Phil Bennett and Peter Hepworth
By Andrew Woodger
Meet the Suffolk singer who found a VW camper van in a ditch and turned it into a solar-powered mobile festival stage. He's planning on playing gigs for free wherever he darn well wants to! And he's started in a pub near Woodbridge.
In 2006, Peter Hepworth was in Earls Colne in Essex when he spotted a Volkswagen campervan lying in a ditch. He tracked the landowner down and paid £4,000 for the classic vehicle which is no longer in production.
The 1962 Splitscreen Type 2 Mark I van was in a bit of a state, but with the help of his electrician friend Phil Bennett they've restored it, and then some, into a beast which they've insured for £30,000.
"I am a bit of a hippy at heart, but I'd never really noticed these vehicles until I had the chat with the farmer a couple of years ago. But ever since then I've just fallen in love with them," said Peter.
"They're the most beautiful vehicles ever created and they're certainly iconic."
As well as making the VW roadworthy, the pair have kitted it out so that a stage can be assembled in front of the side door with speaker stacks and lighting rig around it.
For the techies, the solar panels on the roof feed two deep-cycle leisure batteries, the PA system uses a 2,000 watt mains inverter and for sound they've got a Bose L1 Portable Line Array System.
The Diaries at the White Lion
Phil, who's a sound engineer with East Stage Equipment Supplies, said they can perform to a crowd of 800 people: "It's a lovely, clean, rich sound. It's so efficient because the speaker technology behind it really does work."
Guerillas in our midst
Peter's philosophy is to take the van out and about and stage performances at private parties so that they don't fall foul of anti-rave legislation. He calls it a 'guerilla' strategy of getting the music out there - a kind of throwback to the free festival scene.
They've done it at Shingle Street and at a party that the Duchess of Devonshire held at Butley Priory and his fantasy is to just keep turning up at events and asking to play.
Peter went to school at Stoke College in Stoke-by-Clare and he's lived in Lavenham and Woodbridge, so he's hoping to keep his wandering-minstrel dreams local:
"I just want to go around the fields of Suffolk playing music," he said. "And the artists come and play for free as well to play to an audience that appreciates them.
"I've got a day job [as an assistant art director working for production companies in London] and that's why it's taken so long to build this van. It's just basically a self-funded obsession of music, love and peace."
VW to V
The pair are also taking their campervan to the backstage VIP area at the 2009 V Festival - an event which is saturated with commercialism and arguably at odds with the free music philosophy.
"We're not doing it for money, we're not getting paid for it," said Peter. "It's just a way of advertising the van and getting our performers some exposure. I don't think any harm can come of that."
On Saturday 11 July 2009, Peter made the short trip from his home in Woodbridge to the White Lion pub in Lower Ufford for a fete-cum-festival in the garden which also featured Al Lindsay, The Diarys (from Kent) and Francis Shelley from Butley.
last updated: 03/08/2009 at 12:17
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