…to Solfest, not a review, but some thoughts…


Hello Good People who read this blog…

Although I will be writing about Solfest, this is not a review as I have done in the past two years. I spent most of my time at Solfest recovering from the Hawkwind party and evaluating other experiences I had from my crazy summer.

For me the Notting Hill Carnival or in recent years Solfest , mark the end of summer and announce the beginning of a period of reflection and times indoors. Hawkwind reminds me of the past and the power of rebellion. The music reflects the effects of both drugs and the power of large gatherings and in particular the extremes of creativity.Thus opening  the “Doors of Perception” to deeper consciousness where both heaven and hell  live cheek by jowl.

Solfest was an altogether more “grounding” experience and is an example of a “newer type of festival”, exemplifying changes in alternative culture. It bridges the spirit of free festivals, mainly started by travelling creative idealistic people being chased around the country by the police, with the present, to create an event that has learnt lessons from the past and does its own thing while still conforming to rules and regulations, although there is  much turning of a blind eye to activities that are not harming anyone.

At Solfest I found both the most anarchic creative influences present in the entertainment, fancy dress costumes, and various types of  artistic installation and also mainstream culture in some of the aspiring stars performing, still climbing that ladder, even though making obscene amounts of money out of music is mostly a thing of the past.

At Solfest, you can pretty much have the experience you want, whether you have small children,don’t have children, love acoustic music, want to go to various excesses of toxicity, want to be healthy and coherent and attend yoga workshops, want to rock, listen to live world music, chill out all night  in a psychedelic way or want to dance.

This is a clip from the dance tent although many of the older and youngest attendees completely avoid this place.

The Ashan Project in the Dance tent Solfest 2009

The only time I went into the dance tent was on Saturday night waiting for The Orb to come on and this was an experience in itself. Northerners and the Scots know how to get excited and to enjoy themselves with free abandon twenty times more than any uptight Londoner. The atmosphere was crazy. The tent was packed with people of all ages in strange costumes with hash pipes, cans of beer, laughing ,dancing and shouting and throwing themselves about and screaming in anticipation. After thirty minutes of  being pushed about in a friendly way by revellers, I left the dance tent feeling like I was being boring but also avoiding the odd bruise the next day.

I am using youtube in a lazy way today but I think this little clip highlights pretty much what it is like wandering around this festival and why I love it. You have the organised entertainment but the majority of the time you have people just entertaining themselves, everyone participates and creates the atmosphere( watch about 1 minute in for little sound system scene with live singer, random saxophonist and “The Urban Gypsies” dancing along).

If you like your rock music truly raw and raucous (plus beer) then the Bar Stage is often the place to be. I didn’t see this band but I quite like them(you get to see them on stage 30 seconds into this clip).

This is “Vice Squad” originally formed in 1979 as a punk rock band featuring “Beki Bondage” on vocals.

There seems to be less footage of Solfest this year up online than last time.

One of the reasons may have been the mud and the rain. By Sunday,the mud was almost as bad as Glastonbury 1997. My tent is cosy but not very high and you have to crawl into it from outside. Due to last minute packing ,I had only one pair of jeans and no torch, since coming home I have washed my jeans three times on the maximum cycle to get rid of the mud and had to machine wash the tent too, plus my boots have shrunk . You get the picture! Travelling home on public transport one had to adopt a ” I don’t care if people stare at me strangely” attitude.

Also walking around the festival started to get a bit grim by Sunday night. I went to watch Kula Shaker then The Charlatans with my son and his friends. I didn’t much like Kula Shaker, sometimes I felt like I was listening to The Doors, sometimes The Who, sometimes early Deep Purple, or even The Kinks. It was like listening to a puzzle , lots of pieces of different bands copied and assembled into songs but no continuity or individual style. The performance was faultless and excellently executed, but then to me,that’s not creative. I like music that has mistakes, it’s the mistakes and the improvisation that generates something new.

In the break between the two bands my son and I discussed various things, we like talking about music and culture together. We were saying how everyone is a “covers band” these days. The new bands copy the styles of the old bands and the old bands keep touring doing their old stuff, that nothing new has really happened for twenty years in terms of live (non-dance) music. I pointed out that in the 60s and 70s everyone was intent on finding their own unique style and not just trying to fit into a marketable music category that wouldn’t offend anyone.

My son wanted to know a detailed account of the Hawkwind party. Then he told me about a conversation he had heard in the Dogs in Space tent with this bloke who had been a HUGE Hawkwind fan. The ex-Hawkwind fan described how he used to have every single Hawkwind album on vinyl, first pressings only. When asked if he had sold them since,he said in all seriousness(something like) :”No, I gave up drugs and as part of  the process, I had to give away all my Hawkwind albums, it was a big step!”

I know we were cruel, but we laughed about it and imagined a twelve step programme for giving up drugs .

STEP ONE: Get rid of all your Hawkwind memorabilia and never listen to them again!

( end of my brief comment on Solfest, still my favourite festival)

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. I just found out that the “Urban Gypsies” were on “Britain’s Got Talent” 2008 , they have just blown their urban gypsy credibility.


Too much partying: Hawkwind and onto Solfest…


Hello Good People who still read this blog…

Some music to start with….

Here is one of my favourite Hawkwind tracks , the apocalyptic “Angels of Death” ( always reminds me of Hell’s Angels)

I can’t embed the Porchester Hall version but you can find it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsnbxH0etbM

I have been trying to get my strange radio show up on youtube before writing this review but basically I haven’t been able to due to being temporarily enjoying  a second adolescence in the body of someone old enough to be my mother.

So I might as well write what I can remember of the last week or so, excluding some of the most decadent bits.

On Friday the 28th of August I went with a friend to the Hawkwind Party in Porchester Hall  ( W2) to celebrate their 40th anniversary. I had just come back from travelling and seeing friends as soon as I got back to London. I had already way overdone it before the onslaught of the weekend, and spent the morning under my duvet thinking how I was too tired to go anywhere and just wanted to sleep for a week.

At lunchtime a friend of mine arrived to go to the party with me , we listened to “Carl’s Hawkwind Cassette” as part of  getting in “the right frame of mind”. This is a compilation made for me by another friend 20 years ago of some the best Hawkwind tracks, apparently it’s been copied and circulated so much,that bikers totally unrelated to Carl also have a copy.

Hawkwind – “You Shouldn’t Do That

We arrived at about 3.30 pm, it was very strange for me as the location of the party was in the same building as my local library and being the middle of the day, it didn’t quite feel like a “party kind” of time or place. Our first pleasant surprise was getting a free commemorative bag containing a free CD featuring the sadly deceased keyboard player, Jason Stuart, a postcard signed by the entire band, a flyer for the tour, a ticket simulating that of  their first ever gig as “Group X” at the All Saints Hall , a “Planet Rock” sticker and a packet of popping candy.

In the red carpeted stairs up to the hall, some girls in sci-fi costumes on stilts asked us if we wanted to ask a question. We didn’t understand that this was for  a question and answer session later and so proceeded to the hall.We expected a long painful wait until Hawkwind took to the stage but as we entered the room they were already on the stage blasting away. There must have been about thirty people in the audience.  Dave Brock looked kind of surprised to see us coming in. In between songs we were told how we were the lucky ones for being there early we would see Hawkwind twice unlike those who turned up just for the evening.

