The forgotten Guildford Festivals

Small leaflet

College chum and friend of the arts lab, Robin Bradbeer, reminded me that 50 years ago the third Guildford Arts Festival was on, with me as Festival Director! Googling around, it struck me that there was next to nothing on the three major festivals that preceded the low-key Surrey Free Festivals on campus (starting in 1970). The first in the series was in March 1969, directed by Rick Welton (who I was in Helix with). Somewhere in my house I have the brochure for it, but can't just lay my hands on it! Battersea College of Advanced Technology had become the University of Surrey and moved down to Guildford (as I also did that year) and the festival, bankrolled by the Students Union was a gift. if you like, to the town, cementing a link between Town and Gown.

I can't remember much of that festival, but a memorable moment came on 11 March 1969. At 10.30 every night the members' bar at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre became the Festival Club with intimate theatre, acoustic music and revues. This night we saw David Bowie play at the club with guitarist Hutch, as 2/3 of Feathers. There has been lots of online discussion about this gig (as there has been with Led Zeppelin's first gig), but I was there, along with about 20 other people, to hear Space Oddity on Stylophone and see some mime!

The second Festival took place in March 1970 - I can't remember the name of the Director. I applied for the job but was turned down. The Guildford Arts Lab always had a presence at these festivals and on 4 March 1970 we had The assassination of William Blake as performed by the inmates of Guildford Arts Lab under the direction of the Marquis de Pipes!! starring Mike Horovitz, Brian Patten, Graham Clarke, Clive Young, Gus Garside, Robin Shirley, John White, Dave Ambrose, Nick Gray and Cyberdescence light show. Wowie Zowie! what a line up.

  Guildford festival Two 1970 

I designed a natty poster for it, along with Dave Ambrose's Palimpsest of Erly Engle-Land on the 3rd, with Dr Strangely Strange, and Combination Plus with Fran Horovitz and Roger McGough on the 1st. There was also an all-night Pyjama party with Chris Farlowe, back at Battersea on the 10th.

As precursor of Festival 2 there was an event called Meetings and partings with Davy Graham and Shirley Collins, in February.

On 27/ 28 June 1970,  the first Surrey Free Festival took place, as a reaction maybe to the money spent and lost on the three big festivals. Featured 'local group' Genesis, Bridget St John and Poppa Ben Hook.

So in 1971, I applied for the job again and got it! - 8 months work for £800. I booked the pop and folk acts, mostly via Lynne Boot (Adrian Boot's partner) at Blackhill Enterprises, but my main job was to design the brochure (all done with Letraset and Cow Gum) and posters (which were all screen printed by Henry Dudley in his basement). 

  Roy Harper at the Civic Hall 

 You can see who was in it from the brochure scans: from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to the Brighton Combination, via Kevin Ayers, Mike Westbrook and Roy Harper. 

John Fahey was booked through promoter Stuart Lyon but the tour never happened. It was a big programme with lots on every night from Friday 5 March (the Eve of Festival ball, for which I had to hire a DJ!) to Sunday 14 March and the wonderful eight hour Copan Backing Track from Mike Westbrook, with a projected clock by Cyberdescence. Wish I could have seen more of it! Afterwards I applied for various arts jobs with no luck, so it was back to commuting up to London for a job in publishing.