1982 was the last free festival at Eaton but not the last in the environs of Norwich. By this time negative media attention was focusing on the Peace Convoy and local politicians were getting involved and expressing their opinions. They had become big news. If you put your specs on you may find Eaton on this flyer down there somewhere from the 6th of August to the 16th as the East Anglian Free Festival.
A police statement declared on the 5th of August: "During the early hours of today about 200 people in 45 vehicles arrived in Norwich to hold a music festival off Church Lane, Eaton. The gathering are calling themselves the Peace Convoy. It is believed that they intend to stay in Norwich for a week to 10 days. Various reports have been received from other forces concerning offences suspected to have been committed by them."
The main problem appears to relate to two policemen who were seriously injured and nine others hurt when their Transit van crashed as they followed the convoy in Bedfordshire. All the oficers were from the Thames Valley force which had turned out to help Bedfordshire police shadow the convoy.
Earlier 15 people were arrested at Witney Oxford, for offences relating to drugs, assault and damage as the convoy travelled from the West Country on its way to Norfolk. From these incidents The Sun concocted a sensational headline the next day.
As travellers stood around in the rain, among their vans, converted buses, music gear and belongings they told how they saw the police van leave the road and turn over. They said they provided a winch to try and help release the men and some of the women tried to give aid to the injured policemen.
The travellers were bitter about The Sun claiming they left "a trail of destruction" behind the convoy as it travelled across the country. They said there was absolutely no truth in the reports.
It was easier to believe the travellers rather than The Sun as they patiently scythed down stinging nettles, chopped wood for camp fires and boiled water. Others went to local stores to buy bread and milk. Supplies of fresh water arrived from the local vicarage to a great cheer.
Children ran about playing, swimming in the river and having a good time. There were painted faces and people with green hair and all sorts of other colours. Many went barefoot or even naked as they swam in the river. The travellers said they wanted no trouble and the police took a relaxed approach with Chief Supt. Hubert Reynolds saying the police were treating the convoy "as a minor matter. It is no different from policing the Larkman, Mile Cross or Newmarket Road."
But, The Sun and it should be noted, The Guardian, set a disturbing tone and The Times and other papers descended upon sleepy Eaton.
THE GUARDIAN 6-8-82 THE TIMES 7-8-82
Oh, and this Universal Press International article was retrieved online:
'Tribe' rampages across southern England, Aug. 6, 1982
NORWICH, England -- A convoy of punks and toughs including one man in a minidress and girls with green-painted faces rampaged across southern England, leaving 14 policemen injured, police said Friday.
Police said 13 youths, aged 13 to 25, were arrested Thursday along the 160-mile route which crossed nine counties from Gloucestershire in the west to Norfolk in the east. They were armed with an assortment of ax handles, machettes and knives.
The 13 appeared in court Friday on charges ranging from traffic offenses to assaulting police officers. Four charged with assault and drug offenses were held in custody and the others were released.
Up to 300 youths led by a man in a crushed black top hat known as 'Bender Dave' formed a convoy of 50 cars, motorcycles, trucks and vans - some sprayed with the slogan 'Peace Convoy' -- Thursday in a town near Bristol. They set off for the quiet, middle-class suburb of Eaton near Norwich to attend a free pop festival.
Announcing they were marking the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the festival of the 'god of Discord,' the band of weirdly dressed punks and toughs -- called 'The Tribe' by Bender Dave - clashed with police at several points along the route, injuring the 14 policemen.
The so-called 'peace' group used ax handles, machetes and knives to attack the officers who attempted to halt their unruly progress. Police said one officer was kicked and jostled and after a chase, two back-up officers called to the scene also were assaulted.
Then, a police bus speeding to the scene skidded on an oil patch and overturned, injuring 11 officers.
Bender Dave, wearing a crushed, black top hat, said: 'If we really wanted to shake the police out we could do it much better than that. We would tear them apart.
'They have been hassling us all the time. They have been following us right across the country. All we want is to be left alone,' Bender Dave said as he squirted his interviewer with a fire extinguisher.
Police officers were warned to stay away from the group's encampment. 'We have been told not to go near the camp. If we went down there the whole thing could explode,' one officer said.
'As he spoke a bearded man in a printed minidress appeared with a blackened kettle in his hand. A policeman told him water could be obtained two doors away -- at the local mayor's house.'
The above article is from the Eastern Daily Press
So the "strange figure" of Bender Dave (for those not aware a bender is a hut made from flexible branches) occurs in the EDP, Times and UPI articles and we have a shadowy picture of him apparently smoking a chillum. I managed to contact him (And Convoy Steve) but he doesn't have much to say about these times and perhaps is more concerned with getting on with his art which you can find here and below.
Tony Glover, Norwich City Council's chief executive, said that most of Mr Powley's points were police matters and the council had not discussed what to do about the camp but it would be raised in a future meeting.
As the nearly 300 travellers prepared to leave Eaton Convoy Steve praised the police: "If all the police were like these in Norwich there would be no problems, they have been very sensible." And Norwich police themselves stated that the camp had caused "few problems" during its two-week stay. The city police statement said: "We do not welcome events of this type, but support local residents who state there have been few problems at this particular event.
"The site is secluded, and noise and public order complaints have been of a minimum.
"Four arrests have been made for alleged criminal offences, and those involved had appeared in court.
"We continue to monitor the situation."
Convoy Steve said "I think the camp has gone quite well. It's just a pity the site couldn't be better. It's a swamp. All we ask for is a bit of land we could rent." He thought, however, that he would return next year. He added that during the past two weeks the camp hadn't suffered any "rednecks" looking for trouble.
