THE mystery of why more than 300 children, including some from the Dispatch district, collapsed at a band event 23 years ago appears to have been solved at last.
The collapse is the theme of a new television documentary, 'Inside Out On The Hollinwell Incident', which will be shown on BBC1 next Monday at 7.30 pm.
Up to now, powers-that-be have blamed mass hysteria for the phenomenon at Hollinwell Showground, Kirkby-in-Ashfield on Sunday July 13 1980.
No scientific explanation has been forthcoming. But now the TV programme claims to have unearthed fresh evidence on the incredible drama, which made headline news all over the world.
The documentary claims that a pesticide containing a substance called tridemorph, which the government banned three years ago, could have been the reason.
The programme-makers say the pesticide had been sprayed on crops in nearby fields just days before the band event.
This was a charity show held by the Forest League of Juvenile Jazz Bands.
Youngsters taking part suddenly suffered fainting attacks, streaming eyes, sore throats, dizziness and nausea. A total of 259 people had to be taken to hospital.
Professor David Ray, of the school of bio-medical science at Nottingham University, said mass hysteria could have been triggered by the smell of tridemorph.
Residue of the chemical could have been kicked into the atmosphere by the marching children, causing a noxious smell which triggered general panic. In fact, a member of a Bulwell juvenile jazz band, which was taking part, said there had been a 'bleachy' smell.
Prof Ray said many of the chldren would already have felt tensed up through wanting to do their best in the event, while the weather could have been another factor.
Despite this new development, Ashfield District Council has no plans to re-open an investigation it carried out at the time.
Former councillor, Ron Chamberlain, then chairman of the environmental health committee, said: "We carried out a full, proper and thorough inquiry."
But a father-of-three, Terry Bingham (58), who was on the showground at the time, said: "We never got a proper answer and the authorities just pushed us all to one side."
'My legs and arms felt as if they had no bones in them'
BULWELL'S former Melody Makers Juvenile Jazz Band was caught up in the ill-fated Hollinwell event.
In a Dispatch report of the time, headed 'Children's Baffling Collapse,' we focused on members' stunned reactions.
Lead drummer Susan Rook, then aged 13, of Steadfold Close, Crabtree Farm Estate, said: "My legs and arms felt as if they had no bones in them and I had a bad headache."
Band secretary Sylvia Larvin, of Newmarket Road, Bulwell, said another member, Julie Askew, "just keeled over".
Cymbals player Trina Barker, of Clayfield Close, Crabtree, who was 12, claimed that, for some time afterwards, her eyes felt strange and she had trouble breathing.
Mrs Larvin praised fellow committee members for the calm way they had helped at the scene and staff at the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, who had to deal with an overwhelming number of casualties at the same time.
Crop-spray poisoning was one of various theories put forward at the time for the mass illness. Others were food poisoning, tainted water and radio waves.
The mass hysteria idea came in for some ridicule from those involved, who said the symptoms were too real to be imaginary.