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Phun City, Ecclesden Common 1970

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Phun City was a rock festival held at Ecclesden Common near Worthing, England from July 24 to July 26, 1970. Excluding the one-day free concerts in London’s Hyde Park, Phun City became the first large-scale free festival in the UK.

An early advert for the festival was typically alternative and typically sexist.

“Phun City is attempting to provide a three day environment designed to the needs and desires of the Freak, not just a situation set up to relieve him of his money.”

God forbid any freaks be female, huh?

Organised by the UK Underground anarchist Mick Farren, the festival was notable for having no fences and no admission fees and for actually encouraging people to have sex in the nearby woods. It was not intended to be a free concert, but funding was withdrawn a few days before the event. Rather than cancel it, the organisers told the scheduled bands who turned up that they would have to give their services for nothing. Remarkably, most of the acts stayed on. Free were billed to play, but withdrew. Free did not play for free.

Those who did appear included The MC5, Pretty Things, Kevin Ayers, Steve Took’s Shagrat, the Edgar Broughton Band, Mungo Jerry, Mighty Baby and the Pink Fairies who were taking all their clothes off as they played, as you do if you’re stoned out of your mind and in the grip of rock n roll. The Beat generation poet William Burroughs also appeared.

The Hells Angels had been hired as the security force, but Farren said, “It slowly dawned on us that although none of our original plans had come together, we were no longer in control.” Instead, the audience themselves were now in charge, with the organizers just making sure the bands came and went – it was, if somewhat inadvertently, the first large-scale people’s festival held in the UK.

Photos taken at the time reveal cameras on stage at the same time as Mighty Baby, so at least some of the bands must have been committed to celluloid, though no-one seems to have seen it. The MC5 set was later released as a live CD.

Mr E.T Oates, chief public health inspector said “The whole thing was offensive and obscene in many ways and you would have been surprised at some of the people there. There had been university people from America, Oxford and Cambridge and ordinary decent people. They just wanted to do what they wanted to do and they did it. I just cannot understand it.”

Relax E.T. the status quo was never under threat. Those with the power kept the power and they’ve still got hold of it today. Not even the Pink Fairies could change that.

Related t-shirt YOU‘RE EITHER ON THE BUS OR OFF THE BUS

Written with the help of UKFestivals.

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