As soon as we got in the hall, and as the afternoon progressed,the following became clear:

(I’ll be negative to start with and positive afterwards!)

a) Something had gone drastically wrong with the organisation, and as someone who has organised different types of gig over the years I was shocked at certain things especially the “lightshow” . I have seen powerpoint presentations that were more exciting. At one point my friend asked me if it was normal to keep seeing a projection of   drop-down menus projected at the back of the stage. He thought it might be some kind of “sci-fi effect” like H.A.L.,or some computer talking to us visually perhaps.  I said “No, it’s that they can’t operate the computer software. If a lighting engineer had done this at Megadog they would have been shot!” ( or retrospectively maybe they would have been “chilled out” of the organisation).

Also the sound was awful during the acoustic bits and not great,the rest of the time until Hawkwind came on. Sometimes this is a “trick” engineers do to make the main act sound better than the support, like a bride who forces the bridesmaids to wear ugly dresses to make them look better. However I really don’t think that this was the case here, I don’t think anything malicious was going on.

In terms of the café, when I ordered a very expensive egg roll,they told me it would take 30-40 minutes. So I dragged myself  to one of the many fast food places nearby instead.

Hawkwind – “Quark, Strangeness and Charm”

b) On the positive side, we had a great time and we found it very endearing and comical when things went wrong. It was like seeing a band who really was just starting out, maybe playing in a church hall .

I think I would have hated the party if it was all running smoothly like clockwork, with glamour and perfection. The spirit of Hawkwind is anarchy, rough and ready, improvisation, free festivals, beauty out of chaos and  breaking all the rules, all this was evident during the party.

The other acts it seemed, were either composed of members of Hawkwind or roadies .

I particularly enjoyed seeing Tim Blake playing the theremin with great expertise and gurning. It was quite funny when he announced that he was going to play “an acoustic number” for the first time ever with the band “The Elves of Silbury Hill” . He played the acoustic guitar and sang but the sound of his guitar was truly unamplified and his voice was faint too, Dave Brock and the others were pretty good at guessing what chords he was playing thank God. ( didn’t there used to be a free festival on Silbury Hill or am I confusing it with Sisbury Ring or was I at both? Don’t ask me! It was a long time ago when one festival blended into another).

Also playing a set was Huw Lloyd-Langton . He had chatted to us earlier in the audience, and was very friendly although I couldn’t really understand what he was saying to me. I don’t think I took enough drugs to understand what Huw was saying, he was communicating on another level. I recognised him as a familiar face from Portobello Road from  deep  in my past but didn’t realise who he was until he took to the stage. Unfortunately on Friday, anything acoustic was very quiet and muffled, except for the awful poet who was miles too loud. I am a fan of  performance poetry  but this guy’s material reminded me of Vogon poetry.

Here is a clip of Huw Lloyd-Langton jamming from the Saturday set when the sound was a lot better, still he managed to put a few extra beats in there to keep Dave  Brock (on harmonica) on his toes!

By the time Huw did his solo set I had gone out several times for a cigarette in Porchester Road. People walking around in the street in the rush hour were puzzled by what they saw, as the street was lined by the weirdest, most extreme looking hippies mostly dressed in black with long grey hair, many of whom were smoking such vast quantities of skunk that passers-by must have been affected by secondary smoking. Several people asked me what was going on and were surprised to hear that Hawkwind were playing upstairs from their library.

I couldn’t help but think that if this party had taken place in the late seventies , that the drug-squad would have been there,  certainly people would have been searched and arrested. But here we all were, in the middle of London,in the middle of the day, in a town which is half-way to being a chilling example of a police state, and yet one of the most political, anti-authoritarian bands ever, had escaped attention from the local coppers.

Hawkwind- “Urban Guerilla”

There were many comedic moments provided by the compere, although these were not planned. He kept telling us how Hawkwind had made it a true party and festival atmosphere by decorating the hall and all the stalls. Each time he said this, we all looked around at the completely bare hall and wondered what the hell he was talking about. I guess these things materialised on the Saturday but the more he referred to it , the more we chuckled.

Hawkwind – “Assault and Battery “( Porchester Hall on Saturday 29th August)

The compere read out a “timetable of events” from 4pm onwards, it was very informative and interesting, but totally inaccurate! Meanwhile, to be honest I got pretty “tired but happy” and a lot of the afternoon was a blur.

The only event that actually happened on time was Matthew Wright’s question time. It was just like Question Time on the BBC but instead of swarmy politicians trying to sidestep questions and make themselves look good, the questions were posed to a line of mostly totally incoherent members and ex-members of Hawkwind. The questions included ” Where’s Lemmy?” ( answer : on tour). No one dared ask “Where’s Nick Turner, Mick Slattery , Terry Ollis etc?”. Ah, how divorce is hard! Who gets the alimony, custody of the name and all the friends have to choose whose side they are on.

Matthew Wright was the most eloquent and seemingly organised person there, thank God. The most popular question was supplied by a  friend of mine: “What was the most acid you have ever taken before playing live on stage? ( and when and where)” The question made Matthew Wright laugh quite a lot and the panel who were initially reluctant to answer, eventually got involved in a long discussion.

Dave said it was at the Windsor Free Festival, Huw disagreed but I am not sure what he was saying.Then there was a lengthy and confusing debate which involved orange and apple juice. Everyone in the panel contributed enthusiastically, but I’m not sure they were all answering the same question.

By the time Hawkwind rounded off the evening, introduced I think by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, or maybe he introduced someone else.

Hawkwind started with Assault and Battery and ended with Farenheit 451, which I sang all the way down the stairs and down Westbourne Grove, occasionally punching the air.

“Farenheit 451” ( I would have prefered it with the Truffaut film as a visual)

In between the beginning and end the songs seemed go very fast from one to the other. It’s all a bit of a blur I’m afraid. Matthew Wright sang “Spirit of The Age”. I can’t put a clip up of that version,but here it is from the album.

The also did “Magnu” ( this is footage from the Friday…I will have been dancing like a maniac somewhere not far)

After the gig, I stayed up for a couple of hours and had a couple of hours sleep. I woke up a six a.m., I am usually moderate with my intake, but not this time. I realised I had to pack for a camping trip and catch a train leaving at King’s Cross at 7 a.m. to get to Solfest in Cumbria. I dawdled, writing emails instead of getting ready and then threw a few things in a suitcase. The tube got delayed at Edgware Road, my brain was in a total haze,and as I ran up the stairs to King’s Cross station carrying a heavy suitcase I thought :“I’m going to die of a heart attack running to get to a festival! How fitting!” then I thought of Lemmy and somehow I made it onto that train with one minute to spare , I arrived at Solfest ten hours later…

Leaving you with Hawkwind “Better Believe it”

and another jolly tune “Psi Power” ( Hawklords)

I got to go to bed now, going to bed early for the first time in a couple of months.Will try to get it together to do a brief review of Solfest and much more ranting soon.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

The Big Green Dispersion and Solfest 2009


Hello Good People who read this blog ,

(to anyone who read my Guilfest post, I have just added a video clip of Alice Armstrong at the end of it)

Just a note to say  that I just got an email from my son telling me that “The Big Green Gathering“, probably the official festival most like the older style alternative free festivals of the eighties , has been cancelled.

The Big Green Gathering really does represent  alternative hippie counterculture in all its creative and political forms, so it’s very sad.

Some footage of the Big Green Gathering one of many clips to be found on youtube but this one is particularly well put together.

Here is the notice from the BGG website:

Welcome to
The Big Green Gathering
The world’s premier and award winning Green Festival
Attitude Is Everything – Bronze Level Award
July 29th – 2nd August 2009
urgent message

Dear Friends,
following threatened injunction proceedings in High Court by Mendip District Council supported by Somerset & Avon Police and having taken extensive advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers, the directors of the Big Green Gathering have been left with no other option than to voluntarily surrender the license for the Big Green Gathering 2009. The event will now not take place and the directors’ advice and request is that no one intending to attend the event should attempt to do so, as the site is now closed and they are likely to be turned away by Somerset Police. It is our intention to avoid any form of confrontation or public disorder in regard to this and it is our earnest hope that all those involved will follow this advice. It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all those concerned. The Directors of The Big Green Gathering

This is a very last minute decision. I don’t fully understand why the festival has been banned by the local council and police.

