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Audacious Spirit



The Mazda Motor Company began life in nineteen twenty,

As the Toyo Cork Kogyo Corporation.

From its location in Hiroshima, it manufactured vehicle machine tools,

Until nineteen thirty-one,

When it produced the Mazda-Go autorickshaw.

As well as tools and motor vehicles, it also supplied weapons

For the Japanese military; weapons which were employed

During the Second World War.

Although the name Mazda was only formerly adopted

In nineteen eighty-four, every automobile sold,

From the very beginning, bore that name.

The founder of Mazda,

Jujiro Matsuda, was a spiritually aware man,

And he renamed the Company in honour of his family,

And of the Zoroastrian God, Ahura Mazda –

The ultimate source of wisdom, intelligence and harmony.

Given the environmentally aware nature of Zoroastrianism,

And its ethical credentials (as taught by His chosen Prophet),

It’s somewhat surprising that the Company specialised

In car manufacture – since cars despoil both land and air,

And the Type 99 rifle – designed to kill.

Perhaps Matsuda’s sense of spirituality was little more

Than the depth of a Mazda respray:

A case of profit before Prophet.


It’s not certain when Zoroaster lived, since estimates range

From seven hundred BCE to one thousand BCE.

Zoroastrianism, as a clearly defined faith,

Was certainly evident from the fifth century BCE,

And it served as the state religion of pre-Islamic Persia

Until six hundred and fifty CE.


According to tradition, at the age of thirty years,

While bathing in the river, during a Pagan purification rite,

Zoroaster (the Greek rendering of Zarathustra),

Encountered a radiant being, made of light.

It appeared on the river’s bank, and its name was Vohu Manah,

Meaning ‘good mind and good purpose’.

Vohu Manah led Zoroaster to the presence of five other Shining Beings –

The Amesha Spentas, or ‘holy immortals’:

Asha Vahishta (meaning ‘truth and righteousness), Spenta Ameraiti

(meaning ‘holy devotion, serenity and loving kindness), Khashathra

Vairya (meaning ‘power and just rule’), Hauravatat (meaning ‘wholeness

and health’), and Ameratat (meaning ‘long life and immortality’.


Just as light beams emanate from the Sun,

So the Amesha Spentas emanated from Ahura Mazda,

The Wise Lord, God incarnate.

Thus Zoroaster was chosen as the Prophet of God, his earthly vessel,

To lead all people on a path towards Him, by following the course

Of Asha – truth and righteousness.

Ahura Mazda: creator of all life, source of all goodness and happiness,

God of one hundred and one names.

Zoroastrians: respecters of the natural environment,

Ecologically sound, ethically mindful,

Monotheist,but non-Abrahamic.


As Ahura Mazda’s Prophet, Zoroaster taught his followers

The world was not a static place, nor would it always be troubled.

It was moving towards a conflictless state,

When Ahura Mazda and his allies – supernatural and mortal –

Would defeat the forces of evil, of chaos, of destruction.

From then on, all would be forever untroubled, completely secure.

As such, Zoroastrianism influenced Jewish Apocalyptics,

The Jesus sect, the authors of Revelation – through to

The Theory of the Three Ages and the Everlasting Gospel,

Anababtism in Munster, and its New Jeruslaem mania,

And eschatological fervour so evident in seventeenth century

England and Wales, via Fifth Monarchists, Quakers, Diggers and the like.

From England, this utopian ideal – part religious, part political –

Spread, like a virus, across the Atlantic, via the Pilgrim Fathers,

To take root in the rediscovered continent, the so-called New World.

Thus, Paradise on Earth was duly established, and anyone

Who stood in its way, who muddied the waters, who was clearly

Something ‘other’, was demonized as less-than-human and un-Godly.

Ahura Mazda’s original adversary, Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman,

Was the source of all misery and sin in the Universe,

Who – together with his daevas – his destroyers –

Sought to lead humans away from the path of righteousness,

And, as such, he had to be utterly annihilated.

Since the aboriginal occupants of the rediscovered Continent

Were clearly cohorts of Angra Mainyu,

It was imperative they were dealt with as effectively as possible.

Thus, America, in one form or another,

Became the land of white supremacist, inherently racist,

Judeo-Christian fundamentalism, on permanent alert

To deal with any threat posed to its divine mission,

In whatever form it presented itself.


Anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States

Didn’t begin with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

As early as the late nineteenth century, Asian immigrants

Were discriminated against, and stigmatized

As evolutionarily inferior to the white man, of stunted growth,

Restricted eyesight, and little more than barbaric yellow monkeys.

With the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League in

Nineteen hundred and five (originally called the

Japanese and Korean Exclusion League),

Japanese immigrants to the United States

Were barred from U.S. citizenship, and thus

From owning their own land and property,

While Japanese children were obliged to attend

Segregated schools, where they were joined

By their Korean and Chinese counterparts.

Advocating  ‘the white man’s country’,

The AEL pursued an openly aggressive racist policy

Against those it regarded as little more than sub-human.


The Nanking (Nanjing) Massacre, of nineteen thirty-seven,

Where between forty thousand and three hundred thousand

Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants were murdered

By soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army,

And where systematic rape and mass looting

Occurred on an almost industrial scale,

Confirmed what every God-fearing, white American

Had long suspected – the Japanese were agents of evil:

Slitty-eyed Ahrimans, every single one,

Imperialist cut-throats and rapists, alien monsters, and – as such –

The entire nation deserved nothing less than complete extermination.

A case, perhaps, of the American Empire condemning

The Japanese Empire, while conveniently forgetting its own history

Of genocidal warfare, directed against the First Nations –

Angra Mainyu shadow boxing…


In any event, on December the seventh,

Nineteen forty-one, the commonly held U.S. view

That the Japanese were biologically retarded,

And, therefore, incapable of independent thought,

Let alone, of springing a surprise attack against racially superior beings,

Was confounded utterly, when the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service

Attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor.

It wasn’t a random attack, since Japanese General Headquarters

Had determined the best way to keep the U.S. Fleet

From interfering in military actions planned in

Southeast Asia, was to nip the American Navy in the bud.

Unfortunately, for Japan, as well as for Germany and Italy,

It shook the American psyche so profoundly,

That by December the eleventh, it joined forces with its British Allies,

And declared war against all three of the Axis powers.


The remaining course of the war is well documented.

What is less well documented is the decision-making

Which marked out Japan as a suitable target for two nuclear bombs,

Which, in turn, opened the door to a mutually assured destructive future

For the world’s empires – aspiring and actual.


An editorial in Time magazine, published three months before

The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,

Included the following remarks: “Americans had to learn

To hate Germans, but hating Japs comes natural –

As natural as fighting Indian wars once was”.

The extermination camps, from Chelmno to Treblinka,

Were not considered the fault of the German people, as such,

But the responsibility of the National Socialists – the Nazi Party.

Thus, second generation German-Americans escaped blame

For the atrocities committed in Europe,

As did second generation Italian-Americans,

Despite their mother-country’s association with the Third Reich.

However, the Japanese were a different race entirely.

All one hundred and twenty thousand Japanese-Americans

Were rounded up at the beginning of nineteen forty-two,

And detained in concentration camps, in the most remote

And inhospitable places of America.

According to war commentator, Ernie Pyle,

“The Japanese were looked upon as something sub-human

And repulsive; the way some people feel about

Cockroaches or mice”.

It was only a matter of time before revenge was exacted

For the attack on Pearl Harbor, as Americans were reminded,

On an almost daily basis, via billboards,

Radio broadcasts and propaganda films –

“ We… highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.. Remember Dec. 7th! “

More than that, atrocities committed against American

Prisoners of war were widely publicized,

Which further confirmed the irredeemably depraved

Nature of the entire Japanese nation.

In an opinion poll of nineteen forty-four,

Thirteen percent of the U.S. public were in favour

Of the complete extermination of all Japanese,

And, as Daniel Goldhagen put it in his book,

Worse than War, “…it is no surprise Americans

Perpetrated and supported mass slaughters –

Tokyo’s firebombing and then nuclear incinerations –

In the name of saving American lives,

And of giving the Japanese what they richly deserved”.


When the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated,

At the Trinity Site, near Alamogordo, New Mexico,

On July the sixteenth, nineteen forty-five,

Scientists of the secret Manhattan Project

Were ill-prepared for the immediate consequences.

“A blinding flash visible for two hundred miles

Lit up the morning sky.

A mushroom cloud reached forty thousand feet,

Blowing out windows of civilian homes

Up to one hundred miles away.

When the cloud returned to earth

It created a half-mile wide crater

Metamorphosing sand into glass.”

A plausible cover story was hastily concocted,

And America’s military chiefs damn-near wet themselves

At the prospect of deploying the new technology

As soon as a suitable window of opportunity opened…


Which, of course, it did.


On May the eighth, nineteen forty-five,

At 23.01 hours, Central European Time,

All forces under German control ceased active operations.

Effectively, the war in Europe was over.

However, the thorny issue of Japanese resistance

In the Far East remained, and the Allies determined

To end it in a flash – or two.

When, in response to the Potsdam Declaration,

The Japanese were called on to unconditionally surrender,

Premier Kantaro Suzuki employed the word, ‘Mokusatsu’,

An ambiguous term, which was translated as

“The Japanese ignores this, and we are determined

to continue our fight until the end”.

However, Mokusatsu also means

“We withhold comment – pending discussion”.

The Allies, and America and Britain in particular,

Had little time for such subtleties, and besides,

They possessed two nuclear bombs – ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ –

They were keen to employ, via the Theatre of War.

Given the American public’s thirst for revenge,

There was no need for the U.S. Government to justify its actions,

And, on August the sixth, nineteen forty-five,

A uranium gun-type bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Up to eighty thousand people were killed by the blast

And the resultant firestorm – thirty percent of the population.

A further seventy thousand were injured.

Three days later, a plutonium implosion-type bomb

Was dropped on Nagasaki, killing at least forty thousand people,

And injuring a further sixty thousand.

Over the course of the next few weeks,

The fatalities inevitably increased.

The surrender of Imperial Japan

Was announced on August the fifteenth,

And formally signed on September the second.

To all intents and purposes, it signified the triumph

Of the new over the old:

One form of imperialism over another,

And from its cataclysmic seed was sown

An increasingly dangerous world dis-order.


The official Mazda website contains the following:


The streak of defiance and adventure that runs through

Mazda cars has its roots in the heritage of

Hiroshima. Like the legendary phoenix,

Hiroshima rose from the ashes of nuclear destruction…

This audacious spirit has taken root throughout Mazda.”

From its new factories, production began afresh,

And by nineteen forty-nine, it was exporting trucks to India.

In nineteen sixty-one, in technical cooperation

With NSU/Wankel (based in West Germany),

Mazda worked on the rotary engine, and one year later,

Opened an assembly plant in South Korea.

In nineteen sixty-three, when cumulative production

Reached one million vehicles,

A further plant was opened in South Africa.

And so it went on, with full-scale exports to Europe,

Australia, Canada, and – in nineteen seventy –

The United States of America.

In nineteen seventy-nine, Mazda and the Ford Motor Company

Entered into a capitol tie-up arrangement,

Thus demonstrating the all-conquering power

Of a fossil-fuel guzzling, environmentally hazardous,

Death-trap on four wheels: a coming together of

Two disparate empires, in mutual fetishistic worship

Of a machine designed to move from a to b, at murderous speed –

The alleged words of Mother Shipton, unheeded:

“A carriage without horse shall go

Disaster fill the world with woe”.

Maybe the Luddites were more fine-tuned than we dare allow.


Today, as tiny-minded pseudo-Ahrimans,

And their respective hordes of lick-spittle daevas,

Go about the daily business of despoiling the planet,

Of asserting tribal superiorities,

Of threatening instant nuclear Armageddon,

In lieu of intelligent, reasoned discourse;

When women and men of goodwill, of peace, of compassion,

Are routinely dismissed as traitors and saboteurs;

When scientific research, artistic endeavour and philosophical enquiry

Are superceded by a profound hatred of sagacity,

And an equally profound love of commerce at any price;

And when casually sly deception, crass intentional prevarication,

And gratuitously offensive abuse –

More often than not via social media platforms –

Have become accepted as viable methods of communication,

It becomes blindingly apparent that the conflictless state,

Untroubled and secure, as predicted by the Prophet Zoroaster,

In the name of Ahura Mazda,

Is a mere pipe-dream,

And the ethical rationale of the Golden Rule,

With its ancient Egyptian “Do to the doer to make him do”,

Shouted down by the cacophonous din of a giant rattlebag,

Stuffed with counterfeit gold pebbles.

How could it be otherwise, as our species puts its collective foot down,

Zoned-out on the soma of consciousness-altering

Technological development, and cocooned

Within an insidiously selfish protective shield?

That’s not to say the rise of the motor vehicle is somehow,

Of itself, responsible for the mass slaughters, the holocausts,

The genocides of recent history, but rather, as we gather speed,

The mind-frame has been twisted out of all recognition.

Our still-evolving brains have been hijacked, since frontal lobe,

Parietal lobe, occipital lobe, temporal lobe,

Cerebellum and stem, once employed to process the world

Without and within – exoteric and esoteric –

Are now obliged to dance to a different tune,

For a different Master, who plays via a manual

Of machine music, for a machine world, with a machine logic:

The final trump card lingeringly suspended in the hot air.

Beauty, grace, honesty, kindness, decency –

Noted, catalogued, and sneeringly dismissed

As so much sentimental nostalgia.

We zoom onwards, ever onwards, seeking immediate gratification,

Or death.

A form of madness has us in its grip,

And, like Sir Henry at Rawlinson’s End,

We don’t know what we want, but we want it now!

Homo Sapiens has unitized itself.

Statistics reign supreme, with all never-to-be fulfilled lives

Reduced to the level of computer data.

The inter-connectedness of all creatures, of all things,

Of past, present and future, traduced.

Push, click, swipe, move on.

Common humanity? Irrelevant.

The natural environment? Irrelevant.

Oh look! A horse in the field… Whoosh! A couple kissing…

Whoosh! Birds in the trees… Whoosh! A dead body… Whoosh!

An iceberg disintegrating… Whoosh! A volcano erupting… Whoosh!

Bomb-flattened cities… Whoosh! A wide-eyed starving baby… Whoosh!

Soldiers goosestepping… Whoosh! Pretty flags flying… Whoosh!

A dead elephant… Whoosh! One man hacking at another man’s neck…

Whoosh! A mushroom cloud… Whoosh! The tears of a clown…

There is no phoenix.

No audacious spirit.

Non-ecstatic nihilism hangs in the filthy atmosphere,

Like a fug,

O’er-shadowed by the weeping, despairing shade of Eric Blair.


Ahura Mazda.

God of one hundred and one names.

Protector of Creation, Completely Good Natured,

Remover of Suffering, Granter of Generosity,

Full of Brightness, Giver of Freedom for Progress…

Usurped and defeated by Angra Mainyu,

Undermined and degraded by a motor car business,

Trashed by an unstable species of monkey, high on hubris.


In the future, perhaps, all that will remain of Zoroaster’s God,

As the smouldering, radioactive rubble of the Last Days settles,

Will be the tarnished M of a trademark badge.


Daffyd Pedr

Illustration: Claire Palmer

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Death is not the End

Elenor Caldera

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Our stage



Pic and Text : Elena Caldera
Translation: Simon Drake

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The John Peel Festive 50

Stream 935 Songs That Appeared in “The John Peel Festive 50” from 1976 to 2004: The Best Songs of the Year, as Selected by the Beloved DJ’s Listeners

Image by Zetkin, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve devoted space here before to legendary BBC DJ John Peel’s musical legacy, from his formidable record collection to his many hours of “Peel Sessions,” the recordings he made in BBC studios of artists like David Bowie, Joy Division, The Smiths, The Specials, Siouxsie and the Banshees and so, so many more–usually when they were on the cusp of superstardom or enduring cult status. It was Peel’s particular talent for discovering and promoting such artists that set him apart from his peers. Rather than riding the cultural wave of the moment, he listened at the margins, cultivating and curating what he heard. Whether punk, glam, new wave, hardcore, ska, techno, or industrial, it seems John Peel got there first, and the rest of the industry followed after him.

Peel did not approach his role in a critical vein—sitting in judgment of the music around him. He approached it as an enthusiastic and obsessive fan, which explains much of his appeal to the listeners who loved his broadcasts. He honored those listeners each year by compiling a list of their favorites in what he called “The John Peel Festive 50.” This end-of-the-year event “became a Christmas institution, writes the BBC, “more loved than fairy lights and Christmas crackers.”

Listeners of Peel’s show voted for their three favorite tracks in November. The following month, the highest-ranked “Festive 50” were all played on the air. He described the process as a truly democratic, crowdsourced endeavor, as we would say today.

It’s really just me marking every single vote down in a ledger. There is obviously the temptation to slip something in that I like, especially if it’s just outside the 50, and something crap has gone above it. But I have a very workman-like brain so it just wouldn’t be on to fix it.

Peel “wasn’t always happy with what the listeners voted for,” often feeling “there were too many ‘white boys with guitars’ making an appearance.” The predictability of several of the lists irked him, and seemed to work against the spirit of his mission to tirelessly promote adventurous, experimental music. Peel may have been popular, but in matters of taste, he was no populist. For the most part, however, he remained faithful to the fans’ picks, and noted that he never would have been able to choose the top three songs of the year himself: “I couldn’t get any fewer than a list of 250.”

The tradition, with a few hiccups, continued from its inception in 1976 till Peel’s death in 2004, and the massive Spotify playlist above aggregates the hundreds of those picks—932 songs, to be exact, over 70 hours of music. From Dylan, Clapton, and the Stones to Neko Case—and along the way, no shortage of tracks from the punk and post-punk artists most closely associated with Peel’s show. While the listener’s picks do fall heavily into the “white boys with guitars” category, there’s plenty more besides, including early tracks from Eric B. & Rakim, P.J. Harvey, Stereolab, 10,000 Maniacs, Cocteau Twins, and many more. You can explore the tracks in Peel’s “Festive 50” lists here. They’re sorted by decade: 1970s – 1980s – 1990s – 2000s.

Note: Here’s a direct link to the Spotify playlist, and if you need Spotify’s software, download it here.

Related Content:

Stream 15 Hours of the John Peel Sessions: 255 Tracks by Syd Barrett, David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees & Other Artists

Hear a 9-Hour Tribute to John Peel: A Collection of His Best “Peel Sessions”

Revisit the Radio Sessions and Record Collection of Groundbreaking BBC DJ John Peel

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Yemen: The forgotten war



Over the past two years the world has turned its back on a growing crisis

  • News

A spiralling conflict

On 25 March 2015, an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against the Huthi armed group in Yemen sparking a full-blown armed conflict.

Over the following two years, the conflict has spread and fighting has engulfed the entire country. Horrific human rights abuses, as well as war crimes, are being committed throughout the country causing unbearable suffering for civilians.

As well as relentless bombardment by coalition forces from the air, there is a battle being fought on the ground between rival factions. On one side are the Huthis, an armed group whose members belong to a branch of Shi’a Islam known as Zayidism. The Huthis are allied with supporters of Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. On the other side are anti-Huthi forces that are allied with the current President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Saudi Arabian-led coalition. Civilians are trapped in the middle – more than 12,000 of them have been killed and injured, and a humanitarian crisis has spiralled.

For two years, much of the world has ignored this raging conflict and heard little about its devastating consequences.

Amal Sabri, a resident of Mokha, describing an airstrike which killed at least 63 civilians.
It was like something out of judgement day. Corpses and heads scattered, engulfed by fire and ashes.
© Amnesty International

Civilians paying a heavy price

Civilians bear the brunt of the violence in Yemen. As well as causing the deaths and injuries of civilians, the conflict has exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis resulting from years of poverty and poor governance causing immense human suffering.

