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Ruthin Free Festival

Horseshoe Pass . Denbighshire .

North Wales.
5-8th June 1981

updated February 2012

The site at the 1981 festival © Les Wilkins

All images this page © Les Wilkins, who has also kindly provided us with his recollections of the event .We extend our eternal thanks !

   The 1981 festival ran 5 - 8 June 1981. I think that the reason it is not much documented is that it was quite low-key compared to 1980, with no obvious signs of any organisation or co-ordination involved, and as far as I can remember, no live bands.

   The history of this festival as I remember it is that it started prior to 1980, though I don't know which year, when rumours went round the North Wales head/hippy scene that Pink Floyd were playing a free gig on the Horseshoe Pass on a particular weekend, so unsurprisingly loads of people turned up. Of course there was no Pink Floyd, and as far as I could ever determine there never had been any truth in the rumour, but it was a case of "now that we're all here, we may as well have a party". Whether the 1980 festival was on the first anniversary of this first (non) event, or whether there were any intervening years, I don't know.

The Simple Siren Synergystic Roadshow at Ruthin Free Festival © Les Wilkins

   I think that the 1981 festival happened on the basis of it being the anniversary of the 1980 festival, and people, including me and my friends, went on this basis; it was much like the first event, "now that we're all here, etc. ...", though my friends had gone prepared with their caravan and fairly primitive cassette-only Simple Siren Synergistic Roadshow, which was the only semi-organised entertainment on the site - unless anyone else knows differently!

  When we first approached the festival site we were stopped by the police, who had parked a caravan in a lay-by, just before the festival site on the Ruthin side, and were searched. These were not the usual local drug squad, who we all would have recognised, but a special squad drafted in from Chorley, and they were particularly unpleasant. We passed on, having been found 'clean', parked up on the site, and put our tents up. Later in the day, from our vantage point towards the top of the sloping site, we saw our friends from a Colwyn Bay squat arrive on their bus, and being accosted by the police on the main road. We all went down to see what was going on, and there was quite an unpleasant scene developing.

   I, along with a few others, got on the bus, to see what was going on. One of the coppers was violently pushing a pregnant woman around, and one of the other bus passengers, Little John, intervened by placing himself between the copper and the woman, and he was then attacked by two coppers. At this point it was all getting a little scary, so the driver of the bus started the engine and began to drive towards the site entrance, coppers still on board. One of the coppers then rushed to the front of the bus and pulled the driver out of her seat while the bus was still moving, though luckily it came to a halt with no damage to the vehicle or passengers. At this point my memory fails me, and I can't remember any more about the incident.

A beautiful sight © Les Wilkins

  The weekend then proceeded fairly low-key and enjoyable, until a load of Hell's Angel-style bikers arrived, on the Saturday afternoon I think (I've no anti-biker prejudice, as I was a keen biker myself for many years, though not a member of any 'organisation', just loved riding bikes). They spent the rest of the festival riding around the site, including straight across some of the tents, threatening/mugging people, and also for a while, they focussed their attention on our sound-system. They were not happy that we would not play any Led Zeppelin, making sure we could see the pick-axe handle one of them had, but we did eventually manage to convince them that we genuinely did not have any Led Zeppelin with us, so couldn't play it - though of course we would have been delighted to do so had we got any!

   Their behaviour on site completely ruined the festival, and we left early on the Sunday, having suffered a night of being buzzed by bikes or staggering bikers near our tents, and not daring to get in them in case our tent was run over or dived onto with us in it.
I don't think that the festival happened again after 1981, I guess for the same reason that we didn't want to go again - the bikers had ruined it.
I hope this helps to give a bit of context.


Lou and Noel © Les Wilkins

Happy together © Les Wilkins

Jay and Cerys © Les Wilkins

© Les Wilkins

© Les Wilkins

© Les Wilkins

Heather © Les Wilkins

Cerys and tents © Les Wilkins

© Les Wilkins

© Les Wilkins

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




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Many, many thanks go to Roger Hutchinson , Big Steve , Roger Duncan, Celia, Will , Chazz, Jeza ,Chris Hewitt ,The Fabulous Time Tortoise , Peter Piwowarski - ( 70s music site/photos ) Martin S, Steve Austin ,Traveller Dave, Herb, Tim Brighton, Vin Miles, Haze Evans , Noddy Guevara, Chris Brown, Janet Thompson, David Stooke, Gary Gibbons , Nigel Ayers, Rich Deakin ,Glenda Pescardo,Justin Warman,Brian F, Steve Bayfield, Kev Ellis, Paul Seaton and many other minor contributors for their help in providing the archival material related to these free festivals which has at enabled us to construct the site .

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