Festival of the Flower Children, Woburn Abbey 1967

Festival of the Flower Children, Woburn Abbey 1967
Authored By John Nicholson

Held over August Bank Holiday in 1967, this was the first flowering of the British hippie fests. According to the Sunday Times, it attracted over 25,000 hippies from all over Europe for a show that was inspired primarily by Monterey Pop.

The 3-day line-up was Al Stewart, Alan Price, Bee Gees, Blossom Toes, Breakthru, Dantalion's Chariot, Denny Laine, Eric Burdon & The Animals, Family, Small Faces, The Big Roll Band, The Dream, The Jeff Beck Group, The Marmalade, The Syn, Tintern Abbey, Tomorrow, Zoot Money.

In the Summer Of Love, festivals here were really very different to those happening in California and the USA in general. They aspired to be similar to the pictures we’d seen of those gatherings but somehow look more British. The psychedelic buses were smaller and people brought umbrellas just in case it rained. Drugs were far less available, tea much more so.

This was held in the grounds of the Duke of Bedford's stately English home and the promoters really pushed the whole ‘beautiful people’ and ‘love in’ angle. 25,000 paid £1 a head (30/- for ihe whole weekend)

You could buy flowers. Paper ones selling at 5/- each, and bells galore-10/- a tinkle from hawkers who stood on the outskirts crying, "Come on, buy a bell, and go to hell." Which is nice. 

There was no booze sold on site but ice cream vans were present and tea was sold. See, It told you it was very British, didn’t I? 

These lads look a bit scary to me.

Weirdly, someone had put up a tent and put some slot machines inside in case you fancied, well, gambling some money in between bands. 

The weather held good for the whole weekend and a lovely time was had by all, especially the Duke Of Bedford who trousered his £5,000 - 10% of the gate money. 

“They were very gentle people" he was reported as saying, no doubt in a very posh voice, whilst counting his cash.

While attendees seemed to find the whole thing very groovy it actually got a bad write up in the music press. NME was critical, calling the event "WOE-BORE." which isn’t a great pun.

In an acerbic tone very much out of tune with the times it reported

 "A three-day frolic billed as the world's largest love-in, admission £1.00 per day. More than 12,000 tinkling hippies and mods made the sad scene, went away unloved (boy-girl ratio: 5 to 1), unstoned (200 constables prowled the premises in search of pot), and unmoved by the 15 jangling psychedelic bands. Though the flower children wilted, the duke got a large charge (£5,000 net) out of the love-in, and the duchess was pretty jolted (jolted?!) herself. "I was away from Woburn," she said. "I thought these people were holding a flower festival."

C’mon, get with the programme sister.

One decidedly grumpy hippie was interviewed by the Sunday Mirror and complained 'It is not a 'love-in'. It's a 'cash-in'. A hot dog is costing 1/9d...We are disgusted.' Well, you should’ve brought your own food, baby. 

The British hippie in repose, with umbrella to hand in case of a shower. 

Musically, the headline acts were the Small Faces, the newly formed Jeff Beck Group and Eric Burdon and the Animals, all of whom were making great music at the time. But below that, some interesting vibes were going down. The Syn played, as did Tomorrow (My White Bicycle was their hit) and the reason that’s significant is Chris Quire was a member of the former, Steve Howe of the latter. They’d play together in Yes in a few years' time.

Tintern Abbey were a classic English psyche band who made one single called, improbably ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ - now very collectible. Dantalian's Chariot featured Andy Summers, later of the Police and Zoot Money. They had another long lost but now rare psychedelic single at the time "Madman Running Through the Fields"/"Sun Came Bursting Through My Cloud." The Marmalade would go on to be very successful in UK with 10 hit singles including a #1. I always thought of them as a Scottish version of CSNY but they were still a year away from their first hit, Lovin’ Things.

Photos of the festival reveal the stage to be little more than a canvas shed stuck in a field. And as was typical of the time, the PA was effectively the amplification merely stacked up on the stage. But even so, this was an important festival for all UK heads and one that set in motion all of the festivals of the coming decade.

   


   



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