Approximately 18.8 million Yemenis today rely on humanitarian assistance in order to survive. In order to deny supplies to the Huthi forces, the coalition imposed a partial aerial and naval blockade. This is severely limiting the import and provision of fuel and other essentials, obstructing access to food, water, humanitarian assistance and medical supplies and causing food prices to soar, creating a desperate situation for millions of people. Damage to key logistical infrastructure, including bridges, airports and seaports, from air strikes has also severely hampered the movement of crucial humanitarian supplies.

My son was 14 hours old when he died… the doctors told us he needed intensive care and oxygen…We took him to every hospital we possibly could before he finally died. I wanted to take him outside the city but there was no way out
Mohamed, father of new born baby who died due to shortages of oxygen in Tai’z in December 2015

The Huthi armed group and allied forces are also endangering the lives of thousands of civilians in the southern city of Ta’iz by limiting the entry of crucial medical supplies and food. Humanitarian workers also accuse the Huthis of excessively restricting their movement of goods and staff, and forcing some of their aid programmes to close.

Human toll of the conflict


civilians killed during the conflict, 8,000+ civilians injured

3 million

people forced from their homes by the fighting

18.8 million

people in need of humanitarian assistance including food, water, shelter, fuel and sanitation.

2 million

children out of school

Huthi armed group fighters August 2015
Jet fighters of the Saudi Royal air force
© AFP/Getty Images

Who is fighting whom?

On one side is the Huthi armed group, often referred to as the “Popular Committees”, which is supported by certain army units and armed groups loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh

On the other side is the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and supported by President Hadi, which has carried out air strikes and ground operations in Yemen. Members of the coalition include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Sudan. The USA and UK have been providing key intelligence and logistical support to the coalition.

The force of the explosion sent my sisters and mother flying five metres, killing them instantly. Hani’s body was not dug out until 12 hours later. My father Faisal (60) was the only survivor.
Leila Hayal who lost her mother and four siblings when a coalition airstrike destroyed their home in Ta’iz in the middle of the night on 16 June 2015.

The coalition is allied with anti-Huthi armed groups operating on the ground in Yemen, often referred to as “Popular Resistance Committees”. They are also supported by units of armed forces loyal to President Hadi and a variety of different factions.

Types of attacks banned by international law during a conflict:

Targeting civilians

On civilian homes or buildings

Targeting medical facilities

Launched from civilian areas

IDPs in Amran City, refilling their jerrycans with water. Due to lack of electricty, it has been difficult to pump water in most areas of Yemen.
© Amnesty International
A joint crisis/MENA mission to Yemen in June/July 2015. Photos are from the team's visits to Taiz and Aden. On 7 July, just after mid-afternoon (asr) prayers, a coalition strike killed 11 worshippers and injured several others in a mosque in Waht, a village north of Aden in Lahj governorate.
© Amnesty International
Yemenis search for the air attack victims around the destroyed buildings after Saudi-led airstrikes hit Sanaa's Old City, Yemen, on June 04, 2015.
© Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
© Amnesty International
© Rawan Shaif

Human rights abuses by all sides

Amnesty International has gathered evidence revealing that all the parties to this conflict have committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

Amnesty International has documented 34 air strikes across six different governorates (Sana’a, Sa’da, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Ta’iz and Lahj) by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that appear to have violated international humanitarian law – the rules that apply during a conflict which are sometimes known as the “laws of war” – resulting in 494 civilian deaths (including at least 148 children) and 359 civilian injuries. These have included attacks that appear to have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects such as hospitals, schools, markets and mosques, which may amount to war crimes.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has also used cluster munitions, lethal explosive weapons banned under international law. When launched cluster bombs release dozens – sometimes hundreds – of small “bomblets”, which often lie unexploded and can cause horrific injuries long after the initial attack. Amnesty International has documented the coalition’s use of at least four different types of cluster munitions, including US, UK and Brazilian-manufactured models.

Imprecise weapons are used on a daily basis in residential areas, causing civilian casualties. Such indiscriminate attacks violate the laws of war.

I was standing in the kitchen when I heard an explosion. Suddenly all I felt was something in my neck… I am now quadriplegic, paralysed from the neck down. That night, shrapnel entered my neck and exited through my seventh vertebrae. We had just moved to our new house, we thought we were safe. Who will take care of my family now?
Anhar Najeeb, a 55-year-old mother of two, who was seriously injured when a barrage of rockets was fired into the heavily populated area of Aden on 1 July 2015

Amnesty International has also investigated 30 ground attacks – by both pro and anti-Huthi forces – in Aden and Ta’iz which did not distinguish between combatants and civilians, and killed at least 68 civilians, most of whom were women and children. Fighters from both sides have also used imprecise weapons, such as artillery and mortar fire or Grad rockets, in heavily populated civilian areas and have operated in the midst of residential neighbourhoods, launching attacks from or near homes, schools and hospitals. All these attacks are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.

The Huthi armed group, supported by state security forces, has carried out a wave of arrests of its opponents, including human rights defenders, journalists, and academics arbitrarily seizing critics at gunpoint and subjecting some to enforced disappearance as part of a chilling campaign to quash dissent in areas of Yemen under its control.

Anti-Huthi forces allied to Yemen’s President Hadi and the coalition, have also carried out a campaign of intimidation and harassment against hospital staff in Ta’iz and are endangering civilians by stationing fighters and military positions near medical facilities.

Arms fuelling the crisis

“The irresponsible and unlawful flow of arms to the warring parties in Yemen has directly contributed to civilian suffering on a mass scale. It’s time for world leaders to stop putting their economic interests first” James Lynch, Amnesty International.

In the face of multiple reports pointing to reckless conduct in Yemen and the devastating impact of serious violations of international law on civilians, many countries have continued to sell and transfer weapons to Saudi Arabia and its coalition members for use in the conflict,. Arms have also been diverted into the hands of Huthi and other armed groups fighting in Yemen.

The USA, UK, France, Spain, Canada and Turkey transferred nearly US$5.9 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2016, including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles, which risk being used to facilitate serious violations in Yemen.

Several of these states are parties to the Arms Trade Treaty which has the aim of “reducing human suffering” and which makes it unlawful to transfer weapons where there is a high risk they could be used to commit serious violations of international law.

Amnesty International is urging all states to ensure that no party to the conflict in Yemen is supplied – either directly or indirectly – with weapons, munitions, military equipment or technology that could be used in the conflict until they end such serious violations. This also applies to logistical and financial support for such transfers.

Urgent need for accountability

In such a context of lawlessness and abuse, there is an urgent need for truth, accountability and justice for victims of the conflict. Given the apparent inadequacies of Saudi Arabia and Yemen-led investigations to date, Amnesty International believes the only way to achieve this is through the establishment of a UN-led independent international investigation to look into alleged violations by all parties to the conflict with a view to ensuring that those responsible for crimes are brought to justice in fair trials and effective measures are taken to address the suffering of victims and their families and to help them rebuild their lives.


Act now to stop the sale of weapons that fuel violations and destroy civilian lives in Yemen.


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The Big Chill





by Kevin Short for International Times



My nephew called, to invite me to a campfire event in the heart of the glorious Cotswolds.  It was being hosted by friends of his, Tony and Hannah, who lived in a cottage on the estate grounds of Sudeley Castle (where Henry VIII’s wife, Katherine Parr, is buried), and Pete Lawrence (creator of the Big Chill Festivals) was attending, to tell us what this Campfire Convention was all about.  It sounded irresistible, so on the given date, I set off, with a friend in tow, on a three-day adventure.

DAY ONE: After an adventurous ‘Ms. Googlemap’ guided ride through the rolling Cotswold hills, we arrived in Winchcombe, home to a nearby Neolithic site dating back to 3000BC, a town of exquisite charm and beauty.  It was early evening, as we turned into the driveway of Tony and Hannah’s cottage to find an idyllic setting for what was to come.

Our hosts, along with my nephew and sister-in-law (Gary and Gill) welcomed us with smiling faces, and we were swiftly introduced to a group of family and friends, and more welcoming smiles.  There were drinks and a barbeque, and Dominic (my friend) and I, fell under the spell of what I suspect is the essence of the Campfire Conversations.  There, amidst an array of farmyard animals, dogs, cats, cheerful and curious folk, with a campfire glowing, we chatted, entertained ourselves with music, song, poetry, haiku, limericks (!), and spontaneous camaraderie, until the early hours of the next morning.   Then, we laughed ourselves to sleep.  At least, Dominic, Gary, Gill and I, did.


DAY TWO: We all had the morning to explore the town of Winchcombe, which is full of independent traders and artisans, stone cottages, black and white half-timbered architecture, and much more.  A place I shall certainly revisit in the future.  Now, it was back to the Campfire main event.


Pete Lawrence was arriving in the afternoon, to provide some DJ prowess before the Campfire Conversation in the evening.   A bout of rain and hailstorm delayed his arrival slightly, and everyone headed for their tents (or, in our case, caravan) to take shelter.  It soon passed, and moments later, Pete’s motorhome turned into the driveway, and the party began.  At this point, I must direct you to the following link which will show you the iPhone interview I did with Pete before things got going:



Our hosts provided some baked potatoes, chilli, guacamole, and more visitors arrived with home-made cakes and goodies, as we chilled out to the sound of Pete’s eclectic DJ mix.  My favourite being Kenny Ball’s trad jazz version of ‘March of the Siamese Children’ – a nostalgic reminder of my ‘King and I’ days with the local musical society.  There was music from every modern decade, and we thirty or so campers, reminisced, chilled with our chilli, jigged to the beats, and generally wallowed in the good nature of our surroundings.

Then, time to light the campfire.  We all sat cosily around the welcomed flames, to find out more about the Campfire Convention.  Pete explained what it all entailed (see interview link), and then the Campfire Conversation began.  First, we were all asked to introduce ourselves, and one by one we did so.  Some of us simply said our names and connection with others, and some told their tales of happiness and woes.  It was an extraordinary introductory mix, almost matching Pete’s DJ session.

Following the introductions, Tony and Hannah (our hosts) suggested beginning the conversation with the theme of ‘relationships’ – whether personal, global, or otherwise.  At this point, I and a few others, I think, became confused as to what track the conversation was supposed to be taking.  I, in my naivety, with the rise of Brexiteers and Trumpeteers, secretly wanted to discuss what could be done to overthrow the almighty buffoons, while others wanted to talk of worries closer to home, even very personal issues.  I felt I was playing Devil’s advocate for a while, in order to understand Pete’s Campfire creation.   At this point, one of the new arrivals, Ben, brought up his interest in non-verbal communication; music, art, song, dance, performance, poetry (and Limericks?).   The very thing some of us had spontaneously experienced the night before.   I asked my friend, Dominic, who had remained silent, to please say something.  And he did.  He talked simply about his love for sitting around a campfire, sometimes in silence, or sometimes listening to conversation, but ultimately, his joy came from the flickering warmth and wonder of the fire itself.

From there on, the conversations became more intimate, people turned to their left, right, or both, some changed seats to mingle, to discuss whatever, and as Pete crept over to his DJ desk to put on some more soothing sounds, we all happily interacted until the early hours, once more.  In fact, some of us, until the final flames had died.   Back in the caravan, my sister-in-law (Gill), asked how the elderly fitted into all this?   Indeed, something to think about, and discuss in the future, I thought.  But now, it was time to laugh ourselves to sleep again.  Which we did.



DAY THREE: In the morning, Tony and Hannah provided breakfast on the barbeque, and everyone helped break down the tents, generally clearing the area.  Pete invited me into his cosy Motorhome, to walk me through the Social Network site soon to be launched.  This is when I truly began to appreciate his passion and commitment, and the enormity of it all.   After working alongside his designers for months and months, here was a site to rival Facebook, or any others, with a genuine aim to find common ground between its subscribers and, without Sponsors or Advertisers, begin to build a caring community of like-minded people across the globe, who could maybe challenge the status quo, and forge a more sustainable future for all.  The Campfire Conversations being just one of the ways to bring folk together, offline, to experience human connection via discussion and non-verbal communication, like in the days of yore, or thereabouts.   In Pete’s words: “A co-operative network based on the empowerment of collaboration and shaping the future for the better.  We meet online and at events.”

In the words of Campfire Patron, Brian Eno: “I come to Campfire because I’m interested in new social ideas, how we can run the world, how we can think differently about things.  I’ve met a lot people at Campfire who have specific and very exciting projects that really are to do with re-thinking democracy and understanding that democracy means ruled by the community, it doesn’t mean what we have now.”

Finally, from yours truly, I believe Campfire Convention and Campfire Conversations might very well be an alternative way of finding like-minded souls who, together, may be able to challenge the present, and forge a new future in these worrying times.  So, let’s light a few more campfires, please.

In the meantime, thanks to Pete, Tony and Hannah, Gary, Gill, Dominic, Ben, and all who attended the Winchcombe event, for making it such a cracking adventure.   A Firestarter to remember.

Find out more at &


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Death of a Rebel

Heathcote Williams


The death of Heathcote Williams on July 1 this year closed a life dedicated to resisting the way the modern world is run. For more than fifty years he was a thorn in the flesh of the political and business establishment through his merciless attacks on them, in the form of poems, plays and anarchical happenings. He was the archetypal anarchist, whose central faith was that mankind could live more freely and justly without government, in fact that governments were forces for evil. He believed that the state must wither in order that ordinary people could be free. He was anti-military, anti-war, anti-royalist, anti-business, anti-technology, anti-money, and virulently anti-American; he regarded Americans as the new Romans, arrogantly plundering the world.

Yet when I first came to know him around ten years ago, to my astonishment I soon made a new friend, for I found this legendary firebrand to be a gentle, thoughtful, highly-educated, elderly man, clearly in poor health, who had an aura about him that I can only describe as religious or even prophetic. With his mane of grey hair and his penetrating eyes, he reminded me instantly of the image of Blake, who was indeed one the great inspirational figures of Heathcote’s life, for they both possessed an inner integrity which never deserted either of them for a moment. Heathcote had his own vision and understanding of the world, which coloured every subject we discussed. He never uttered a single word out of mere politeness, but on everything that we talked about he shed his own light. This might make him sound an opinionated bore, but nothing could more wrong, for he was kindness itself to me, and his manners were perfect.

It was poetry that brought us together, for he had a deep knowledge and love of English poetry. He wrote me a long, detailed and tremendously kind letter praising one of my poetry collections, even though my work was very different from his own. He had developed his own form of hard-hitting documentary poetry, attacking all his favourite targets and many more. His aim was to open our eyes and our minds to the real forces that shaped and oppressed our world, and he carried out extensive research to build up the factual framework for his polemics. He wanted to bring poetry down from its ivory tower and change lives. His themes were libertarian and ecological, and he achieved probably his greatest fame with his books from the late 1980s such as “Whale Nation”, “Sacred Elephant” and “Autogeddon”, books which had a tremendous influence on the ecological movement which was then just emerging.      

Having said that he became famous, he was in fact very self-effacing, at least when I knew him. He had a horror of becoming a celebrity: he wanted people to read and be inspired by his work, not to idolise him in any personal sense. He was reticent about himself and I never learned a great deal about his personal background. He told me his father had been a solicitor, successful and wealthy enough to send him to Eton and Oxford. What happened to him in either place he never told me, but the roots of his radicalism must surely lie there, in his encounter with privileged elitism. He was supposed to be studying law at Christ Church, but he left Oxford without taking his degree. He clearly identified strongly with another of his heroes, Shelley, another upper-class rebel, about whom Heathcote would write one of his extended documentary poems. Shelley’s passion for science and experimentation was matched by Heathcote’s passion for magic and conjuring tricks, which included fire-eating. Although I never witnessed that, he would regularly produce coins out of thin air, or out of my jacket pocket, while we were talking.    

He first came to public fame in the 1970s as one of the masterminds behind London’s squatting movement. In an empty house in Notting Hill, he and his friends declared the independent anarchist community of Frestonia, even printing their own currency. He was one of the original “underground” or “jazz” or “protest poets”, and he was soon writing controversial plays, such as “AC/DC”, which were produced at the Royal Court theatre, and, with no professional training at all, he became a sought-after actor. He had a rich, beautifully toned voice, and a wide range of powers as a mimic. He is best remembered for his role as Prospero in Derek Jarman’s 1980 film of “The Tempest”, and he later appeared in a glitzy 1997 film of “The Odyssey”, in which he played a brief but brilliant Laocoon, being swallowed by the sea-serpent. His wonderful voice can be heard in some of the audiobooks which he later recorded for Naxos, in which he played, variously, the Buddha, Dracula and Dante, as well as reading his own “Whale Nation” and “Sacred Elephant”.

The success of those last two works frightened Heathcote, convincing him that the last thing he wanted was to become a celebrity or a marketable author. For some years he pulled out of the London scene and lived in the West Country and in Ireland. During this time he wrote little but took up painting, producing a series of large canvases, some of them rather in the style of Stanley Spencer, another of his inspirational heroes, and like Blake and Shelley, a visionary, but one with a very firm grasp on the flesh and blood of striving, suffering humanity. On the evidence of what I saw of these paintings, Heathcote could certainly have become a recognised artist in the magical-realist school.

But during the last twenty years of his life he did little or no painting. Instead, now settled in a house in Oxford’s Jericho district, he enjoyed a second flowering of his poetic career. In a stream of works, many of the large-scale documentary kind, he gave clear, powerful and painful expression to his lifelong beliefs and hatreds. These long poems, all published by small presses, included “Badshah Khan: Islamic Peace Warrior,” one of his most impressive works, shining with the passion of a pacifist; “Royal Babylon” an excoriating analysis of the British monarchy, which caused his name to be mentioned in Parliament, with calls for his prosecution for treason; “The Army of the Dog”, which uses the figure of Diogenes to make a ruthless attack upon all social norms; and “American Porn”, an explosion of a poem summing up his detestation of American culture. A collection of shorter pieces, “Forbidden Fruit”, revealed a gentler, more reflective aspect of his personality. These works were all illustrated with photographs and art-works of various kinds which Heathcote had researched, connecting his poetry with the fashion for small-press illustrated poetry books of an earlier age. Some of these works were given in live performances by Roy Hutchings, while others were transformed into imaginative video films by Alan Cox.

There were many more works from these astonishingly prolific years. People imagined that he wrote fast, but in fact he researched his subjects at great length, and he only accomplished what he did by working long hours every day, rarely leaving his study. This inactivity probably contributed to his ill health, but he felt driven to use his time to create these powerful polemics against a so-called civilisation which his conscience could not accept. He had devised a unique poetic method which enabled him to do this, and he wanted to use it fully while there was still time. In 2016 I published a joint collection of our shorter poems called “Meeting in the Middle”, which was designed to contrast his documentary writing with my own more conventional poetry. What is interesting in Heathcote’s very late poems is the appearance of a new vocabulary of love, soul, spirit, transcendence and prayer, which suggested a new state of mind for him, which had not been evident in his work before. At the time of his death he was working on another long polemical poem called “Jesus the Anarchist”, which may turn out to be complete enough to publish at some stage.

Heathcote Williams was an exceptional man, possibly a great man. Enormously creative, he used his talents and his integrity in the service of a humane and intellectual cause – the freedom of the human mind. His poetry was not directed inwards to the self, as most poetry is, but outwards to the world we live in, and to open the reader’s eyes to its tragic imperfections. To me, he stands out like a rock in a river: clear, stark and unmoving, as the waters rush around him and vanish. In this he truly resembles that other great rebel whom he loved so much – William Blake.


Peter Whitfield  


Editor Notes:

John Henley Heathcote Williams, poet and dramatist, born 15 November 1941; died 1 July 2017

A number of Heathcote’s works were rather obscurely published, often without an ISBN, and are therefore difficult to get hold of through the book trade. The collaborative volume of poetry that Whitfield and Williams published was called “Meeting in the Middle” and is available from Peter Whitfield, via

Peter Whitfield is a prolific writer and historian who lives near Oxford, and also a past contributor to Oxford Today. His latest book Oxford in Prints 1675-1900 is published by the Bodleian Library. Heathcote Williams was a resident of Oxford.

