Fudstock: Part One
Following the announcement that Fudstock will be going ahead this year, we wanted to put together a rundown of the birth of Barrow's favourite festival.
Fudstock began as an idea that our universally loved eccentric friend, Richard Thorne would often float, usually over a pint or two. His grand idea was to have something heavily involving music, that was family friendly and was at the core of Barrow Island. His home, the strongest of communities, but maybe somewhere that not many key events in the town take place.
Richard or Fud, as he was known by all, was loved because of his kind nature, his friendliness towards all, and his ability to lend a helping hand in a variety of fields. Whether it was wanted or not. He was well loved because he was kind, friendly and selfless. He was also daft as brush.
Unfortunately Richard was struck down by bowel cancer in the prime of his life. He showed tremendous courage, dignity and humour during his fight against the disease. Which if anything further cemented his place amongst the hearts of those that knew him.
When Richard eventually passed over peacefully, the hole he left in his friends and families' lives was immeasurable. I was asked to DJ at his funeral, and as a friend of Fuds for 20 years, it was a tremendous honour. Fud used to come to all of my gigs. He used to have a piece of A4 that he had written on, with one simple word on it that he used to show appreciation. TUNE.
When I got to the DJ booth at his actual funeral, I actually nearly melted of fright initially, and then that was replaced by the loveliest sentimental feeling of actually being back there, together in some of the happier moments of our lives. His close friends had left it in the booth. I almost wish they had warned me. Ha ha. It was a lovely touch.
These same group of friends, my friends too, rounded on me at the funeral. Now at this stage we had drunk a lot of alcohol, Fud wouldn’t have it any other way. But unanimously they were saying, Fudstock, Mal. We want to make it happen. As someone with a true understanding of what that actually would entail, how much blood and guts we would have to spill to get something credible up and running, my immediate reaction was no. Its actually impossible guys. Because the time frame was also six months. Something else that made me think twice. Not only that, I wasn’t going to write a cheque, to break my spine probably a few times, to make it happen, in drink.
But what stopped me short was the pain written large on all their faces. Its not many times in our lives thankfully, when you are faced with visceral pain and loss. If you see that written on your friends faces you would do anything to take it away. Because it was loss that was almost unmanageable for them. And it still makes a tear come to the corner of my eye when I think back to that initial conversation. But I am pragmatist, so I gave a holding statement and said if you all feel the same way tomorrow when you are sober, then you come to my house and discuss over a cup of tea. Then I will know you are serious.
I fully expected that to be the end of it. But they all came, and the emotion had washed away a bit then. They had something in their heads and they wanted it so badly. So that’s it then, what you gonna do? They had me. Check mate Malcolm. But once we talked and I filled them with dread about cost, logistics, resource and the long, long list of machinery, apparatus and laws we would have to get hold of, and act within. And every thing I threw at them, at least one of the know it all's had an answer for. So we spat on our hands and shook hands on the pact. Let's just see where the beautiful, chaotic mess of a ride takes us. Fudstock was on - with one defining goal - to get as much money to St Marys Hospice as possible. A place that had shown such exemplary, dignified care. And that is the power that drove us, because we all had loss, not just Fud's, but family members that had the hospice tend for them at a time of their lives they needed it most.
What we never realised was the completely inadvertently within that room we had such strength across the exact areas that we needed. Russ Halesworth – genius at practical graphic design; Rick Wilson - no one knows more about practical engineering and the accompanying sums that must be made, and current health and safety laws; Jayne Wilson - currently Cumbria's business excellence champion and head of exports at Oxleys - So we had our online presence sewn up and also direct connections to the heads of businesses locally; Joanne Firth, Fud's sister, was so taken by the hospice and what they do, that she immediately volunteered, and now is part of the fabric at St Mary's, so our communication with the hospice is wide open. Gary Mallinson has proved as adept as anyone could be at project managing every facet and loose end that a festival throws up, and of course, Danny Fereday - who takes care of security and who I think knows everyone in the town personally, so has championed the cause through sheer force of will at times. Mine was a simple task of organising the music equipment, and everything a festival requires that first year, because these guys were newbies. But wow, did they take to their task. It has to be mentioned that I was ably supported that first year by my partner in crime from my Twang radio shows, Andy Graham, just before he jetted off round the world.
