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Woodstock festivities kick off at Bethel Woods

Despite the well-publicised difficulties and eventual cancellation of the official Woodstock 50 anniversary event, the 1969 festival will receive its half-century commemoration this weekend, in the form of a four-day series of events at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA).

The events, set on the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival at Bethel Woods, kicked off yesterday (15 August), with Arlo Guthrie taking once again to the Woodstock stage for a free concert.

Originally announcing a full-scale anniversary festival – to have been produced by Live Nation and creative agency Invnt – BWCA later scaled back plans to create the multi-day music and arts programme.

The Bethel Woods site is not the only remnant from the 1969 festival. Woodstock veterans Carlos Santana and John Fogerty are performing over the four days, along with Ringo Starr.

The “pan-generational cultural event” will also feature TED-style talks and “special exhibits”.

“On this day in 1969, a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains became the site of one of the most defining music events in rock and roll history”

“On this day in 1969, a 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains became the site of one of the most defining music events in rock and roll history,” reads a post on the Bethel Woods Twitter page.

It is expected that up to 100,000 visitors will access the area over the four days. Only ticketholders will be permitted on site and all attendees must present a travel pass on entry to avoid overcrowding.

“We’re trying to encourage people that are not interested in the concert-side of things, and just want to come and sort of breathe the air and feel the vibes… to come on other weekends,” Bethel Woods chief executive Darlene Fedun told the Associated Press.

Michael Lang, the organiser of the original ‘three days of peace and music’, had deemed the Bethel Wood site’s capacity too small for his eventually ill-fated anniversary event. Lang pulled the plug on his Woodstock 50 event with just two weeks to go, after the festival lost its primary financier, two production partners, two venues and its whole line-up.

Around 400,000 people attended the 1969 festival. A recent report revealed that almost 50% of festivalgoers from the so-called ‘Woodstock Generation’ now suffer from hearing loss, with 70% saying they long to experience music as they did in the past.


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Santana, Ringo Starr to play Bethel Woods’ Woodstock anniversary

Santana, Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band, the Doobie Brothers and the Edgar Winter Group have been announced as performers for Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (BWCA)’s Woodstock anniversary celebrations this August.

BWCA, the site of 1969’s Woodstock Music and Art Fair, last month announced plans for a music festival to celebrate Woodstock’s 50th anniversary, going head to head with the official Woodstock 50 event organised by original promoter Michael Lang.

That idea now appears to have been dropped, with Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival – to have been produced by Live Nation and creative agency Invnt and featured “live performances from prominent and emerging artists spanning multiple genres and decades” – having morphed into a scaled-back ‘Anniversary Week’ forming part of a six month-long Season of Song and Celebration that kicks off in March.

“We are humbled by the interest in the anniversary year and we realised it was greater than we’d ever dreamed,” comments Darlene Fedun, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts’ CEO. “We recognise the importance of this place to so many, and our mission of preservation and interpretation of the 1960s is central to A Season of Song and Celebration, as it provides our guests the opportunity to reflect, to learn and to celebrate the legacy of what occurred here.”

“We are humbled by the interest in the anniversary year”

A Season of Song and Celebration begins on 30 March, when the BWCA museum – which will house a Woodstock exhibition, We Are Golden – Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for a Peaceful Future – and festival field open for the 2019 season.

Following a summer concert season featuring performances by Heart, Sheryl Crow, Zac Brown Band and Chris Stapleton, as well as the Mountain Jam festival with Willie Nelson, 15–18 August’s Anniversary Week comprises:

No line-up has yet been announced for Woodstock 50, which takes place on the same weekend (16 to 18 August), some 150 miles away, in Watkins Glen, New York.


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HB2: Ringo Starr cancels North Carolina concert

Ringo Starr has become the latest artist to cancel a planned show in North Carolina in protest against the US state’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, commonly known as House Bill 2 (HB2).

In a statement posted on his website, the former Beatles drummer says he cancelled his All Starr tour concert in Cary on 18 June in order to “take a stand against this hatred”. He adds: “Spread peace and love.”

HB2, also known as the ‘bathroom bill’, invalidates at a state-wide level several local anti-discrimination measures, and also compels transgender people to use public toilets that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“We need to take a stand against this hatred. Spread peace and love”

Last week Bruce Springsteen also cancelled an appearance in Greensboro, North Carolina, in protest against HB2, which critics have called discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Bryan Adams, meanwhile, earlier this week called off a show at Mississippi Coast Coliseum following the passing of a law in that state also widely criticised as being anti-gay, Bill 1523, which allows religious groups and some private businesses to refuse service to gay people and anyone who offends their “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Cyndi Lauper has also come out in opposition to HB2, announcing to ABC News that she donate all profits from her upcoming performance in Raleigh to Equality North Carolina’s campaign to repeal the law.