutchinson on your page brought back memories, as I recall parking my VW van up on that dirt and brown grass hill. I remember walking around and taking it all in that first afternoon until I ran into the “fair maiden” with the basket of “cookies”. Naturally I bought and ate one, though after an hour or so I wasn’t feeling much, so I found her and bought another one. That’s when the fun really began! I was walking on clouds and just enjoying the vibes of the place.
Late that afternoon I remember stumbling upon the mostly dried up estuary back behind the festival grounds. There were people in varying degrees of dress running out and diving into what was left of the mud on the bottom. People were “swimming” in the mud, plastering it all over each other, and just having a great time with it all!
That night The Cure played, and it was one of the first times I had heard of them. I was still a stumbling fool at that point, but I remember stepping over masses of people that were passed out on the field in front of the stage. Other people were carrying trays with candles and makeshift signs advertising everything from hash to cocaine to LSD for sale. I made my way up to the stage and stood there listening to The Cure and tripping out on Robert Smith. It was a very memorable night.
I’m not sure what time I made it back to my van, or even how I found it, but I recall waking up sometime the next day just as stoned as I was the day before! Somehow I got it together, and continued on my drive down to Porthtowan.
So that’s my memory of the Elephant Fayre. Sorry about the lack of photos, posters, or programs. One never thinks of these things at the time!

Kevin Caldwell

performers © chris hewitt

The theatre tent © chris hewitt


1983 Elephant Fayre
Wow 33 years ago and 15000Km away now.
We were 18 and followed the Cure. One of us I think Tim Bonner, who none of us have seen since really even in this day of the internet, decided we should go.
There was myself Alan Thomas, school friends Grant Hodgson, Stephen Deterville, Ian Stainton, Tim Bonner, Guy Hamblin and a few others that decided that we would somehow get there from the North of England.
I decided to “run the trains” i.e. getting on and not paying for a ticket. I set off with no change of clothes and just what I was wearing and a few quid in my pocket.
I went from Oxenholme station, near Kendal and headed for a friend’s house in London, where I was going to get transferred, or so I thought by his parents to another station to continue my journey.
I actually made it all the way to London without getting checked for a ticket, hiding out in the toilet when the guard came.
In London there was no friend’s parents to pick me up and somehow I made my way to his house, can’t remember if I got a bus or a taxi. I had something to eat there and I know I got a taxi to the station as I was going to catch a late train that would get me near the fayre in the morning.
I spent the night again hiding in the toilets or pretending to be asleep and again was lucky the guard never bothered me.
I cannot remember if the train left at midnight but I know when I got there it was light but early in the morning. Somehow through a tired haze I got to the fayre.
I bought a ticket and went in, hoping to find my friends and desperately in need of some sleep but being 18 still able to keep on going.
I wandered around taking in the sights and sounds, my first open air festival, all the concerts I had attended were at either Lancaster University, where we first saw the Cure when we were 16, or places in Kendal or Manchester.
Someone singled me out and offered to sell me some “grass” I don’t know if it was the real thing but hey I smoked it and had fun anyway. Finally, I actually found Guy who knew where the others were.
He took me along to where the tent was pitched, Stephen had come down on his motorcycle, it was probably only a 250cc but he had loaded it with his camping gear and this is where we would sleep..sort of.
I can remember crashing out somewhere near the main stage as they were setting up, although Tim, Grant and I were close it was me and Guy that seemed to hang out together for the next few days. Somehow somewhere we managed to score our first acid tabs and dropped them together.
Wow first trip I had ever experienced and we wandered around having a great time, alternately talking gibberish to people and being laughed at, seeing things and doing the “flexing the tendons in your hand to turn it into a claw”. Every time I have tripped since I have done this.
Anyway we befriended, pestered?? A couple that had purple sort of Mohawks, they were older than us and I think probably looking after us really.
One tab of acid was amazing so when were given the opportunity to buy another tab then obviously we though that would be even better. It fu*cking well was!!
We somehow found our friends and the purple haired couple, maybe it wasn’t purple maybe that was the acid? At the stage, I remember someone performing what could have been like a spoken word (rap today?) type of song and I am sure it was with the Cure drummer I don’t know why I thought it was Jimmy Pursey but he isn’t listed on the set list (The Acid was great by the wayJ)  as the Cure started their set we were fully UP and bouncing around like idiots. Alternately watching the band and then turning round and watching the crowd.
As a Cure song or the final Cure song finished the light caught the cymbal being hit and I thought a firework had flashed off the stage and hit me in the head. I was convinced even as the purple haired couple picked me up and said I was OK.
Anyway It took Guy and me good knows how long to work our way back to the tent, we were looking at and talking to anything and everything, can remember playing in mud at one point as well.
We made it back to the tent and laid there all of us now off our heads looking at the sky.
After that I cannot remember apart from making it to Crewe on the way home and staying overnight in the station bar as the nice lady took pity on me.
I managed to make it all the way home without a train ticket and then slept for three days.
Elephant Fayre and my acid experience changed my perspective on life and although I have taken it since nothing has compared to that experience at Elephant.
Later my girlfriend at the time saw the documentary somehow, I think they were on holiday down the west country and said that she saw me in it. I never really believed there was a documentary until seeing your page. I would dearly love to get a copy to see an 18-year-old me off my head on acid with my friends.
Brilliant time and probably the best year for the Fayre before the idiot element spoiled it.

Alan Thomas.

Recordings and setlists

The Cure

The Figurehead, In Your House, M, The Drowning Man, Cold, Siamese Twins, Primary, Three Imaginary Boys, At Night, Lament, One Hundred Years, Play For Today, A Forest, Faith, Pornography.
Encores: 10.15 Saturday Night, Killing An Arab, Forever.

Melody Maker Review and photos

NME review and photo

Wilko Johnson, Elephant Fayre 1983 courtesy David Mitchell


Napalm 2 .Walking On Dead Steps .Sandstorm Method .Metal Field .Metal Dance .The Kill .Will To Power

Roy Harper

A recording exists of Roy Harpers set .

Elephant Fayre 1983 Newsetter.

1983 Photogallery

  We are looking for eyewitness accounts of this event

Please feel free to contact us and contribute towards building pages about this festival by Contacting us. We try to reply to all messages, and will do immediately if possible. Usually we wait until we have enough new material to warrant a page upgrade , so posts may take quite a while to emerge on the page .

Port Eliot Literary Festival 2007

Return to Archive