24th-27th May 1991: Sweat, DiY and Circus Warp at Avon Free Festival, Sodbury Common, Chipping Sodbury, Avon

UPDATE: Steve just sent us this clipping:


Some photos of the festival on this page (scroll down):


This was a year before Castlemorton and there were apparently house systems there according to this page: http://www.oldskoolanthemz.com/forum/chillout-room/11812-good-old-days-acidic-warehousing-bygone-nights.html (it’s a great article which was apparently copied from the now-defunct DiY discs site).

For the first time the major festivals appeared not so much as hippy events but akin to the great orbital raves of 1988. Here, indeed, was the true spiritual heir to the Summer of Love. The commercial rave scene could no longer genuinely claim to represent love, unity or spiritual celebration. Chipping Sodbury, the eventual site of the Avon Free Festival of 1991, featured various house systems and was really the first free festival so explicit in it’s reveration of dance music. The antagonisms many travellers felt towards these foreign new sounds, also began to become apparent. Fair point, if you have to live on a site with a baby, five days of hugely amplified house is probably not ideal. However, it is undeniable that the influx of this culture breathed new life into an atrophying festival scene. The Avon Free in 1987, for example, had been without joy, a paean to negativity.

Alan ‘Tash’ Lodge had some unwelcome police attention there, the text below is from his page: http://tash.gn.apc.org/photo_degree_ntu.htm

In May 1991 at a small “free festival” near Chipping Sodbury in Avon, a major police operation was mounted and road blocks were set up. The police were attempting to search most of those attending for controlled drugs. This “blanket” activity was held by our counsel to be illegal, since the police must act on individual grounds to suspect any particular individual. The law says that they must not make judgements on colour, style, appearance etc.

This was, however, exactly what was occurring and I was asked by lawyers to go and photograph the circumstances for later use (slides 134 – 142). I have engaged in this activity many times and know police frequently object or are obstructive.

This occasion was no different and while photographing, was threatened with arrest. It was never clear exactly why, but it would have achieved getting me out of the way. I was also subjected to a search myself.

The story is described in a statement that I made to record an official complaint against the police.

28 thoughts on “24th-27th May 1991: Sweat, DiY and Circus Warp at Avon Free Festival, Sodbury Common, Chipping Sodbury, Avon

  1. Great post & Great photos they capture the atmosphere, We were there still comes up often in chat a real crossover point on the free party/festi scene horsedrawn travellers, crustys, and cheesy quavers all put together in a field and left to get on with it there were some funny sights one was me after shoving ten Barts up my jaxi as I got pulled and strip searched after that no one wanted any for some reason so they went down my throat I remember a few bits after that,any one else remember hearing Chrystal Bloody Waters tune repeating all night

  2. this was my 1st festival and the turning point of my life, opened sooo many doors in the mind. strong acid, real big trips, travellers round fires, meditating wise men, and witnessing an axe attack on someone by a crazed nutter whilst tripping out, awesome event and forever changed me!

  3. I remember wango’s stage and the rave. not sure who it was though. My first acid tabs, oh dear. went a bit wrong. recovered and had a blast though.

    1. Sweat sound system did all the chipping sodbury parties +many more free festivals and parties from about 1990 too 1994 which was when the police busted the owners off the sound system.BIG RESPECT

  4. Hi,

    I’ve still got the newspaper clipping for this one, let me know if you want a copy and i’ll scan it and send it over.

    Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about it, as although I have loads of memories, I can never place them with a specific event! far too many parties from 90 to 93

    I do remember one of the greens being fenced off in the middle of the site though.

      1. Couldn’t find it, then forgot, but I’m back 2 years later and scanning it right now. Clearly no more together in this decade than I was in the 90’s!! I’ll email it over in a minute

      2. And you need to change the date, check the dates on the top of the clipping, must have been 24th to 27th

  5. What do I remember about Chipping Sodbury?
    Hmmm, the shouts of ‘make some fucking noise!’ coming from the sound systems at regular intervals (at one point I heard an announcement from a DJ that they’d been going for 58 hours non-stop or similar!), lots of acid being available but pills (White Doves) still being expensive (£20-25?) so I didn’t get round to splashing out on any.