As I was throwing tantrums about what I needed that first year, they would dutifully going away and get me it. Whether it be generators, guerrilla banner posting at strategic spots, asking Mallo to spin me money from fresh air, banging on to Jayne about funding, or Joanne and Dan smiling sweetly when I ask for something impossible, they would go away and come back with it. But we as a group, cannot take credit for that first year. When people latched on to what we were doing, people could not give enough. We needed a stage… no problem - Daz Willis got his scaffolding firm and a team of lads to erect one for nothing. The guys involved with Barrow Island Community Hub, Rob Macaloone, Mike, and his band of merry men just gave everything. We needed a marquee - here we will give you ours and also erect them for you. They never stopped. Sam from the Dev gave everything to the cause, raffles she has made thousands from, and erected a fully working bar with draft beers.
It was humbling, but still I worry. But in moments when the chips were down, the towns kindness picked you back up. Guys were calling in and just giving money because of their love and friendship with Fud. We couldn’t keep up with people's generosity and support. Residents of Barrow Island were literally coming and either lending a hand, or trying to give you their last fiver. A fiver in some cases, you knew they were ill afforded to give away. But when I was going to bands and spinning them this yarn, I as doing so on a back of a fag packet at that stage. Stuff and nonsense, a pipe dream. Not one, and I mean not one turned me down. Everyone of them, to a man or woman, just said yeah course mate and not only donated their time and expertise, but also very expensive equipment in some cases. It was humbling and something I will always be indebted for.
But the laughs we had on site getting the turkey to fly is all the repayment I think you need. That feeling of all working together to a common goal and taking the mick out of those around you is actually priceless. The old geezers from the club absolutely loved to rib me, which I did secretly enjoy. I would get sown to site early thinking yep, I have got them this time. They would all be sat there half an hour into a brew and a bacon buttie. "What time do you call this like?". And these same geezers (at 70 plus some of them), went at the heavy lugging like absolute animals. And believe me, the stuff needed to stage a festival unfortunately, is all extremely heavy.
So then by this stage, it's starting to take root in peoples mindsets in the town. The local media are starting to really push the story, which is fantastic, but it sure does heap pressure on you too. I was absolutely petrified that it would be like some ramshackle event, hastily thrown together, which no one really enjoys, in the light cold drizzle which would rain all day. Convinced that could be the case, was what kept me up at night. But the ability of the other 6 to keep producing, was also giving me hope. And when all the bands and DJs were starting to click together on staging and equipment, I gained confidence by the day.
It might be easy to dismissively think of the council as maybe a huge obstacle in getting an event like this up and running. But we engaged early, we were always supported by them and were always honest. The council suddenly didn’t feel like an obstacle at all. In fact quite the opposite, they have felt like a partner. They have been absolutely superb, as well as Cumbria police. Nothing but support from the get go. I didn’t get much sleep that night before, but me and my daughter Maisy ate some breakfast and set off down to site, and the sight I was greeted with was amazing. It was a bona fide festival site. Everyone was buzzing around, chatty and having a good time setting up.
Fudstock 2018, Video: ©Cumbria Live Music
The day itself was blur really. But I do remember everyone having a great time. What was most gratifying was seeing families enjoying the day together. Because the boundary was so safe, children were playing and roving around from stall to stall. It really was Fudstock as Fud imagined it. And I think for the first time that pain etched on the six members of the now Fudstock Committee, lifted. In fact beaming smiles at times mixed with wishing he was actually there to see it. The event itself passed off without one speck of disorder which was maybe the best part of it all. Everyone who came was united in the aim to raise money solely for the hospice in the name of Fud.
We made a huge lovely mistake because we gave all the money raised to the hospice. So when we set off the second year and said right, what do we have in the bank, we had actually given it all away. So lessons learned there and we have an agreement which promotes growth, and the hospice always prospering. But after we scraped and fought and got funding from the kindest of local companies, we staged an even bigger and better event. And our ambitions even though curtailed by covid this year, we staged an online event which was tremendous and raised 6 thousand pounds, along with the other fundraising that happened round the event.
Fudstock Live 2020, Video: ©Furness Videography
And so to the future our ambitions remain as strong as ever. But we can only achieve the aim of making into a national scale festival for local people, with the help and benevolence of businesses and peoples kindness. And if we get that we promise to give the maximum return.
Malcolm is part of the Fudstock event team, and co-director of The Lock In.