From origanally Oxford Today



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When do the young get to stand with a master?

United by name, theme and time place,

Marlowe Chan-Reeves and Heathcote.


In his oxford kitchen before

The new and tragically last separation

That has seen the sage leaving


On the Ferryman’s salted boat.

Two ages in one, framing and framed

By a father; each passing on to their children


Visual and word messages.

Now there is a visceral sense to the old man’s

Smile,and boy’s secret, as if each


Now suspected the claiming

Of entirely new energies. One to the real

And now the lost other to aether;


To places that form beyond weather

Or are by design, shaped by it.

Heathcote celebrated Marlowe in Killing Kit,


That first writer, who created the classics,

As well as the cult of Shakespeare,

And now Max’s son, whatever he does


Shadows poems that have cascaded

From Williams well into Art’s Stratosphere.

And so a new play begins in which the young


And the masters meet for a moment

And help to frame all that was.

All that is has now changed.


All we knew. All we wanted. A lucky young boy

In a kitchen, there next to greatness

In a photograph his Dad made.





David Erdos 10/8/17


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A wood cut by Robert Montgomery.

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Dog Politics

Just before midnight, in the unpreventable moment
my mother woke up to give birth to me,
I jumped out and spilt her blood on the floor.

My first angry poem, scream at the top of my lungs,
in the pale room.

A dormant city blessed the muddy wreath above the cradle
asked me to keep the noise down.

Mother went back to bed.

The following day I learnt to
write on white walls with red letters.


Maria Stadnicka
illustration Nick Victor

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Another Laundry Story




she just bought a new


and her two little sons, aged

eight and nine, can’t


to shoot it


the two boys

hunt with her father and

aren’t old enough to shoot


yet, but when the man does


the boys snap the birds’s heads and

pull them off


the boys have little camo outfits

and she washes them

separately and she says

it was so cute last weekend

when she found blood from the birds


over the camo



© John Levy

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Outside the mobile hospital vans, a red mist spray patterns the ground. Footsore, a hard winter, the long road bleeds us all, and still the red mist falls. I can’t feel my hands! The edge of hunger brought me here. I watch a fat man carry a boy over frozen ruts, snow lit orange from the lanterns. Surgeons mark time in the yielding light, from cots dipped in misery, the flight of souls. I try not to look, but I hear the soft whispers from shrapnel holes, grey as grave light. It’s all too late, they cry. Another man, with a yellow scarf wipes his face, calls for his wife, then dies.


Eley Furrell
Illustration Nick Victor


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The Scarfolk Apocalypse

All the information you need to survive societal breakdown, nuclear war or environmental catastrophe.

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Sisters of Reggae.


About the show

Playing tracks by

Dennis Alcapone & Joya Landis, Duke Reid, U Roy & The Tommy McCook Quintet, The Techniques, The Melodians and more.

Chart positions

This upload was 63rd in the Reggae chart .


BY Lucky Cat Zoe & Duplate Pearl

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Living the Dream

Tales from the Embassy: Communiqués from the Guild of Transcultural Studies 1976-1991, Dave Tomlin (Strange Attractor Press)

‘She gets out the scrapbook and they say
Did we really live like this?
Did we really live like this?’
– Furniture, ‘She Gets Out The Scrapbook’

This is a gentle and somewhat dreamlike series of episodes in the life of a squat, three previously published books now gathered into an almost 500 page omnibus. Dave Tomlin (Third Ear Band member and regular contributor to international times) and friends were fortunate enough to squat a large, furnished embassy building in London and live there for 15 years. They also held artistic events such as concerts and readings, and gave refuge to others, known and unknown, who needed rooms for the night. The public events led to the creation of the fictional Guild in the book title, with a plaque made for the house and portraits of adopted past Guild Presidents found in secondhand shops.

For some reason Tomlin uses pseudonyms throughout, although there is a key to these at the end of the book, thus making it slightly irrelevant as a device for anonymity. There are also some typos such as you’re for your, and single quote marks within other single quote marks, instead of doubles. The episodes are each a few pages long, and often jump back in time to introduce characters and how the author got to know them, report conversations, issue judgements and opinions; many play for laughs or offer gentle epiphanies of sunshine, artistic, political or communal success.

Did we live like this? No, we didn’t. Squatting was usually far harder work than this book suggests. Tomlin and friends seem to have kept a tight ship at their squat, preferring to use the room above the garage and garden offices for visitors they were unsure about, and sometimes either turning people away or psyching out and intimidating residents who they decided needed to leave. Apart from these undercurrents, and some heated debates (politics, the counterculture, drugs, music, society, sticking it to the man, etc), the Embassy depicted here is more country house than city squat. This is no front-line living on the edge, this is bohemia, a world of weaving and sewing and screenprinting, piano and classical music, wallhangings and afternoon tea. For most of the book even visiting policeman and officials can be charmed and shown round, offered cups of tea; and concerts are more soiree than alternative gig, with chairs arranged round a low makeshift stage and refreshments served in the interval.

This isn’t the Seventies I knew at all. This is a kind of quietly remembered alternative universe, that reality doesn’t much intrude in until late in the book when the squatters fight against eviction but lose. Even then, there is no anger, however, they simply make a last pot of coffee and slip away, rather like the past always does. If you want a glimpse into one version of alternative London in the 1970s and 80s, here it is. It is a strange, perhaps overlong, scrapbook of images, stories and reminiscences, but it is amusing and enchanting in equal measures; a kind of Thousand and One Nights for the counterculture.

Rupert Loydell

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We’re Living In 1984

RT America

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Greta Bellamacina

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The London plane tree has two leaves left:

one is a bird about to fly south,

the other a bright sear flag in breeze.

Brief sun lights them up, abandons them,

as refugees from plenitude, from summer.


All you need is to imagine this:

two children hanging on to last lifelines

of their family tree, dispersed, naked,

lost in the forest of war

and now exposed, lit up by loneliness.


How is it that we see these things

but turn back to the small screens

where we keep up

with our own so-important news?

We wade through the dried leaves of autumn.


Watch with me tonight; stay and watch

into the small death hours

where meteors and satellites scour skies

with their great metallic weights,

when fox and owl own cities;


wait for the last two leaves

to let go their final hold on ‘home’,

spiral into the obscure tides

dehydrated, cast adrift, untellable.

A leaf for a life.



Zanna Beswick

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New River Press at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford

Heathcote Williams

Robert Montgomery

Niall McDevitt

Greta Bellamacina

Zimon Drake

Rosalind Jana

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Strange Fruit

Billie Holliday – Strange Fruit

Nina Simone

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I Have A Dream

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A Primer on Devolution

Fribbler, Wikimedia Commons

A Primer on Devolution: How the Tories Are Screwing Us and Screwing the Union

by Leila Gordon

In the 2017 general election, the Conservatives did not win the parliamentary majority, yet here they are, propped up by Northern Ireland’s hardline, socially conservative, homophobic, and sexist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Remember this the next time Americans lambast the Electoral College; at the very least American bipartisanship means that Trump wouldn’t be able to bribe the libertarians with an obscene amount of money into joining forces  instead of spending that money on enacting policy. Still, Jeremy Corbyn has managed to inspire a socialist revolution when critics like JK Rowling and the Times’ Hugo Rifkind said he couldn’t. People chant his name at music festivals, which is 90% heartwarming and 10% demagogue-y.

Let’s not forget about that DUP deal so quickly. The deal which has seen Northern Ireland receive £1bn, while the NHS, schools, children, legal aid providers, social care, public sector workers, and anyone who’s not a millionaire continue to get nothing. Shortly after Theresa May formed a government, Gerry Adams, president of the nationalist, republican Sinn Féin party, called the deal a breach of England’s obligations under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought to an end the 30 years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as ‘The Troubles.’

The Good Friday Agreement, both an international agreement between Britain and Ireland and a multipartite agreement between most of the major Northern Irish political parties, ended decades of strife in post-Irish-secession-Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement gave Northern Ireland back its suspended devolved powers, and laid out a framework in which Northern Ireland could continue to be under the umbrella of both Ireland and England. Northern Ireland had chosen, by democratic majority, to remain a part of England. If that ever were to change, both states would immediately do everything in their power to bring reunification into fruition, and this is memorialised in both states’ constitutions (to the extent that there is a British constitution). And because it was the will of the Northern Irish people, both states must exercise what the Good Friday Agreement spells out as “rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions” to realise this will.

Gerry Adams is right: partnering with the unionist DUP when Britain’s role is to exercise “rigorous impartiality” is not only a departure, but a blatant disregard for the agreement and Northern Irish history. Moreover, as it stands the union of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales is on a bit of a precipice. In May 2016, after the Scottish referendum, but just before Brexit, parliament released a report entitled “The Union and Devolution.” The report warned that Westminster’s “casual,” “piecemeal,” and “asymmetric” approach to devolution, in which the government doles out political power to individual states based on how much of a fuss they kick up, is not doing much for the UK’s prospects of remaining a “viable state.” It also highlighted that devolution policy-making has invariably been reactive and nation-disparate, with no thought to a long-term or coherent strategy. Handing over a billion pounds to a unionist party not only destabilises the Good Friday Agreement but threatens the already precarious, imbalanced union. To answer the 2016 report’s question of what future strategy looks like: it looks like the Tories pushing the union over the edge just to maintain their mandate.

Devolution is presented to us as a benevolent partnership, but remove the Conservative-tinted glasses and asymmetry quickly becomes inequity. The amount of political power that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales each have is not equally distributed, and while each country’s stake varies, England unquestionably has the most. England is the metaphorical sun that Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales revolve around; England is parliament and parliament is England, which makes “union” somewhat of a misnomer. The proof is in the pudding: if England is the only nation without a devolution settlement, it’s probably because they were the one giving them out. Even without Westminster coupling up with Northern Ireland, the union faces two theoretical roadblocks: 1) that England, famously, has no written constitution and 2) that parliamentary sovereignty – whereby parliament is the supreme legal authority in the UK, with power to create or end any law- is already at odds with devolving legislative power to individual nations. The former means that, hypothetically, anything can happen, but the latter means that parity will never happen in a political system where parliament always has the last word. So, devolution dangles a carrot of self-governance that can never be fully realised.

And as for the sly intimation by recent governments that we’re all on a level playing field? It’s not only presently but historically untrue, masking the circumstances by which the union came to be. Even if one was to accept that England, Scotland, and Wales were in some sort of benevolent partnership, before we had Islamist terrorists running people over on bridges and white supremacist terrorists running people over outside mosques, we had Irish republican terrorists blowing up pubs. The widely propagated narrative is that the IRA equals bad. But a quick rewatch of the Daniel Day-Lewis films, in which he plays run-of-the-mill Irishmen associated with the republican struggle, seamlessly reframes the Troubles as a pursuit of freedom in the face of English oppression. Because one man’s terrorist is another’s… teenage crush.

England has a long and violent history of colonising countries, and Ireland, Scotland, and Wales aren’t much of an exception. While these three nations are not colonies per se, the power dynamic within the union smacks of continued imperialism, with devolution serving as a placating measure. Of course, where Scotland and Wales are concerned, there isn’t the same violence, sub-humanisation, and utter pillage that’s inherent in the colonising project. Instead of being totally subjugated like colonised countries, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were subsumed into England to create one large state. The line here is that they’ve all chosen to be subsumed, that it’s the will of the people; they can walk out at anytime. In reality – though it’s easy to look back at the Scottish Referendum now and think more power to ‘em – disentangling from the union is a difficult process.

Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were all conquered by England – a fact which is easy to dismiss given that conquest was a viable form of territorial expansion back then. There was no UN and no inadmissibility of territory acquired by force. But the fact remains that Wales was conquered, Ireland was conquered, and Scotland was – and this is low-key contentious – duped into a peaceful transition into the union. Wales’ primary form of contention was surrounding the suppression of their language, and the nationalism that arose in the 19th century was a response to an erosion of Welsh cultural values. Scotland felt walked over: they were promised more political power than they received. And Ireland, occupied since 1169, fought tooth-and-nail, over centuries, for self-determination and civil rights while the English parried with a divide-and-rule strategy, which culminated in the chiefly nationalist, Catholic south seceding in 1949 , while the chiefly unionist, Protestant north remained in the union with its own parliament. That is, until England suspended Home Rule and any concept of human rights during the Troubles. The crux here is that these nations never asked to have their existing parliamentary systems replaced with England’s, yet England went ahead and did just that. And presumably, due to all nations involved being white and therefore not victim to the same racist violent domination as their black and brown counterparts, they replaced battle with the boardroom; in the place of violent struggle negotiations would occur and Acts would be passed. With that said,  Ireland, Scotland, and Wales certainly saw themselves as occupied. As a result, rebellion and revolts in what Oxford professor R.R. Davies called the “First English Empire” would dot the subsequent centuries.

Fast forward a few thousand years and here is Tony Blair, the patron saint of neoliberalism who, despite later admitting his ambivalence towards devolution, snowballed this unravelling. From the late ‘60s onwards Labour was continually losing seats to the Scottish National Party, and – after a few letter bombs from the Scottish National Liberation Army known in the press as the ‘Tartan Terrorists” –  in the 1997 general election Blair ran on a platform of devolution. Following a resounding victory for his New Labour vision, he devolved powers to Wales and Scotland, creating  a National assembly for Wales and a Scottish parliament in 1999, legislatures which are subordinate to English parliament. Only years later, in 2015, did Blair acknowledge this failing. However, he apologised for undercutting British national identity and British values – an empty platitude if there ever was one – when he should have been apologising for creating political chaos just to preserve his own power. He defended himself too; he claimed it had to happen. Scotland and Wales were kicking off, demanding control over their own governmental apparatus, harnessing the popularity of national parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. With this, Blair established a precedent of responsive devolution policy-making. When the Scottish hold a referendum, the government hand over more power. When Scotland has a strong, wonderful, well-liked female leader at the helm of a nationalist party, the government hand over more power. Wales, you’ll have to step your game up.

Here’s where things currently stand: both Northern Ireland’s assembly, as a result of the Good Friday Agreement, and Scotland’s parliament have full legislative control over a number of devolved matters. Broadly speaking, both can legislate on local matters, but can’t get into the meat of foreign policy, homeland security issues, or international relations. Both have a first minister, and Scotland has a built-in procedure for giving consent to parliament to legislate on a devolved matter, should the occasion arise. Scotland can also amend UK legislation that affects them. Wales has a National assembly, with increasingly enhanced legislative power. After a 2011 referendum, the assembly has law-making abilities on 20 devolved areas, including local services, social welfare, planning, and culture. It is key that all three nations have ministers, a legislative apparatus, and a legal system. These are the building blocks of an executive, legislature, and judiciary; the key tenets of democracy. It is important to note, however, that the line is emphatically drawn at the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Crucially, this is the only missing criterion for a recognisable state under the Montevideo Convention in international law. Blair ostensibly gifted the roots of a successful Westphalian nation-state, while ensuring that statehood was just out of reach.

Simplicity in the Northern Irish government is also, apparently, just out of reach. The Good Friday Agreement, with its British and Irish drafters so dedicated to the concept of impartiality, created a supremely complicated power-sharing experience, which boils down to demanding a balance between nationalists and unionists in the assembly at all times. Given that nationalist and unionist interests must be represented in every assembly vote, it’s a wonder they get anything done. There’s a first minister and a deputy first minister of different loyalties who work in tandem. Which begs the question: like choosing a university course at 17, do the Northern Irish have to decide whether they’re unionist or nationalist?

With a laborious commitment to power-sharing in the Northern Irish national assembly, a unionist party in government is at best an oxymoron and at worst gives every Northern Irish citizen grounds to judicially review the British legislation that incorporates the Good Friday Agreement. You can’t have a unionist Northern Irish first minister without a nationalist deputy first minister, yet you can have a unionist party supporting the whims of a Tory government; supporting the whims because they were given a billion pounds to do whatever the Tories say. Northern Irish politics weren’t so stable even before the deal: the government was suspended at the beginning of the year because the DUP and Sinn Féin couldn’t reach a power-sharing deal, while Sinn Féin deputy minister Martin McGuinness resigned because of DUP corruption in running a renewable heat incentive scheme.

So, Northern Ireland is complicated. It has a history of religious exclusion, political oppression, and struggle for civil rights, which is why Theresa May and the Conservative party’s jumping into a DUP partnership seems like a reckless and short-sighted idea. The decision might have made sense had the English not pretended they were a neutral party. It might have been different had England just straight up admitted they wanted to extend their influence throughout the British Isles. Instead, they  have  promoted the illusion, in the Good Friday Agreement and in the discourse around devolution, that they function as mentors here to mould national identity – when, in fact, England’s role has invariably been that of the oppressor.

Devolution is also complicated. It’s about adapting to modernity; it’s about British identity (or so Blair told us). From Scottish independence to the dismantling of the NHS to Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, what it means to be British is constantly being questioned. When Theresa May signed that metaphorical check to the DUP, she did three things: she undermined England’s obligations as an impartial guiding hand in respect to divisions in Northern Ireland, she undermined the Northern Irish government, and she undermined England’s obligation to each nation in the union. She gave funding to Northern Ireland that now Scotland and Wales will want too, and when they don’t get it (because there’s no magic money tree) they’re going to look at the asymmetry (read: inequity) around them and see the glaring injustice. The façade of devolution will be pierced. Edinburgh and Cardiff have already invoked the Barnett formula, a mechanism which determines the quantity of money distributed to each nation and ensures funding remains egalitarian amongst all nations. They requested an extra £2.9bn and £1.67bn respectively, and commented in no uncertain terms on the unfairness of the DUP transaction. There’s the possibility of a fresh Scottish referendum as early as 2018, and with May’s flimsy statesmanship so far (her handling of the Grenfell Tower fire, for example) there’s no telling what she may stir up.

The confused 2016 report asserts that, on the one hand, parliament is going to stick with devolution, providing there’s some strategy involved, and on the other, states the importance of  having a strong union going forward – good luck with that. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales weren’t content in the 12th century, they weren’t content when they faced Blair in the ‘90s, they weren’t content after they faced Blair in the ‘90s, they weren’t content post-Brexit, and they certainly aren’t content after the 2017 general election (unless you’re DUP leader Arlene Foster), which definitely doesn’t make for such a strong and stable union. The wilful blindness that Theresa May exhibits is a self-defeating disregard for keeping the union together. We can add this to the long list of things the Tories have screwed us on, but it may end up being a blessing in disguise. Maybe it’s time England finally lost its last vestiges of empire?

Published 13th August 2017

This work by Novara Media is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence

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Grenfell Performed

Dave 1289

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When Fascism Comes to America


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Donny and Kim


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And yet…



The colour of calm seas,

And of clear skies,

Suggesting peace, inner serenity, and clarity.

An aid to meditation and mindfulness.

Blue is also associated with intelligence,

Whereby different shades can

Improve concentration and stimulate thinking.


The Celtic sea off Cornwall’s coast,

At times of maximum exposure to

The peculiarly piercing sunlight,

Which appears to bless the natural harbours and shores

Of this distinct land’s end – a separate country

Within and without the body of England –

Is deepest blue, caerulean rather than aquamarine:

Intense, extreme, and almost melancholy.

To gaze at the twinkling sheen of these waters,

Is to gamble with one’s soul,

Since beneath the glistening sparkle

Lurks an ancient force, older than Ia,

The patron saint of Cornwall,

Older than Gwinear and Felec,

Older than Christian memory allows.

For to stare too long at the seemingly tranquil surface,

Might invoke an altogether darker force:

Darker than Mother Mary ever knew.


The Supreme Water Goddess,

A fusion of Aphrodite and Cymopoleia,

Of Boann and Sulis,

Of Nerthus and Isis:

A blood-bone-muscle creature

Of tremendous power,

With brain buzzing, heart crashing, cunt pulsing strength.

