I was 16, in school and sitting O level exams in subjects that my teachers openly expected me to fail. My older friend, Graham (Ringo) had been talking about a festival – like Woodstock but free – he said. He went down to Somerset early and helped with the stage set-up, this accorded him a degree of kudos in the catering queues. He eventually returned to our home town with a new light in his eyes.
He’d been to the first Glastonbury Festival.
For me, exams finished, I started working at a holiday job in the nearby Kodak factory. With plenty of cash in my pockets I pestered my parents to allow me to go to the Isle of Wight Festival. Permission was granted and I sent away for travel and entry tickets.
It’s important to understand that the equipment for large-scale outdoor music was in the early days of development. We were less than a handful of years into “stereo” record-players and high-quality equipment was beyond the financial reach of most households. In the UK we’d already had Floyd in the Park, followed by Stones in the Park; the sound was patchy and drifting beyond about 100 yardsfrom the stage – and any closer was deafening but with poor clarity. But who cared? we were assembled with strangers who had all come with one thought in mind – to enjoy the day immersed in music that was disturbing the status quo and inhale the fumes of Moroccan hashish (other varieties were available), drink weak Party-7 beer and (hopefully) catch a late train home. Many tears rolled down cheeks as we mourned Brian amongst the butterflies.
Social identity for young people was changing, in 1970 the age for voting fell from 21 to 18 (although many of the adult rights remained unavailable). This apparently simple change sent shockwaves through the establishment – young people were empowering themselves and issues such as war, famine, poverty and equality (social and sexual) were higher on many peoples’ agenda than memorising the Kings&Queens of England or saying Sir to the person next above you in the workplace pecking order (women were unlikely to be occupying those positions).
1965 – Oral contraception legalised
1967 – Sexual Offences Act
1967 – Abortion Act
1970 – Equal Pay Act (deferred to 1975)
1970 – Votes for 18plus
Winds of change were coming
(In Part II I go to IOW and learn my fate regarding my future career)