Locus Focus: A Barclay James Harvest Festival

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When the Essex village of Weeley hosted their version of Woodstock in 1971, T.Rex and The Faces were the headliners secured by the local Round Table.

What started out as a novel way of attracting a larger turnout to their summer fundraising event, which usually consisted of stalls and a donkey derby, grew to an almost out-of-control pop festival attracting 150,000 music fans. Keeping pace with the growth in numbers and sharing the ‘bigger is best’ motto were the Oldham prog rock outfit Barclay James Harvest. The quartet expanded to squeeze a 45-piece orchestra onto the modest stage and after a lengthy two-hour wait, they let rip with their latest epic composition, Mocking Bird. Tuning up an orchestra in the warm open air couldn’t have been easy, but by all accounts the performance was a triumph: so good, in fact, that BJH and orchestra repeated the standout track from their LP Once Again later in the set. T.Rex didn’t fare quite so well in the popularity stakes, with Marc Bolan heckled at one point during his performance. The prog-turning-glam rocker did get one thing right that the rest of the unwashed hordes didn’t. During the festival he wandered up to Weeley village and was welcomed into an elderly lady’s cottage, where he enjoyed a warm bath for £1.

Weeley is location No.118 and 119 in the new edition of Rock Atlas UK & Ireland, published by Red Planet.