She will meet your gaze with deceptively translucent eyes,

And draw you down, deep down,

Till  – washed clean and clear of accumulated scree;

A detrital pile-up of social clutter,

Of spirit-numbing, mind-jamming junk –

You re-emerge, wide-eyed and free.

If liberation is an alien thing,

Don’t look into the eyes of the Goddess,

Lest her profound integrity shreds your flimsy psyche utterly.

Best focus instead on worldly affairs

That appear to signify everything,

But count for nothing.


The eyes of the Goddess are deepest blue.

Caerulean rather than aquamarine.

And yet…

Her eyes are not so deep as yours.

The depths they contain not as meaningful beneath the pellucid calm.

Never so melancholy as the hidden secrets of your wounded life,

And, despite their majestic gape, incapable of restoring

A simple man to himself.

Where she exerts control, via hard love,

You practise gentle love, purely for its own sake.

If the eyes have dominion, I yield to yours alone.


Blue is a good colour.


Dafydd Pedr
Illustration: Claire Palmer

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Anyone Who Has a Heart



(British Medical Association campaigns for changes in UK Organ Donation)



By Leon Horton
Illustration Mark Fisher




It’s one of the many high-minded, altruistic gestures I keep meaning to do, but never get round to: become an organ donor, carry the card. For years I’ve had a recurring dream where a loved one needs a new kidney, and of course, being the hero of my own dream, I volunteer. Any amount of pain can be endured for a loved one. No sacrifice too great. As I count down from ten on the operating table, I usually come round in the real world with one thing on my mind: become an organ donor, carry the card.

If only dreams were promises.

According to the British Medical Association “statistics show that 82 percent of the population definitely wants to donate or would considering donating their organs” and “right now more than 10,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant that could save or dramatically improve their lives, but each year around 1,000 people die while waiting for a transplant.” This discrepancy, say the BMA, is due in part to the fact that “only 50 percent have talked about it with their family, and it is family members who will ultimately need to agree to organ donation going ahead.” (1) The BMA wants to change this.

Become a donor, carry the card.

I have never discussed becoming an organ donor with my family, nor have they with me. I have no idea if my sister carries the card, or what – if any – arrangements my parents have made. Once or twice, my parents have attempted to broach the subject of their respective wills – pragmatically, I suppose – but I find the subject morbid and change the subject.

Perhaps my desire to turn away from death’s details is human instinct, innate in us all; perhaps it’s a cultural influence – I live in a milieu where death is hidden away in coffins and hearses, behind curtained crematoriums and chapels of rest; perhaps I just don’t want to think about it. In a briefcase in a cupboard in my hallway there is a last will and testament document. It’s been there for ten years. It’s blank. I don’t want to think about it.

The problem, then, is me – and people like me. The problem is negligence, apathy or denial. I suspect most people, like me, have considered becoming organ donors; are for the most part willing, but never get round to it – like my friend who professes his political leanings but can’t find the time to vote. I suspect most people, like me, would sign-up on the spot if they were approached in the street by the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Currently, there is an estimated twenty million people registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register, which sounds misleadingly healthy. NHS Choices say: “Even though about a third of the population have joined the register, less than 5,000 people a year die in circumstances that allow them to donate their organs.” (2) We have a shortfall of suitable organs, then, that results in approximately 1,000 deaths per year. So what can be we do about it?

Become a donor, carry the card.

The UK (with the exception of Wales) currently uses an opt-in system for organ donation, whereby a potential donor must have registered their wishes – either by carrying the card, making provision in their will or telling their family and/or GP. If no such provision has been made at the time of death, a doctor can, by law, approach the next of kin and consult them on the subject, but cannot proceed further without their consent. This system is similar to that practised in the US, Australia, Canada and Germany.

In 2013, the National Assembly of Wales voted to go ahead with an opt-out system, whereby your consent is presumed if you have not registered, but your relatives still have final consent. This is known as a ‘soft’ opt-out system. Many countries where an opt-out system has been implemented (such as France, Spain and Italy) have reported a marked increase in organ donation, and it is for this reason that the BMA, along with the British Heart Foundation and Kidney Research UK, are campaigning for the rest of the UK to follow the Welsh example.

There are, of course, religious, cultural and philosophical reasons why we might not want to become donors, and why we might, quite rightly, raise concerns about the possible risks involved in an opt-out system. I must admit, the proposed system of presumed consent worries me somewhat. What if I die without having registered my wishes – do I then belong to the state? What if there is a bureaucratic error? What if malicious hackers compromise the register? What safeguards would be put in place to protect my personal data?

The BMA says they want an “extensive, high profile awareness campaign to inform the public about the proposed new system and to encourage them to consider their own wishes about donation after their death”. To allay any fear of bureaucratic error, the new opt-out system would establish a database with “a mechanism for people to easily and quickly opt-out if that is their wish. Once implemented, when someone over the age of 16 dies and donation is a possibility, the opt-out register must, by law, be checked and if the individual has opted out donation could not proceed. As an extra safeguard, if the individual had not opted out, family members would be asked if they were aware of any unregistered objection. If the relatives were not aware of any objection, they would be informed that donation would proceed.” (1)

For any change in UK organ donation law, there needs to be a change in public opinion regarding the means by which we make our personal choices. Many of us are happy to opt out of tax, household insurance or the TV licence, but the human rights issues concerning organ donation need to continue to be debated. Until then, should we wish to help save someone else’s life in the event of our death, we only have one choice:

Become a donor, carry the card.



To find more information on the BMA opt-out campaign visit: donation
To register as an organ donor call the free NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23


Source Notes


(1) “Become an organ donor”, British Medical Association


(2) “Organ Donation”, NHS Choices


About the Author


Leon Horton is a journalist and scriptwriter. After gaining his masters degree from the University of Salford, he cut his teeth on local magazines, enjoyed a caretaker stint as the editor of Old Trafford News then returned to freelance writing. His work has been published in Nexus New Times, the Animals’ Voice, Empty Mirror and Erotic Review.


Leon lives in Manchester, England, and can be contacted at
Art by Mark Fisher


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From the pit of horror to clouds primed
By disaster, Crow Reeves’ image
Ascends from the black towards blue.

Reginald Christie’s spent ash is clogging the eyes
Of the missing as the loved and lost remain kissing
what they once considered as true.

Our own ground zero begins a new race
To progress in which human care
And suspicion must fight to the death

To become so much more than the strand
Of life’s tattered curtain, smothering breath
In a moment before restoring a scream

To the dumb. Not that they were.
There is such eloquence to a victim.
No matter how vanquished what they have known

Carves our text. We must be aware it is clear
In this and in any image of all that is
Watching and for the light and dark coming next.



David Erdos 8/1/17
photograph by Max Crow Reeves

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I go for a walk and count the cars

Of which there are, I think, far too many


My footsteps have a certain rhythm to them

I am reminded of how once I dreamed my life as a musician


A nun waits to cross to the other side of the road

Traffic lights change colour as is their habit


The corner shop is shuttered for the night

I imagine the shelves and all they hold held by darkness


A cat appears from nowhere and slips through a garden gate

I notice how he or she has a leg at each corner


Curtains are closed at the windows of your house

A light shines dimly behind its eyes


The church points at the sky

As if to indicate where we should look


Passing through the graveyard

I am reminded of the irritations of mortality


I stop to count the stars

Of which there are, I think, not enough



© Martin Stannard, 2017
illustration Nick Victor


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The Metro, 2.8.17—i.m. Heathcote Williams


There is no hope for egos like Kroenke’s

his actions despicable beyond belief

for trophy-bagging endangered species;

his henchmen stupidly drugged like him

with soulless triumphalism, inane grins

—they need to be hunted to extinction.

And so politics is an Arsenal football

there is no escaping


you thought it was just a game

but this one’s for real


they’ll be waiting for him on the astral

all those animals in a line

disguised as shamans,

united with one voice:


‘This is where Failure begins’.


The big game’s poised—

this time the pitch is sand, and full of lions:

Kroenke is Roman Imperial

slow to learn his lesson, too slow

so slow he’s utterly retro

in his reincarnated pinstripe,

once again just here for the ride

and fatally entitled

to all that money can buy.


The ball rolls out: this time his face

is overprinted on it—the fans

are not buying it, the team’s on strike

the pitch is a bunch of diverse species

playing with Kroenke’s head,

while the bored stadium boos

and we give him the thumbs down.



Jay Ramsay


Shelley’s birthday


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charlie is the god-cat

who digs the slurp-job grope-circle gobble-gobble

and dem teenybopper cuteniks just melt in his heat,

charlie is the cockroach-god

he swagger-jive and groove-talk,

he eyes luminous with lysergic wisdoms,

the four kings of EMI whisper him

death-codex in fat vinyl helter-skelter

stick the piggies where they squeal and mud-wallow

in stinking celebrity wealth, creepy-crawl them

cut and smash them to fuck-meat, see them bleed…


and dem teenybopper cuteniks just melt in his heat,

charlie is the cockroach-god

he swagger-jive and groove-talk,

he eyes luminous with lysergic wisdoms,

the four kings of EMI whisper him

death-codex in fat vinyl helter-skelter

stick the piggies where they squeal and mud-wallow

in stinking celebrity wealth, creepy-crawl them

cut and smash them to fuck-meat, see them bleed,

he has Capt Trips stoned-dream in desert vast eternity

of quad-bike dune-buggy apocalypse to

ignite the righteous global war smashback

at every stinging slight, cell-year and head-stomp,

charlie is the god-cat, freakin’ hair down to here

eyes bop to the house-of-blue-lights boogie

brain a dark star radiating ashes, watch out,

coming down fast, manson – son of man,

when snakey-lake blow him she blow him good

each cum-sperm a glimmering intelligence

toxic with malignance, flood her they do,

sparkling in nova-swirl DNA throb as

she melt in his pulsing genetic-heat

a sewer-rainbow of dandelion-seed storm

spores adrift in idiot-wise fractel constellations

to rain in the mall, burger-bar, designer store

gated community, gay bathhouse, titty-bar

each irradiates infiltrates in lethal acid shine

detonates a hipster-jihad from the spahn ranch

to the if-world of everywhen,

I no longer see straight, bad dreams rape me raw,

my ears crammed with heavy-metal thunder

jaw juice-slack and drooling,

feed my head… now, now, now…




Andrew Darlington

Photo: Claire Palmer
Kings Cross Hotel Room

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Test Card

Darren Cullen

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H.P. Lovecraft Gives Five Tips for Writing

lovecraft hp

Image by Lucius B. Truesdell, via Wikimedia Commons

Though the term “weird fiction” came into being in the 19th century—originally used by Irish gothic writer Sheridan Le Fanu—it was picked up by H.P. Lovecraft in the 20th century as a way, primarily, of describing his own work. Lovecraft produced copious amounts of the stuff, as you can see from our post highlighting online collections of nearly his entire corpus. He also wrote in depth about writing itself. He did so in generally prescriptive ways, as in his 1920 essay “Literary Composition,” and in ways specific to his chosen mode—as in the 1927 “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” in which he defined weird fiction very differently than Le Fanu or modern authors like China Miéville. For Lovecraft,

The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain–a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

Here we have, broadly, the template for a very Lovecraftian tale indeed. Ten years later, in a 1937 essay titled “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” Lovecraft would return to the theme and elaborate more fully on how to produce such an artifact.

Weird Fiction, wrote Lovecraft in that later essay, is “obviously a special and perhaps a narrow” kind of “story-writing,” a form in which “horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected,” and one that “frequently emphasize[s] the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion.” Although Lovecraft self-deprecatingly calls himself an “insignificant amateur,” he nonetheless situates himself in the company of “great authors” who mastered horror writing of one kind or another: “[Lord] Dunsany, Poe, Arthur Machen, M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, and Walter de la Mare.” Even if you only know the name of Poe, it’s weighty company indeed.

But be not intimidated—Lovecraft wasn’t. As our traditional holiday celebration of fear approaches, perhaps you’d be so inclined to try your hand at a little weird fiction of your own. You should certainly, Lovecraft would stress, spend some time reading these writers’ works. But he goes further, and offers us a very concise, five point “set of rules” for writing a weird fiction story that he says might be “deduced… if the history of all my tales were analyzed.” See an abridged version below:

  1. Prepare a synopsis or scenario of events in the order of their absolute occurrence—not the order of their narrations.

This is a practice adhered to by writers from J.K. Rowling and William Faulkner to Norman Mailer. It seems a an excellent general piece of advice for any kind of fiction.

  1. Prepare a second synopsis or scenario of events—this one in order of narration (not actual occurrence), with ample fullness and detail, and with notes as to changing perspective, stresses, and climax.
  1. Write out the story—rapidly, fluently, and not too critically—following the second or narrative-order synopsis. Change incidents and plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change, never being bound by any previous design.

It may be that the second rule is made just to be broken, but it provides the weird fiction practitioner with a beginning. The third stage here brings us back to a process every writer on writing, such as Stephen King, will highlight as key—free, unfettered drafting, followed by…

  1. Revise the entire text, paying attention to vocabulary, syntax, rhythm of prose, proportioning of parts, niceties of tone, grace and convincingness of transitions…

And finally….

  1. Prepare a neatly typed copy—not hesitating to add final revisory touches where they seem in order.

You will notice right away that these five “rules” tell us nothing about what to put in our weird fiction, and could apply to any sort of fiction at all, really. This part of the admirably comprehensive quality of the otherwise succinct essay. Lovecraft tells us why he writes, why he writes what he writes, and how he goes about it. The content of his fictional universe is entirely his own, a method of visualizing “vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions.” Your mileage, and your method, will indeed vary.

Lovecraft goes on to describe “four distinct types of weird story” that fit “into two rough categories—those in which the marvel or horror concerns some condition or phenomenon, and those in which it concerns some action of persons in connection with a bizarre condition or phenonmenon.” If this doesn’t clear things up for you, then perhaps a careful reading of Lovecraft’s complete “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” will. Ultimately, however, “there is no one way” to write a story. But with some practice—and no small amount of imagination—you may find yourself joining the company of Poe, Lovecraft, and a host of contemporary writers who continue to push the boundaries of weird fiction past the sometimes parochial, often profoundly bigoted, limits that Lovecraft  set out.


Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness



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18th Century Garden Hermits

The Mysterious Lives Of 18th Century Garden Hermits

The ceramic garden gnomes we see today have a very human — and very solemn — past.

Before the days of the ceramic garden gnome, a human being often played the role of stern, robe-wearing guardian of flora and fauna — and that person was preferably a grizzled old man who didn’t mind living in seclusion and forgoing even basic personal hygiene.

Meet the ornamental hermit.


Wikimedia Commons

Two trends in Georgian England created a moment in history for the phenomenon of ornamental hermitage: solitude and overt displays of material wealth.

Wealthy landowners desired expansive and often ornate gardens on their property, and would use these expanses to reflect not just financial riches, but existing social mores such as melancholy.

Elite circles viewed this deeper, more introspective form of sadness as a mark of intelligence, and thus sought to associate themselves with the sentiment whenever possible. Physical property presented an easy, obvious avenue to bring this social virtue of melancholy to life.

Soon enough, wealthy landowners began placing want ads in newspapers to fill this very aim. Ad writers often sought men who would agree to live in a garden for a span of time (usually about seven years, it seems) and devote themselves to a silent, forlorn — if not also wise and mysterious — existence. One such ad placed by Charles Hamilton outlined the expectations for a hermit-in-residence as follows:

…he shall be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hourglass for timepiece, water for his beverage, and food from the house. He must wear a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstances, must he cut his hair, beard, or nails, stray beyond the limits of Mr. Hamilton’s grounds, or exchange one word with the servant.

The more eccentricities the hermit possessed, the better. While some consider modern day hermits’ preference for sequestration pathological, 18th century Europe lauded an individual’s proclivity toward solitude, and paid a pretty penny to those willing to go nearly a decade without a bath or new clothing.

This was a tall order, and some men who took on the position couldn’t stand the life for more than a few months or years. These men must have been rather miserable, as hermitage contracts often stated that if the hermit left before his tenure ended, he would also forego payment for his services.


Public Domain

For those who stayed, life was fairly straight-forward. Most hermits lived in small shacks or caves built for them on the property, and offered themselves to guests as a silent, physical symbol of solitude and the nearness of death.

Not interacting with guests was the hermit’s key job function — at least most of the time: some accounts tell of hermits performing duties such as light agricultural work or bartending garden parties.

More often than not, though, the hermit’s existence justified his paycheck. Not unlike the way a nobleman of the era would have shown off his prized mare or his lovely wife, an ornamental garden hermit provided the elite another asset for others to praise.

For those who couldn’t afford to actually employ a hermit, they often set up a hermitage to imply that a hermit may soon arrive or had just departed, which offered the property owner a similar air of prestige.

As cultural and technological changes shifts led society away from the maudlin and excessive — and treating humans as ornaments — the garden hermit soon swapped skin and solemnity for glass and kitsch to become the ceramic garden gnome we know today.

As with all obscure practices from days yore, if you dig around the internet for long enough you can usually find someone eager to usher in its revival: In the summer of 2014, an advertisement appeared on Craigslist: Gentle Lady Seeks Ornamental Hermit.

While the not bathing or speaking for several years may be unpalatable for many, as far as job duties go, “Reminding all passersby of our shared mortality” certainly beats data entry.

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Steam Stock meets Mr Woods

About the show

Playing tracks by

Les Elgart & Orch, Linda Scott, Quintette, Ray Rivera, Carl Stevens and more.

Chart positions

This upload was 19th in the Vinyl Only chart .

Steam Stock meets the amazing Mr Woods for the first time on this mix. Mr Woods is first up to bat with a selection of rhythm & blues, popcorn, voodoo grooves and latin mambos, then Steam steps up with more r’n’b, a little bit of exotica, and a ska take on Summertime, ending with a couple of New Orleans Classics. Enjoy!

Check out the Juke Joint page for more brilliant mixes, and Steam Stock page for his monthly Radiocore show Steam’s Jukebox Shuffle.


Steam Stock

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Mike Lesser

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A Short Visual History of America

A Short Visual History of America, According to the Irreverent Comic Satirist R. Crumb

Today, countercultural cartoonist Robert Dennis Crumb, better known as R. Crumb, turns 70. As a founder of the “underground comix” movement in the 1960s, Crumb is either revered as a pioneering satirist of American culture and its excesses or reviled as a juvenile purveyor of painfully outmoded sexist and racist stereotypes. Crumb doesn’t apologize. He keeps working, and his fans are grateful. He has parlayed his sexual obsessions and outsider relationship to black culture into an intriguing vision of the country that reflects its own fixations as much as those of the artist/author of comics like Zap and Weirdo.

But Crumb’s work—permeated by drug use, pop-culture references, skirt-chasing oversexed men, very specifically-shaped (and always sexually-available) women, and all sorts of creepy underground characters—has another side: an almost sentimental attachment to purist Americana from the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century. Most notably Crumb is an antiquarian collector of old-time music—country, jazz, ragtime, the blues—as well as a musical interpreter of the same. One of my favorites of his books collects a series of trading cards he made into R Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country, a reverential set of illustrations of folk musicians, accompanied by a CD of Crumb-curated music.

Crumb’s love for simpler times is more than the passion of an aficionado. It is the flip side of his satire, a genre that cannot flourish as a critique of the present without a corresponding vision of a golden age. For Crumb, that age is pre-WWII, pre-industrial, rural—a time, as he has put it in a recent interview, when “people could still express themselves.” His experience with the slop of American popular culture was decidedly less idyllic. Ian Buruma writes in The New York Review of Books:

Crumb, like his brothers, soaked up the TV and comics culture of the 1950s: Howdy DoodyDonald DuckRoy RogersLittle Lulu, and the like. While on LSD, in the 1960s, Crumb thought of his mind as “a garbage receptacle of mass media images and input. I spent my whole childhood absorbing so much crap that my personality and mind are saturated with it. God only knows if that affects you physically!”