Convoy Steve didn't like the description "hippy" which had been given to the camp. "We're travellers, nomads. We're just showing that we can live the way we do - and clear up our own rubbish. This site will be left clean when we go. We have respect for the earth."
Tory candidate, Mr John Powley, prospective Parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, hit out against the "drug-selling, nude bathing and primitive conditions" he saw at the camp at Eaton. He told how during a visit to the "peace people" he was offered drugs for sale - LSD at £1.50 "a go" and Lebanese hash at £15 per quarter ounce. Nude bathing, of both sexes, was going on in the river and young people were being exposed to "grave moral and physical danger".
Mr Powley told of his visit to the camp in "casual dress" in a letter to Norwich City Council -and called for action to stop the camp next year. "We cannot, surely, countenance one law for one section of the community and a different set of laws just because a minority do not like it," he wrote. Powley said he spent two or three hours at the camp and described it as being in a "disgraceful state" and he declined an invitation for a swim - or for drugs.
"They were polite. It was "good evening" and "hello" and "nice to see you," Mr Powley said but he could not condone their behaviour. He recognised that little could be done about the event in '82 but wanted to know what would the council do to stop it happening next year? Traveller Convoy Steve responded that Mr Powley had used "Churchillian phrases" and asked how could they answer the complaint, for example, that young children were exposed to "grave moral and physical danger?". He claimed that local people had visited the camp - and made straight for the river to see the nude bathing".
As for sanitation they used holes in the ground "the same as the army do."
He added that he was probably offered cannabis simply because he was a Consevative candidate. "Many are clowns and actors here". Another added "Is he complaining he paid too much?" And they agreed: "The Conservatives hate us - we are the symbol of the end of their empire."
As for drugs - 45 children had died from sniffing glue last year but Convoy Steve stressed; "We don't allow heroin on the site."
We can see the travellers divided political opinion in Norwich on party lines. Norwich city council was majority Labour and the Tories were going to make political capital out of the situation.
As the travellers made their way to the Stour Valley Albion Fair the Conservative Lord Mayor of Norwich, Mr George Richards, called for a total ban: "The peace community camped illegaly, behaved unlawfully and terrified residents living nearby. We should do everything in our power to prevent them from returning, " said Richards who happened to live on Marston Lane about a quarter of a mile from the site. "I think the population round there were very frightened and nobody complained because they feared retaliation". There was no doubt the peace people were flouting the law, said Mr Richards, adding that on his latest visit to the camp there was a stall selling a whole range of drugs.
The situation was summed up in a "nutshell" by a letter he had received from Tony Glover, chief executive of the city council. In reply to his demand that council officials visit the site Mr Glover said that they would need police protection and "such protection would be likely to constitute just that element of provocation which everyone is anxious to avoid."
Mr Richards concluded: "We don't want any peace or music camps. Thye are just drop-outs from Society who don't want to conform to the laws."
Mr Richards view was backed by Mr Michael Nicholas the council leader of the Tory group. Mr Glover's letter, which he had also received, proved that the travellers were intimidating. One family he had spoken to who had offered the convoy water quickly changed their minds when 20 people from the camp turned at their home in one weekend.
One local man defended the travellers saying "there was nothing wrong with them: they just wanted to pull up for a while."
All that remained on Eaton marshes was a pile of litter sacks and smouldering rubbish fires as the convoy rolled out under a plice escort. But the fall out rumbled on for months as the council launched a major inquest and the public discussed whether the travellers were policed correctly and over what steps could or should be taken to prevent them returning.
Mr Glover supported the police and council's "softly softly" tactics and warned that tougher action by the authorities could lead to violence and would be a costly exercise. The lengthy report reveals that Mr Glover stood by the low profile approach and that it was the only "sensible" course to take. It was also successful. Mr Glover's solution for next year was to find another site outside the city boundary and find a way of preventing travellers moving on to Eaton Common. He pointed out that they were welcomed at the site near Bayfield Hall when they arrived for the Albion Fair at the end of August.
Stopping the peace convoy driving on to Eaton Common was "feasible" but would be a big , expensive earth shifting exercise which would need consent from the Environment Secretary. The only effective legal action would be to take out an injunction which would need an army of police to enforce. In any case, such action could bring violence followed by an attempt to find another site. Mr Glover ruled out providing an alternative site within the city boundaries stating that even the larger parks of Eaton and Earlham or Mousehold Heath or Harford tip were unsuitable. Mr Glover also suggested a meeting of interested parties in a bid to find another site but "the main difficulty identified at that time was thefact that there were no representatives or responsible organisation with which such matters could be discussed once the festival had ended."
"It was (and is) virtually impossible to find anybody who is prepared to accept responsibility for any decision-making or negotiation either before or during the festival," and he stated that many festival-goers are intelligent and articulate and well aware of their legal and civil rights.
Ten complaints to the council were reported to the council Mr Glover revealed to the policy committee. One, from the Scouts whose campsite is close to the Common, said that they lost bookings and that they feared that "a punch-up between Scouts and hippies is possible." Other citizens wrote complaining of vandalism, drug-taking, filth and pollution of a quiet country spot enjoyed by "ordinary" people. The council also received a petition signed by 211 mostly local people. There were also 22 complaints to the police of which seven were about theft and five were of noise. Other complaints were about a health hazard, obstruction and requests for water and food.
Many thanks to Brian Fawcett who has shared these two photos of Eaton in 1982.
Here you can see a man getting his head painted by Snakey.
An excellent disguise for someone paranoid they will be noticed by the authorities.....