According to the BBC , the festival is cancelled for safety reasons as well as crime. Is this the whole reason? Or is it to stop political subversives from meeting in large quantities?

see BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/somerset/8169477.stm

is it really that dangerous that it must be closed down?

It looks like a great way to socialise kids and help them to build for the future when the world will change through our abuse of it.

Here are some more highly dangerous and criminal activities at the BGG.Young people making their own films of the festival. These are fantastic.

**********************************************************************************************************

Meanwhile I should be going to Solfest in Cumbria at the end of August( 28th -30th) ,after going to Hawkwind’s 40th Anniversary gig at Porchester Halls in London the night before.

It’s a long way from London but still my favourite festival, the atmosphere is much friendlier than festivals in the south and people go there not to see any particular band but for the festival experience.Everyone is co-operative and creates a good atmosphere, Saturday is “Fancy Dress” day,which is always spectacular and inventive.

I recommend it for any hippies out there who can no longer go to The Big Green Gathering, but get your tickets early.

It only costs £85 for the weekend  including camping  and car with very limited tickets. You can get there easily from Carlisle by train and minibus.

from the Solfest website:

“Tickets for Solfest 2009 will be available from the following outlets:

  • The Carnegie Theatre, Workington, 01900 602122 (telephone and counter sales, cash and cards accepted)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Aspatria (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Wigton (over the counter cash sales only)
  • The Cumberland Building Society, Silloth (over the counter cash sales only)

For Solfest 2009 there will be a total of 6500 adult tickets available. There will also be a total of 750 children’s tickets and 750 Young people’s tickets. When they are gone, they are gone!”

Although I said that it isn’t the bands that matter, the line-up includes The Charlatans who I saw do a great live gig at Guilfest. Other acts include The Orb, Kula Shaker, Adrian Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds, The Beat ( who I was told did a great set at Guilfest too), The Buzzcocks, the  Blockheads, Nerina Pallot, and many more.

Solfest has all the things lacking at Guilfest in terms of quality of festival-going experience.

A sample from last year’s Solfest , as part of the goings-on in the all night Dogs in Space chill out tent featuring a bit of  Tetchi who are billed to play again there this year (this film makes the tent look a lot darker than in real life, it was actually fairly bright in there).

Any comments on why you think The Big Gathering was cancelled?

Love and Peace

Born2rant

p.s. thanks to the UK Hippie Forum, I have found this update about what to do if you have a ticket.Is there a UK Beatnik Forum? and a UK Crusty Forum? and if not why not?

Next time a radio show I made about the songwriting communities of Open Mic clubs in London.

From BGG website ( note that Gong are playing the Big Chill keep referring to the BGG website for news, the Big Chill is a good place if you want a holiday but it’s nothing like the BGG experience in terms of  green anarchy, still I think  it’s good that they’ve done this, better that than leave people totally stranded)

Several other festivals have already approached us, offering to accept BIg Green Gathering tickets for their events. Some have placed no limit on the number of our ticket holders they will accept. Others have offered us a quota… and have told us that they will announce, on their websites, how many they can accomodate and how many places for BGG ticket holders they still have left. So far, if you have paid for a ticket (whether full price or concession) you will find it is definitely good for full admission to SUNRISE 2010 (late May 2010, Somerset) See website for details of how their BGG swap quota is standing and we are hoping, soon, to announce similar swap options for several festivals. Watch this space please.
ALSO
If you are willing to pay an extra £20, you can swap your Big Green Gathering ticket for a ticket to the BIG CHILL. All you have to do is turn up at the gate of the Big Chill with your BGG ticket and your extra £20. We’ll have a stall there, and some of the same speakers who were on our bill (including Jonathan Cainer) will be in their Words In Motion tent. Also on the Big Chill bill are Max Romeo, Gong, Pharoah Sanders and Music from the Penguin Cafe, plus comedy from Noel Fielding, Tim Minchin, John Hegley, Josie Long and Rob Deering.
Click here for the link. Please note; the Big Chill is not yet a Green event but they do have a long history of supporting honourable causes including Amnesty International… and they are now starting to use more solar and wind power. Solar Aid have a presence there this year.
OR
If you really want to make a gesture of faith and support… you can hold on to your ticket and we will honour it at the next Big Green Gathering, wherever and whenever it will be.
If we can avoid having to give too many straight refunds, it will help us survive. And if you are feeling extra-ordinarily generous, you can simply write to us telling us that you are ‘donating’ your ticket towards our survival fund.



You Can’t Kill The Spirit (but we have!)


Hello Good People who read this blog…

I was just online ambling through youtube and ended up writing this   …Calling  out to all the sons and daughters of this world, on Hippie Mother Earth Day ( getting  carried away with my ranting as usual)

Gong’s “Flying Teapot” with film edits from Timothy Leary’s
How to Operate Your Brain” courtesy of LSDCoatedBrain

I don’t have an LSD coated Brain but can still appreciate a great artistic combination and relate to the old hippie ideals and strong communities.
I feel very strongly that you don’t need to take drugs to be a hippie because to me being a hippie is a philosophy and a positive way of life that doesn’t rely on extremes of religion or drug-taking.
Of course I have taken some hallucinogens but I liked Gong and Hendrix and other “drug” associated music and wanted to look at the world of new social possibilities before I’d ever tried any type of drug.

One of the many ways the hippie movement is put down and ridiculed is by categorizing them as just a load of addicts.

To me the drugs are peripheral and not necessary to access the world of creative imagination and feeling connected to a positive non-materialistic ideology and actively implementing this in  many directions.

.
Once upon a time we were building new worlds, and travelling to new worlds, experimenting with new ways of living and now laws and apathy discourage today’s youth from ever trying anything without wearing a crash helmet, taking a degree in it and getting official permission  first…
One hippie proverb used to be “You Can’t Kill The Spirit”. Anyone remember where that came from?

Through TV and advertising, violent computer games and extreme internet porn, You CAN Kill the Spirit
By making women feel they are getting old and are therefore unlovable and worthless in their twenties and need the latest miracle potion, surgery, clothes, make-up,You CAN kill the Spirit.
A million money making enterprises disempower you and then sell you things to make you feel partly in control again, appealing to the most basic of urges.
In London we are shattered into hundreds of  fragmented communities who never manage to spontaneously link up or work together.
Instead people walk into eachother and glare at eachother in the street and we allow the powers that be to supervise us on camera as we feel too weak to deal with things in person.


Our sense of community and identity is broken in our society and sectarianism is on the increase.

I preferred the world of jamming experimenting collaborative individuals. i.e. Hippies.

Spontaneous, unfunded, grassroots events like the free gigs in Meanwhile Gardens in Notting Hill kept our spirits up. Now even folk clubs can’t function without being given permission by the council and being regularly inspected.

Our Universities are no longer places where you can express opinions instead we are encouraged NOT to think for ourselves but to be content to quote the “Great and the Good” . Only “official” and “certified” thinkers are allowed.

UK Universities are not places of learning but places of earning. They are not places of free and evolutionary thought but places for worshipping the academic élite.

They are not places where new political ideologies are being created but student politics are increasingly reflecting, and are over-powered by,  religious sectarianism and global tensions between nations.

In my experience there is no free speech in a higher educational institution, on any level , without getting into trouble. If you want to express an opinion it had better be one that has been sanctioned by those in charge, be it academic, or student’s union ( anyone from my Uni who claims otherwise is basically trying to save face).

