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   Inside Out Extra: Wednesday April 21, 2004


Rod Stewart and The Faces
WEELEY FESTIVAL |The Faces wore it well with the latest fashions

In the summer of 1971, the nation's top rock bands descended on Weeley. It was a festival to remember. T. Rex, Rod Stewart and Status Quo were amongst the artists making Weeley the capital of cool.

Forget Glastonbury or Woodstock, Weeley was the place to be in August 1971.

Weeley is a small town outside Clacton in Essex but for a few days in 1971 it became the rock 'n' roll capital of Britain.

Weeley rocked with a music festival on an epic scale featuring a star-studded line-up including The Faces, T.Rex, Status Quo and Mungo Jerry.

So squeeze yourself into those hotpants and grab your platform boots as Inside Out Extra spacehoppers you back to the wildest event of '71.

From donkeys to rockers

Status Quo, T.Rex and Rod Stewart are impressive festival headliners by anyone's standards.

Status Quo
Rockin' all over the Weeley - Quo get down and dirty back then

But when the festival organisers are the Clacton Round Table, you have to applaud their efforts in securing a top line-up.

Visitors to Weeley in previous summers would have been treated to the annual Donkey Derby charity event organised by the same Round Table.

But this was 1971 and the world was changing - the Weeley 'Tablers' decided to break with tradition.

They waved goodbye to the donkey derbies and began to organise a small concert with half a dozen local bands instead.

Weeley cool

What happened to the Weeley bands?
Marc Bolan tragically died in a car crash in 1977. Bongo player Mickey Finn died aged 55 in 2003.
The Faces
Rod Stewart is a top solo artist whilst Ronnie Wood is a Rolling Stone. Ronnie Lane died of MS in 1997.
Status Quo
Rossi and Parfitt continue to rock around the globe.
Barclay James Harvest
The band continue to pursue solo projects. Drummer Mel Pritchard died in January 2004.
Mungo Jerry
Still touring after 30 years.
Mott the Hoople
Ian Hunter continues to tour and record as a solo artist. Mick Ralphs found fame with Bad Company. Overend Watts runs a successful antiques shop in Hereford.
King Crimson
Now in its fourth decade, the band has just released a studio album Robert Fripp has worked solo, and is married to Toyah.

Mungo Jerry, who had had a number one that year with In The Summertime, was the first band to be booked by the organisers.

Expected numbers rose from a few thousand to 10,000.

Artistic Director Colin King was brought on board securing acts such as Rod Stewart and the Faces, T.Rex, Julie Felix and King Crimson.

The whole event mushroomed out of proportion and became much bigger than anyone had expected.

The line-up of bands was staggering - Status Quo, Lindisfarne, Curved Air, Rory Gallagher, The Groundhogs, King Crimson, Barclay James Harvest, Mott the Hoople... the list is endless.

"Rod Stewart and the Faces, T.Rex - this was little old Weeley," marvels Mike Sams of the Clacton Gazette.

"No-one had ever heard of it and here was T. Rex coming down - marvellous!"

And little old Weeley never looked back. "It was almost an exodus," recalls Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel fame.

"Thousands upon thousands of us coming from all over Britain," he remembers.

"Hitching, walking, anyway you could to get to a place most of us had never actually heard of."

Peace, love and understanding

Ticket sales reached 100,000 just days before the concert and in the end, more than 150,000 attended over the August Bank Holiday.

Many fans simply turned up on spec and tried to get in free.

Fans sleeping
Sweet dreams. The round-the-clock rock marathon was exhausting for some

As a result the site was bursting to saturation point, and in the end the organisers made a plea that no more people descend on Weeley.

The number of bands playing also rocketed.

There were so many bands involved that they had to play continuously 24 hours each day from Friday night through to Sunday morning.

The hippies lapped up the atmosphere, raising flags outside their tents, dancing and making bonfires.

Despite being full to capacity, the event went without a hitch thanks to security provided by the Hell's Angels.

There was just one small "bust up" between the caterers and the Hell's Angels, making it one of the most peaceful festival events ever.

Hippie chic

Anyone who was cool and hip was at Weeley that year, and the festival proved to be a memorable experience even for seasoned rockers like Steve Harley who attended as a fan.

Crowds at Weeley
Thousands of hippies join the loved-up atmosphere

"Of all the experiences I have had in my life before or since, Weeley was pretty special," remembers Steve.

"When we came to the outback of north Essex to Weeley, to see this many people, nothing could have prepared us for this.

"It was an amazing sight - it really was."

Colin King agrees with his sentiments, "It was just electric. It was magical. It was something that had never happened before".

"On the first night I drove around the site and I felt like a general directing his troops about to go off to the battle at Agincourt," he recalls.

Once in a lifetime

Despite the large numbers attending, the event didn't raise a huge amount for charity.

"In hindsight we didn't do what we set out to do - raise serious money for charity," explains Graham Syrett, ex-Clacton Round Table.

Marc Bolan
Twentieth century boy -
T. Rex ecstasy at Weeley

"We had an experience. As it turned out, it was a bit too big for us to handle really. Perhaps we should have stuck to our donkey derbies."

But the thousands attending the festival were glad they didn't.

Whilst it was an unforgettable experience for both festival goers and the Round Table alike, it was also an unrepeatable one.

"It was something I was glad I was involved in, but never want to be involved in another," says Graham.

But for one glorious summer, Weeley rocked. To a generation of Brits, the name Weeley will be forever synonymous with an amazing atmosphere, some fantastic bands and of course, the Round Table!

See also ...