Crumb’s comic art—which he has described in almost therapeutic terms as an emptying of his “garbage receptacle” unconscious—is balanced by his more sober and nostalgic illustrations, the counterweight to the “crap” of his childhood media exposure. One might even think of Crumb’s consumption of old-time music and imagery as a kind of cultural health food diet. One of the most popular of his nostalgic works is “A Short History of America” (1979) a series of panels showing the shift from open countryside, to the town settlements brought by the railroads, to the gross overdevelopment of the late-twentieth century. The only text besides the title (and the burgeoning billboards and street signs) is a coda at the bottom-right-hand of the last panel asking, “What next?!!!” You can see the comic animated above (top), set to an old-time piano piece. Another fitting version of his vision of the country’s growth (or ruination) is above, in color, scored by Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” See the full series of images here and here, and be sure to check out Crumb’s three epilogue speculations on what’s next.

Related Content:

R. Crumb Shows Us How He Illustrated Genesis: A Faithful, Idiosyncratic Illustration of All 50 Chapters

Robert Crumb Illustrates Philip K. Dick’s Infamous, Hallucinatory Meeting with God (1974)

The Confessions of Robert Crumb: A Portrait Scripted by the Underground Comics Legend Himself (1987)

Record Cover Art by Underground Cartoonist Robert Crumb

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

by Josh  Jones



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Bruce Rae – Silvered Surfaces

Exhibition: 2nd – 26th September 2017
Private view: 2nd September 6–8pm

Lucy Bell is proud to present an exhibition of new flower pictures by Bruce Rae, which are presented alongside his acclaimed series of shipbuilders which is currently also on exhibition at Side Gallery, in Newcastle. Renowned for his vintage techniques and sumptuous prints, Rae’s work is held in various collections including The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, and The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

“The pictures that I make are records of events. In the case of the shipyards a world soon to be lost, was recorded. The flowers are records of transience, of fleeting mortality”

“The conversion of a metallic salt, be it base as in iron, noble as in silver or precious as in platinum into its pure metal is the basis of the process that we call photographic. Photographic because the catalyst of these metamorphoses being radiant energy, or light. I was fortunate that in my training a knowledge of physics and chemistry was at least important as a familiarity with the works of Susan Sontag or Walter Benjamin. The prints in this exhibit are of silver, a noble metal or precious platinum. Apart from their separate aesthetic attractions, their principal difference concerns longevity.

The pictures that I make are records of events. In the case of the shipyards a world soon to be lost, was recorded. The flowers are records of transience, of fleeting mortality”

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Dana Loesch Fisk or Fist


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Robert Crumb on 1960’s San Francisco

Robert Crumb on 1960’s San Francisco, LSD, Hippies, Hipsters, Beatniks, Janis Joplin, Zap Comix

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The Flat Earth Society


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The Spectacle

Robert Montgomery

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Fat Cats


Dave 1289

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Jeanne Moreau, a Grande Dame

Postscript: Jeanne Moreau, a Grande Dame of the French New Wave

Moreau was a new kind of heroine, whose glamour had no gloss, whose elegance had no airs, who seemed to burst fussy constraints with every word she spoke, every glance she shot, every step she took.

Photograph by Giancarlo Botti / Gamma-Rapho via Getty

The idea of Jeanne Moreau is as great as the onscreen presence of Jeanne Moreau because, in her performances, she embodied ideas in motion, and, for that matter, one big idea: Moreau, who died on Monday at the age of eighty-nine, was a grande dame without haughtiness or prejudice. Her grandeur didn’t erect walls around her; it widened her vistas, increased her curiosity, enabled her adventures, overcame narrow boundaries. She was a queen of intellect—but an intellect that was no cloistered bookishness but an idea and an ideal of culture that enriched experience, envisioned progress, looked ardently at the times.

Someone once wrote that Cary Grant looks like a person who’s thinking; I’d say he’s rather lost in thought, whereas Moreau seems at home in thought, standing on a solid foundation of knowledge that makes her searching focussed, precise, intention-sharp. If Alfred Hitchcock had known how to film heroic women, Moreau would have been the most Hitchcockian of active and intrepid women—and François Truffaut, who was among the most faithful and profound of Hitchcockians, recognized that trait when he cast her in “The Bride Wore Black,” one of his most conspicuously Hitchcockian films.

Moreau spanned generations, not merely in her life and in her career but in her ideas and in the art of her times. A celebrated theatre actress in the conservative Comédie Française, she made her name in films with a director from the new generation—Louis Malle—who was in his mid-twenties and found in Moreau a new kind of heroine, whose glamour had no gloss, whose elegance had no airs, who seemed to burst fussy constraints with every word she spoke, every glance she shot, every step she took. Born in 1928, she was an artist raised and trained in traditions that she expanded without destroying; she embodied not the narrowly intellectual artist but the person of culture, and she also embodied the paradoxes of culture in an age when its own presumptions were being challenged.

That’s why Moreau was an ideal actress for such analytical directors as Michelangelo Antonioni and Joseph Losey, whose dramatic schemes and visual compositions embodied the lure and failure of intellect, the delusions of reason. Her performance in Antonioni’s “La Notte” as the fiercely intelligent and sensitive wife of a famous and egotistical novelist (Marcello Mastroianni)—a woman who is struggling to rescue her identity in her marriage and in the architectural and intellectual tangle of modernity itself—is among the most essential in all of Antonioni’s films. As Moreau walks alone through the lonely and architecturally oppressive streets of Milan, she seems not just to be thinking but to be thinking about thinking.

That’s also why some of Moreau’s most famous performances came in filmed adaptations of works by Marguerite Duras, such as Peter Brook’s 1960 version of “Moderato Cantabile” and Tony Richardson’s “The Sailor from Gibraltar,” as well as his “Mademoiselle,” for which Duras wrote the script. (Moreau even played the role of Duras, in Josée Dayan’s “Cet Amour-Là.”) But no one filmed the Duras cinematic universe as did Duras herself. In the 1972 film “Nathalie Granger,” Moreau appears along with Antonioni’s first screen heroine, Lucia Bosè, in a movie that Duras made in her own house, in a small town not far from Paris. There, Moreau embodies the severe yet dryly whimsical brilliance that Duras herself applies to the stuff of women’s domestic lives and her own. (The scene in which Moreau and Bosè terrify the young Gérard Depardieu with their skeptical gazes is exquisite comedy.)

That’s also why Moreau quickly came to embody an idea that was crucial to the French New Wave—she came to embody history itself. It’s noteworthy that the film that enshrined Moreau as an icon of the New Wave, Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim,” is a period piece set around the First World War. The New Wave brought a new generation of intellectuals and their concerns into the cinema (and proved that the cinema itself was among that generation’s crucial concerns). But when Truffaut, the youngest of the New Wave directors, sought to reconsider French history and culture in the light of his own experience, Moreau was his heroine of free-spirited inventiveness, of freedom tout court, and of the tragically destructive (and self-destructive) passions that came with it.

In the following decades, Moreau was cast over and over by directors who sought to unite modernity with tradition. There was Jean Renoir’s “The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir” Luis Buñuel’s adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s 1900 novel “The Diary of a Chambermaid,” which Renoir had adapted in the mid-nineteen-forties. When Jacques Demy, in his second feature, “Bay of Angels,” from 1963, pulled the stifling and louche bourgeois world and the cinematic crime-drama clichés of Riviera casinos into the blazing New Wave sunlight, Moreau—platinum-blond—was the star. (With her intensely concentrated analytical focus as she pursues the goal of a doomed and reckless passion, it’s one of her greatest performances.) When André Téchiné reclaimed French history through French melodrama in his 1975 film “French Provincial,” Moreau was the star. When Rainer Werner Fassbinder adapted a novel by Jean Genet for the 1982 film “Querelle”—it would be his last film, made in a daring new style—a French period piece in the vague past, Moreau was one of its stars. (She sang in it, too—indelibly.) And in “Gebo and the Shadow,” the last feature by Manoel de Oliveira, which he made, in 2012, at the age of a hundred and five, the prophetic voice from the distant past was performed by Moreau. Her death marks not just the end of an era but of the idea of an era.

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Sam Shepard

Sam Shepard, whose hallucinatory plays redefined the landscape of the American West and its inhabitants, died on Thursday at his home in Kentucky. He was 73.

A spokesman for his family announced the death on Monday, saying the cause was complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Possessed of a stoically handsome face and a rangy frame, Mr. Shepard became a familiar presence as an actor in films that included “Days of Heaven” (1978), “The Right Stuff” (1983) and “Baby Boom” (1987). He bore a passing resemblance to that laconic idol of Hollywood’s golden era, Gary Cooper, and in an earlier age, Mr. Shepard could have made a career as a leading man of Westerns.

A reluctant movie star who was always suspicious of celebrity’s luster, he was more at home as one of the theater’s most original and prolific portraitists of what was once the American frontier.

Continue reading the main story

Slide Show     

Slide Show|12 Photosam Shepard in Pictures

CreditRex Features, via Associated Press

In plays like “True West” (1980), “Fool for Love” (1983) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Buried Child” (1978), he dismantled the classic iconography of cowboys and homesteaders, of American dreams and white picket fences, and reworked the landscape of deserts and farmlands into his own shimmering expanse of surreal estate.

In Mr. Shepard’s plays, the only undeniable truth is that of the mirage. From early pieces like “Chicago” (1965), written when he was in his early 20s and staged in the margins of Off Off Broadway, to late works like “Heartless” (2012), he presented a world in which nothing is fixed.

That includes any comforting notions of family, home, material success and even individual identity. “To me, a strong sense of self isn’t believing in a lot,” Mr. Shepard said in a 1994 interview with The New York Times. “Some people might define it that way, saying, ‘He has a very strong sense of himself.’ But it’s a complete lie.”

That feeling of uncertainty was translated into dialogue of an uncommon lyricism and some of the strangest, strongest images in American theater. A young man in “Buried Child,” a bruising tale of a Midwestern homecoming, describes looking into the rearview mirror as he is driving and seeing his face morph successively into those of his ancestors.

Mr. Shepard wrote more than 55 plays (his last, “A Particle of Dread,” had its premiere in 2014), acted in more than 50 films and had more than a dozen roles on television. He was also the author of several prose works, including “Cruising Paradise” (1996), and the memoir “Motel Chronicles” (1982). Though he received critical acclaim almost from the beginning of his career, and his work has been staged throughout the world, he was never a mainstream commercial playwright.

Several writers who grew up studying Mr. Shepard’s works said that they were struck by his boldness. Christopher Shinn, whose plays include the Pulitzer finalist “Dying City,” said he was reminded of Mr. Shepard’s gifts as a writer while watching “Buried Child” Off Broadway last year.

“I felt the play pulsing with Sam Shepard’s unconscious, and I realized how rarely I feel that in the theater today,” Mr. Shinn said on Monday. “Sam always wrote from that place — a zone of trauma, mystery and grief. Whether the play was more mainstream or experimental in its conception, he took the big risk every time.”

In the relatively naturalistic “True West,” two brothers of opposite temperaments find themselves assuming the personality of the other. (John Malkovich and Gary Sinise made their names in the Steppenwolf Theater Company production; Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly memorably traded off the parts in the 2000 Broadway revival.) Roles within families depicted onstage continually shift and dissolve, as in Mr. Shepard’s great “A Lie of the Mind” (1985), the title of which might serve for every play he wrote.

As for love between a man and a woman, Mr. Shepard, whose long relationship with the actress Jessica Lange cast an unwanted spotlight on his private life, described that as “terrible and impossible.” He later explained: “It’s impossible the way people enter into it feeling they’re going to be saved by the other one. And it seems like many, many times that quicksand happens in a relationship when you feel that somehow you can be saved.”

That point of view received its fullest and most rousingly theatrical incarnation in “Fool for Love,” a portrait of possibly incestuous bedmates who spend their lives running away from and toward each other as fast as they can. The play received its first Broadway production only two years ago, starring a ferocious Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda, in roles embodied three decades earlier by Ed Harris and Kathy Baker.

“I loved Sam,” Mr. Harris said in a statement on Monday. “He has been a huge part of my life, who I am, and he will remain so.”

The dynamic of love in that play, as it is for family in “True West” and “Buried Child,” is the wrestling match. Cast members in Shepard plays are often required to tear down the set, literally (in his early “La Turista,” a young man walked through a wall), and engage in highly physical fights. Bruises, sprains and broken bones are common casualties of appearing in a Shepard production.

But collaborators remembered Mr. Shepard as being easy to work with. “Especially gratifying was the trust he placed in a young director,’’ said Daniel Aukin, who directed “Heartless” in 2012 and “Fool for Love” on Broadway. “For such a meticulous artist he was a million miles from precious. After a rehearsal room run-through of ‘Fool for Love’ I was concerned about a bit of blocking. He said, ‘If they’re in the pocket, they can do it standing on their heads.’ ”

Mr. Aukin said Mr. Shepard told him of his illness before they began working on the production, as he did with at least one other recent collaborator. But the playwright largely kept his battle private. He is survived by his children — Jesse, Hannah and Walker Shepard — and his sisters, Sandy and Roxanne Rogers.

Born Samuel Shepard Rogers III on Nov. 5, 1943, he came naturally by his Strindbergian view of love, marriage and family. The father for whom he was named was an alcoholic, nomadic man, and he haunts Mr. Shepard’s work, in the ghostly form of the cynical, romantic narrator of “Fool for Love” and the title character of “The Late Henry Moss” (2005).

Known as Steve Rogers through his childhood and adolescence, the younger Mr. Shepard grew up on his family’s avocado farm in Duarte, Calif. Jobs in his youth included stablehand, orange picker and sheep shearer. He briefly attended Mount San Antonio College, as an agriculture student, but dropped out to move to New York in 1962, having discovered jazz and the plays of Samuel Beckett.

Mr. Shepard was soon writing plays in which characters and images melted into one another, suggesting a poetically cadenced LSD trip. (Mr. Shepard admitted to free acquaintance with drugs in that phase of his life.) Of that era in downtown Manhattan he has said, “You were right in the thing, especially on the Lower East Side. La MaMa, Theater, Genesis, Caffe Cino, all those theaters were just starting. So that was just a great coincidence. I had place to just go and put something on without having to go through a producer or go through the commercial network.”

His work extended to the music world. He wrote songs with John Cale and Bob Dylan, notably “Brownsville Girl,” from Mr. Dylan’s 1986 album “Knocked Out Loaded,” and he played drums for a time in a group called the Holy Modal Rounders, who once opened for the progressive rock group Pink Floyd. (He also had a well-publicized relationship with the singer-songwriter Patti Smith.)

Besides acting in films, he directed a few, including “Far North” (1988), which he wrote and which starred Ms. Lange. Mr. Shepard wrote or collaborated on screenplays for, among others, the directors Michaelangelo Antonioni (“Zabriskie Point,” 1970), Robert Frank (“Me and My Brother,” 1969) and Wim Wenders (“Paris, Texas,” which won the top prize at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival).

Another screenwriting collaboration was with Mr. Dylan, for his widely panned, self-referential 1978 film “Renaldo and Clara,” described by one critic as a “four-hour fever dream” about the rock ‘n’ roll life.

Most recently he portrayed the patriarch of a troubled Florida family in the Netflix series “Bloodline.” But the role that may have matched actor and subject most neatly was Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff,” Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book about the early days of the space program. It earned Mr. Shepard an Oscar nomination.

“He was playing Yeager, but for the other actors who worked with him, he was Sam,” Mr. Kaufman said in a phone interview on Monday. “He was such a cool guy with as perfect an ear as I’ve ever come across. He could hear and reproduce sounds in a way — I don’t know — that maybe Bob Dylan could do.”

Speaking of how he creates his characters, Mr. Shepard once perfectly summed up the artful ambiguity that pervades his work and is a principal reason it seems likely to endure: “There are these territories inside all of us, like a child or a father or the whole man,” he said, “and that’s what interests me more than anything: where those territories lie.

“I mean, you have these assumptions about somebody and all of a sudden this other thing appears. Where is that coming from?

“That’s the mystery. That’s what’s so fascinating.”

Correction: July 31, 2017
An earlier version of this article misidentified Chuck Yeager’s occupation in “The Right Stuff.” He was a test pilot, not an aspiring astronaut.
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Pietro “Zobly” Modonesi

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NHS Killer

Elena Caldera

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The Universe in One Man – For Heathcote Williams

Elenor Caldera

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Demonic Dominionism

Demonic Dominionism,
dealing death blows to
deer, doe
duck, drake,
dove, dunnock,
dairy calf.
Downing the

Dirty, dimpsy dealers.
Divisive, dawn do-wrongers.
Daybreak do-badders.
Digging deep,
deep, deeper to
deliver the already
downtrodden brock, the
demonized fox cub (1) –
to damaged,
down-beaten dogs.

Destroying dens,
(domiciles) –
dollied up to the hilt, for
Delighting in
deleting, in

dumb decoys,
Dancing over the
desperate, the
distressed, the
dying ;
defiling light-filled
diamonds in the

Dukes and Duchesses of
Dull, dim, dastardly,
decidedly deadened,
deliberately deafened,
double-faced denizens,
dainty, delicacy demanders:
(devouring the delicate.)

‘Dutifully’ doing in the
day old.

Deifying the
Demi ‘gods.’
Darth Vaders.)

(Done for.

Heidi Stephenson
Image: Claire Palmer


Cub hunting.

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New Items

(Jeanne Moreau, 1928-2017)

SAM SHEPARD (1943-2017)

Lou Gehrig’s disease
Killed thin, handsome Sam Shepard,
Playwright and actor.

Lou Gehrig’s disease
Said, “Fuck Obies and Oscars
Killing is my job

“Suffering, killing
That’s all that I am about”’
Sam: seventy three.

Weep for Sam Shepard
Buried Child now gone to death:
Weep for Sam, gone “West.”

(By whatever means,
By whatever Death took him,
By what deep, foul means)



Donald Trump now looks
More like The Titanic than
Like The Queen Mary.



Elle avait des bagues
A chaque doigt, des tas de…
Et puis elle chantait

She sported these rings
On each finger, and bracelets,
Then she sang, she sang

(Jeanne Moreau, 1928-2017)


Jack Foley


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The Power of NO

When one feels and witnesses the crushing affect of the status quo on all sentient elemental life forms, as well as on the great majority of human beings, one eventually reaches the point of saying “No, enough!”

Saying No comes before saying Yes, in the context of putting a brake on the slide into slavery currently besetting a great proportion of mankind. There comes a moment, in nearly everybody’s life, when one makes a stand against some intolerable treatment which is being meted-out by the forces of control and subversion.

Almost any incident could spark-off the resistance: stifling and stultifying bureaucracy, the crazy behavior of a neighbor, criminal bank charges, the dictatorial behavior of the boss at work – any and all ways where the law is treated as a blunt instrument of repression. They all have a common source which centers around the deliberately oppressive, competitive structure built-in to our post industrial Westernized societies. One that crushes the humanity out of people. Although external in nature, the pressure builds and builds internally – until something gives – and one finally says “No! No more!”

That is a key moment and can turn the tide of one’s life. However, the sense of liberation can be short-lived as further repressive elements are quick to occupy the void, unless one quickly fills it one’s self with something that goes beyond the purely personal; something that reaches out compassionately into the greater world.

Here is where the power of No is especially needed today. We have to recognize our innate connection with all mankind as well as to the natural environment; and we have to take a stand which reflects full-on resistance to that which is continuously undermining the quality of life of this planet. Indeed, its very survival.

Because without such determination, we will all sink into the cesspit of absolute submission to the deep state and it’s centralized control system which unceasingly seeks to dominate every artery of life on this planet.

For those who have gained enough awareness to recognize the deception, lies and villainy playing-out their course right in our midst, there can be no excuse for not adopting a position of defiance and determination to play one’s part in stopping the rot.