£££££££££££££££$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$%%%%%%%%%%%%

“You Can’t Kill The Spirit “, I remember now… I was involved in running one of the stages at The Fordham Park Free Festival in the nineties “You Can’t Kill The Spirit” was the slogan… I still have the T-Shirt…( and am writing the book, well the blog).

“You Can’t Kill the Spirit” was also a slogan and a song from the Women of Greenham Common. I never went to Greenham Common but joined another anti-Nuclear organisation and protested. Nothing is perfect and I didn’t agree with some of the over-the-top man-hating philosophies that a minority of the Greenham women had. But they were terribly brave , they risked their lives for their cause and they had spirit.

They also were non-violent and were prepared to live in terrible conditions for Peace and a better world.

for a whole load more go to this website:

http://www.yourgreenham.co.uk/

greenham1



borrowed from a site with loads of photos of Greenham Commonhttp://www.fredsakademiet.dk/abase/sange/greenham/sigrid.htm

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Getting back to opposing factions..I believe that sectarianism is wrong ( I am being all moral…well I am Born2rant after all) . I can only see sectarianism leading to more and more misunderstanding and violence.

I don’t believe in “Us and Them” underneath I think we are all the same but here I get stuck because sometimes you have to fight for your basic rights so this inevitably leads to a split .

I don’t believe in factions who all blame and hate one another so I am not keen on groups. But I get stuck again because we all need to feel a sense of identity and a sense of belonging , where birds of a feather flock together etc… I think we need to belong to a community, to feel alive and worthwhile and to know that other people like the same things , share the same ideas etc… But the problem is when people become a bit too clingy to their own group and isolated from the rest, some can become paranoid and polarised, then some kind of craziness is bound to  ensue (see Daily Mail for details…).

But anyhoo…
It’s hard to find anyone under forty in London who is not totally apathetic about  fighting the system to make this world a free place where individuals can do something positive and feel they have some basic control over their lives.

Here is a bit of footage from the Fordham Park Free Festival in London Deptford in 1991. They also had the slogan “You can’t Kill The Spirit”

By the 90s well we were already quite tame, the local council threatened to sue us for vast amounts of money  if the music continued a minute past 10pm , I seem to remember.

I was in charge of my stage at 10pm,  a bit of a nightmare as the band just wouldn’t stop doing encores. I tried to pull the plug so we didn’t get fined but the band  had cleverly rigged up their own secret secondary generator and even when we pulled the plug on that they carried on with their frenetic set acoustically  and the crowd danced wildly. I was getting people screaming at me but there was nothing I could do. The power of  youthful and collective anarchy ( plus musician’s egos and drunken dancing audience)  is  too great for one hippie to stop.
If I could go back in time I wouldn’t have pulled the plug on them at all. Now you can’t have live music without a licence, the world has gone mad.
If you are a rebel, join with others and do not be put off by the authorities!

Love and Peace from a grumpy old hippie Mum, dismayed yet understanding of the apathy of youth…


Born2rant
Here’s “Electric Gypsies” with Steve Hillage
starts with what sounds to me like some Tibetan Horns.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectarian

Freaky Coincidence?The Wright Stuff with Matthew Wright


Hello Good People who read this blog!

Something just happened that has freaked me out ( man!)

At 2.a.m. this morning I put up my last blog post about Frestonia, but also I asked if journalist and tv presenter Matthew Wright was a secret anarchist hippie ( although he is also an openly male chauvinist piggie!). -p.s. 16/6/08 I am regretting that last comment now but in the spirit of freely expressing opinions I will not edit it out as I thought it at the time even if I think now I may have been a bit harsh or even mistaken ( mistaken? but I am always right!)

Well The Wright Stuff is on Channel 5 as I speak ( or as I write) and he just shocked me by having quite along feature on alternative communities in the UK including Frestonia ( please look at my previous post called “Frestonia , Your Essential Entertainment & Lifestyle Guide” if you want to understand what I am on about), he mentioned that Here and Now was one of his favourite bands who he said lived in Frestonia and he said he’d been part of the free festival scene in the 80s .

Just now he had a call from a woman in Hastings who lived in Frestonia and she spoke with him for a long time about how great and creative the Frestonian scene was.

So now I wonder

Is this a freaky coincidence ( man) ? Did someone at Channel 5 read my blog and tell him to get hippies on ( seems unlikely but not 100% impossible), or is my stream of consciousness writing tapping into some kind of collective unconscious psychic weirdness? Did the woman who called in to talk about Frestonia see my blog?

I have watched The Wright Stuff many many times and it’s the first time they have ever mentioned Frestonia or Notting Hill in the 80s.

I was already freaked out by finding a photo of someone I recently got to know on Tony Sleep’s site of frestonian photos. I am obviously having some kind of strange coincidence day!

I already had pre-stage nerves now I’ll be wondering if some other weird coincidence will occur this evening!

I’ll finish with something a French hairdresser told me who cut my hair in a small seaside town last week. As we chatted it turned out that her brother in law and my mother came from the same tiny village in France.

“Il n’y a seulement les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent pas”

( only mountains don’t meet, i.e. people who move about all meet eachother sooner or later)

P.S. I JUST FOUND THIS WONDERFUL FOOTAGE! MATTHEW WRIGHT SINGING SPIRIT OF THE AGE WITH HAWKWIND!

My God what the hell is going on???????? ( am I imagining all of this and have finally gone totally bonkers?)

In the interests of “balanced reporting” here is Space Ritual playing under the Westway about 2 years ago.

<a href=”http://blogs.icerocket.com/tag/the-wright-stuff&#8221; rel=”tag”>the-wright-stuff</a>

Frestonia-Your essential entertainment & lifestyle guide


Hello There Good People who still read this blog even though I’ve been away!

First of all apologies for not replying to emails, comments etc..and not writing my blog. Lots of stuff been going on in my life and Blogging is really for when you have nothing going on in your life, as is Facebook and other time-wasters.

However I do miss writing my blog and appreciate all the wonderful people who read it and sometimes comment. Thanks.

I just wanted to write about one quick thing. Normally I end up writing about a zillion things but I’ll be brief and return soon.

I had another one of those free Notting Hill magazines through my door. This is one I’ve never seen before called “Matchbox” it sounds promising to an occasional smoker like me but then unfortunately underneath it is annotated “Your essential entertainment & lifestyle guide“.

Oh Bollocks! They are trying to sell me things and tell me how to live my life if I want to be an acceptable human being living in a shallow consummerist society which is leading to global destruction.

However on the cover it says “Forgotten Frestonia” so I decided to read it. At first I saw the copious adverts for stupidly priced properties . I couldn’t believe that the “Matchbox” down the road from me is selling for 2 and a half million pounds! but there you go! No wonder my neighbours hate me for being poor , my place looking like a wreck and still living near their newly acquired ridiculously priced , perfectly furnished matchboxes!

On p.28 of this free magazine distributed widely in West and North West London, there is a 7 page Photo Story entitled “Welcome to Frestonia”. It has some fantastic photographs taken by Tony Sleep who was living in Frestonia in the late 70s early 80s. You can find these and more annotated photographs by going to http://tonysleep.co.uk/frestonia.

If you can get hold of the article it includes Frestonia postage stamps, the “score” for the Frestonian National Anthem, letters to and from the House of Commons, a Visa stamp for unlimited entry into the Republic of Frestonia and other goodies.

The article itself I haven’t read fully yet this evening but has a kind of 2008 perspective. I’ll quote the article:” it’s probably fair to say that most Frestonians suffered from depression, and many had medical histories of mental illness and addiction. They had to live somewhere, so long before “care in the community” became a political prescription, Frestonia road-tested the proposition on a micro scale”.

