Syd played his last ever concert in 1972 in the Corn Exchange in Cambridge, Syd’s hometown. Forty-four years later, fans, friends and family of Syd joined together to celebrate his extraordinary life. The video here encapsulates this special evening.
The event included the unveiling of a memorial to Syd; providing a psychedelic image of Syd within its hypnotic wheel. A celebratory concert followed this with memories and music as Men on the Border together with the Sandviken Symphony Orchestra and lights by Peter Wynne-Willson, interpreted the music of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd.
The concert featured symphonic interpretations of Barrett classics from his solo albums The Madcap Laughs and Barrett including the likes of Octopus and Terrapin with the repertoire flanked by an interpretation of Floyd’s High Hopes. The concert included lighting from Peter Wynne Willson who worked with Pink Floyd between 1966 and 1968 when he created light shows for their performances at UFO and the Roundhouse and went on to design the lighting for the band’s UK, European and American gigs and tours as well as having worked with Roger Waters, Radiohead and U2. Narration for the concert was performed by playwright, writer and former friend of Syd, David Gale.
Here are comments from some of those who worked together to make this evening possible:
It was an absolute honour to work with the Barrett family on providing a lasting memorial to the life and legacy of Cambridge’s most famous musical son…
Operations Director, Cambridge Live and organiser of ‘Syd Barrett – A Celebration’.
This concert was a joyful gathering of many who knew and loved Syd.
Syd brightens the globe again!
Libby Gausden Chisman – Girlfriend of Syd.
Syd’s early and late songs, separated by a blast of fame that elated him then laid him low, are more numerous than many people imagine. In the hands and guitars of Men on the Border and the fifty-five members of the Sandviken Symphony Orchestra, Syd’s songs aren’t just reproduced as respectful covers, they are rearranged and reinterpreted to considerable effect.
David Gale – Schoolfriend of Syd and also show narrator
The depth of sound this brought to the cavernous space that is The Corn Exchange was astonishing and made for a moving interpretation of Syd’s music. Pete Wynne Willson’s analogue slide show brought the whole building into relief with a mass of swirling colour, as images of Syd were projected onto the backdrop of the stage.
Jenny Spires – Girlfriend of Syd
Solo En Las Nubas, Spain
“The concert was outstanding. Men on the Border were great, and arrangements of Sandviken Symphony Orchestra were colossal. “Astronomy Domine” left more than one without speaking, and the same can be said of “High Hopes” and a big surprise, “Milky Way”, which although not very faithful to the original (which is actually a demo) it was an attractive piece pop, especially with the star constellations adorning the Corn Exchange.”
There Goes The Fear, USA
“All of the performances were perfect renditions of Barrett’s back catalogue, cleverly constructed around the theme of seasons, starting in autumn and culminating in summer. Narrated by Barrett’s old classmate and playwright David Gale, it perfectly captured Barrett’s life. The personal touch of Gale’s storytelling allowed complete immersion into his life, aided by the ever-present lighting of Pink Floyd’s former lighting man Peter Wynne-Wilson, it was impossible to break free from those biographical moments. Taking us through the entire of Barrett’s life, including the separation from Pink Floyd and his more questionable moments, every part was produced to be true to his memory without painting a false picture.”
Sabotage Times, UK
“In the auditorium, the fifty-piece Sandviken Symphony Orchestra, flown in from Sweden, is waiting quietly, all tuned up already with Nordic efficiency, and Peter Wynne-Willson’s museum-piece lights kept from the very early Pink Floyd shows are painting the walls in shifting psychedelic pools and bubbles of brightly coloured oil. What we’re about to see is a performance of some of Syd’s works woven into a narrative of his life. The electric band fronting the show are Men on the Border, also Swedish, five guys even older than me. Evidently, the crazy Swedes are crazy for Syd. The songs are well picked from Syd’s oeuvre, pinpointing the biographical, but the orchestral arrangements, wonderful as they are, impose a uniformity on songs that stood sparsely apart from one another in their original forms.”
Cambridge Independent, UK
“The gig, which lasted over two hours, featured symphonic interpretations of songs from Barrett’s two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett, including songs such as Octopus and Terrapin, as well as a version of Floyd’s High Hopes off 1994’s The Division Bell. Narration was provided by playwright, writer and friend of Syd’s, David Gale. At the end of the concert, an image of a still-life painting of pink and red flowers, the colours of love and friendship, was shown on the screen behind. It was revealed that this was the last thing Syd Barrett ever painted and was a gift to his sister, Rosemary. Rosemary was then presented with a bunch of flowers the same as those in the painting. An emotional end to an emotional tribute to a much-loved Cambridge icon.”
Brain Damage, UK
“Following the artwork unveiling, the main event was the very enjoyable – and for some, quite emotional – concert featuring Swedish band Men on the Border backed by the 50-piece Sandviken Symphony Orchestra who hail from the same town in Sweden as the band. MotB covered a wide range of Barrett songs, with some dramatic and unexpected symphonic interpretations on offer. The concert also featured narration from acclaimed playwright, and former school friend of Syd, David Gale, and suitably psychedelic lighting – not just on the stage, but covering the walls, ceilings and even some of us in the audience of the Corn Exchange – by Peter Wynne-Willson, who was responsible for the Floyd’s early light shows between 1966-68.”
Pink Floyd Facebook page
“Last night, the Cambridge Corn Exchange saw Syd Barrett’s family, friends, and fans all come together for a celebration of the man and his music. The concert featured Swedish band Men on the Border performing Syd’s songs, as well as a few of their own, backed by the 50-piece Sandviken Symphony Orchestra. Lighting was provided by Peter Wynne-Willson who worked with Pink Floyd between 1966-1968. A permanently sited artwork, a memorial to Syd, was also unveiled in the foyer of the Corn Exchange.”
We Are Cult
“Following the artwork unveiling, there was a live public concert featuring Swedish band Men on the Border, the only band in the world who play the solo music of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, backed by the 50-piece Sandviken Symphony Orchestra who hail from the same town in Sweden as the band. The concert also featured narration from acclaimed playwright, and former school friend of Syd, David Gale, lighting by Peter Wynne Wilson who worked with Pink Floyd between 1966 and 1968 plus two members of P-Floyd, one of the foremost Pink Floyd concept bands in the world.”
Cambridge News, UK
Peter Wynne Willson, an internationally-renowned lighting designer (and inventor), who worked with Pink Floyd at their 60s psychedelic peak (between 66 and 68) put on a light show that was out of this world: sometimes literally, as the backdrop was illuminated with constellations, multi-coloured swirls, pictures of Syd and the musician’s own artwork, and various points in the evening. Not only the main tribute band of the evening –Men on the Border –but also the impressive Sandviken Symphony Orchestra, Pünk Floyd who entertained crowds in the foyer before the concert and during the interval AND guest musicians Jan Stumsner and Peter Holmstedt from P-Floyd are all Swedes. We always knew our Nordic neighbours were the best! At the end of the day, despite the upheavals and tumult in his life, it was all about Syd’s music. And what better proof of how well the music has stood the test of time than this one-off, inspiring and uplifting celebration. Syd: Cambridge did you proud.”