The Norwich Peaceful Green Fair
Actually July 1st - 3rd in Earlham Park, UEA Village and the UEA Rural Development Unit
has long had a vibrant music scene and I'd been lugging stupidly heavy tape recorders
around venues recording local band gigs for a couple of years when I heard of
the plans for a festival in Earlham Park, so I went along to the planning meetings.
There had been a few free festivals near Norwich in previous years but this time someone had the idea of asking the council if the fair could use Earlham park and they'd agreed, so it was going to be a legal one. An organising group of mostly squatters from Norwich's Argyl Street (at the time one of the largest squats in Europe apparently) and uni students had booked the park from the council, somehow I don't think that would happen now.
The planning meetings were all held at the UEA - the Norwich university of East Anglia where I had been a student some years before, The meetings were a bit chaotic but things did actually get done.
Having never done anything in the way of gig promotion I offered to run the music stage, so along with Dave Goringe and Chris Phillips I did just that! There was much debate as to whether they wanted anything electric, but as luck had it we had a site split by a main road, so one part was set aside for the music and the rest for the no-electric hippy fair.
With all the confidence of a sleepwalker I went around local gigs booking bands. We had Karma Kanix headline Friday night, Here&Now as the main band on Saturday night and Underground Zero (UZ - a local Hawkwind style band) on the Sunday. Somehow we managed to get a midnight music licence which caused loads of complaints from the nearby houses. UZ finished their show with two huge rocket fireworks, only one of which went upwards.
I decided to give each band a time slot of 40 minutes and allowed a fixed set-up time of 20 minutes for each band, which is almost how it turned out. Given what I now know about hippies and punks and their idea of time keeping I would never have tried this, but I did and it all worked. I scheduled a complete show for three days (apart from the reggae slot) of mostly local bands plus a few festival circuit bands like Big Amongst Sheep and Here and Now. The reggae slot on Sunday was put together by Dave and the Argyl Street crew which is why Benjamin Zephaniah, who also played, isn't listed on the running order. Nick Turner was there and played with Underground Zero on Sunday night.
Anyway, as I worked in a school and had an offset litho printer, I run off hundreds of copies of the running order and gave everyone a copy with strict orders of when to turn up and amazingly they all did. In the event the worst we got was about 20 mins behind time! Although I didn't manage to keep a copy of the running order, Karl of Underground Zero found one in August 2009 whilst going through some old photos so here it is, click the small image for a bigger copy:
The running order- click the image for a full-sized version
Despite all the planning we did, somehow no-one had thought too much about about toilets on the music site. As we were setting the stage area up, I hassled the UEA security staff (they were called "Porters" back then) and they came up with not only proper loos, but showers as well!
My job on the days was to keep the stage running and get the bands on, which I did in manic style, fueled by rather large amounts of herbal flavoured roll-ups I seem to remember. Come the final band Sunday night my role was over and I suddenly became way too wellied to talk, or do anything really and I had to get someone else to drive me home.
Great fun it was though.
I didn't get to see much of the rest of the fair. The music stage was on the old UEA Village site next to the wonderful but long gone Barn and the main fair was over the B1108 in Earlham park. The camping was the other side of the river in what was the UEA farm.
The weather did something very strange as well, the run up during the week had been overcast and not at all nice and so it was on Friday morning. Come time for the first band though, the sun came out and out it stayed for the rest of the fair.
Despite being legal, the Peaceful Green fair was a genuine free festival and had all the elements that make such a fair. We set aside a section of the camping site for travelers and they provided much of the labour for getting the site ready, of course this was before the tabloid press declared war on the "convoy", all that was just about to start.
Although fairs happened in Earlham park in 1985 and 1986 (The Rainbow fairs) and into the 90's as Sun in the East, they were never quite the same thing.
Much to everyone's surprise and even embarrassment the fair made a sizable profit, so a large donation to a local charity Swan Rescue was made and a follow up indoor festival "the Peaceful green breezeblock" was staged that November at the UEA. The "breezeblock" name coming from the brutalist 60's concrete nature of the campus, but that's another story.
2015 update: Recently come to light 8mm film of Ranata Spirit playing at the start of Saturday's events. I took this footage on the bass player Chris's camera but have only now got to see it, sadly the audio recording didn't survive. The film is silent.
Also see this page on the UK rock festivals site
Big Amongst Sheep from Cumbria
Nick Turner on stage with Ground Zero