I didn’t live in Frestonia myself and don’t have any close friends who did so maybe I can’t comment. But to me even the above quote is true it seems to ignore the immense creativity taking place there and a freedom that we no long enjoy. All the very creative people I know suffer from mental illness or varying forms of depression and I just think it goes along with the territory.

Anyway enjoy the article if you can find it if not enjoy Tony Sleep’s website. I am borrowing a couple of photos from it to put here and hope he doesn’t mind!

This is Trevor he liked gardening and grew tomatoes in compost made from Frestonian resident poo however no one wanted to eat his lovely tomatoes (see Tony Sleep link http://www.tonysleep.co.uk)

According to resident and photographer Tony Sleep who took this picture this  actually worked as a sound system within the Apocalyspe Hotel ( please refer to http://www.tonysleep.co.uk for more)

This is a view of The Apocalypse Hotel (borrowed from Alan Lodge’s site see link) .
The Apocalypse Hotel which changed appearance regularly was named after the film “Apocalypse Now”. All this stuff is new to me , although I did spend some time hanging out with The Mutoid Waste Company who had connections with Frestonia the rest is not my own history, so I am just going to put up a few more photos and links for now.

Frestonian 1st Birthday Party with street entertainment ( see http://www.tonysleep.co.uk)

I will write more soon. Please go to Tony Sleep’s site for tons of fantastic photos with descriptions.

The first time I put up these photos I didn’t understand that they had a code on them or that they were copyrighted. I’ve left the code this time and hopefully they might link up to Tony’s site. Thanks to Tony Sleep for letting me borrow these.

If Frestonia was inhabited by some creative lunatics then this reminds me…

I am doing a gig tomorrow night ( tonight) celebrating the life of another creative lunatic Kevin Coyne. It is organised by more creative lunatics, and only creative lunatics will be performing so if you can somehow find out where it is you can find me! The time it starts, who exactly is performing and how much it costs seems to vary each time I speak to anyone. However I can tell you that the performers will be from a Kevin Coyne Tribute Album we all performed on. So catch us if you can find us!

To read more on Kevin Coyne go to this website although there are plenty of others! http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2004/dec/06/guardianobituaries.artsobituaries

He recorded 45 albums , 23 singles, and wrote 6 books, so if you haven’t heard of him, get yourself aquainted!


The other daft thing I was going to write about is Matthew Wright. I watch and enjoy The Wright Stuff quite a lot on Channel Five and in spite of Matthew Wright’s chauvenistic stance and the huge chip he has on his shoulder with women which winds me up no end, I do also have an affinity for a lot of what he discusses especially the political. Unfortunately a lot of his panellists are very shallow self-serving conservative people but occasionally you get some good people on . He likes to talk about the erosion of our personal freedom a lot and you don’t often hear that on TV. Also he DOES speak his mind quite freely which you hardly ever see on tv these days.

Well to my surprise he was part of the free festival scene and goes on stage with Hawkwind! Is this man a secret Anarchist Hippie?

If anyone knows about this please add a comment. ( especially if you have any embarassing photos of him with long hair , a spliff in his mouth strumming an electric guitar under strobe lighting).

Ok I got to go, it’s late.

Bye bye good people who read this blog until another time soon.

P.S. on June 7th Matthew Wright has contacted me about this! Please go to my next post entitled ”

Freaky Coincidence?The Wright Stuff with Matthew Wright

and click the “comments” section at the bottom to read two comments he left if you are interested to see what he said. Brave man for coming to my blog and commenting in spite of my mixed review of his show which I do enjoy watching.

Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Steve Hillage always looking to the future: Part one from Hyde Park to Solfest


Hello Good people who read this blog…

This week I thought I’d write a bit about Steve Hillage. It’s very difficult if not impossible to write about Steve Hillage without referring to my life and that of others in relation to him. This is an entirely subjective view of Steve Hillage . I have no detailed knowledge of his music after 1980 although I have seen System 7 several times.
So just like Douglas Adam’s description of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due to hazy memories and subjective nonsense some of the contents may be “apocryphal” ( doubtful ). So to any fanatical fans of Steve Hillage, System 7, academics, musicologists , or the man himself if he reads this (and he might), or my ex for writing about him without him being there,then I apologise in advance for anything stupid, crass, innacurate or silly that I say.
I do not however apologise to any music journalists who might read this as they specialise in writing stupid, crass, innacurate and silly things about musicians but in an authoritative way.
No I assure you what I am about to write may be complete and utter bollocks, fiction in fact which bears only coincidental resemblance to any people living or dead, ever, anywhere.*(see footnote)

So here we go…

I first saw Steve Hillage as a teenager at the Queen concert in Hyde Park on 18th September 1976. It was the first “festival” type gig I’d been to. I’d seen the film of Woodstock and Hyde Park turned into a mini Woodstock without the mud for the day. I seem to remember that Brian May of Queen was a big fan of Steve Hillage and of Jimi Hendrix. Bung in Jimmy Page and you’d probably have my favourite 4 electric guitarists.

The gig was organised to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix on the 18th of September1970. Hendrix died in Notting Hill in circumstances which have never been fully explained. This could be the subject of a whole other blog and an area of perhaps morbid curiosity for me after reading Kathy Etchingham’s autobiography.

Anyway back to Steve Hillage….

I went to Hyde Park to go and see Queen but I was hanging around at the side of the stage where the most bizarre people I had ever seen were sitting on the grass. They were such over the top hippies that I was fascinated by them. One of them was wearing a duck on his head ( a decoy duck as a hat..it was hot). There were people going in and out of the backstage area to join the strange group on the grass no doubt smoking grass and I was wondering if it was Steve Hillage who also was wearing some kind of weird hat. I was so young I didn’t really know what grass was , in those days there wasn’t drug education in schools. I remember there were some people looking quite high swaying about or meditating cross-legged next to burning josticks planted in the ground and I didn’t know if that was some kind of drug too. My parents certainly would have thought it was. There were huge crowds and it was very exciting, very alternative, full of hippies and a bit scary as I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and was young. I got photographed at least 20 times by different people at that gig maybe because I had dressed up in a T-shirt I’d made saying “Prophet” in big letters on the front and was wearing a home-made black corduroy floppy hat and was hanging around the side of the stage/backstage area.

Later on I scrutinised the stage and realised it was Steve Hillage I’d seen hopping in and out of the backstage area and his music blew me away.

I remember his rendition of “It’s all too much” a George Harrison song which I was already fond of for having a celestial quality to it but Steve Hillage was taking it to another world. The music shone and glittered and took you through harmonic waves turnstiles into other audio dimensions ( God I sound like one of those terrible Music Journalists…I must apologise!) .Basically Steve Hillage was something I’d never heard before. He used pentatonic scales from the East that I’d only heard in snatches of Indian Classical music. World music was not really broadcast then. It was Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, Womad etc ..which brought it to the attention of us young westerners and later Whirlygig etc.. .

I think for most of the Queen audience maybe the music was just too different for them to understand but I was completely smitten by it.

Well in the context of the variety of sounds in 2008 this won’t sound the same and apologies for poor quality but here is Steve Hillage at that Hyde Park Gig. The most interesting parts are the instrumental bits after he finishes singing the song. It looks like they were having quite a few technical problems. There is footage of faultless live gigs available but not here yet! ( more about that next time)

Later my problem was that none of my friends or anyone I knew had any interest in this kind of music. Most of them liked pop or straight classic rock like Thin Lizzy. I was well into punk as well and knew a few punks. Around the same time I got into Gong from finding a collection of Gong albums in my local library but had no idea that Steve Hillage had been in Gong until later.

