Play comes to Spalding to mark 50 years since Jimi Hendrix played the bulb auction hall

Jimi Hendrix as Spalding people saw him in 1967.
Jimi Hendrix as Spalding people saw him in 1967.

For one night only in 1967, Spalding was the coolest place in the world.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band, Pink Floyd, The Move and Zoot Money and His Big Roll Band all appeared on the same bill.

Supporting the stellar line-up was local band Sounds Force Five.

The Bank Holiday Monday event is widely regarded as the forerunner of the rock festival - it pre-dated by two weeks the Jimi Hendrix Experience playing at the Monterey Pop Festival, when Jimi set his guitar on fire ... just as he did in Spalding.

And it was held a couple of days before the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, probably the best- known album by The Beatles.

Theatre company Excavate has been working alongside people who saw the legends on stage in Spalding and has devised a play, Barbeque 67 Revisited, which will be performed at The South Holland Centre, Spalding, on June 8.

Andy Barrett, artistic director of the Nottingham-based community theatre company, and associate producer/director Hannah Stone, are still writing the show, which is based on the memories of people who were there that night.

Andy said: “There will be live music, storytelling and we will be displaying some images.

“It will be funny, it will be energetic, it will be nostalgic for those who were there – and it will be surprising for those who weren’t there or weren’t even aware of it.”

Andy and Hannah still want to hear from people who were there – and they are also keen to recruit some volunteer interviewers – but anyone keen to help will need to move quickly because the first performance is only a few weeks away.

Andy said: “If anyone is interested in helping us gather stories from people who were there, we will provide them with training and they can join our team.”

Among stories unearthed during research so far was one from a man who recalls talking to a stranger in the bar at the Red Lion Hotel.

Andy says: “He approached a bloke, who was wearing a big hat and a long suede jacket and started chatting to him – it was Jimi Hendrix.

“The man told us Hendrix was a really nice guy.”

During the research, Andy and Hannah have discovered the bulb auction hall was packed to the rafters that night, May 29, partly because the “pass out” system was flawed.

People leaving the hall were being given passes out (tickets allowing them to re-enter) at two points instead of one, which meant they could sell one pass to those gathered outside.

“Somebody said you could earn the equivalent of a week’s wages just by going out to the loo,” said Andy. “There were just too many people in there. They had to screw Ginger Baker’s drum kit to the floor to make sure it didn’t bounce off because there were so many people.”

Germaine Greer, the Australian writer, academic and journalist, was among the people attending Barbeque ’67 ... and by a neat coincidence, Germaine is back in town on June 9, the day after Barbeque ’67 Revisited, to give the Spalding Gentleman’s Society Johnson Lecture at the South Holland Centre.

Barbeque ’67 Revisited is free to attend, although tickets must still be booked through the box office, and the South Holland Centre programme says “you can pay what you like on exit”.

The show runs for an hour and 10 minutes, but there’s a chance to stay longer and wallow in nostalgia with a “memory sharing post-show chat”.

The production, funded by the Heritage Lottery, will also go to Long Sutton Barns on July 24 and arts organisation Transported is programming further local dates.

An exhibition linked to the production will be held at the South Holland Centre in the autumn.

Hannah (32) wasn’t even born in ’67 and Andy was just one-year-old at the time the rock legends played the bulb auction hall, but they are confident their show will reflect that special night because it is based on stories from people who were there, including those from Free Press journalists.

Andy said: “It will be a show for all of the family and there will be no swearing or drugs.”

Andy’s previous work for stage and radio has included a Sony Award-winning series, ‘Dolly’, a cloning meets country and western musical, which The Times chose as one of its top five shows of 2010.

Andy’s recent play for Nottingham Playhouse was ‘Tony’s Last Tape’, based on the diaries of the late Tony Benn, which toured nationally and ended with a performance at the House of Commons.

Performer and theatre-maker Hannah has toured with various companies and worked with Excavate on several projects.

• To share your memories with Excavate – or be become a volunteer interviewer – email andy@excavate.org.uk and to find out more about the company visit www.excavate.org