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English Pop Fete Ends in Bitterness Print-ready version

by Bernard Weinraub
New York Times
September 1, 1970
Original article: PDF

English Pop Fete Ends in Bitterness By Bernard Weinraub Special to The New York Times

NEWPORT, England, Aug. 31

-In a chilly dawn drizzle, the Isle of Wight festival ended somberly today with Richie Havens chanting "Hare Krishna" and mobs of motorcyclists and other angry youths ripping down iron fences and smashing lights.

"To think I spent nine months defending these people, saying how peaceful they were, fighting for them," said the exhausted festival promoter, Ron Foulk, shortly after several shops were ripped apart by gangs with iron bars, "Now look what they've done. They're vandals, nothing else. I would certainly never organize another festival!"

The brief outbreak of dawn violence on the 200-acre festival site, which was littered with rotting food and empty soft-drink cans, marred the tense but peaceful weekend pop festival, which drew 250,000 young Britons, Americans, Frenchmen, Germans, Swedes, and Danes.

Through last night and early today, with thousands leaving to wait in mile-long lines for buses to ports and ferries, the stars of the festival began appearing on stage. The young, weary audience, huddling together in the damp cold, heard such performers as Joan Baez and Jimi Hendrix, who played for two and a quarter hours and, finally, Richie Havens.

Mobile Shops Raided

By early morning sporadic gangs of motorcyclists began raiding empty mobile shops that had sold frankfurters and popcorn. Others who had watched the festival free from a slope facing the stage surged toward the corrugated iron fences in the festival site.

The promoters had announced that anyone could enter the arena free-a weekend ticket to the day and night festival cost £3 ($7.20).

Nearly 60 policemen with Alsatian dogs and hundreds of the 5,000-man festival security force moved in to quell the violence.

Mr. Foulk, a partner in Fiery Creations, the five-man producing company for the festival, estimated that damage from the looting might run as high as $50,000.

An uneasy, even sour, mood pervaded the final hours. At one point a local vicar stepped on stage to appeal for help for dozens of penniless teenagers. He was shouted down. The festival's announcer, Rikki Farr, said in a breaking voice: "I think you're disgusting."

There was considerable doubt that the island would welcome another pop festival-the first was held last year-or that promoters would offer such a show. Experts on pop culture have been saying that the large festival is a fading phenomenon because of costs.

The Isle of Wight festival's organizers say that they spent more than $1-million and that losses might reach $100,000 to $150,000. The over-all losses may be reduced through record rights and a film.

Salaries for hour-long performances of such stars as Leonard Cohen, Tiny Tim, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell and Donovan proved the largest expense, the equivalent of $600,000.

Miss Baez, the highest paid performer at $26,000, said she would donate some money to A.S. Neill's experimental boarding school, Summerhill, in Leiston, Suffolk, and some to the Institute for the Study of Non-violence in New York.

Standing near the site yesterday, she said that if young people wanted a free festival, they should create one themselves. "I don't think they understand that we have to bear the cost of plane tickets, somebody to look after the baby and all that sort of thing," she said.

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