On the rest of Inside Out
Weeley Festival

Rock and Pop years - 1971

On the rest of the web
Weeley Festival
The Round Table
New Musical Express - Festivals

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Steve Thompson
Me and a friend called Trevor Doyle were both 16 at the time ,we hitched a ride on the Friday night with a couple of people that night and managed to put a tent up and sleep for a couple of hours,it was our first time at a concert like that and was incredible,Rory gallagher was my favourite also The Groundhogs who Iv'e seen up till October this year,we washed in the toilets in Clacton amongst hundreds of others,first taste of pot,first taste of Wally!!!,i'd love to do it again,trouble is no decent bands anymore.

John Zarebski
A little confused - does anyone know all the bands that played that weekend the highlight for me was Barclay James Harvest and King Crimson best festival ever...

Steve Soanes
Was living with aunt and uncle, was about 16 - my mate Tom talked them into letting me go - was the most amazing thing ever, met John Peel in the release tent i think?? In Australia now - brought back lots of memories hope the BBC show gets to Oz, peace and love to wally

Dick Wolff
'Wally' was born at the Isle of Wight Festival the year before: in the endless queue for buses out. I was a volunteer helping run the festival. I remember trying to get money off the Windsor Hells Angels at the gate (unsuccessfully). A security firm including an ex-South African paratrooper and a bloke called Tiny (6ft 7in) were rumoured to have bunked off with half the takings. Great music & happenings. I kept a fairly detailed diary which I've still got.

Claire (Whitaker)
What a brilliant weekend! Non stop music and atrocious loos! My lasting memory is trying to sleep under the stars in the main arena and listening to King Crimson playing the Devil's Triangle in the middle of the night! My boyfriend and I left early to avoid the rush and had to catch the milk train at 5am to Southend. We were waiting for the train for six hours!

Eddy Kirk
I was at the was my wife but we did'ent actually meet until 12 years later (although who knows, we could have been sitting next to each other for all I know!) It was a wild few days. I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Michael J A Doherty
One major thing you missed on your report about Weeley - The name Wally came from that festival - When Edgar Broughton were playing a guy lost his white dog called Wally - The organisers put out a PA message 'Has anyone seen Wally?' Yes you had all better beleive it that is where the original term Wally came from!! Apart from T-Rex who were booed off the stage for being un-hippie and giving into pop culture - the rest of the groups were great - I will apart from the Isle of White and many Windsor free's never forget it.

Christine Davis
I was there!! It was the greatest!! Took us about 4 hours to queue for the car park, then we just stayed in the field with no tent. Never forgot the toilets - nothing could ever be so bad again.

Len Searle
Attendance was more like at least 250,000 but nobody will admit that. I went with 2 mates, we had about 4 hours sleep all weekend. Took 3 hrs of queing to catch train back.

Keith Coffey
There was a trend that started at Weeley, where people in the crowd called out for Wally! This was was as to add to the confusion of people calling for lost friends. This call of Wally! extended to lots of gigs after Weely. I first encountered it at a gig that followed Weely at the Oval where several of the Weeley bands were playing.

Keith McIlveney
Excellent! Never thought I`d have the chance to relive Weeley. I was 16 and I had a fight with my Dad to let me go. I won! I remember that infamous latrine only too well and witnessed one poor bloke who fell in. I also remember Marc Bolan coming on stage to boos because people reckoned he had "sold out" his artistic origins by going electric. He said to the crowd, "Hi, you might have seen me on Top of the Pops,I'm a star", at which point I remember a hail of bottles zooming over my head and crashing on to the stage. It wasn't all peace and love! Great memories of the Pink Fairies at 6am and the drummer eating cornflakes. Was it just a dream I had from long ago? Now I can show my 20 year old daughter how we had fun. And not a boy band in sight. Can we have it all back please? I'm bored with being grown up!

Neil Pettigrew
How amazing to see not only an excellent BBC programme about the Weeley Festival but also some rare film of it. Does anybody know if any film of the Pink Fairies at Weeley exists? The magnificent live album of their set at Weeley has allegedly the best sound quality of any recordings that have survived from this event. If anybody has more info, please post it to this site. Thanks.

Chris Chessum
Weeley Festival of Progressive Music, August 1971. "Let he who is without sin stone the first gnome". I was there, on crutches with my left leg in plaster, but it was a tremendous experience. Musical highlights? King Crimson, Gringo & Stone The Crows. Thanks for the memories BBC and huge thanks to those who looked after me during the festival - you know who you are (K, G and especially S).

Mike Ferguson
I attended with a group of friends, all aged about 16-17. So many great experiences and great bands. One very memorable performance was King Crimson playing 'Cirkus', a rousing rendition, but someone was ill in the crowd and people were calling out for help, and it was all sounding quite desperate - all of this building to a crescendo as the music itself built to a climax. Eventually, someone shone the tower lights in the direction of the shouting just as the music reached a peak. There's no better expression than 'Far Out' to describe the emotional impact of that moment as everyone started clapping and cheering and the music roared on! I got all of this taped on a very cheap cassette player and only recently found this in a mildew snowed box, the tape inside with no case, but it played. I could go on and will do if anyone invites me back to do so!! So many great bands played that festival.

David Drysdale
I remember the loos. Some scaffold poles by a trench - scarred me for life! Trying to keep awake for the band you wanted to hear in the middle of the night. Trying to find your friends was nearly impossible.

Edgar Potter
I was there man, it was a great experience

Dave Gilmore
Age 17 I travelled to the festival from Belfast. I think it gave birth to the cry of WALLY which used to go out at concerts. Also I remember free food being handed out but can hardly remember the acts apart from the Faces.

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