Anyway to cut a long story short when I was at college doing my A-levels I met my ex partner Michael . One of the main things we had in common was an almost identical record collection and a total obsession with music and the hippie movement which was verging on the fanatical (now I’m older of course I’m not like that at all).

In particular we both knew and loved the music of Steve Hillage and Gong. Our subsequent relationship was very much based around these things.

We used to have a record player that could play a side of an album repeatedly without pausing and there were times when we listened to a side of Green or Rainbow Dome Musick , or Live Herald for 8 hours or more , once I think we heard side one of Live Herald for an entire weekend going to sleep and waking up with it in the morning. But it never seemed to do us any harm and I can still listen to these records now, you’d think I would have got bored with it!

As well as the music we were finding and exploring the alternative scene in Notting Hill, at free festivals, playing music in bands together and later running gigs .

At first we ran a few gigs together under the name “Dead Dog Promotions” , then at a later stage this became ” Club Dog” which later still once we had split up for some time became “Megadog” . You can guess who Michael wanted to book .

1. Anyone who sounded like Steve Hillage

2. Steve Hillage

Of course I’m joking and many other types of act were booked and the club enjoyed diversity. In fact other acts booked in particular for Club Dog were all about fusing different styles of music to create something totally new and original just as Gong and Hillage have done as well as representing an alternative community.

It ‘s not the first time I have been a fan of someone and then got to meet them through being involved in the music scene. But it’s hard to explain what huge fans we both were and how ironic it is that System 7 then became one of the acts associated with Megadog.

Hurdy Gurdy Man (song by Donovan)

This was filmed on March 20th 1977 at the Otto Hahn School in Bensberg Germany for the Rockpalast TV programme. (go to http://www.rockpalastarchiv.de/welcomee.html for more info on this music series)

Steve Hillage and band:

Miquette Giraudy (synthesiser and vocals) Colin Bass ( great name for a bass player!) , Clive Bunker (drums) Christian Boulé (guitar), Phil Hodges (keyboards), Basil Brooks (synthesiser)

I think this is correct and would have been the same line up on the previous video at Hyde Park

Ranting about music and connections between people and events…

I think it is fair to say that the impact of the music by Steve Hillage and Gong in an indirect way changed the course of my life and that of many others. When I studied music at University they kept telling us that “Music is all about relationships”. The relationship between notes, the relationship between beats , instruments, musicians in a band , the relationship between bands and their audience, the relationship between music and the media and opportunity for broadcast, the relationship between fans of a particular band , the relationship we create emotionally with the music we listen to and the thoughts and memories we associate with each piece of music. Steve Hillage has been weaving in and out of my life since 1976 and I am sure, the cosmos willing , that our paths will cross again.

If you read my entry on Solfest 2007 you will see that was the last time our paths briefly crossed and you will understand why I said to him that I thought that the crackles at the beginning of our vinyl copy of Rainbow Dome Musick were due to us playing it so much!

In fact it’s a fault with the pressing. That’s the autobiographical bit done, I hope I haven’t embarrassed Michael as he will read this at some point. I was trying to do this blog anonymously but then of course I started to tell people about it and so it’s only half anonymous now!

I am so tired that I cannot spell anymore but next time I want to write about Steve Hillage’s musical journey, and various thoughts about numbers and (vaguely) spiritual stuff!

Goodnight….

More Soon….Please go to

http://www.planetgong.co.uk/maze/blurbs/hillage.shtml

for more info on Steve Hillage!

*P.S. This isn’t really fiction I just got carried away in my apologies

Steve Hillage , Solfest 2007 and revivals


Is there a revival going on?

When I was at Solfest this year ( the one in Cumbria not in the US ) in the chill out tent there were some fantastic psychedelic, ambient and yes, trance live performances from Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Eat Static, various combinations of Ozric Tentacle members ( Nodens Ictus) and many more ( including my son, “the next generation” as they say in Star Trek with the 2.2 killaVolt Cables).

There were lots of great djs too but I’m more into live music personally and the dynamics and energy between performers and the excitement of the moment.

(Oh dear an apology to all the other people I haven’t mentioned who played or dj-ed in that tent, there were too many good ones to mention).

I really wish someone had filmed it I saw and danced to some of the best live music I heard in years and years and I go to a lot of gigs!

Steve and Miquette did a performance of ” Rainbow Dome Music” . I spoke to Steve the next day and he told me that they hadn’t performed it live before. I’m not sure if he meant ever or just since the late seventies.

He also told me that neither of them could listen to the track until it came out on CD. That’s because the vinyl version on clear vinyl has some kind of defect and crackled a lot.

I know ours did but I thought it was because we played it so much! I always cursed our copy but in fact the years of hearing some crackles at the start of the album were more than compensated for by seeing them play it live in the small chill out tent and so much other good music.

I’d heard that Steve Hillage had played some of his old stuff in Holland last year and managed to find this online, although it’s great to see it I think the sound could have been better but never mind. It seems to me that there’s a bit of a revival going on. Certainly at Solfest the Dogs in Space tent was heaven although a lot of people in the audience had no idea of who they were listening to and it was relaxed and informal. maybe that’s why it was so good. No pressure and not much ego! ( no egos or breadheads!)

Here’s Steve Hillage in 2006 then!( doing his old stuff) filmed live at the Gong UnConvention in Amsterdam, November 2006. With backing by Mike Howlett (bass), Chris Taylor (drums) and Miquette Giraudy (synths).

OM!

Who killed the hippies?


Footage of a clamp-down on freedom, peace and anti-materialism

This blog requires some audience participation from you.

If you want to understand some of the things I will be writing about in future posts please watch and compare the following clips. It is a history that needs to be told and has been suppressed.

Footage of Stonehenge Free Festival 1983

Footage of Stonehenge Free Festival 1984


See Youtube for further clips of the 1984 Stonehenge festival with Roy Harper, Hawkwind and others.

Stonehenge once we were labelled as “medieval brigands”.Actually Mrs. Thatcher called us medieval brigands in 1986 but they had already labelled us as a threat due to the amount of us amassing in large groups and travelling around the country in the summer.

Below this pararagraph is footage of people trying to get to the Stonehenge Free festival 1985 and getting beaten up by the police,vehicles/homes and possessions destroyed. I met some women at later festivals who told me that subsequently their dogs were put down and children taken into care simply because they happened to be trying to get to Stonehenge ( Battle of the Bean Field).

ITN News footage of hippies being stopped from going to Stonehenge 1985 plus political preamble from an anonymous man

Here is further footage on youtube ,they are excerpts from a documentary on what happened in 1985 on the way to Stonehenge

How does this compare to how hippies are portrayed in current culture/media?
I think they/we were braver than most.

Glastonbury vs Stonehenge

The one and only reason why the Glastonbury Festival still survives is that they charge shit loads of money and follow laws and regulations imposed upon them. If you think your door money is going to Oxfam and Greenpeace , think again. I worked for Oxfam and know people who worked at Glastonbury. The door money mainly goes to greedy music biz management who try to get the biggest fees possible only a tiny percentage goes to charity. I am not against the Glastonbury festival but in our money obsessed culture the only way for festivals to survive is by treating it like an enterprise.

At Stonehenge we had great acts and everyone worked for free.

The Stonehenge Culture
Many bands formed at the Stonehenge festival, it was a creative melting pot for music and for friends to meet up once a year. There were over 200 bands playing on or around the Solstice.For some people the festival lasted the whole of June but the majority of people came down for the Solstice itself. There were many soldiers on leave who used to come along from the surrounding army bases who wanted somewhere to party and see live music.

