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Mourning the King of the Hippies

By This is Bath  |  Posted: September 03, 2010

  • Sid Rawle

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He was the self-styled "King of the Hippies", creator of the infamous "Peace Convoy", and one of the most recognisable faces of the New Age movement, but now Rainbow Camp founder Sid Rawle has died.

The 64-year-old festival organiser collapsed suddenly at the Rainbow Camp in Rodley, Gloucestershire, on Tuesday afternoon.

His convoy's bid to set up at the 11th Stonehenge Free Festival in 1985 led to the "Battle of the Beanfield", after being refused entry to the stones by Wiltshire Police. The convoy later won a court battle with police, proving wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage.

Mr Rawle, who grew up on Exmoor, was involved in the New Age movement from its earliest days. A former resident of "Beatle Island", John Lennon and Yoko Ono's retreat off the coast of Ireland, he was a leading figure in the free festival scene, organising events all over the country and present during the early days of Glastonbury Festival.

He moved to the Forest of Dean 20 years ago and set up the Forest Fayre and Rainbow 2000 Camps at Westbury-on- Severn.

Forest of Dean district councillor Norman Stephens, who knew Mr Rawle for many years, said: "Although Sid chose an alternative lifestyle he was also a gentleman and a man of peace.

"He had run the Rainbow camps, first at Elton and then at Rodley, for a number of years and the locals had taken the festivals to their heart. There was never any problems. I last spoke to Sid on Friday and his death is a real shock. My thoughts are with his family."

Mr Rawle was renowned as the only person to make a profit at the first Glastonbury Festival in 1971, cooking up a cauldron of fruit and veg discarded from Bristol Market.

The committed campaigner was also a key part of the free festivals at Windsor Great Park in the early 1970s and was arrested for trying to promote a festival there in 1975.

He founded the Tipi Valley hippy community in West Wales in 1976 and was perhaps best-known for creating the infamous new age travelling group the Peace Convoy.

He left shortly after the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985 – the largest mass civil arrest in English history – when police prevented the convoy from setting up at the 11th Stonehenge Free Festival.

After a period with the Green Party, Mr Rawle returned to setting up festivals including the Rainbow 2000 series of events.

His camps were inspired by the "Vision of Albion", which he described as: "A vision of one world united in love, a vision of unity in diversity."

His vision has created a legacy in modern culture with controversial noughties rock star Pete Doherty naming an album with his band Babyshambles Down In Albion and his journals The Books Of Albion.

In 1997, the Halifax Building Society used a picture of Mr Rawle without his permission in an advertising campaign.

The image used the slogan "Be Part Of Something Big, Man" in a speech bubble above his head. Mr Rawle tried to sue the company but was unsuccessful. Mr Rawle died as he was packing up this year's Rainbow 2000 Camp.

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