6/10/14: Andrew Kerr

Blog post (October 10 2014)

Andrew Kerr died on Monday, which happened to be my birthday and also (because it was my birthday I remembered the date) the anniversary of the day he arrived at Worthy Farm, October 6th 1970, to start work on the 1971 Glastonbury Fair. “As I came through the open gate and saw the house, a rainbow was spread across the sky above it.”

He hated the habit people got into of calling it ‘Glastonbury Fayre.’ He called it ‘Prissy Olde Englishe’. There was a film and an album put out in the early 70s, both based on material from the 1971 festival (which had been free – Andrew and Arabella Churchill put up the money), and they were both (for some reason) called ‘Glastonbury Fayre’. They eventually paid the bills, so Andrew had to put up with it.

The first ‘official’ Glastonbury Festival, in 1979 (organised whilst Andrew was in America) was also called ‘Glastonbury Fayre’, and the name stuck, everyone assumed that had been the name of the 1971 event. Ten years ago I put together the programme for the Big Green Gathering, where Andrew was doing a talk, and assumed that ‘Glastonbury Fair’ was a mis-print and changed it to ‘Fayre’. When I saw him he gave me such a pained look I shall never forget it! So I’m on a bit of a mission to put the record straight where I can.

When the festivals started happening regularly in the 1980s he was Site Manager for the first few years. I remember falling out with him dreadfully in 1984, when I was site co-ordinator for the first Green Field. Later we became friends though, and I enjoyed going through the manuscript of his book ‘Intolerably Hip’ and making suggestions (which he took no notice of).

As Michael Eavis says on the Festival website, “He brought a new green conviction to Worthy Farm, raising environmental and ecological concerns to a national level of debate for the very first time.” His speech from the main stage in 1971 included the classic line about “our tired and molested planet … We have spent too much time telling the Universe to shut up; we must search for the humility to listen.”

There’s a memorial celebration at the Tithe Barn in Pilton next Tuesday, October 14th, continuing from 12 mid-day to 12 mid-night. “Please wear bright cheerful clothes and be prepared to enjoy yourselves!”