A tempting email. There’s a reunion in the Red Lion on Saturday, am I free to come? Not just any old reunion. And not just any old Red Lion. This is the reborn Red Lion with a Jimi Hendrix Room and a newly burnished old claim to fame. The reunion is for veterans of Barbecue 67. Do I have the nerve to go? My only claim to fame is turning down the chance to interview one of the world’s greatest rock stars.
Memories, memories. That’s what scriptwriter Andy Barrett is after of course. He’s got what sounds like a fantastic project, writing about the ‘unbelievable but true phenomenon’ when not only Hendrix but Pink Floyd, the Move, Cream, Zoot Money and Geno Washington packed Spalding’s Bulb Auction with crowds the Lincolnshire town had never seen before. And very likely has not seen since.
As an old hack dabbling in new media I have learned that Tesco and tram stories score the highest hits on my blog. But there are two other subjects that bring the treat of comments from readers a long way from Edinburgh. There’s that elk-crossing in Banff, Canada and there’s Barbecue 67.
Flashback 44 years ago to Spalding, a small market town famous for the annual Tulip Parade and not a lot else. I was a trainee reporter on the Spalding Guardian and Lincs Free Press and as I remember it, the Red Lion was the pub where we met on Friday nights to celebrate another week reporting court and council news. We drank warm, frothy Watneys (no wine, no lager) until closing time at 11 o’clock.
In the summer of 1967 the newsroom turned out in force to cover one of the most unlikely rock events of the decade. Jimi Hendrix spent a night at the Red Lion though, as I remember it, no-one made much of that at the time. Four years ago, a letter and newscutting from an old friend stirred memories of that long ago summer. The Spalding Guardian had celebrated the 40th anniversary with a special edition of pictures and recycled stories, including one of mine. While my colleagues John Thorne and Pat Prentice went backstage I had opted to report from the hall.
To my astonishment the blog I wrote has continued to produce comments and contacts from all kinds of people over the last four years – great friends as well as people I never met including the two enterprising guys, Pete Barraclough and Mick Barnes, who compered the event and came up with the inspired line up. And John (not Thorne) who tried to retrieve Jimi’s burning guitar from the stage but “couldn’t get through the crowds”.
Two years ago a BBC researcher asked me to help dig up a few names for a retrospective programme presented by the lovely Benjamin Zephaniah (no, didn’t get to interview him either but this time I would not have turned down the chance).
Now, along comes Andy Barrett. I Googled him, of course, and he’s doing all kinds of great-looking work. Right now he’s working with New Perspective Theatre Company (they’ve just been to Edinburgh by the way) to produce a script based on Barbecue 67. And he’s keen to chat or even meet if I can get to Spalding on Saturday.
So very tempting.
PS: the Red Lion is fully booked
Update: May 2022, Andy Barrett’s radio play is scheduled for Monday 30 May on BBC Radio 4: Drama Barbecue 67 – The Original Summer of Love
In a Lincolnshire landscape now home to labourers from Eastern Europe, Doug’s greatest memory is of Spalding’s Barbeque 67. Widowed, retired and depressed, this former tulip farmer (Robert Glenister) is helped to his feet by the young Romanian Tereza (Anamaria Marinca).
And one more flashback, my last visit to Spalding was in 2014, for a reunion of former Lincs Free Press and Spalding reporters. Two years later this area returned the largest vote for Brexit.