Memory Of A Free Festival by Sam Knee review

By the time we got to Stonehenge…

Cover art for Memory Of A Free Festival by Sam Knee

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Do anarchists have coffee tables ? If so, this is a perfect addition to whatever else is on it; a superior scrapbook that also serves to answer the kids’ questions when they ask if you went to the second Windsor Free Festival.

The title comes from David Bowie’s song about the free festival he organised and headlined in Beckenham in 1969 that deserves more coverage than it gets. But, like the free Hyde Park concerts around the same time, it had no political dimension that this book is keen to foster. There is also some blurring between free and commercial festivals, even though the latter were obviously run by evil capitalist scum, but they had better toilets and music. And for a while they attracted similar audiences.

Free festivals came into their own during the 70s, staged at prehistoric sites such as Glastonbury (free until1981) and Stonehenge, with core counter-cultural values and endless sets by the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind. Hippies and punks jostled along during the late 70s, before the anarchists moved in and deliberately goaded the authorities, who eventually responded with unexpected venom at 1985’ s Battle Of The Beanfield near Stonehenge.

The photos, mostly taken by punters, give a genuine sense of what it was like to be there, rather than a colour magazine’s stylish interpretation. Which is bad news for the fashionistas.

Hugh Fielder

Hugh Fielder has been writing about music for 47 years. Actually 58 if you include the essay he wrote about the Rolling Stones in exchange for taking time off school to see them at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1964. He was news editor of Sounds magazine from 1975 to 1992 and editor of Tower Records Top magazine from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been freelance. He has interviewed the great, the good and the not so good and written books about some of them. His favourite possession is a piece of columnar basalt he brought back from Iceland.