Symbols, Rituals and the Power of Gatherings


Hello Good people who still read this blog in spite of a mixture of good and bad vibes.

I just wanted to wish you a Happy Summer Solstice.
I wish I was at Stonehenge where they allow quiet orderly celebrations from this evening through to tomorrow morning but I don’t drive and it would have meant going in the afternoon and trying to keep warm all night without a tent. I’ll leave those kind of enterprises to those a bit younger with better health.

I’m not expert on Megalithic monuments but I know what I like and of course Stonehenge is a focal point for the Solstice. Speaking of megalithic sites it was on my first visit to Avebury that I first encountered “new age travellers” although that’s not what they called themselves at the time and I ended up on probably my first ever wild weekend being chased across the country by police but that’s another story. I’ll write about that some other time. I don’t want to go on about the police again. I just want to put them peacefully to one side for the day.

I guess for me the solstice and megalithic sites are precious because they had in the past brought me to meeting many wonderful creative people and a reconnection with the past and of a time when people were more connected to the earth, to the planets and the sun, to timespans and when symbols and rituals came together to generate a special kind of power and magic. My imagination is kindled by such things and the countryside landscapes in which you can find these special ancient places where no one knows exactly what went on. The Stonehenge festival was probably the most amazing event I have been to in my life, a meeting point for many people and many different kinds of energy.

I like to come across such special places by accident and to be struck by their magic and beauty without any forewarning. One such time was when I was in Dublin on a short visit in 1997. It was a very strange time. Princess Diana had died and people were crying and lighting candles even in the churches of Dublin, I kept seeing London (and my local park!) on the TV with people in tears and I felt far from home. I’d gone to Dublin to play some songs busking and at acoustic clubs where some didn’t much like the British and yet they all dedicated their songs to Diana. It was an unusual time when strangers in cities bonded together over Diana even in Ireland where the British Royal family is not well-liked. Urban estrangement and politics were put aside for this spontaneous unity in emotion. I know a lot of people, especially friends who don’t like open displays of emotion and disliked Diana because she was part of the establishment who cannot understand those events and couldn’t share any common ground with those who grieved but if that’s you reader, you still have to admit it was kind of special in bringing people together all over the world even if you were not part of it.

I needed to get out of the city for a while to collect my thoughts and see some countryside. I heard there was a coach trip to a place called Newgrange. I knew very little about it beforehand. We went on a long expedition visiting an ancient ruined monastery is a desolate landscape, then over the river Boyne and stories from the tour guide of how the British starved the Irish and of course the Battle of the Boyne. After a long journey over streams and wetlands we reached this giant white round building with a grassy hilltop for a roof , it was not restored then as in the photo beneath, it was still in ruins with a bit of fencing round it. It had only recently been open to public and only if they went on the coach tour or made a special arrangement to be there. If you are Irish or into megalithic monuments you will know the place well but it was just a name to me.

Around the building were giant stones engraved with beautiful spirals and other shapes which looked like they could have been designed now as ornamental features. It is one of three similar sites in the area but this is the biggest and was the only one open to the public at the time.

The monument is at least 5000 years old. It is what they call a burial passageway.

The chamber inside is very small you can’t fit more than a few people and there is little daylight shining in. The stones in the chamber hold eachother up in some kind of strange suspension come jigsaw puzzle arrangement. I seem to remember the guide saying that every stone inside is completely different each adorned with spirals and geometric inscriptions. The symbols seem to go all the way around the stones not just on the parts seen. This really was a special event , everyone on our tour was silent and stood solemnly to soak up the atmosphere and wonderment of it all. But there was more .
There is a hole above the entrance to the chamber and at dawn on the winter solstice and the days around then, the sun shines in onto the floor of the inner chamber. On the winter solstice itself the sun shines in for 17 minutes only.

Part one of a three part TV programme of the Winter Solstice in someone’s living room!

Plenty more footage on youtube

Maybe their own Princess was buried there or someone of equal importance to them and maybe they wanted them to live again. At that time in all churches in Dublin people were lighting candles to pay their respects to Diana , to say a prayer and maybe to send a little hope and light to another world, to keep her alive somehow.
At the time there seemed a strange parallel at Newgrange everyone in the small coach party was solemn and subdued trying to take in the the sheer scale of the place , the boldly carved symbols, the atmosphere and beauty of this monument and its location. Maybe those who built the chamber wanted the dead to live again or to be sent on to another world, into the light. Maybe that’s why they designed it so that the sun would shine in at the bleakest darkest time of the year as a ray of hope that leads us back to summer. There’s a whole philosophy behind these symbols and monuments.

I remember the eclipse the summer before the new millenium. I was on Hampstead Heath on a hill with a gathering of poets, friends and musicians and there was a strange feeling and unity of people then. People were amazed at the sun’s partial disappearance and strangers shared their makeshift observing equipment, I seem to remember pieces of paper with pinholes being passed around and special glasses. The eclipse was able to bring even Londoners together temporarily and experience something special bigger than themselves and their own problems and gripes.

So I write not representing anyone but myself, although I call this blog hippie counterculture, it’s only loosely so . It’s really just a person, born to rant.

We are living in very difficult times with much insecurity on many levels so let us enjoy the solstice if we see the sun at all tomorrow ! I hope that more wondrous natural events can bring us strangers all together spontaneously with reverence instead of so many difficulties creating factions and strife.

Love and Peace

Born2rant

P.S. Maybe I should have written about Stonehenge, I just felt like doing something different.

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!)