Peace and Love and Music all given freely and camping in fields are dangerous things to people who follow all the rules, who have to pay for something to enjoy themselves and who do not understand why others should be free or to have a good time without money. Hippies make good scapegoats and objects of ridicule.

Officially the excuse for banning The Stonehenge Free Festival was that it was harming the stones and archeology of the site.

I never personally saw any damage to the stones or to the fields on the other side of the road to Stonehenge where the festival took place. I remember that every year we were given free rubbish bags to help clear the site and hundreds of participants were picking up bits of rubbish before leaving.

They banned all the free festivals that year no matter where they were.

After 1985 the Free Festival scene changed, it attracted people who wanted to fight with the authorities and more peaceful hippies opted out. Can you blame them?

Love and Peace

Born2rant who needs wars when you have words

What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity(Anti-Media stories part 5)


What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity

Terrorism , paranoia and police state!

I have been quite reticent to write some of the items in the next few stories.
Firstly because I want to protect my old acquaintances and I worry that if MI5 or the FBI or Interpol or someone reads this that they will go berserk and want to find and arrest people.
***So all I will say to all you people who might be from any of those agencies is that all these events happened 23 or so years ago. All the people involved are either now completely law abiding or have had some form of psychiatric treatment. In 2007 we /they are no threat to any government or members of the public or to anyone at all.So calm down!

We are living in strange paranoid times. In the late 60s and 70s the London I grew up in was full of bombs. As a child I used to wake up regularly from some kind of explosion in the middle of the night. There were letter bombs and car bombs and bombs left in plastic bags in London and throughout the country mainly by the IRA but also by the PLO and others.In case the reader is too young to remember , Lord Mountbatten a public figure , famous as a soldier and member of the Royal Family , Prince Charles’ great-uncle and mentor was killed off the Irish coast by a bomb on his boat along with other members of his family and crew. Can you imagine the response if a member of the Royal Family was killed now. They would have to question every Muslim under 30 in the country!
There would be mass panic and 24 hour coverage on the news.
There were countless attacks on Britain by the IRA. The US government were often unsympathetic to these attacks.
Another case in point was the Brighton bombing in 1984 where the government were directly attacked at the Brighton Party conference. Five people died and several permanently disabled as a result, 34 others injured.
Now the daughter of one of the ministers killed in the blast Jo Berry who is an acquaintance of mine campaigns all over the world for peace. She has allied herself with the IRA bomber himself and both now campaign against terrorism and for peace. Whatever your opinion is on this matter , one has to admit it’s quite an achievement and can only inspire other former enemies to find a different way of bringing about change.

However if you watch the news these days you’d think we had never had a terrorist threat before in this country and that somehow we must live with constant surveillance and with extra police powers , and that we must at all times be scared and suspicious.
I understand that possibly the plans of Al-Qaeda are to cause devastation on a much bigger scale than for instance the IRA, and I understand that September the 11th was a terrible crime against humanity. I’m a pacifist and believe that violence just creates retaliation and more violence. I am not on the side of terrorists of any kind however I do think now part of our brainwashing is to leap on and kill anyone subversive in case they could be a terrorist threat. It’s Carte Blanche for the authorities to suppress and destroy any little group of subversives they come across and young people today are therefore not only apathetic about politics but also the ones who do protest put their lives at risk. Maybe that’s always been the case and young people were braver before.
It strikes me that a lot of the protests done by young people I know of is through ” partying” in public places or in ways that are unusual. These are protests but they are not overtly political but it’s certainly better than nothing and less risky to those involved.However the wonderful Circle Line parties , which I was lucky to take part in once, have been stopped because the Spacehijakers were worried about people getting taken for terrorists and harmed by the police. All we were doing was having a drink and a dance on the tube!
(only a few hundred of us on the same train).

My second reservation for telling you the following stories is because I do not want the readers to lose sight of the original message. The Anti-Media message is a vitally important one. It is anti-corporate, anti-advertising, anti-brainwashing to buy products we do not need at a time when the planet can no longer sustain our levels of production and consumption.
The Anti-Media message could almost be equated with Anti-Stupidity and thinking for yourself. However you will read in some of the following stories why I left it all got too extreme for me. However they are still great stories and I love to tell them. We weren’t terrorists , we were only challenging modern culture in our little ways. But still once explosives were involved I had to quit.
Have I mentioned at least three times that I am a pacifist? Good, then I will continue on a lighter note…

Odds and Ends
Some More Anti-media Stories

The Kidnap of Ronald Mac Donald

There was a plan to kidnap Ronald Mac Donald.
At children’s birthday parties at Mac Donald’s they often had a member of staff dressed as Ronald Mac Donald clowning around to entertain the kids. There was an Anti-Media plan to kidnap one and hold him for ransom.
A couple of years ago I bumped into Richard and asked him if this had ever taken place .
He told me there had been an attempt at this. They were a really nice bunch of people and although they often had pretty crazy plans they were too nice to ever do anyone any harm. They had modified their kidnap plan and instead they infiltrated Mac Donald’s and one of them got a job there and volunteered to do the children’s party dressed as Ronald McDonald.
As he was doing the party they pulled up a van outside and bungled him into the back and then sent a letter telling Mac Donald’s of various anti-media demands to be met or they wouldn’t see Ronald again. The plan failed because Mac Donalds ignored the letter and other bunglings. The guy quit but they may have made some kind of film of it somewhere.

The Mess-Age Magnet

Hogan and Howard had asked me if I wanted to contribute something to their Anti-Media magazine ( a contradiction in terms) called the Mess-age Magnet. When I asked them what kind of things they wanted me to write they told me to write anything. I like anarchic organisations of all sorts where you are given trust, freedom and responsibility. It brings out the best in me.
I didn’t know what to write. This must have been in 1985 while we were still doing Anti-Media events.
Every summer myself, Michael and our son would go off to free festivals. That year was particularly interesting as the free festival scene and the country was changing.
The scene had changed because it was growing and Magaret Thatcher was calling us all
” medieval brigands”
although I think the most illegal thing we did on our travels was to sell excellent tea, real coffee and pancakes at a very cheap price from our makeshift cafe without a license . We were even parked on land where it was legal to do so, but the government changed the laws so that The Stonehenge Festival became illegal, and other festivals on sites where there had been traditional fairs, and squatting rights, common land laws etc..were all changed so that our little peaceful free festivals became illegal. As they became illegal the people who went to them changed too. But that’s another story.
In 1985 on our travels from festival to festival we landed at The Cantlin Stone festival. It was one of the happiest times of my life. We were travelling with other groups of hippies in little tribes to deserted places and living off common land, collecting wood, the children who were not wild as they were at some festivals were playing together exploring the hills and countryside around from sunrise to sunset. Every single person I met at Cantlin Stone had interesting tales to tell. Many had come from Hull and other northern towns. Some told us they had been unemployed for several years due to the closing down of different industries and had decided that instead of being on the dole and living in a city full of desolation and junkies that they had chosen to take to the open road, living on buses and in teepees. It was an idyllic lifestyle. I was never lonely, I always felt supported, so happy and so rich in the company of so many benevolent and highly intelligent and colourful interesting people. We were living without TV or newpapers or news and we were very happy.
Therefore it was while I was at Cantlin Stone, perched up on a hill of heather and woods which the forester had shown me was damaged by acid rain, that I wrote about my time there and how our whole sense of selves changed from being away from TV and all sources of news. In fact we probably were in the news if not at that festival then at others we travelled to that summer without our knowledge.
My contribution to the magazine was only 2 pages long. The rest were collages of newspaper and magazine clippings and cartoons with scrawled comments on various issues such as” Is Modern Life Rubbish?“, ” Dress like the pig you are“, “If you think home-taping is killing music you know nothing in either ear.“, ” Love me less, respect me more”.
There were articles about many issues:

” ANTImedia seeks GURLS to contribute to magazine and performances. a GURL regards her environment with contempt and distrust..she is fed up of seeing her contemporaries hanging around with men who are fashion conscious cool and hedonistic….GURLS don’t like the media one bit.”

