Peace, love and harmony: Slack Space celebrates East Anglian Albion Fair movement

By Ben Miller | 09 March 2012
A black and white photo of a woman in circus make-up from the 1970s
© Albion Fairs Archive
Exhibition: From Barsham to Albion, Slack Space, Colchester, until March 24 2012

“Ask anyone who attended an Albion Fair about the infamous ‘long drop’ toilets,” reads the introduction to this celebration of bygone unbridled joy and creativity in the fields of East Anglia.

“Comfort was far from the norm, the music was sometimes dodgy, and there were often far more naked people than one really wanted to encounter at the water standpipes in the morning.

A black and white photo of a circus performer in a Punch and Judy stall during the 1970s
© Albion Fairs Archive
“But the real ale and vegan food was always plentiful and, in an era when Mrs Thatcher was teaching us all to think of ‘me, me, me’ and riots were a common occurrence in the major cities, there was something quite special in being part of several thousand people gathering together in our little corner of rural England to live for a weekend in peace, love and harmony.”

It’s appropriate that Slack Space – an artist collective operating from empty shops – should host this tribute to the free-spirited alliances of the 1970s and 1980s.

They’ve secured the entire archive of the East Anglian Albion Fair Movement for a colourful show of their own, taking in circus performers, tie-dyed hippies and the Waveney Clarion, the “ultimate monthly newspaper of alternative East Anglia”.

The retrospective observes a legacy carried on by festivals such as Glastonbury and Latitude, although the future of the fairs themselves was extinguished by rather less progressive legislative measures.

“The relative tolerance of free festival culture in the late seventies and very early eighties gave way to a more repressive regime,” they say.

“The ‘Peace Convoys’ – which were anything but peaceful – became very prevalent, with their hard drug acid-punk culture.

“Free festivals could no longer flourish due to the new public order acts which banned gatherings on public land, and The Albion Fairs were no more.”

The archive is keener to inspire than mourn, not least on the opening Saturday (March 10), when special documentary films will be screened alongside music and street theatre from the period.

  • Slack Space, Victoria Place, Colchester. Open Wednesday-Saturday 11am-6pm. Admission free.

More pictures:

A black and white photo of a circus performer holding a hoop infront of people in the 1970s
Posters, photos, films and memorabilia feature in the show© Albion Fairs Archive
A photo of a giant man on stilts on a tiny stage in a field during the 1970s
The festivals included the Rougham Tree Fair© Albion Fairs Archive
A photo of two people in rainbow coloured clothes in a field during the 1970s
The exhibition takes to Slack Space's new premises in Victoria Place© Albion Fairs Archive
A black and white photo of cabaret performers on a festival stage in a field in the 1970s
Organisers say public order acts contributed to the demise of the Fairs© Albion Fairs Archive
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