John Agnew

Sir John Agnew, who owned and ran the Rougham Estate near Bury St Edmunds, helped to create the charity Green Deserts which was involved in trying to stop the spread of the world’s deserts, particularly in the Sudan. One of the ways it was funded was by putting on fairs called the Rougham Tree Fairs.

Many travellers stayed at the Brick Kiln Farm commune in Rougham, especially parked up in the farm's grounds for the winter. The Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe would overwinter parked up around John's house ‘Lawneys’ also on the estate. John did not just allow people the facilities to achieve things he was an active participant attending many Festivals and being a Stonehenge regular with the Green Deserts crew. His living bus was a regular site at festivals.


In the footage below of the 1980 fair you can see Caroline Clarke and Pat Hornby of the Argyle Street squats. Jill Bruce and Bruce Lacey also do their elemental magic. The Rougham Tree Fairs were generally centred around an avenue of trees called The Spinney. A stage would be set up at one end but a smaller stage, like below, would be set to one side.


Another use for The Spinney was to hang inflatables from the trees

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Inflatables were very popular and at the 1980 Rougham Tree Fair there was a giant complex of inflatables which you walked and crawled through in childlike wonder. I think it was called the "Mandarah."

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Air Artists' workshop in Halesworth, Suffolk were making inflatable props and scenery for rock concerts since 1976 including the Pig for Pink Floyd's Animals album cover.  

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John Agnew's Bedford Dennis (below) reflected his interest in trees and the greening of the deserts. Lucky fair goers just had to climb into their bed in the back of their truck, bus or van. Teepees were popular but I suppose most camped in tents or just slept next to a fire. Firewood was supplied in heaps to stop foraging.


That Albion truck still isn't big enough for those teepee poles. I think at least one of those yellow vans belonged to "Balls Up" - a Welsh juggling outfit. That could be them in the Pyramid Stage below. There was also a big top in which you can see bands like Thandoy jamming and there would have been the Tibetans blue and white marquee aswell.

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This was "The Dome." Behind it you can see the church that stands at the end of the avenue of trees. Rougham was one of the finest venues for the Albion Fairs.  The beautiful location, good organisation and Green ethos has secured the five years of festivals in the happy memories of many, if not most, of its lucky visitors.

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That's The Spinney that the band are facing

Rougham was a superb setting for some of the best Albion Fairs. Do you have any memories or pictures you would like to share for possible inclusion?