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Issue 8 - November 1972
We Want 10,000 Quid!
Peter Godfrey took on the job of organising the Outdoor Events for Newcastle Festival after the original organiser dropped out. Ed Berman of InterAction, a street theatre group taking part in the festival, had told him the job was vacant; Pete used to be a member of the group a long time back. I asked him what the limitations and opportunities were when he took on the job.

"There were no theoretical or artistic limits, it was just a question of, Liz said that I had to understand the legal position of … and the reactions of the people around here … and you stand up and say 'America go fuck yourself with your atom bomb'; then people tend to get a little shocked and the fuzz get annoyed and so since you're running a municipal festival you don't want to put anyone's back up; that's one limitation which you have to deal with anyway whatever you're doing."

Other limitations were that certain events had been arranged before Peter arrived but his big problem was money - or the lack of it.

"Maybe we could have had the Doggs Troupe here for a full two weeks and maybe we could have got other companies as well, maybe we could have had people here doing things all the way through and giving a sort of integrity and total feeling to the festival. As it is we've got very little money for a 4 week festival so that's completely out of the question… We couldn't afford imported companies so we did without that dimension and I've tried to do as much with local resources which is still pitifully little."

Stagecoach with children at Grace St. Adventure Playground/Byker

Pete didn't put Eldon Square high on his list in terms of the events which went on there except for Saturdays when 400 people would turn up to hear local poets reading their work, Gordon playing his sitar, Desperate Dan and many others. But on other days it was mostly old age pensioners who'd sing a song or do a cartwheel, youngsters just didn't get it together. The Divine Light people were filling the square with their monotonous chants as I talked to Pete. The street theatre groups and inflatables were undoubtedly the main attractions, but as Pete said, if he'd been given £10,000 for a 2 week festival, instead of £2,000 for a 4 week festival, something might have been achieved.

"The drag about inflatables and Doggs Troupe and everything is that they come in and they go out and you may turn somebody on one day but they never see you again. The thing which is turning a lot of kids on and has some, even though it's very limited, immediate follow-up and a certain amount of more long-term follow-up is the ship in Eldon Square, kids come along and work on that, play on it, build it, knock it down and feel involved in it and that turns them on quite well, because they can come back to it during the festival and of course the people who are running it are Stagecoach who will then stay in the area and who will work with those kids over and over again hopefully in the streets, in the schools, in the clubs … whatever. So there is some sort of continuity growing out of that project which is the whole purpose of the thing anyway."

Peter went on to explain how this work with children started and spread throughout the country following the work InterAction did with their 'DramaScapes', starting in 1958 in Notting Hill.

"When I was with them they did two a year in two different playgrounds. It's a very simple concept. It started in Notting Hill with Moby Dick where the kids built a 100ft whale and then built a whole fishing fleet all around it and it covered this playground and then on this, in, around it and on it the Doggs Troupe and all the kids would make up games, make up improvisations, make up songs and there was a total integration of what they built and the whole play project."

Only on one occasion have authority figures reacted to the Dramascape: two policemen turned up when somebody complained about kids letting off bangers in the ship, Pete was pretty disgusted by the incident.

He was also pissed off with the establishment press who hadn't been turning up to report certain events:

"The Sunday Sun does a quite violent article saying that the festival has nothing to do with the people of Newcastle. Instead of thinking about the Allegro Quartet, they should be doing something about Noble St. Fine, I agree absolutely, but then when I send the Doggs Troupe to Noble St, there are two things which DT can do. First of all they can work with the kids and provide one drop in the ocean of missing facilities. But they can do more by being there and working with the kids, and that is - get publicity to that wasteland and the only way they can get publicity is if people like the Sunday Sun come and cover them and they didn't cover them and they didn't even know it was happening there, even though they'd been sent a programme about what was happening. They didn't come down, the TV and radio, they're not interested in anything that happens on a Sunday and neither are any of the other papers."