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Festivals Britannia

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Sam Bridger | 17:19 UK time, Tuesday, 14 December 2010

I can (almost) fully remember the best weekend of my life. It was the summer before I got my first job at the BBC and it mainly involved walking around lost in the Glastonbury mud, wondering why life couldn't be like this every day.

The making of 'Festivals Britannia' took Assistant Producer/Cameraman John Williams and I on a journey around Britain, hearing the stories of the various festival organisers, musicians and veterans who had all experienced that 'eureka' moment.

Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage - by Duncan McMillan

Whether it was Michael Eavis telling us about sneaking into the 1969 Bath Festival of Blues and catching the festival bug, or Nik%20Turner recalling playing with Hawkwind at the Windsor Free Festival, it became increasingly apparent how much festivals have meant to people over the last 5 decades.

We had the pleasure of spending time with festival veterans such as Sid Rawle and Roger Hutchinson for whom festivals had become a cause and a way of life as much as a source of entertainment. Both Sid and Roger sadly passed away very shortly after telling us their stories. It was a real privilege to have been able to spend that time with them.

But as well as some sadness, the 3-week shoot had its lighter moments too. As a result of not finishing our days shoot until well after most places to eat had closed, John and I would often find ourselves in the local curry house at 11pm, sampling the local Indian cuisine. This British spice odyssey became a bit of a running joke and, for those who would like to know, it was Leicester that finished top in the Festivals Britannia curry cup.

From the Rainbow Camp in Gloucestershire, to Glastonbury, Reading, the Isle of Wight and V Festival the shoot was an intense and (often literally) organic journey of discovery. We trudged from tent to tent as festival goers told us who we should speak to, who might have great home movie footage of past festivals and perhaps most unusually, how to fashion a good cast iron sword.

The task of editing over 60 hours of filmed interviews could have been a daunting one. But with editor Andrew Quigley and archive producer Jeannie Clark on board, a clear line quickly emerged through all the wonderful stories and archive we had accumulated.

From first to last, Festivals Britannia was a fascinating journey and a real treat to make. Whether it was 50's jazzers or 90's ravers, everyone we met had experienced that life altering festival magic. And it's heartening to know that somewhere out there in the mud next summer, a whole new generation of kids will look around and wonder why life cant be like a festival every day.

Friday 17 December - 9pm
BBC Four - Festivals Britannia

Sam Bridger celebrates the history of the British music festival this Friday at 9pm on BBC Four. Featuring interviews with Michael Eavis, Melvin Benn, Billy Bragg and Orbital it tells the story of how festivals have evolved from the free fayres of the 1950's to today's major cultural events.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi, i'd just like to say how much i enjoyed this film, great selection of interviews and really good archive footage. Brought back loads of memories, my first festival was Stonehenge 84 and did most of the Free Festivals from then on.
    There still is a Free scene, most summer weekends there's Free Parties/raves in most area of the country, what with the Tory Government in power, maybe we're about to enter the next cycle of Free Festivals again. Hope so...

  • Comment number 2.

    As I played at a number of these events as a musician, I enjoyed this documentary a lot,but how on earth did the producers miss the forerunner to the hippy festivals,namely the 'Beckenham Arts Lab Festival August 1969', organized by David Bowie.This pre-dated Glastonbury and was happening at the same time as Woodstock.


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