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Copyright Baron Wolman / www.reelartpress.com

Interview with Michael Lang, creator of Woodstock

24 June 2014 Charlie Kenber

“I think the ideals of peace and love are essential to the human spirit.”

Ahead of a new exhibition to celebrate the historic music festival, we spoke to Michael Lang, the creator of the original Woodstock Festival in 1969…

London Calling: How did the festival originally come about? Where did the idea come from?

Michael Lang: Woodstock was conceived from a series of events: firstly the Miami Pop Festival which I produced in 1968 which in turn was inspired by Monterey Pop.

After leaving Miami and moving to Woodstock I attended a series of concerts called "soundouts". These were local shows taking place on a small farm near town. The talent was local also and included Richie Havens, and Van Morrison among others. It struck me how ideal it was to be listening to great music out in nature under the stars.

I began managing a band and that led me to a meeting with Artie Kornfeld who was Vice President of Capitol Records at the time. We became friends and for months talked about creating a festival of music and art, an event that would bring together people of our generation who had been working for civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, personal freedoms and an end to the Vietnam War. People who were hoping to foster a kinder and more compassionate world. Woodstock would be a chance to live the dream.

LC: Did you have any idea of how iconic it would become?

ML: No, we knew that if it worked it would be an inspiration for those who attended but it took on a scope beyond our wildest dreams.

LC: Why do you think it has?

ML: I think it provided people with renewed hope for a better world.

LC: If you could go back in time would you do anything differently?

ML: I would have paid more attention to the gates.

LC: Who was the craziest band you had play?

ML: The craziest would have to be Sha Na Na.

LC: Why are music festivals so popular these days?

ML: I think it's the experience of coming together with like-minded people and forming a community around great music.

LC: What made you bring the festival back in ’94 and ’99? Would you revive it again?

ML: In ‘94, the 25th anniversary, we wanted to give the Woodstock experience to a new generation. It was a great event and so we decided to do another one in ‘99.

LC: Why is this exhibition being put on now?

ML: It’s to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Woodstock and Baron’s wonderful photographs.

LC: What can people look forward to from it? What makes these photographs unique?

ML: Baron has a unique eye for pictures and his photographs really bring you into the experience.

LC: Do you think the Hippie movement is in decline – why (not)?

ML: I think the ideals of peace and love are essential to the human spirit and hopefully will never be in decline.

The exhibition of Baron Wolman’s photographs takes place at Forge & Co Gallery, 154 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6HD from 27th June to 8th July.

The accompanying book to the exhibition is out this week, published by Reel Art Press.

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