Inside the forgotten ‘northern Glastonbury’ festival disaster that left organisers bankrupt and crowd rushed to hospital

As we gear up for festival season, many may have forgotten the disastrous first ‘northern Glastonbury’ festival, which left its organisers bankrupt and many attendees hospitalised.

While Glastonbury debuted at Worthy Farm in Somerset in September 1970, just a month before, the UK experienced another infamous festival.

The UK experienced a disastrous festival back in 1970

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The UK experienced a disastrous festival back in 1970Credit: Getty
The Krumlin Festival left organisers bankrupt

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The Krumlin Festival left organisers bankruptCredit: Getty

The Krumlin Festival, the first major festival of its kind, took place over five decades ago in West Yorkshire, near Halifax.

The event was meant to be the UK’s version of Woodstock, a major American festival that was held on a farm in New York the year before.

Krumlin’s lineup boasted some of the era’s biggest artists, including Pentangle, Manfred Mann Chapter 3 and Fairport Convention.

The festival’s first major issue was its unexpectedly large attendance, with 15,000 people showing up, a lesson Glastonbury seemed to have learned from, as it only admitted 1,500 people the following month.

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Severe weather conditions at the Krumlin Festival turned the festival grounds into a cold, rainy mess, leaving hundreds of festival-goers drenched and freezing, requiring rescue by emergency services.

Half of the headlining acts were unable to perform, with some bands cancelling altogether.

The idea for the festival came from Brian Highley, a local pub owner.

He had a pub called Anchor Inn where several customers would come in for a drink and talk about their favourite bands.

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Brian was convinced that there was so much money to be made on the festival scene by one of his regulars called Derek McEwen.

Derek, who was connected to the local music scene, was motivated to start the project to show that if New York can do it with Woodstock, Yorkshire could also do it.

Teaming up with Derek McEwen they planned to use the land behind Brian’s pub for the festival.

However, after that plan fell through, they acquired acres of land nearby, which became the site of the Krumlin Festival.

Huge names were booked for the event including Elton John and Pink Floyd.

The rock band The Who were anticipated to perform as their name was featured on the festival flyer. However, it was later revealed that Brian had received false information, and the band had no intention of appearing at the festival.

Thousands of attendees entered with fake tickets or sneaked in, leading to significantly less revenue than expected.

On the second day of the festival, Brian was shocked to find his profits far lower than anticipated, making only £48 instead of the expected £5000.

This forced him to cancel performances scheduled for the following day due to lack of funds.

The weather worsened, leading to dozens of cases of hypothermia among festival-goers, while aggressive rain caused equipment malfunctions and collapsed rain covers.

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Although there were no fatalities, both Derek and Brian ended up £30,000 in debt and filed for bankruptcy.

After the disastrous event, Derek distanced himself from the scene, while Brian became a music promoter.

Some attendees were hospitalised with hypothermia

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Some attendees were hospitalised with hypothermiaCredit: Getty
Organisers cancelled half the performances at the festival

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Organisers cancelled half the performances at the festivalCredit: Getty
Thousands entered the festival with fake tickets

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Thousands entered the festival with fake ticketsCredit: Getty