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Now we are forty
With the 40th anniversary of the Chippenham Folk Festival just around the corner, volunteers have been looking back at the early days of the festival.
The first festival in 1972 was organised by Nigel Bonallack who got the idea from visiting a medieval street fair in Lacock the previous year.
It took place over the May bank holiday weekend and featured Steeleye Span, who are returning this year after a gap of 40 years.
The festival, which was organised with help from the English Folk Dance and Song Society, was a great success for the fans, but a financial disaster.
So the following year, a smaller event was held at the Lacock Village Hall with music from the Blue Hill Button Band.
In 1974 the festival moved to Chippenham for three days, with the fourth day back in Lacock.
Dick Stanger, 75, of Carnarvon Close, Chippenham, was a camp warden at the very first festival and was director from 1981 to 1994.
He said: “It became too difficult to host the fourth day in Lacock. You used to be able to park all day for 50p, but there would be cars all over the village, and in 1984 the entire festival moved to Chippenham.”
Mr Stanger’s favourite band is Flowers and Frolics, who played at ten festivals.
“They used to be a real part of the festival, and would camp over the weekend,” he said.
“Everyone used to camp in Westmead in Chippenham and we’d all have a big football match. One year, we played with a cabbage and all I’d say is the cabbage was stronger than some of the tents, so we had a bit of trouble there.
“Everyone used to stay up all night singing. We called it Campsite Khazi Ceilidh because it was right next to the toilets.”
Mr Stanger says he always looks forward to the ‘acquceilidh’ – a ceilidh held in a swimming pool, which started in 1991 when he asked if the campers could use the swimming pool showers.
He was told the showers were only available when hired with the pool ... and so the ceilidh dancers took to the water for a unique show.
Despite the good times, Mr Stanger is less fond of other developments, such as the movement towards folk rock.
“While that is very popular at some festivals such as Glastonbury, it just doesn’t work as well in Chippenham,” said Mr Stanger. “But part of organising an event like this is realising that what the audience wants has to come first, and generally I’d say this is done very well.”
Chippenham Museum is holding an exhibition of photographs from tomorrow until Monday, 10am to 4pm, to coincide with the four day festival which starts tomorrow. Festival details at www.chippfolk.co.uk