T in the Park 2013 - Scottish pop music festivals before T in the Park in 1994

T in the Park 2013 - Scottish pop music festivals before T in the Park in 1994

On T’s 20th birthday, Allan Brown looks back at the festival’s first ever line-up

Prior to year one of T in the Park, rock festivals in Scotland were as rare and as fleeting as the Highland wildcat. Fittingly, then, in 1979, an early stab was staged in a zoo; or, rather, a bear park near Loch Lomond.

By most accounts it was a ramshackle affair, heavy with security and a bill comprising whichever acts had answered the phone first: The Stranglers, Dr Feelgood, The Skids. Mention must also be made of the Calderglen rock festival of 1984, which culminated in some US heavy metal has-been informing the (non-existent) crowd that ‘East Kilbride, you’re the best audience in the world!’

Over the decade following, matters would sharpen up decisively. Promoters began to look beyond one-night stands; they established their own venues and forged links with promoters overseas. Audiences were growing pan-generational. A well-assembled bill was equally an invitation to extreme hedonism or a jolly day out with the family. Such was acknowledged in the location of T’s inaugural offering, Strathclyde Park, an expanse of recreational greenery near Hamilton. And so it was that a fleet of chartered Corporation buses rolled up on a rank of dusty blaize pitches and disgorged over 40,000 music fans, most of whom would’ve assumed they were witnessing yet another fly-by-night and doomed attempt to defy the Scottish weather.

Rather, they’d stumbled upon the earliest days of a business that was starting to take its duties seriously. The bill was impressive - Blur, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Rage Against The Machine, Cypress Hill - but the viewer was impressed also that it was all an actual proper thing, with bands appearing at the times the programme said they would. Back then, few believed such a thing could happen in Scotland. It was a heck of a lot rougher and readier than it is today, but happen it did.

T in the Park

From relatively humble beginnings, T in the Park has become the acknowledged behemoth of the Scottish festival scene and one of the UK's largest events. In 2015 the festival moved from its longstanding Balado location to the new grounds of Strathallan Castle in Perthshire. Bands appearing in 2016 include The Stone Roses…