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28 October 2014

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The Grateful Dead @ Bickershaw (pic: Chris Hewitt)
The Grateful Dead (pic: Chris Hewitt)

Back to Bickershaw

This summer, two historic moments in Manchester’s musical past could be coming together, as plans are underway for the inaugural Bickershaw Deeply Vale Greenfield Family Music and Arts Festival.

A team, including Musical Associates’ Rob McIntosh and Andrew Wyke and Ozit Morpheus’ Chris Hewitt, has been planning the festival for the last six months and, while they still await agreement on the licence from the local authorities, they’re positive about it getting the go ahead.

Bickershaw Deeply Vale?

The Bickershaw crowd (pic: Chris Hewitt)
The Bickershaw crowd (pic: Chris Hewitt)

So why the long name? Well, the festival is born out of two of Greater Manchester’s pivotal music moments. The first was the Bickershaw Festival in 1972, a three day event which saw the likes of Captain Beefheart, Family, Donovan, The Kinks, Monty Python, Hawkwind and Cheech and Chong take part, with the whole thing culminating in a five hour set by the Grateful Dead!

Amongst the 40,000 people at the festival were Joe Strummer, who described it as one of his favourite concerts, and Elvis Costello, who said it was the turning point in his life when he decided he wanted to form a band.

Ray Davies at Bickershaw (pic: Chris Hewitt)
Ray Davies at Bickershaw (pic: Chris Hewitt)

Also watching was the aforementioned Chris Hewitt, at the time a 17-year-old student, who was so inspired by the event that four years later, he was involved in organising the Deeply Vale festival.

Deeply affecting

The event at Deeply Vale has become part of Manchester’s musical folklore. At the time, it was as big and popular as Glastonbury. In 1976, 300 people turned up. The following year, that number grew to 3000 people, and in ’78 and ’79, 20,000 people spent the weekend in the little valley between Heywood and Rochdale.

Country Joe McDonald (pic: Chris Hewitt)
Country Joe McDonald (pic: Chris Hewitt)

It’s not the numbers that make it so special though. Deeply Vale witnessed performances from many that would make waves in Manchester’s music scene. It’s almost a who’s who of that era.

There was the Frantic Elevators featuring a young Mick Hucknall, Danny and The Dressmakers with future 808 State member Graham Massey, a new wave afternoon compered by Tony Wilson and featuring Durutti Column’s second ever show, The Out featuring George Borowski, and a a little known Prestwich band - The Fall, who not only had the legendary Mark E Smith on vocals but the lovable Lard, Marc Riley, on bass guitar.

Back to the future

The plan is to bring the two festivals together at the end of June, pivoting around a full day of fun on Saturday 30 June, with an acoustic feel the day before on Friday and a day of up-and-coming artists on Sunday.

The Bickershaw crowd and stage (pic: Chris Hewitt)
The Bickershaw crowd and stage (pic: Chris Hewitt)

Amongst those who’ve said they’re interested in being involved in the new festival are Andy Rourke, Doves, Elbow, Steve Hillage/System 7, Clint Boon, Goldblade, Tractor, Johnny Vegas, Marc ‘Lard Riley’ and Phil Jupitus, plus original Deeply Valers The Fall and Durutti Column have both said they’d be up for it!

And it’s not just the Deeply Vale performers who have been approached. The organisers say they are in talks to have Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead, Roger Chapman from Family, and the infamous Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong all appearing for the 35th anniversary of the Bickershaw show!

With a strong environmentally friendly twist to the proposal, including green policies such as only using compostable catering materials, and a restriction to a manageable 15,000 tickets, chances are high that the festival gets the thumbs up. So keep your fingers crossed and another chapter in Manchester’s musical history could be written in June.

Visit the Bickershaw Deeply Vale Festival site >
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last updated: 02/02/07
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