I know how easy it is to read hundreds of articles like this and to get a temporary jolt each time, but still never actually take a stand; never really stand up to be counted. Never light that fire which pulls one out of one’s set routine and plunges one into the battle.

It starts by saying No to the slippery slide into slavery. A slide which has been so well prepared to capture all who allow themselves the seeming luxury of ineptitude at a time of deep crisis.
But to take this stand, and to deliver, based on one’s own sense of urgency to speak and act ‘the truth’ is an imperative which enriches our lives beyond recognition!

To know one has been caught in the tentacles of the super state’s ubiquitous web and to act on that knowledge, truly does lead on to individual emancipation. And, more importantly, it puts us in touch with fellow conscious beings who are already on the road which leads out of slavery and into taking full responsibility for their actions. It demonstrates a real determination to fully support that which nourishes, rather than continues to starve, our beleaguered Earth.

Here can be found the foundation of a new society. A steadily coalescing ‘people’s movement’ which will collectively enable us to control our destinies and free this planet from its demonic overlords.
Overlords who we have allowed to suck on our spontaneous creativity, passion and love, until it runs virtually dry.

That first big No leads directly to an even bigger Yes! To living-out our true nature as conscious beings; defenders and guardians of this richly endowed place of beauty in which we find ourselves.

You see, there is nowhere else to go with our lives. Those of us who ‘understand’ are in the last line of defense to bring an end to the top-down despotic rape of all that which has value. Of everything sacred. We are here for this purpose. It is our prime mission. Everything else is diversion or denial.

We are living in an apocalyptic and epoch changing moment of evolution. But beware, for there are many voices telling us ‘to just sit-back and watch it happen’. And these are the pseudo spiritual messengers of destruction; not the longed for guides of higher emancipation that they claim to be.
They are deceivers who play on a narcissistic tendency in the human race to only look-out for one’s own interests and try to ignore the plight of the greater life sphere. They are key accomplices of the vampiric, heartless overlords that hold this world to ransom.

No, we are by now, wise enough to see through their devious ways and to reject the poisoned call for self satisfied and self centered passivity.

We are called upon to go forward with courage, cutting through the stupor of a sedated society; answering the call of our divine origins. A call to action. A call which starts with “No”, yet transforms instantly into “Yes”. Yes to joining in unity with all others who share a common commitment to truth, expressed in thought, word and deed.

Julian Rose

Julian is an early pioneer of UK organic farming, a writer and international activist. He is President of the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside and the author of two acclaimed titles ‘Changing Course for Life’ and ‘In Defense of Life’. Find out more at

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The Military


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International Times On Sale Now!

ITs are now available from:

The Bookkeeper Bookshop, 1a Kings Road, St Leonards on Sea

Bookbuster Bookshop, Queens Road, Hastings

Capucchini Cafe, Warrior Square Station, St Leonards on Sea

Wow and Flutter Independent Record Shop, Trinity Street, Hastings  

Central Books….

Paper International Times

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Election year, Blake’s poison tree

infecting the water system.

On the counter a pamphlet proclaims:

White people, wake up, take pride in your race….


While bicycling Wisconsin’s county trunks,

my knee, that intelligent joint

that adjudicates between motion and rest,

has ordered a stop here at ‘Bert’s By The Lake’


where silhouettes slip into shadows,

and an afternoon game show drones on T.V.;

diabetes and ischemic stroke full on the menu;

all eyes in the place like opened switch blades


pointed towards me, so I chose discretion,

don’t ask why amidst all this bucolia

does beauty seem to be the song

of an unfamiliar, untrusted bird;


or why such hatred of anything feminine;

nor do I try for common ground,  Instead

I slip into a booth quiet as I can,

my silly, cleated shoes chirping as I walk.



John Krumberger



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Drifting along, as if

all time was his to waste,

he accumulated years

in the form of diaries.

Each was a log of appointments,

books and CDs purchased,

places he had visited,

the ticked-off birthdays of friends.

Twelve years passed, and to his surprise

he was twelve years older,

twelve kilos heavier,

twelve hundred books and CDs wiser.

‘It was that or the void’ he reassured himself.



Norman Jope
Illustration Nick Victor

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Mike Lesser International Times 1975 Issue 2

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A Grave Ending (1914)



They cast away the iron,

not long after it was laid.

She had insisted,

to set an example,

as you were Justice of the Peace.


Your son never returned home,

his life melted away.

There was no peace or justice anymore.

She showed her metal,

railing at the futilities of war.



© Kim Baker

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fearless. the making of post-rock


fearless. the making of post-rock, Jeanette Leech (£14.95, Jawbone)


By the time I’d finished the thirty pages of the first chapter of this book, I knew I was going to enjoy it. Jeanette Leech quickly lays a foundation for her book and the notion of post-rock, looking back to Ornette Coleman and then following threads of influence, difference and response through Lou Reed, AMM, the Red Crayola, progrock, Bark Psychosis, Tortoise, krautrock, Can, Amon Düül, Eno, Bowie, Joy Division, The Police, The Durutti Column, PiL, dub, Lee Perry, Scritti Politti, Dif Juz, Chorchozade and Sonic Youth, the last acting as a bridge and link to chapter 2 which moves to New York.


Leech is sharp-witted and intelligent, and writes a flowing, easy-to-read prose that facilitates the twists and turns and diversions she pursues throughout time and music. I love that eclectic gathering of music in chapter 1, love that it introduced me to a band I’ve never heard of (Chorchozade) and had me asking ‘really?’ and checking that Andy Summers really did play for Soft Machine. (Yup, he did.) I’ve also never heard anyone suggest that The Police, sans vocals, could be listened to as  dubbed-out post-rock rather than old musos jumping on the new-wave bandwagon! (I’m not convinced.)


The diversity of music discussed, the web of musical, geographical and conceptual ideas is a constant throughout this amazing volume. The likes of the cacophonous Swans and the art-rock experiment of Sonic Youth are discussed alongside the quiet, drumless Hugo Largo, all in relation to Glenn Branca’s slabs of guitar compositions. The wonderful UT, who I remember seeing at Riverside Studios, show up too, as do the No Wave bands and, of course, Eno, who curated an LP of the movement. Somehow Public Enemy get included here, too – again, an interesting and provocative yet well-reasoned inclusion, which is also used to highlight the arrival of samplers in the music biz.


And so it continues, ducking and diving through the music, all the way through to the early 2000s, by which time, Leech argues, the term ‘post-rock’ no longer means anything. If at times I found the pages devoted to the likes of My Bloody Valentine and A.R. Kane not of much interest (I find both bands unlistenable), I enjoyed reading about Talk Talk, David Sylvian, Moonshake, Seefeel and Tortoise as well as many other bands I missed hearing at the time. Again, the points of connection are clearly made, across genres, record labels, lines of influence and resistance.


Negatives? Beyond some bands I’d have liked to have seen in there (Dub Sex and Rip, Rig & Panic, for instance), there’s little downside to this volume. I’m surprised there are no links back to industrial and post-punk music (Nurse with Wound get a brief mention in relation to Stereolab), who seem clear predecessors to much of this this music, surprised that Leech mentions alt-folk as much as she does (but she is the author of a previous volume,  Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk) and drum’n’bass so little, and genuinely appalled that the book ends, in a chapter focussed on the marvellous bands Sigur Ros, Godpseed You Black Emperor! and their associates, by devoting several pages to the musical abomination that is Radiohead.


However, that aside, fearless is a fascinating read as group after group tries to work their way around the obvious tropes of ‘rock’, deconstructing and reinventing it over and over again. Rhythm, texture, content, harmonics, the studio as an instrument, improvisation and editing, sampling, the nature of music and sound itself, are all questioned time and time again. Leech’s title is apt: these musicians were fearless, and in being so made some of the most interesting music at the end of the 20th century.


Rupert Loydell



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We Go Out: Dung Beetle Book

By Ezra EliaMiriam Elia

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Live in it

Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives Logo


July 18, 2017

 As seen at Glastonbury 2017 (photo below). Limited edition print available here.


Darren Cullen

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Robert Montgomery

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Show 33

About the show

Playing tracks by

E-Go, You Know The Way, Welcome To The Void Temple, White Walls, Bones and more.

Chart positions

This upload was 9th in the Alternative Rock chart , 13th in the Indie Rock chart and 27th in the Alternative chart .

Ian Robertson (Chromaticism) returns with another epic instalment of Chromaticism’s – ‘Revolutions On The Radio’. Originally broadcast at 9PM UK on Sunday 20th November 2016, only on Primal Radio

On this episode Chromaticism marks the auspicious one year anniversary of the immense Fuzz Club Records Festival 2015.

With tracks from Day 1 featuring:

Throw down bones, New Candys, The Telescopes (Official), The KVB, Camera and 10,000 Russos …


Ian Robertson

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                                                            CULTIFICATION UNBOUND

                                             At Comicon. Olympia London 29th July 2017


Life starved of light will often hunger for meaning,

Sometimes paper thin, those things written

Can truly satisfy worlds of men,

Not to mention young women too

At this year’s Comicon exhibition,

Which demonstrates how past cultures, can always,

With will, start again.

Thanks to Christien Anholt’s largesse,

I had been gifted a ticket, travelling there,  seeking pleasure,

Having never attended before, I felt blessed.

A Saturday to be spent as Saturdays should;

On adventure, or on exploring the city,

Despite it being cloaked in strange dress.

As I approached Kensington, I started to see them;

Olympians in their costumes gathered on Olympia’s streets

With their swords, as well as their light sabres and guns,

Complete with an incongruous salad,

As if death and glory needed a greater sustenance given

Than that to be granted by a graphic novel’s bright words.

Girls with submarine volumed breasts,

Young children dressed up like Bikers,

For the Comicon’s more than comics, its TV and film, pulp and cult,

Everything under the sun and an alien moon, or a sand dune,

Anything won or conjured within the plastic dreams such fans sculpt.

As I entered the space I was part of densely populated new landscape;

A middle earth now located on the first and second floor, and the third;

An Aircraft hangar of souls, hungering for the flesh of their favour,

As new and former celebrities gathered to legitimise the absurd.

This overcrowding of taste clearly invoked fresh sensations,

As TV shows, films and people associated with fantasy found new skin.

Benedict Cumberbatch, the aforementioned C. Ahholt,

John Cleese, John  Rhys Davies, Missi Pyle, Carol Cleeveland,

The wonderful Sarah Douglas, resplendent in blue, new stars too..

Pamela Anderson, looking, it has to be said, quite enchanting,

Appearing at select intervals like a mirage, for those keen and eager

To see if her appeal was still true. At some distance, it was,

As I continued to scour. There were very few actual comics,

Maybe three stalls in all, yet upstairs, practitioners sat, such as

Leah Moore and her husband, John Reppion at the Heavy Metal Stall,

While Marv Wolfman, comics’ artist of old, sat engaged.

Down below, in the throng, there were Wonder Women

In wheelchairs. There were Blades, they were Batman’s


And others simply re-activating their dreams.

There was a reverence here for lost worlds, squandered

Because they never fully existed, so the actors who sat and signed

Became emblems of the shows and films childhood screened.

Childhood is not the childlike; fantasy replicates it,

Removing us from our troubles, so work like this benefits,,

Both the untutored heart and the romantic soaked


In seclusion, there is nothing quite like meeting someone

Who played a character your hopes battle,

Or to whom, in the right lighting, you would more than happily

Now submit. Seeing these people older now,

The weathered and worn are reminded of a long sought desire

Whose hand you can hold and eyes scan; now you can grow

Warm to the cold that once placed these things at a distance,

And so conventions are congress between golden royalty

And the insecure common man.  Today, every woman dressed up,

Wanting a speed date with their hero. I watched them preen,

And spend money on the particular chance to confront

Or grow close to someone they prized, and I watched the actors, too,

Worn but greatful for this fresh celebration of all that they themselves

Valued once.  Their talents. Their time. And perhaps their partial


Suffering also, as their own lives were affected

By some of the pressures they faced.  Although insane,

Here the famed can find the true reason for it;

A plastic dedication which will not yield to the flame.

If preserved, it remains, that thing they once were, making movies,

And maybe still; their diversions over time become fact.

If you can move someone else, or be part of another world


They can move to, or make them laugh, cry, or hard, there’s the glory,

Whether or not the show’s bad.  Its what it does to you and its hold,

A result of what the last century gave us; the techniques

To evaluate this one, or any of those after that.

I spent four hours inside, roaming the halls, watching others,

Both the Spendwells and the makeshifts, each seeming to seek

A star’s kiss. I saw an education in tat, and then beautiful books,


Looks and objects. I saw a Grail of Python imitators

And one of about twenty Supermen take a piss.

I saw how the past can return to make an enthusiast’s future.

I saw how a bare space can become a thriving kingdom of souls.

Comicon and its like have become the fresh temples.

The Gods maybe different, or out of tune with the times,

Or they may well be singing the song that provides the new anthem;


These people, unbound, have found something;

The freedom to unearth your own light.



David Erdos 30th July 2017

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Divine Comedy

Inferno, Canto X:

1:Gustave Dore Ferinata

Many artists have attempted to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, but none have made such an indelible stamp on our collective imagination as the Frenchman Gustave Doré.

Doré was 23 years old in 1855, when he first decided to create a series of engravings for a deluxe edition of Dante’s classic.  He was already the highest-paid illustrator in France, with popular editions of Rabelais and Balzac under his belt, but Doré was unable to convince his publisher, Louis Hachette, to finance such an ambitious and expensive project. The young artist decided to pay the publishing costs for the first book himself. When the illustrated Inferno came out in 1861, it sold out fast. Hachette summoned Doré back to his office with a telegram: “Success! Come quickly! I am an ass!”

Hachette published Purgatorio and Paradiso as a single volume in 1868. Since then, Doré’s Divine Comedy has appeared in hundreds of editions. Although he went on to illustrate a great many other literary works, from the Bible to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Doré is perhaps best remembered for his depictions of Dante. At The World of Dante, art historian Aida Audeh writes:

Characterized by an eclectic mix of Michelangelesque nudes, northern traditions of sublime landscape, and elements of popular culture, Doré’s Dante illustrations were considered among his crowning achievements — a perfect match of the artist’s skill and the poet’s vivid visual imagination. As one critic wrote in 1861 upon publication of the illustrated Inferno: “we are inclined to believe that the conception and the interpretation come from the same source, that Dante and Gustave Doré are communicating by occult and solemn conversations the secret of this Hell plowed by their souls, traveled, explored by them in every sense.”

The scene above is from Canto X of the Inferno. Dante and his guide, Virgil, are passing through the Sixth Circle of Hell, in a place reserved for the souls of heretics, when they look down and see the imposing figure of Farinata degli Uberti, a Tuscan nobleman who had agreed with Epicurus that the soul dies with the body, rising up from an open grave. In the translation by John Ciardi, Dante writes:

My eyes were fixed on him already. Erect,
he rose above the flame, great chest, great brow;
he seemed to hold all Hell in disrespect

Inferno, Canto XVI:

2:Gustave Dore Geryon

As Dante and Virgil prepare to leave Circle Seven, they are met by the fearsome figure of Geryon, Monster of Fraud. Virgil arranges for Geryon to fly them down to Circle Eight. He climbs onto the monster’s back and instructs Dante to do the same.

Then he called out: “Now, Geryon, we are ready:
bear well in mind that his is living weight
and make your circles wide and your flight steady.”

As a small ship slides from a beaching or its pier,
backward, backward — so that monster slipped
back from the rim. And when he had drawn clear

he swung about, and stretching out his tail
he worked it like an eel, and with his paws
he gathered in the air, while I turned pale.

Inferno, Canto XXXIV:

3:Gustave Dore Satan

In the Ninth Circle of Hell, at the very center of the Earth, Dante and Virgil encounter the gigantic figure of Satan. As Ciardi writes in his commentary:

He is fixed into the ice at the center to which flow all the rivers of guilt; and as he beats his great wings as if to escape, their icy wind only freezes him more surely into the polluted ice. In a grotesque parody of the Trinity, he has three faces, each a different color, and in each mouth he clamps a sinner whom he rips eternally with his teeth. Judas Iscariot is in the central mouth: Brutus and Cassius in the mouths on either side.

Purgatorio, Canto II:

4:arrival of souls purgatory

At dawn on Easter Sunday, Dante and Virgil have just emerged from Hell when they witness The Angel Boatman speeding a new group of souls to the shore of Purgatory.

Then as that bird of heaven closed the distance
between us, he grew brighter and yet brighter
until I could no longer bear the radiance,

and bowed my head. He steered straight for the shore,
his ship so light and swift it drew no water;
it did not seem to sail so much as soar.

Astern stood the great pilot of the Lord,
so fair his blessedness seemed written on him;
and more than a hundred souls were seated forward,

singing as if they raised a single voice
in exitu Israel de Aegypto.
Verse after verse they made the air rejoice.

The angel made the sign of the cross, and they
cast themselves, at his signal, to the shore.
Then, swiftly as he had come, he went away.

Purgatorio, Canto IV:

5:Gustave Dore Mount of Purgatory

The poets begin their laborious climb up the Mount of Purgatory. Partway up the steep path, Dante cries out to Virgil that he needs to rest.

The climb had sapped my last strength when I cried:
“Sweet Father, turn to me: unless you pause
I shall be left here on the mountainside!”

He pointed to a ledge a little ahead
that wound around the whole face of the slope.
“Pull yourself that much higher, my son,” he said.

His words so spurred me that I forced myself
to push on after him on hands and knees
until at last my feet were on that shelf.

Purgatorio, Canto XXXI:

6:Matilda in River Lethe

Having ascended at last to the Garden of Eden, Dante is immersed in the waters of the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and helped across by the maiden Matilda. He drinks from the water, which wipes away all memory of sin.

She had drawn me into the stream up to my throat,
and pulling me behind her, she sped on
over the water, light as any boat.

Nearing the sacred bank, I heard her say
in tones so sweet I cannot call them back,
much less describe them here: “Asperges me.”

Then the sweet lady took my head between
her open arms, and embracing me, she dipped me
and made me drink the waters that make clean.

Paradiso, Canto V:

7: Gustave Dore glowing souls

In the Second Heaven, the Sphere of Mercury, Dante sees a multitude of glowing souls. In the translation by Allen Mandelbaum, he writes:

As in a fish pool that is calm and clear,
the fish draw close to anything that nears
from outside, it seems to be their fare,
such were the far more than a thousand splendors
I saw approaching us, and each declared:
“Here now is one who will increase our loves.”
And even as each shade approached, one saw,
because of the bright radiance it set forth,
the joyousness with which that shade was filled.

Paradiso, Canto XXVIII:

8: Gustave Dore Heavenly host

Upon reaching the Ninth Heaven, the Primum Mobile, Dante and his guide Beatrice look upon the sparkling circles of the heavenly host. (The Christian Beatrice, who personifies Divine Love, took over for the pagan Virgil, who personifies Reason, as Dante’s guide when he reached the summit of Purgatory.)

And when I turned and my own eyes were met
By what appears within that sphere whenever
one looks intently at its revolution,
I saw a point that sent forth so acute
a light, that anyone who faced the force
with which it blazed would have to shut his eyes,
and any star that, seen from the earth, would seem
to be the smallest, set beside that point,
as star conjoined with star, would seem a moon.
Around that point a ring of fire wheeled,
a ring perhaps as far from that point as
a halo from the star that colors it
when mist that forms the halo is most thick.
It wheeled so quickly that it would outstrip
the motion that most swiftly girds the world.

Paradiso, Canto XXXI:

9: Gustave Dore Rose

In the Empyrean, the highest heaven, Dante is shown the dwelling place of God. It appears in the form of an enormous rose, the petals of which house the souls of the faithful. Around the center, angels fly like bees carrying the nectar of divine love.