Another page had a ten step programme ( with 13 steps of course) .They are a bit dated as now it would be computers and computer games and social networking sites and cds and dvds they would avoid as well as TV. Also men with pony tails were quite slimy and trendy at the time and Walkmans were the latest thing…but anyway.

TEN STEPS

1. Turn down the volume on your television during advertisements

2. Turn off altogether

3. Sell television ( and/or all modern conveniences such as expensive hi-fi , or extensive record collection).

4.Cancel standing subscriptions to any daily/weekly/monthly magazines

5.Avoid high neon low life restaurants and take away diners.

6. Avoid high streets and shops bigger than the size of a living room.

7. Allow not your gaze to wander onto street adverts, thus immediately disarming the use of said items.

8. Make a stencil and disfigure the above adverts and invent other creative ideas to occupy yourself positively during your newly found creative life.

9. Tell your friends and discuss anti media ideas with them.

10. Lose them

11. Avoid all modern so called culture.

12. de centralize anti-media by forming your own groups

13. With your new capital from abstaining from bad goods, finance anti-media housing, transport, publications, etc..like buying a pair of garden shears to clear obstacles from underground trains, such as ponytails and walkman leads .
Take the ten steps and your life can only be Improving.”

A flat in Bloomsbury and the Telecom Conspiracy

Hogan had a flat in Bloomsbury and I was invited to come to an anti-media meeting there to discuss various plans.
Hogan used to live there in a media free zone. I remember him telling me he’d met this homeless guy , who I think was an alcoholic and allowed him to move in for a while for free.
Hogan, Richard and Andy were there plus myself and my son.
During the meeting I needed to make a phone call. By the phone there was a window and what I thought was a telescope next to it . However you didn’t need a telescope to see the BT tower. It had been the Post Office Tower but we were living in an era where the Thatcherite government was privatising public companies. The GPO( General Post Office) had split and now we had British Telecom sold off in shares along with British Gas, British Rail etc.. It is hardly surprising that anti-corporate anti-media would have resented the newly renamed Telecom Tower and all the publicity in launching the British Telecom brand.
I saw a jar by the phone which was full of coins and I assumed it was to go towards the phone bill. So I offered to pay for my call and put some money in the jar.
However as I offered to put in ten pence for the bill they told me that each time someone made a call the money was not going to pay British Telecom but to buy explosives to blow up the Telecom Tower. I then looked at the telescope again and I think they were going to use it as some kind of rocket launcher and it was pointed straight up at the Telecom Tower a couple of streets away.

If you haven’t already done so please read my note above ***.

Anyway I rejoined the meeting not sure if this was a joke but my head was swimming and I knew I needed to rethink my involvement with them. Later they gave me and my son a lift home. I have never been so scared in the back of a car. Richard had just learned to drive and had a full license but Andy was driving with a provisional license. The drive was very scary and I seem to remember us going the wrong way up one-way streets and through red lights etc..My son was oblivious and I rediscovered a long-lost belief in God as I prayed we would make it home. After a while Richard said to Andy casually ” So when’s your first driving lesson?”.
After this I reflected and I knew that although my friends were lovely and I agreed with their challenging the media and mass consumerism that somewhere along the line there was a screw loose and marbles gone a-missing.
I still didn’t know if they were joking about the explosives but I knew I would not be part of it anymore. Pooing shit on the TV is one thing( see previous post about crap on the tv), saving up for explosives and my son’s safety were another. It had got too extreme for me.

Exploding Jimmy Tarbuck

About a week or so after that in the rush hour along one of London’s busiest roads they exploded something. There was a huge billboard of Jimmy Tarbuck’s face grinning next to a giant 3 D microwave. In the microwave oven there was a 3D rotating turkey. It was a whole 3D installation, trying to persuade people to roast their turkeys at Christmas in a newly available microwave oven.
They put an incendiary device behind the turkey and it exploded to the amazement of people caught in rush hour traffic. They immediately then called the fire brigade as the billboard was catching fire. No one was hurt, Jimmy Tarbuck’s huge grinning face remained intact.Please see note *** above!

Russell and his explosions

Russell poor lad was one of the anti-media crew I knew less well than the others. I had been out for a drink with him and others once in Hampstead . I barely knew Russell and a couple of others I have not mentioned as they did not perform at the Anti-media Pentameters events or come to Dead Dog promotions /Treatment gigs..( see previous entries in blog for Pentameters events).

When I met him , Russell was shy and quiet, he looked a bit like a young Bob Dylan but wearing some kind of chunky hand-knitted jumper with pictures on it. I thought he looked like the kind of repressed kid who might have been bullied as a child. Russell got a kick from exploding things. Hogan and Richard had told me a few tales about Russell’s behaviour before he finally got psychiatric treatment.
Hogan had left the flat in Bloomsbury and shared a house with Russell for a while. In order to entertain themselves they started to paint furniture and objects in the house, then the carpet was painted. I think Hogan was trying to find something therapeutic for Russell to do as his mental state was clearly worrying. Then Russell took it a stage further and started to set fire to things around the house, he even put lighter fuel on the lawn and set fire to that.
By then Hogan started to realise this was no longer “anti-media art” but simply lunacy and couldn’t live with him anymore. Richard had also told me a story where they were visiting Russell’s parents and he suddenly let off an incendiary device in their living room. He told the others to run and drive off but their car wouldn’t start and eventually being in the middle of a remote part of Scotland and without mobile phones, they had to go back into the parent’s house. They helped them with the damage and then called the AA waiting for them in the family home Russell had just tried to destroy.
Please read note ****

Epilogue

So that is the story of Anti-Media or what I can remember of it.
It went from idealism into anarchy and insanity but the idealism without the insanity is what we need now. We need to counteract the power and morals of the media, advertising and corporate thinking if this planet is ever to have any hope of a future. But not with bombs, explosives or violence but with words and thoughts and hopefully communities collaborating away from media and advertising intervention.

So where are they now?
I bumped into Richard at The Notting Hill Arts Centre where he was DJing. As well as being a DJ and he also set up his own record label and worked for a couple of other independent labels and a music project involving a member of Blur. I asked him if he had talked to anyone from Blur about them using our slogan “Modern Life is Rubbish”. He told me that a few years back they had written to Sony records to complain that they were using our slogan without our permission but didn’t get a reply. He said he might mention it again in the future.

I bumped into Hogan a few years ago in an Oxfam shop in Drury Lane where I was working . He still buys his clothes in Oxfam shops. He had a couple of adoring women in tow. He looked exactly the same and hadn’t changed in 20 years, neither has Richard. Hogan told me he was now working as a documentary maker and had just made a series for the BBC.

I last saw Leonie and Om together as a happy couple at a blues gig at the George Robey opposite The Rainbow in Finsbury Park before Club Dog moved there. He was playing harmonica on stage with a blues/garage band with other friends of mine including Clive and Adam from Treatment. Leonie was expecting a baby.

The other Anti-Media people I have never seen again.
As for me I live in Notting Hill and I write and teach music and recently started writing blogs in response to my son’s request and a guy from Wigan who wanted some stories about completely different things but which involved some of the same community. Next Monday more ranting and a new chapter “The Chainsaw Party” .

Astragone Arglegargle (that’s me that is!)

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