Seventies’ pop festival HQ now offers quiet life in the country
Banquet House Farm is part of pop music history and now it’s for sale. Sharon Dale talks festivals past and present with its owners.
WOODSTOCK with its free love, fabulous acts and 400,000-strong crowd thrilled a generation in 1969 and none more so than two music lovers from Halifax.
“Oh, to have been there for Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Hendrix’s blistering rendition of the Star Spangled Banner,” they sighed over a few pints that became rocket fuel for an ambitious plan – why not bring a bit of Woodstock to West Yorkshire?
The enterprising pair, Derek McEwen and Brian Highley, arranged to rent 12 acres of land in Krumlin, near Barkisland, for the weekend of August 14-16 1970, and began soliciting rock and pop’s biggest names. The posters promised that The Who would headline and The Pretty Things, Fairport Convention, Elton John and Alan Price were dead certs.
The HQ for the Yorkshire folk, blues and jazz festival, later known as the Krumlin Pop Festival, was Banquet House Farm, where the takings were kept and the performers queued up to be paid.
The event didn’t go quite as planned, thanks to forged tickets, foul weather and gatecrashers, but memories live on, and last year a mini festival for friends and family was staged by Ian and Jeanette Harkness,
The couple have lived at Banquet House Farm for the past 10 years and wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of a festival that Ian remembers well, as he was there in the midst of the mayhem.
“I and some other regulars volunteered to help the landlord of our local pub run the public bar at the festival,” says Ian, who was 23 at the time.
“But, strangely, I didn’t remember the house as I was in the field and saw it from a different perspective.
“I only realised when a chap called John Wharton knocked on the door and told us he was researching a book on the festival and that this place was the nerve centre.”
Ian and Jeanette, who runs her own training and development company, Positive Days, bought a part of pop music history 10 years ago after falling in love with the house and its stunning location.
“It was out of our price range but we agreed that we wouldn’t go on holiday for a few years, which was fine as we thought living here would be like being on holiday every day,” says Jeanette.
The property has three reception rooms and four bedrooms and comes with an adjoining barn, which has planning permission for a fivebedroom home. It is now up for sale as the Harknesses have decided to downsize, though they aren’t going far,
“That’s the best bit. We wanted to downsize so we could do some travelling and thought we’d have to move away to a little cottage, but, luckily, we now have permission to convert the stable block,” says Jeanette, who doesn’t rule out having another mini musical gathering.
“The tribute we had last year was for 150 people and we managed to get a couple of the original Krumlin performers, Zoot Money and Roger Sutcliffe, to play. We all dressed up in ’70s’ gear and raised money for local charities. It was great fun and I’d love to do it again.
“The original festival was a bit of a disaster but it is remembered fondly. It was a valiant effort; if it had worked out, it could have been another Glastonbury.”
Ian and Jeanette compiled this reminiscence of the Krumlin Pop Festival:
From that evening in the pub, in December 1969 ,when the organisers decided to stage a music festival, plans progressed. They secured a site, though local residents expressed a view that the quiet countryside around Krumlin would be invaded by beardies and weirdies.
By July, however, there were financial problems. The “big name” had not been announced despite the increase in ticket prices. The Who were apparently booked for a fee of £5,000, though this was denied later by their agents and they appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival instead. Pink Floyd replaced them for £5,000 and half was paid up front, but they never turned up on the day.
Many other names had been mentioned, some probably even approached, and included Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Simon and Garfunkel and Frank Zappa.
On the beer front, the performers’ bar, which proved to be the busiest place in the whole festival, was to be run by Brian Wickham, of the Fleece, at Ripponden, and the public bar by Jack Bunting, of the Upper George. Being a customer of the UG, Ian Harkness volunteered for bar duty.
Friday morning dawned to clear blue skies and all seemed set fair for a good festival. Surprisingly, no-one seemed to know which act was to kick off. Billy Connolly, a musician then, formed half of a group called The Humblebums, along with Gerry Rafferty.
He suggested that if the organisers’ secretary would give him a big kiss, they would go on first. She duly obliged and the show was on the road.
Elton John, who was on the brink of stardom, followed, giving an excellent performance. Next was Georgie Fame.
Friday evening become quite cold but things were going OK.
Saturday arrived to good weather, which carried on into the afternoon. Pink Floyd didn’t show and The Move apparently arrived but did not get the chance to play.
However, Fairport Convention, Atomic Rooster, The Pretty Things, Ralph McTell, Alexis Korner and many others did perform.
Many artists wouldn’t perform without seeing some cash but there wasn’t any. The only two potential sources were the gate receipts and the performers’ beer tent. Regular patrols were made around the turnstiles and the bar till.
Performers made good use of this bar during the long periods of inaction with the unfortunate result that many were very drunk if and when they actually went on stage.
Then, early evening, the heavens opened, winds became gale force and the temperature dropped dramatically. Bands played on until the early hours of the morning but the winds became stronger and the crowds either retreated to their tents, the beer tent or under plastic sheeting.
Alan Price and Zoot Money were the last to perform. Manfred Mann were waiting in the wings when it was finally decided that conditions were too dangerous to continue.
The festival finished in the early hours of Sunday morning. The organisers lost a lot of money and the only people who made a killing were a company who brought a load of plastic sheeting to be made into ponchos, and the local farmers who towed cars off the site.
During the night, the beer tent was inundated with drenched and freezing festival-goers and the main tent posts snapped, leaving people to tunnel their way out. Many were seen with a pack of beer tucked under their arm as they disappeared into the distance. The scene was one of devastation and there were several reported cases of exposure.
“Yes, it was disaster, but I felt sorry for the organisers as most of the problems were down to the weather,” says Ian. “They gave it a good go and it was groundbreaking for the time.”
TOP: Banquet House Farm, which was festival HQ and is now for sale. Left to right: The tranquil scene today, Alan Price with Danny Thompson and festival goers before the rain came down.