So, in the shape of that white Rose, the holy
legion has shown to me — the host that Christ,
with His own blood, had taken as His bride.
The other host, which, flying, sees and sings
the glory of the One who draws its love,
and that goodness which granted it such glory,
just like a swarm of bees that, at one moment,
enters the flowers and, at another, turns
back to that labor which yields such sweet savor,
descended into that vast flower graced
with many petals, then again rose up
to the eternal dwelling of its love.


by |




You can access a free edition of The Divine Comedy featuring Doré’s illustrations at Project Gutenberg. And for a very different artistic interpretation of the same work, see our post, “Salvador Dali’s 100 Illustrations of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.” A Yale course on reading Dante in translation appears in the Literature section of our collection of 750


  • About Us

    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.

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Noise Reduction System.


Noise Reduction System. Formative European Electronica 1974-84
(Cherry Red 4CD)

This is the follow-up to last year’s astonishing Close to the Noise Floor compilation which gathered up UK ‘formative electronica’ from the same era. I’m a bit suspicious of the term to be honest, especially as the work looks back to hippy synthesizer music as much as forward to what we usually think of as electronica, but it’s a fantastic musical set whatever it’s labelled as.



What it does do is mix bands like Cluster, D.A.F., Yello and Klaus Schulze, probably known to most of us, with a huge selection of music from the home-taping and indie movement that was prevalent at the time. Here are crash-and-bang percussion outings, recordings of primitive synths and children’s toys, analogue recordings – this is pre-sampler remember – rumbling and squealing in the mix, grim Eastern Europe soundtracks and joyous pre-techno upbeat excursions.

The anthology is quite good at skirting the industrial tape labels, with their pre-apocalyptic noise recordings of hoovers, plodding basslines and doomy vocals (I know, I recorded some); it likewise skirts the sexually perverse, necrophiliac and right-wing obsessions of some of the dodgier noise-merchants; and is dismissive (in the extensive and informative booklet) of the mainstream synthesizer pop from the likes of Thomas Dolby or The Thompson Twins. What it does offer is a kaleidoscopic free for all, underpinned by an inquisitive and experimental, often Dadaesque, approach to sound, using the (often basic) instruments to hand in home studios or direct onto 4-track recording consoles.

It’s good to hear Vox Populi again, though their simplistic mono synth over pingpong rhythm here is a world away from their later more complex rhythms and sonic approach; to groove to the driving insistency of Front 242, who were always an edgy listen; and to find new music such as the ethereal, drifting ‘NY NY’ from Truus de Groot, Stratis’ complex and poetic ‘Birds in a Cage’, and the wacky, cleverly constructed ‘Biomutanten’ by Les Vampyrettes, a Holger Czukay project. It’s also good to know David Henderson, who wrote about and championed much of the music gathered here and on the previous compilation, is alive and well and as opinionated as ever in his slightly nostalgic introduction. (Can I call them sleeve notes? Probably not.)

The late 70s and early 80s were great times for music. Punk & post-punk really had cleared a way for musicians to make their own music, even if punk itself was of little interest. But tapes and records, whether singles, EPs or albums (or even flexidiscs!), were a source of excitement in the sercet corners of indie record shops like Rough Trade, or when they arrived through the mail. There was (and is) something about objects as opposed to downloaded MP3s. Tapes often came with hand made booklets and covers, lyric sheets, information, postcards and contact details. Noise Reduction System is evidence of this excitement and exchange, witness to a generation making new music for themselves and each other. It’s good to listen again.

    Rupert Loydell



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Collecting Concert Posters

Collecting Concert Posters: The Art of Rock

Updated on January 25, 2017

The Art of Rock

The Chambers Brothers Matrix Concert Poster NR-12 (Neon Rose, 1967) Art by Victor Moscoso
The Chambers Brothers Matrix Concert Poster NR-12 (Neon Rose, 1967) Art by Victor Moscoso | Source

Collecting Concert Posters

The concert poster is a great visual history of rock n’ roll that centers on the posters which were created to advertise the musicians and concert venues. With over six decades of concert posters available, these event posters have become a wildly popular collectible that has taken on a life of their own, sometimes outshining the rock bands they were created to promote. The popular art of concert posters allow collectors to collect by music genre, by musician, by poster artist and even by venue or promoter. Concert promoters also created handbill versions of many of their posters and used them as sidewalk handouts and dashboard fliers to promote upcoming shows. Many of these handbills were double-sided, with poster art on one side and a calendar of upcoming shows on the other. These handbills represent an important element of rock concert history because they were hands on marketing tools that united promoter and concert fan. Concert poster are not only avidly collected today but have spawned collectors clubs, groups and annual conventions that celebrate the concert poster such as Flatstock or The Rock Poster Society (TRPS).

Big Brother & the Holding Company Avalon Ballroom 1966

Big Brother and the Holding Company Top Hat Avalon Concert Poster Family Dog 1966 Poster Design Illustration by Victor Moscoso
Big Brother and the Holding Company Top Hat Avalon Concert Poster Family Dog 1966 Poster Design Illustration by Victor Moscoso | Source

Janis Joplin “Ball And Chain”

Family Dog Poster 66′

This is a fantastic pre-concert first printing of this poster starring Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company which is from December 1966, Joining Janis and the boys on the bill that night were Oxford Circle along with keyboard wizard Lee Michaels. This poster features Chet Helm’s infamous pot-smoking top-hatted Indian mascot and future logo art of Family Dog Productions the tripped-out poster graphics and design were provided by Victor Moscoso.

Great Society Fillmore Auditorium 1966

Grace Slick and the Great Society / 13th Floor Elevators Fillmore Auditorium Concert Poster Bill Graham 1966 Poster Art by Wes Wilson
Grace Slick and the Great Society / 13th Floor Elevators Fillmore Auditorium Concert Poster Bill Graham 1966 Poster Art by Wes Wilson | Source

“Somebody To Love”

Fillmore Poster BG-25

A very young Grace Slick seems to stare out from this hard to find Fillmore concert poster. At the time of this concert Grace was fronting her own band The Great Society, who had already penned the song “Someone to Love,” which would become legend when Grace again records it with Jefferson Airplane. The groups featured on this poster include 13th Floor Elevators, The Great Society, and Sopwith Camel. This concert event poster is part of the Bill Graham numbered series and is designated BG-25 with the poster graphics provided by Wes Wilson, complete with his signature lettering style that is so recognizable today in contemporary print advertising. The overall size of this great first print pre-concert poster is 13 11/16″ x 21″.

The Rock Poster Society TRPS 2004

The Rock Poster Society presents Second Annual TRPS Festival of Rock Posters October 16, 2004 at the Hall Of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
The Rock Poster Society presents Second Annual TRPS Festival of Rock Posters October 16, 2004 at the Hall Of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco | Source

Visit the The Rock Poster Society website.

Quicksilver Messenger Service, Kaleidoscope 1968

Quicksilver Messenger Service, Kaleidoscope "Eternal Reservoir" Avalon Ballroom Concert Poster Family Dog FD-101 (1968).Rick Griffin Poster Art
Quicksilver Messenger Service, Kaleidoscope “Eternal Reservoir” Avalon Ballroom Concert Poster Family Dog FD-101 (1968).Rick Griffin Poster Art | Source

Blues Project Avalon Ballroom 1966

Blues Project Avalon Concert Poster FD-5-2 Family Dog 1966 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Wes Wilson
Blues Project Avalon Concert Poster FD-5-2 Family Dog 1966 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Wes Wilson | Source

The Blues Project 1967

Family Dog FD-005

This is a great 1966 pre-concert first edition Avalon Ballroom concert poster by Family Dog Productions FD-005. This was the first Family Dog Production concert of many that were held at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom. The Family Dog’s logo mascot, a joint-smoking, top-hatted Indian, made his first appearance on this poster for this show featuring the Blues Project and the Great Society. These great poster graphics and design were created by Wes Wilson.

13th Floor Elevators Avalon Ballroom 1966

 13th Floor Elevators, Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Avalon Ballroom Family Dog Poster #28 by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse 1966
13th Floor Elevators, Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Avalon Ballroom Family Dog Poster #28 by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse 1966 | Source

Family Dog FD-28

This stunning Family Dog poster is by the graphic art team of Stanley Mouse & Anton Kelley. the poster design is the original zebra man image which was borrowed a month later Gary Grimshaw for a Grande Ballroom poster. The boldly colored poster was used to promote a September 1966 show by Quicksilver Messenger Service and the 13th floor elevators. FD-28

13th Floor Elevators “You’re Gonna Miss Me”

Jimi Hendrix Experience Fillmore East Poster 1968

Jimi Hendrix Experience Fillmore East Concert Poster Bill Graham / Fantasy Unlimited 1968 Poster Art and Graphic Design by David Byrd
Jimi Hendrix Experience Fillmore East Concert Poster Bill Graham / Fantasy Unlimited 1968 Poster Art and Graphic Design by David Byrd | Source

Foxey Lady Miami Pop Fest 1968

Bill Graham Fillmore Poster

Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his career in 1968, when he played these two shows for this one-day-only concert. Sly & the Family Stone, who were not mentioned on this 1st printing Fantasy Unlimited poster was the opening band and at the time were just starting to get airplay so Sly was relatively unknown and was heckled by a crowd that was there to see Hendrix. The poster graphics and design are by David Byrd’s who later designed a cover for a Hendrix press kit at Jimi’s request.

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Avalon Ballroom 1966

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band Avalon Concert Poster FD-13 Family Dog 1966 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Stanley Mouse
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band Avalon Concert Poster FD-13 Family Dog 1966 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Stanley Mouse | Source

Captain Beefheart Documentary

Family Dog FD-13

This is a fantastic concert poster featuring Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band at the Avalon Ballroom Family Dog FD-13 1966. The Dada-Rock star best known at that time for his cover version of “Diddy Wah Diddy” who was the headliner for this early Family Dog show, with opening act Oxford Circle. This is a great first printing poster designed by Stanley “Mouse” Miller and Alton Kelley which measures approximately 14 3/16″ x 20″. A truly nice example of this poster is hard to find as the 1st printing posters vary in quality some are sharp and others muddy because of printing problems in the original run. The irregularities mostly consist of with the red ink which had a tendency of smearing and extending outside the black border into the lettering or the bull image, this fantastic poster exhibits none of those problems.

Video Collage of Psychedelic Concert Poster Art

The Grateful Dead, The Fugs, “Acid Test” Poster Muir Beach 1965

The Fugs, The Grateful Dead, Allen Ginsberg, Can You Pass the Acid Test ? Paul Foster "Acid Test" Concert Poster for Muir Beach Dec. 11, 1965
The Fugs, The Grateful Dead, Allen Ginsberg, Can You Pass the Acid Test ? Paul Foster “Acid Test” Concert Poster for Muir Beach Dec. 11, 1965 | Source

The Grateful Dead Muir Beach Concert Poster 1965

This is a great event poster designed by Paul Foster for the Muir Beach “Acid Tests” December 11, 1965. The happeners are likely to include: The Fugs, Allen Ginsberg, The Merry Pranksters, Neal Cassady, The Grateful Dead and Roy’s Audioptics, movies and more. This poster was made in three colors blue, goldenrod and white

The Gratefuld Dead Youth Opportunities Center Watts 1966

The Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters "Acid Test" Youth Opportunities Center Watts CA February 12, 1966
The Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters “Acid Test” Youth Opportunities Center Watts CA February 12, 1966 | Source

Youth Opportunities Center Watts Acid Test Concert Poster

In early February of 1966, the Dead followed the Merry Pranksters down to the Los Angeles area to continue and expand the “Acid Tests”. The acid test itself was conducted at the Youth Opportunities Center in Watts, CA.

The Doors Fillmore West Concert Poster 1967

The Doors Fillmore West Concert Poster Bill Graham 1967 BG-67 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Bonnie MacLean Vintage Pop Art
The Doors Fillmore West Concert Poster Bill Graham 1967 BG-67 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Bonnie MacLean Vintage Pop Art | Source

Fillmore Poster BG-67′

The Doors are top-billed for the first time on this numbered poster from the Bill Graham presents series and is designated BG-67. This is a fantastic Fillmore poster which comes complete with a crazy design by Bill Graham’s wife Bonnie MacLean which measures approximately 14″ x 23 1/16″. The Doors share the bill on this pre-concert first printing poster with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band and a light show by Dan Bruhns’ Fillmore Lights.

The Doors “The End”

Dave Van Ronk Berkeley Concert Poster 1967

Dave Van Ronk, Mimi Farina, Fred Neil Hear the Seers in Concert Berkeley Concert Poster 1967 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Greg Irons Vintage Pop Art
Dave Van Ronk, Mimi Farina, Fred Neil Hear the Seers in Concert Berkeley Concert Poster 1967 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Greg Irons Vintage Pop Art | Source

Dave Van Ronk “House Of The Rising Sun”

Dave Van Ronk 67′

“Hear the Seers in Concert” Pronounced by this 1967 Berkeley Concert Poster which featured some of the best names in mid-sixties folk music such as the headliner Dave Van Ronk, who shared the bill with Mimi Farina and Fred Neil. The posters great fortune-teller graphics and design were created by underground comix artist Greg Irons. This Greg Irons poster measures approximately 14″ x 20″.

Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Buffalo Springfield Kaleidoscope Club 1968

Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat and Buffalo Springfield The Kaleidoscope Club Concert Poster 1968 Vintage Round Concert Poster Pop Art
Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat and Buffalo Springfield The Kaleidoscope Club Concert Poster 1968 Vintage Round Concert Poster Pop Art | Source

Jefferson Airplane White Rabbit

The Kaleidoscope 68′

Have you ever seen a round concert poster ?? The Kaleidoscope, a fancy Los Angeles club featured round concert posters. What a great triple bill Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Buffalo Springfield. on this Kaleidoscope Concert Poster.The club was housed in the former television studio which filmed the old “Queen For a Day” show, back in the 1950s This poster measures approximately 18.75″ across.

The Rex Foundation Poster

The Rex Foundation Poster Art by Stanley Mouse
The Rex Foundation Poster Art by Stanley Mouse | Source

The Rex Foundation

In the fall of 1983, members of the Grateful Dead established the non-profit charity known as the Rex Foundation, named after deceased road manager Rex Jackson. The Dead were playing more benefits than almost any other band, and this organization enabled them to contribute more money to more recipients. Guided by the philanthropic principles of Jerry Garcia and other members of the Grateful Dead, the Foundation supports creative endeavors in the arts, sciences and education, with a focus on grassroots efforts. Since the fist benefit held in 1984, millions of dollars and thousands of people have been impacted by the Rex Foundation. The Poster Art and design are by Stanley Mouse

Visit The Rex Foundation Website

The Rex Foundation Poster

The Rex Foundation Poster, 2001 show at the Warfield Theater presented Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir along with Merl Saunders, Peter Rowan and other friends of the band in a benefit for the Rex Foundation.
The Rex Foundation Poster, 2001 show at the Warfield Theater presented Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir along with Merl Saunders, Peter Rowan and other friends of the band in a benefit for the Rex Foundation. | Source

Nirvana Palaghiaccio Marino Rome Italy 1994

Nirvana Palaghiaccio Marino Rome Italy Concert Poster 1994 Graphic Design and Art by Alessandro Locchi
Nirvana Palaghiaccio Marino Rome Italy Concert Poster 1994 Graphic Design and Art by Alessandro Locchi | Source

Nirvana Concert Poster Rome 1994

Palaghiaccio Marino Rome Italy concert from the ill-fated last tour would be one of the band’s last shows. The poster features a haunting, In Utero-inspired design by Italian artist Alessandro Locchi which measures approximately 19.5″ x 27.75″. This is a Limited Edition Nirvana poster of 1000 pieces.

The Festival of Rock Posters 2003

The Festival of Rock Posters Nov 15, 2003 Hall Of Flowers San Francisco County Fair Building, Golden Gate
The Festival of Rock Posters Nov 15, 2003 Hall Of Flowers San Francisco County Fair Building, Golden Gate | Source

The Doors Avalon Ballroom 1967

The Doors Avalon Ballroom Concert Poster FD-57 Family Dog 1967 Art and Graphic Design by Victor Moscoso
The Doors Avalon Ballroom Concert Poster FD-57 Family Dog 1967 Art and Graphic Design by Victor Moscoso | Source

The Doors 67′

This is a great psychedelic Family Dog concert poster for The Doors at the Avalon Ballroom Concert Poster FD-57 1967.. Any fan of 1960s Psychedelic art has to love this Doors poster which was designed by Zap Comix artist Victor Moscoso for the legendary Avalon Ballroom, it’s as trippy as they get! This first printing poster measures 13 15/16″ x 20″.

Video Collage of Poster Art

Jefferson Airplane “Benefit For The Grateful Dead” 1970

Vintage Jefferson Airplane A Benefit For The Grateful Dead Concert Poster BG-222 Bill Graham Presents 1970 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Randy Tuten
Vintage Jefferson Airplane A Benefit For The Grateful Dead Concert Poster BG-222 Bill Graham Presents 1970 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Randy Tuten | Source

Jefferson Airplane 70′

Throughout their career, the Grateful Dead frequently performed at benefits for a wide variety of causes including the Rex Foundation founded by the Grateful Dead. When the Dead got busted in New Orleans on drug possession charges, several San Francisco acts felt compelled to play a benefit for them. This is the Bill Graham series poster from that special event, a note of interest — this is the only poster in the Bill Grahams series that does not read “Bill Graham Presents” at the top, but instead, it reads “A Benefit For The Grateful Dead.” Bands performing at the benefit were Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, It’s A Beautiful Day, and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. Light show by Glenn McKay’s Head Lights. The great design and graphics on this poster by Randy Tuten with the overall size of this poster being 13 7/8″ x 20 15/16″.

The Grateful Dead Fillmore West 1968

Vintage Grateful Dead Fillmore West Concert Poster BG-144 Bill Graham 1968 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Lee Conklin
Vintage Grateful Dead Fillmore West Concert Poster BG-144 Bill Graham 1968 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Lee Conklin | Source

The Grateful Dead 68′

This is a fantastic Bill Graham presents Grateful Dead Fillmore West concert poster with the designation BG-144 from 1968 which measures 14 1/16″ x 20 3/8″. On this evening the Dead shared the stage with Quicksilver Messenger Service and Linn County. The psychedelic art and design on this Fillmore poster are by Lee Conklin.

The Grateful Dead & Blue Cheer Shrine Auditorium 1968

Vintage Grateful Dead with Blue Cheer poster Psychedelic Solutions Poster Art and Graphic Design by Rick Griffin Pop Art
Vintage Grateful Dead with Blue Cheer poster Psychedelic Solutions Poster Art and Graphic Design by Rick Griffin Pop Art | Source

The Grateful Dead 68′

This is a Great Black and White Poster for the Grateful Dead and Blue Cheer measuring 15″ x 22.5″ printed on off-white textured stock. The poster art and design is by Rick Griffin who has been closely identified with the Grateful Dead over the years and this image is a macabre variation on the Dead’s lightning logo. This 2nd printing poster was printed by Rick Griffin in collaboration with Psychedelic Solution in the 1980s. It was printed on four different paper colors: white, blue, red, and purple. It is slightly larger than the original, measuring 15″ x 22 3/4″.

Crosby Stills Nash & Young Winterland Ballroom 1969

Vintage Crosby Stills Nash and Young Winterland Concert Poster BG-200 Bill Graham 1969 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Randy Tuten
Vintage Crosby Stills Nash and Young Winterland Concert Poster BG-200 Bill Graham 1969 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Randy Tuten | Source

CSNY & Tom Jones 1969

Bill Graham Poster BG-200

Randy Tuten designed this stylish 1969 Winterland poster of the Folk Rock foursome Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. This concert poster was part of the Bill Graham numbered series designated as BG-200. This concert poster only had single printing which was a milestone for Bill Graham as it was his 200th concert. Joining CSN&Y at these shows were Cold Blood, Joy of Cooking, and Lamb. This concert poster measures 14″ x 21 7/16″.