    I remember coming across the Moonflowers playing in the early morning as it was getting light, not much of an audience but they looked like they were enjoying themselves too much to notice. Can’t remember which other bands played on the stage which is odd (for me).

    Earlier on when the first vehicles were arriving on site there was some sort of trouble with a farmer on his tractor in the next field who insisted on spraying silage next to the separating fence between the site and his field – bit of a shouting match going on for a while before he gave up and moved off.

    It became a bit colder later in the weekend when it clouded over, and my last night in my tent was a definitely chilly. Our car was pulled over leaving the site and we were all searched and asked for personal details by a group of plain-clothes type cops who we later reckoned were probably Special Branch. That’s about it, except I remember enjoying dancing to rave music for the first time with enthusiasm, the start of me being a bit of a cheesy quaver as well as a space rocker from then on.
    Great blog, my first time here.

  6. “pills (White Doves) still being expensive (£20-25?) so I didn’t get round to splashing out on any”

    They could be had for a tenner, which was a lot back then, but the effect was absofuckingloutely priceless xxx

  7. I was flogging some doves there, but swapped some with a geezer for a coupla pink callies. Oh my fucking lord they were good!

    Tony, Janine, Skater, Ippy, me & the rest of Wessex Posse (Warminster) had it overly-large that weekend.

    Anyone remember the pigs in the luton at the gate strip-searching likely characters? I was miniging by the time they looked up my arse.

    Wot larks… ^_^

    1. yeah I remember themthey pulled me and took me down to my boxers and gave up.. ahh I had a load of bart men shoved up my crack .. got some doves of a couple big smiles
      Happy daze

  8. Living in Bristol at the time this was just down the road. Having been to alot of ‘Pay’ parties I think this was my first ‘Free’ party not including some warehouse ones back in Bristol from 88-90′. Can’t remember much about this event other that lots of old bill and roadblocks…

  9. just came across an old news report of a illegal rave at Hawling near Cheltenham in 1991.cant tell what system did this party but thought it might be of intrest.

  10. I went chipping sodbury
    I can rember something called a king budda 😉
    I seam to rember sweat sound system ther and diy

    Amazing free party very happy days

  11. massive party.. lots of acid lots of crustys… important party though i think.. old bill realised they had a dance revolution on their hands….. haha radio rental lets go mental……. kool blog guys **

  12. Yeah me and a load of friends went, we saw the axeman early on the Sunday-morning, he entered a caravan near us, a naked bearded hippy came out shortly afterwards the axeman did not? What a party though we lived at a nearby village I visited one at Ingeistone common the previous year there were tepees and old buses an lorries lots of lurchers hawkwind and hash smoking hippies. I remember a band called Tunnel men playing on Wango Riley’s travelling stage at Sodbury in 91, were you in that band anyone remember them?.

  13. Ooh and I still have a newspaper page from 91 “hippy army on the 18th hole” from the Western Daily Press, Many of my Traveller mates live nearby and some have died tragically but they were happy days x

  14. We had a laugh didn’t we??? Fucking amazing what a few people putting there heads together can do !!! I remeber 2 chipping sodbury big parties.. and best of all turning the barn into a club hahaha every Saturday chickens dogs kids and dids red laser miss you guys especially my mate Vernon love to nicki jess nigel Andy brat Justin &gemma brinn and kerrry and not to forget horse drawn gordon many a warm night in your t.p. respect faron (cloud nine ) xxxxxx

  15. Hi there, I took a lot of photos at this party with my lovely Olympus Om1 SLR. For years people have been nagging me to get them up online. This will be the year I finally get round to doing this! Seems to me like this might be a good place to make them public, and not give them to facebook. Let me know….

  16. There had always been Hippie parties on Sodbury common but the first rave was in 1990 on the Old golf course. I know this because I lived up the road from it. It was the summer i left school and it literally changed my life!!

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