Pink Floyd in my home town

I recently learned that Pink Floyd played a gig in my home town, a little under a year before I was born (on 12th March 1968):

It’s a strange thought. I am 52 years old. Pink Floyd are even older. For the princely sum of nine shillings and sixpence, I could have seen them play less than a mile from the house where I grew up, if only I’d had the foresight to be born twenty years earlier.

The Rhodes Centre is the house where Cecil Rhodes was born, the only famous person ever to come from Bishop’s Stortford (although Glenn Hoddle did live in a semi-detached new build on the new estate just up the road from us in the late 1970s or early 1980s). It had long become a theatre and arts centre by the time I was growing up. Less than three months ago (24 August 2020), it was renamed the South Mill Arts centre, with the belated discovery that Rhodes was a racist.

Rhodes House, aka. the Rhodes Centre, aka. the Rhodes Arts Complex, aka. the South Mill Arts Centre.

What to make of all this? I’m not really sure. I can’t lament the name change, recognising as it does the pernicious influence of a man who “founded” the country of Rhodesia. On the other hand, it definitely feels odd that pretty much the only landmark in my home town no longer has the name I grew up with. As with renaming Colston Hall in Bristol, this was pretty obviously the right thing to do. But in Bristol, Colston Hall was only one of many significant places. In Stortford, it was pretty much the only game in town. If you want something historically significant there now, your best bet is probably the laughably named Waytemore Castle.

Yep, that’s it.

What a strange thing it is to come from somewhere — anywhere, really, I’m sure it’s no more true of Bishop’s Stortford than of anywhere else. Here is a potted history of the town:

  • 1060: William, Bishop of London, bought Stortford Manor, the location of a ford across the river Stort, hence the name Bishop’s Stortford. The population is about 120.
  • 1066 (or, more generally, “the time of William the Conqueror”): Waytemore Castle first built, as a motte-and-bailey structure.
  • 12th Century: a rectangular Great Tower is added to the castle.
  • 1853: Cecil Rhodes is born, and goes on to invade Africa.
  • 1967: Pink Floyd play a gig at the Rhodes Centre.
  • 1968: I am born, and go on to write blog posts.
  • 2017: the population has risen to 40,089.
  • 2020: the Rhodes Centre is renamed in response to the murder of an unarmed man in Minneapolis, USA.

I wonder what William, Bishop of London would have made of it all. Most likely, he would just have been confused by all the sushi photos.

4 responses to “Pink Floyd in my home town

  1. Blimey. Though I also remember (perhaps apocryphal) claims of Zed Lep and maybe ELP playing at the Boys’ College in the ’70s too.

    I’m still sad that I only got to see Floyd and Waters performing separately. Controversial opinion is that Waters put on a better show. Though I mainly just remember “that” concert where some of us ended up trying to sleep in Liverpool Street station and being moved on by the staff. And waking up in an early morning railway carriage with a sign creatively scratched away to read “fleas in your head” and bursting out laughing because I was so knackered.

  2. A ponderous existance. I wonder what Pink Floyd remember from their visit.

  3. I remember my dad telling me that Led Zeppelin had once played at the Triad Centre, but I don’t know if it was true. Setlist.fm doesn’t list them as having played there, though it does list Motörhead among others. And, bizarrely, it seems that Black Sabbath and Yes both played the Rhodes Centre within three months of each other in 1970!

    I’ve never seen Waters live. I did see Pink Floyd on (I think) the Division Bell tour, which was much as you’d expect: absolutely beautiful, but a bit soulless. I think both Waters and Gilmour have been immeasurably diminished by their falling out, and I wish they would just grow up enough to make one more album together before one or both of them dies.

  4. The goings on at the Triad centre sound more likely; especially when I realised in hindsight I probably meant Yes when I wrote ELP. I suppose when it comes to prog rock bands, at least I didn’t mix them up with… well, any of the others.

    Waters and Gilmour really make me think of Lennon and McCartney in that they diverged in similarly overly-earnest vs. inane directions. I mean I’m definitely a Waters fan but however much I like his writing I find his solo stuff (I’ll include The Final Cut there) to be oddly not compelling to listen to because it’s so argh. I’m not optimistic about them working together again: I was amazed that they shared a stage on Live 8 or whatever it was but it seems that they’re still not cool with each other.

    Talking of venues though slightly off-topic, I found my mind wandering to Cambridge Corn Exchange and how different bands could make it sound and feel so different. Iron Maiden made it feel like a stadium; Hawkwind made it feel like an arena; Motörhead made it feel like a 1970s bikers’ festival; Dr Feelgood made it feel like yer local pub.

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