BBC News

Been and gone: Man who helped get Glastonbury Festival off the ground

By Nick Serpell
Obituary Editor, BBC News

image copyrightGetty Images

Our regular column covering the deaths of significant - but lesser reported - people in the past month.

Andrew Kerr was a driving force behind the Glastonbury Festival, now one of the most famous music gatherings in the world. Kerr had attended the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival which had seen chaotic scenes due to poor organisation and lax security. Determined to improve on this, he approached a Somerset farmer named Michael Eavis and suggested he hire his land for a festival. The location, near Glastonbury, was perfect for Kerr, one of a number of well-heeled hippies who were fascinated by the mysticism of the Arthurian legend. Kerr financed most of the 1971 event himself, selling family heirlooms to cover the costs. The Glastonbury Fayre, as it was then called, featured David Bowie, Fairport Convention and Hawkwind. After the festival Kerr took off for Scotland and, over the ensuing years, built stone walls and crewed yachts. In 1981 and in subsequent years, he returned to Glastonbury to help out with the organisation.

image copyrightAP

When an attempt was made to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981 his wife, Nancy, consulted an astrologer named Joan Quigley, and asked whether the incident could have been foreseen. Quigley's reply that it could have been, had she been looking, saw her become a constant source of advice to the president's wife. She drew up a detailed horoscope for the president, which she consulted on a daily basis. Her role was discovered by the press in 1988 which unleashed a storm of criticism, not least from religious groups which accused the president of consorting with the devil. In fact Ronald Reagan had only met her once. The family was not helped by the publication of Quigley's book in 1990 in which she claimed credit for a host of presidential decisions. "Not since the days of the Roman emperors has an astrologer played such a significant role in the nation's affairs of State," she said.

Tom Corcoran was one of the directors who oversaw the BBC's coverage of the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium. He was responsible for the evening segment of the performance and was much praised for his ability to change camera shots in time with the music. As one of the directors of The Old Grey Whistle Test he'd gathered plenty of experience of directing rock acts. But his directing experience extended beyond music. He was one of the team of directors who handled the discussion programme, Late Night Line Up, which was always broadcast last thing in the evening to cope with its inevitable overruns. He also directed many of the Terry Wogan chat shows. Former colleagues recalled that he did a particularly realistic impression of the singer Chuck Berry.

To say that Bernard Mayes had an eventful life is a huge understatement. Born in South London he worked as a classics teacher before becoming an Anglican priest. He emigrated to the US in 1958 where he oversaw a parish and freelanced as a correspondent for the BBC. At the time San Francisco had one of the highest suicide rates in America and Mayes founded the country's first ever suicide hotline. His radio experience saw him become the first chairman of National Public Radio and he acted as a consultant to similar services in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In 1977 he was the voice of Gandalf in a mammoth US radio production of The Lord of The Rings. By now he had abandoned his faith and become an atheist. He lectured at a number of institutions, including the University of Virginia, where he founded an association for LGBT staff and students.

image copyrightGetty Images

David Redfern was the doyen of music photographers, who became famous for capturing stars in live performance. He cut his teeth at jazz festivals and became a fixture on the London jazz scene in the early 1960s. With the explosion of pop and rock he turned his attention to a new wave of musicians. He took many of the early pictures of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - notably during their appearances on the TV show, Thank Your Lucky Stars. His photographs of Jimi Hendrix were particularly famous, as were his images of John Lennon on the Magical Mystery Tour and Jerry Lee Lewis. He later became Frank Sinatra's official tour photographer, the great man even insisting that Redfern take the pictures for his passport. He built up a library of more than 10,000 images which he eventually sold to Getty. He also set up an organisation to represent other music photographers.

Tony Hibbert was a dashing soldier who went on to rescue one of Britain's most important gardens. Known as "the Maverick Major", for his magnificent disdain for army protocol he saw action at the Battle of Arnhem. Captured by the Germans he narrowly avoided being shot by the SS before escaping and joining up with the Dutch resistance. He later disobeyed orders and marched into the port of Kiel, accepting its surrender from a bewildered German commander. On leaving the army he built up his family business supplying provisions to liners in Southampton. Together with his wife he bought a dilapidated house called Trebah, on Cornwall's Helford estuary and was amazed to discover an overgrown garden complete with sub-tropical plants. A three year project to clear the area eventually took 25 but Trebah is now a popular visitor attraction. "If it were not for this garden," he once said, "I would have died of gin and boredom years ago."

image copyrightALAMY

Among others who died in October were:

Legendary bass player and founder member of Cream Jack Bruce

Actress and Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham

Singer also known as Alvin Stardust and Shane Fenton Bernard Jewry

Washington Post editor during Watergate Ben Bradlee

Eleventh Duke of Marlborough John Spencer-Churchill

Singer and songwriter Lynsey de Paul

Former president of Haiti "Baby Doc" Duvalier

Related Topics

  • Photography