Book Reviews

Ben Graham – Pink Floyd Are Fogbound in Paris – The Story of the 1970 Krumlin Festival: Book Review

At last!  The full story of the horror that was the Krumlin Festival – Just in time for the festival’s 50th Anniversary.

Publication Date:  17th January 2020

Publisher: Bleeding Cheek Press

Even today, when world leadership is divided between incompetent crackpots (Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro et al) and dangerous psychopaths (Xi Jinping, Putin) (Kim Jong-un – you’re in both camps) it would be hard to argue that things generally are not better now than they were 50 years ago.  That is certainly the case when the subject under consideration is music festivals.  Whether it’s a mega-event like Glastonbury, something in between like Creamfields, Cornbury or Cropredy, or a boutique festival such as Barn On The Farm or Green Man, festivalgoers can reliably expect that ticket sales will be well structured, security will be effective, friendly and as unintrusive as possible, camping facilities will be adequate and well-organised, toilets will be useable and frequently cleaned, food will be edible, drinks will be drinkable and the whole thing will run to something like a timetable.  Of course, some will consider that tickets, food and drink are over-priced and no-one can control the most important thing – the weather.

The levels of organization, and indeed the health and safety requirements, that we take for granted today are, however, a fairly recent thing.  Even ten years ago, things were a lot more basic than they are nowadays and, 50 years ago, when the festival movement was just beginning to gather momentum in the UK, Europe and in North America, festival facilities and organization were decidedly primitive.  Tickets were hard to come by and, to many people, an insignificant minor obstacle to gaining admission; security was either non-existent, inappropriate or even ‘provided’ by Hell’s Angels, toilets were unspeakable – often open and unisex and consisting of just a hole dug in the ground and food concessions (as overpriced then as they are today) consisted of nothing more than a few burger stands dotted around the place.  Added to all this, the advertised bill for the event often bore little resemblance to the acts that turned up on the day and any pretense of start or finish times would be roundly ignored, leaving the audience confused and totally exhausted.  And still we attended…

 Of all the festivals of that late 60s-early 70s period, Krumlin – formally The Yorkshire Folk, Blues & Jazz Festival held (or, more appropriately, attempted) at Barkisland, on the Pennine Moors, high above Halifax, during the weekend of 14-16 August 1970, was by far the most notorious.  Despite the enticing lineup (more of which later) it was surely a crazy idea to plan a festival at a site over 1,200 above sea level in an area that regularly attracts some of the country’s highest rainfall.  Crazy or not, organisers Brian Highly and Derek McEwan decided to go ahead with it.

The festival has passed into legend and many of the stories have grown with the telling over the past 50 years; students of festival history will be familiar with the tale of organizer Derek McEwan’s disappearance off onto the rainy, dark moors and his subsequent nervous breakdown, the non-appearance of the top-billed acts including The Who and Pink Floyd, Fairport’s Dave Pegg’s onstage accident (I won’t go into the messy details here – read the book) and, above all, the horrendous weather that ultimately caused the cancellation of the whole thing. 

Now, Ben Graham (who wasn’t even born when the festival took place, but, as a native of nearby Sowerby Bridge has held a long fascination with the events that took place up the hill back in 1970) strips back the legend and tells the whole story in this highly readable account.

The book covers the rationale, such as it was, for the festival and goes into the financial realities that the organisers had to cope with. 25,000 people attended and anticipated revenue from ticket sales was £50,000.  Actual income was £11,413 and the net loss came to £31,431 – a massive hit back in 1970 – no wonder the organizer had a nervous breakdown!

The lineup is reviewed in detail and, although it is not possible from this distance to say which of the advertised acts made an appearance and which didn’t, Ben does confirm that Pentangle (then riding high on the back of their Basket Of Light album), Fairport Convention (drunk to the point of falling over but still managing to deliver a coherent set), The Groundhogs (they used a phot from their appearance as the gatefold pic of their Split album), Graham Bond (with Alexis Korner, Georgie Fame and Alan Price amongst his entourage), Fotheringay (they’d been drinking with Fairport…) and Zoot Money all did appear.  Elton John apparently stole the show, right on the cusp of The Rocket Man’s blast off into international stardom.

It isn’t clear whether The Who or Pink Floyd were actually ever booked, but their names certainly figured prominently on the advertisements for the event.  Indeed, the excuse, real or fabricated, given for Pink Floyd’s absence has provided the title for this book!  The Who were definitely booked as headliners for the gigantic Isle of Wight Festival that took place just a few days after the Krumlin debacle, and it’s inconceivable that the band’s contract for the bigger event permitted The Who to appear at any other festival… but that’s conjecture.

When the rain came, it was a deluge, even by the standards of this perennially wet hilltop and Ben Graham’s description of the havoc it wreaked at the festival site is, in equal parts, both shocking and hilarious.  The stage was flooded and the marquees that provided the few areas of refuge collapsed, one by one.  Many of the festivalgoers had arrived with only the clothes (typically jeans and tee-shirts) that they stood up in.  It’s a genuine miracle that no-one was killed!

This book is a highly entertaining, informative and humourous read. Ben has managed to get festival organizer, Brian Highley (who, incidentally, went on to be the compiler of questions for Trivial Pursuit…) to write an interesting introduction and the text is peppered with quotes from festivalgoers, mainly taken from the excellent UK Rock Festivals website. Whether you went to Krumlin or whether you didn’t, whether you’ve heard the stories or whether you haven’t, you’ll love Pink Floyd Are Fogbound in Paris: The Story of the 1970 Krumlin Festival.

Pink Floyd Are Fogbound in Paris:  The Story of the 1970 Krumlin Festival is published on 14 August, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of this milestone event, and can be pre-ordered from:  Price is £10.

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