Jefferson Airplane Fillmore West 1966

Vintage Jefferson Airplane Fillmore West Concert Poster BG-04 Bill Graham 1966 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Wes Wilson
Vintage Jefferson Airplane Fillmore West Concert Poster BG-04 Bill Graham 1966 Poster Art and Graphic Design by Wes Wilson | Source

“It’s No Secret” 1966

Bill Graham Poster BG-04

This is one of the first Fillmore posters to utilize the soon-to-be-standard psychedelic lettering style invented by artist Wes Wilson. This is an early Bill Graham numbered series poster designated BG-04. Jefferson Airplane share this bill with Quicksilver Messanger Service and Lightning Hopkins on this pre-concert 1st printing poster which has green and purple ink printed on a plain un-coated white stock that measures 14″ x 20 1/16″.


Documentary — The Art of Rock

Jefferson Airplane “Somebody To Love” 1967

The Doors “Riders Of the Storm” 1967

Johnny Winter, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper “It’s My Own Fault”

Copyright Disclaimer

I make no copyright claims on the video content or images of drawings, paintings, prints, or other two-dimensional works of art contained with-in this article, the copyright for these items are most likely owned by either the artist who produced the image, or the person who commissioned the work and or their heirs. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.


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Wanted For War Crimes

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Every Time I Cross the Tamar

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The Sons of Anak

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Sam Shepard

My Buddy

Sam Shepard and Patti Smith at the Hotel Chelsea in 1971.

Photograph by David Gahr/Getty

He would call me late in the night from somewhere on the road, a ghost town in Texas, a rest stop near Pittsburgh, or from Santa Fe, where he was parked in the desert, listening to the coyotes howling. But most often he would call from his place in Kentucky, on a cold, still night, when one could hear the stars breathing. Just a late-night phone call out of a blue, as startling as a canvas by Yves Klein; a blue to get lost in, a blue that might lead anywhere. I’d happily awake, stir up some Nescafé and we’d talk about anything. About the emeralds of Cortez, or the white crosses in Flanders Fields, about our kids, or the history of the Kentucky Derby. But mostly we talked about writers and their books. Latin writers. Rudy Wurlitzer. Nabokov. Bruno Schulz.

“Gogol was Ukrainian,” he once said, seemingly out of nowhere. Only not just any nowhere, but a sliver of a many-faceted nowhere that, when lifted in a certain light, became a somewhere. I’d pick up the thread, and we’d improvise into dawn, like two beat-up tenor saxophones, exchanging riffs.

He sent a message from the mountains of Bolivia, where Mateo Gil was shooting “Blackthorn.” The air was thin up there in the Andes, but he navigated it fine, outlasting, and surely outriding, the younger fellows, saddling up no fewer than five different horses. He said that he would bring me back a serape, a black one with rust-colored stripes. He sang in those mountains by a bonfire, old songs written by broken men in love with their own vanishing nature. Wrapped in blankets, he slept under the stars, adrift on Magellanic Clouds.

Sam liked being on the move. He’d throw a fishing rod or an old acoustic guitar in the back seat of his truck, maybe take a dog, but for sure a notebook, and a pen, and a pile of books. He liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west. He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he would wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.

In the winter of 2012, we met up in Dublin, where he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Trinity College. He was often embarrassed by accolades but embraced this one, coming from the same institution where Samuel Beckett walked and studied. He loved Beckett, and had a few pieces of writing, in Beckett’s own hand, framed in the kitchen, along with pictures of his kids. That day, we saw the typewriter of John Millington Synge and James Joyce’s spectacles, and, in the night, we joined musicians at Sam’s favorite local pub, the Cobblestone, on the other side of the river. As we playfully staggered across the bridge, he recited reams of Beckett off the top of his head.

Sam promised me that one day he’d show me the landscape of the Southwest, for though well-travelled, I’d not seen much of our own country. But Sam was dealt a whole other hand, stricken with a debilitating affliction. He eventually stopped picking up and leaving. From then on, I visited him, and we read and talked, but mostly we worked. Laboring over his last manuscript, he courageously summoned a reservoir of mental stamina, facing each challenge that fate apportioned him. His hand, with a crescent moon tattooed between his thumb and forefinger, rested on the table before him. The tattoo was a souvenir from our younger days, mine a lightning bolt on the left knee.

Going over a passage describing the Western landscape, he suddenly looked up and said, “I’m sorry I can’t take you there.” I just smiled, for somehow he had already done just that. Without a word, eyes closed, we tramped through the American desert that rolled out a carpet of many colors—saffron dust, then russet, even the color of green glass, golden greens, and then, suddenly, an almost inhuman blue. Blue sand, I said, filled with wonder. Blue everything, he said, and the songs we sang had a color of their own.

We had our routine: Awake. Prepare for the day. Have coffee, a little grub. Set to work, writing. Then a break, outside, to sit in the Adirondack chairs and look at the land. We didn’t have to talk then, and that is real friendship. Never uncomfortable with silence, which, in its welcome form, is yet an extension of conversation. We knew each other for such a long time. Our ways could not be defined or dismissed with a few words describing a careless youth. We were friends; good or bad, we were just ourselves. The passing of time did nothing but strengthen that. Challenges escalated, but we kept going and he finished his work on the manuscript. It was sitting on the table. Nothing was left unsaid. When I departed, Sam was reading Proust.

Long, slow days passed. It was a Kentucky evening filled with the darting light of fireflies, and the sound of the crickets and choruses of bullfrogs. Sam walked to his bed and lay down and went to sleep, a stoic, noble sleep. A sleep that led to an unwitnessed moment, as love surrounded him and breathed the same air. The rain fell when he took his last breath, quietly, just as he would have wished. Sam was a private man. I know something of such men. You have to let them dictate how things go, even to the end. The rain fell, obscuring tears. His children, Jesse, Walker, and Hannah, said goodbye to their father. His sisters Roxanne and Sandy said goodbye to their brother.

I was far away, standing in the rain before the sleeping lion of Lucerne, a colossal, noble, stoic lion carved from the rock of a low cliff. The rain fell, obscuring tears. I knew that I would see Sam again somewhere in the landscape of dream, but at that moment I imagined I was back in Kentucky, with the rolling fields and the creek that widens into a small river. I pictured Sam’s books lining the shelves, his boots lined against the wall, beneath the window where he would watch the horses grazing by the wooden fence. I pictured myself sitting at the kitchen table, reaching for that tattooed hand.

A long time ago, Sam sent me a letter. A long one, where he told me of a dream that he had hoped would never end. “He dreams of horses,” I told the lion. “Fix it for him, will you? Have Big Red waiting for him, a true champion. He won’t need a saddle, he won’t need anything.” I headed to the French border, a crescent moon rising in the black sky. I said goodbye to my buddy, calling to him, in the dead of night.

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The Music of the Future


The Music of the Future, Robert Barry (Repeater Books)


Robert Barry’s book is the most exciting book on music I have read for a long time. It looks back over the last few centuries to discuss and contextualise how musicians have imagined and conjured the future of music, shocking and electrifying audiences with their abstraction, noise and systems. Some of this was publicity and sleight of hand (nothing changes!) – Barry is good at considering how traditional Wagner’s music is, despite his reputation for composing difficult and avant-garde music, rooted in standard musical notation, keys and forms.


Elsewhere he looks at what was proposed but not achieved in manifestos, fiction and writing, and also how digital and online music is not quite what was previously imagined by the likes of Muzak et al who were in many ways the embodiment of historical fictions about piped music for all. He also briefly discusses how ‘the album’ is in many ways defunct since we can each download the individual tracks we like. But many critics have done this, and this is more a book about time, imagination and ambition, with an underlying question about who is imagining (or even making) music in the 21st century for our future.


The book is divided into 3 main chapters, each rooted in a specific year – 1913, 1852 and 2079 – with a Prelude, two Intervals and a Coda wrapped around them, each of these a more personal reflection and narrative from recent times. Each chapter’s date, however, is only a marker to start and root the discussion, Barry’s text roams widely through the centuries, making intelligent and provocative links and associations to underpin his discussions. If I have any gripes it’s that I wish it roamed wider in the late 20th century and early 21st century. It mentions Sun Ra and some contemporary musicians, but rock and jazz feel like an aside here, the discussion is mainly rooted in the classical music world, although that includes contemporary and experimental classical composers, including the likes of Stockhausen and Ligeti, as well as considering musique concrete and the Futurists.


It would have been interesting to have followed associative chains from Ligeti (a main player here) through the soundtrack to 2001 A Space Odyssey, which I suspect is where most people would know his work from, and beyond, and also link to the works of the English composer David Bedford whose own musical compositions were inspired by and drew on Ligeti’s music, but who also worked with the likes of Kevin Ayers and Mike Oldfield. These links between popular and classical music seem as important as some of the other links Barry highlights. But maybe that’s another book?


I hope so. The book Barry has written is succinct (168 pages plus a bibliography), clear, readable and thoughtful (but not overtly academic or specialised) and well argued. It thankfully doesn’t reach any grand conclusion or finale, but it does provoke and question the reader through it’s carefully structured and diverse discussions and arguments. There are, it seems to me, composers and music makers around the world imagining and desiring something different, even writing about it. I hope Barry will continue his search and hunt them down, then write about them as enthusiastically and informatively as he has here.


© Rupert Loydell 2017

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The burnt out trees will leave you cold…

 – Beth Orton


At that moment, when I thought I was about to die, I saw my entire life unravel. It was an indistinct vision, a split second in time. Can I describe the shape of my life as I saw it then, at that moment?

The starting point, the point of departure, as it were, was a Point – I saw a microscopic, metallic point lost in a black void.

Is it possible to call a point a shape?

Should I think of this point as a complex entity, like a trefoil icosahedron or a Medusa-like tangle of helical forms unwinding through time? Undoubtedly the split-second itself was The Point, the horizon of infinity enclosed in time by perception.

Within the temporality of that second, as it split asunder, the point unfolded, unfurling with agonising slowness. It would be very tempting to describe this monadic point as a tessellated surface of Celtic spirals. Perhaps it was a multifaceted crystal, its flat walls conforming to the laws of low energy directions, or even a gold crystal with a pitted surface like that of Saturn’s moon Iapetus. Yet, in close up, this entity (my life) appeared more like a donut of magnetic fluid.

However, I knew that this was an illusion and, being the extrapolation of mathematical co-ordinates derived from my imagination, it would mutate into a web-like form, a network, each node a scintilla generated by the primal departure point itself. The majority of these secondary points represented co-ordinates outside the narrow parameters of the linear time-line of my ‘life’ as understood on a mundane, day-to-day basis. This web extended beyond the antechamber of memory, encompassing ancestral events and unconscious experiences, producing patterns very different from the past-present-future trajectory of the arrow of time.

If the synchronic shape of my life is a light-cone of consciousness, then the diachronic shape of my life is the broad-leafed arrow of time, emerging from womb-darkness, vanishing into darkness beyond the grave. But the multidimensional shape of my life is this network of co-ordinates.

Looking more closely at the filamentous matrix, it was clear that some scintilla had a reddish hue while others were ice-blue. The red points signified moments of pain or negative emotion such as – for example – crises during critical illnesses, times of bereavement, early nightmares and several road accidents (including this one). The few ice-blue points represented instances of clarity. The vast majority of nodes were of neutral, indeterminate, off-white complexion.

I looked in vain for lights indicating moments of passion, for the centre of desire is a Black Hole from which, as we all know, light cannot escape.

At this moment my perception of the multiform shape of my ‘life’ registered another change and the fascinating web mutated yet again.

The resolution of the image degraded. Black turned to white and the interlaced network changed into a vision of bare branches: burnt out trees, stark against a greying sky.



A.C. Evans



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Stoned Circus Radio Show

About the show

Playing tracks by


Chart positions

This upload was 33rd in the Garage chart .

Stoned Circus Radio Show – Garage & Psychedelia from all over the world (from the 60’s to the 00’s) Freak out the jam !
2-weekly SUNDAY 6:00 to 7:00 PM (Gmt +1 Paris).
The 60 minutes long show superbly highlights psychedelic music, garage punk, , mods, Rock’n’Roll, Rockabilly, punk rock, psychedelia, acid-rock, beat, r’n’b, soul & early funk, space-rock, exotic sounds with sitarfuzz from the 60’s to NOW ! (streaming, podcasts, playlist, records of the month)
Every second week on wednesday’s from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm (CET)
Online 24/7 Webradio playing Garage, Soul, Surf, R&B, Freakbeat, Punk Rock, Power Pop…..
If you want to send Stoned Circus materials for review
(vinyl, CD, digital download all welcome), please contact me

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Bogdan Puslenghea
Illustration Nick Victor




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Robert Montgomery

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Fucking Buying


Darren Cullen

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Reservoir Drugs: The Enduring Myth of LSD in the Water Supply

2013 Vol.1 illustrated by Lucy BrowmThis essay is featured in Andy Roberts’ collection Acid Drops: Adventures in Psychedelia (2016)

When chemist Albert Hofmann’s accidental alchemy created LSD, a.k.a acid, in 1938 he unleashed on the world a drug so powerful that it had the power to permanently change lives and alter the individuals’ core beliefs about the nature of reality. Literally millions of minds were blown and the cultural landscape was never the same again.

One of the many cultural side effects of LSD was its ability to generate some really great urban legends. For instance, one rumour has it that if you take LSD two (or is it seven) times, you are legally insane! Another, stemming from a 1967 newspaper article, holds that LSD will make you stare at the sun until you go blind. This was swiftly proved to be a hoax, but the legend lives on for mothers and journalists to frighten the young and the paranoid. You want more? Well, everyone knows that dealers hand out LSD-laced tattoos drenched with LSD to children to get them hooked, don’t they? Sure they do, dealers just love giving drugs away to people who will freak out and end up in hospital surrounded by police wanting to know their source!. And of course taking LSD affects your genes and so it causes deformed babies (where? Have you met anyone deformed by their parents’ LSD use?). Not to mention its propensity to drive babysitters to put babies in microwaves. And so on, each tale less evidenced and more lurid that the last, each heavily freighted with the barely subliminal message that LSD is bad medicine.

But of all the fortean fables associated with acid the ‘LSD in the water supply’ urban legend is by far the most potent and long lived. And, unlike the rest of them, this one has at least some basis in reality. The legend comes in many forms, but the basic premise is that various individuals and groups, (invariably framed by the media as political or psychedelic terrorists), have conspired to introduce LSD into the water supply, usually by dumping huge quantities in reservoirs. Society’s fear is that the dramatic effect of LSD on the masses will result in a disoriented and incapacitated population who are rich pickings for invasion, mind control or simply as a vivid demonstration of the drug’s power over ‘straight’ society by enemies of the state.

Over the past fifty years the legend has manifested often, appearing in newspapers, magazines, books, films and TV shows. The idea sounds vaguely plausible, but is it? Has it ever happened, and if not just how did the story grow into an urban legend?

All legends have their genesis in at least a grain of truth and in this case the origin of the LSD in the water tale appears to lie deep in the archives of the CIA and their fascination with the drug as a possible mind control weapon. The effects of LSD were first noticed in 1943 by its discoverer, Dr Albert Hofmann and within a few years the CIA had begun to experiment with it in their search for a truth drug.

The psychedelic water saga had its genesis at the height of the Cold War in 1953, when the intelligence agency approached Dr. Nick Bercel, a Los Angeles psychiatrist working with LSD in a psychotherapeutic context. After querying him as to the possible consequences if the Russians were to put LSD in the water supply of a large American city, the spooks demanded Bercel calculate how much LSD would be needed to dose Los Angeles’ water supply with LSD.

Of course, this immediately begs the question why the CIA, who were at the time experimenting with and had considerable knowledge of LSD, couldn’t work this out for themselves? But we’ll let that question pass, for inconsistency and anomaly are essential ingredients in the alchemy of any urban legend.

Bercel dissolved some LSD in a glass of chlorinated water, which promptly neutralised the psychedelic, leading him to tell the CIA the notion was pointless and not worth pursuing. The spooks were unconvinced, allegedly designing another version of LSD that was not neutralised by chlorine. Yet although the experiment had failed, the idea that LSD could be used to mass-dose the population had been created and though scientific opinion was against it the idea, at the very least, was just too powerful to give up and started to take on a life of its own.

The CIA became obsessed with the idea. One formerly secret document concluded that even if the notion of contaminating an entire city’s water supply was out of the question there were still other micro-possibilities. For instance, one CIA document noted, ‘If the concept of contaminating a city’s water supply seems, or in actual fact, is found to be far-fetched (this is by no means certain), there is still the possibility of contaminating, say, the water supply of a bomber base or, more easily still, that of a battleship…. Our current work contains the strong suggestion that LSD-25 will produce hysteria (unaccountable laughing, anxiety, terror)…. It requires little imagination to realize what the consequences might be if a battleship’s crew were so affected.’

The CIA’s Technical Services Staff (TSS) was also very interested in the possible manipulation of a city by introducing LSD into the water supply. In John Marks’ classic spook chronicle The Search for the Manchurian Candidate he recalls a member of the TSS saying, ‘We thought about the possibility of putting some in a city water supply and having the citizens wander around in a more or less happy state, not terribly interested in defending themselves.’

The idea received another boost in 1958 when the chief officer of the US Army’s Chemical Corps, Major General William Casey, declared that psychedelic compounds were an ideal way of dealing with the enemy. Casey logically argued that spiking a city’s water supply with LSD was a much simpler, humane and cost effective method of taking control of a populace than the effect on life and limb of simply bombing it into submission. And, of course, dosing the entire population had the added advantage for capitalism that buildings and infrastructure remained intact. When the electric citizens came down from their trip they could be ordered straight back to work for their new leaders, already part programmed and timid and submissive from the terrifying ordeal they had been through.

Creasy told This Week magazine in May 1959, ‘I do not contend that driving people crazy even for a few hours is a pleasant prospect. But warfare is never pleasant… would you rather be temporarily deranged… by a chemical agent, or burned alive…?’ Creasy’s suggestion was never taken up, but Timothy Leary, soon to become the poster boy for LSD evangelism, took the idea and gave it a twist. In a 1962 article published in the Journal of Atomic Sciences, he suggested the US government should plan ahead for such an eventuality by dosing their own water supplies, thus preparing citizens for psychedelic attack by the Communists!

The Chequered Sun by Edmond Griffith-Jones - Featured in PsypressUK 2012Another early source of the legend is the British Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) investigation of LSD. In the early 1960s, the newly created MoD was testing LSD on troops at Porton Down in Wiltshire. One of their ambitions was to develop an LSD delivery system so the drug could be used as a battlefield incapacitant, destroying the fighting spirit of any opponent and rendering their strategy and attack in disarray. There is no direct evidence to suggest the MOD looked at putting LSD in water supplies although they briefly discussed dispersing it on the battlefield in vapour form. The MOD soon abandoned the idea when they realised the effects of LSD on large numbers of people was not predictable and therefore not controllable.

Neither the CIA nor the MOD’s speculations about dosing water supplies appear to have progressed much further than the brainstorming stage. But word of the speculation had spread and rumour seeped out into the general population, acting as a base from which the scare story of LSD in the water supply grew. The idea of LSD as a mind-controlling water contaminant had now entered the Petrie dish of modern media culture it was only a matter of time before the public picked up on it. And the first known reference to the mass use of LSD by elements outside of an Intelligence Agency or military context occurred in a British magazine.

Prior to 1966, there had been virtually no media interest in LSD in Britain. Although use of the drug was widespread among the young and hip it was as yet still a truly underground scene. This situation changed quickly and forever on 19 March 1966 when quintessential swinging London magazine, London Life, ran an interview with Desmond O’Brien, co-founder (with Michael Hollingshead) of Chelsea’s World Psychedelic Centre.

Titled ‘The Drug That Could Become a Social Peril’, the article opened with O’Brien rather unwisely introducing himself as ‘Mr. LSD’ and claiming that anyone could take control of London in under eight hours by putting LSD in the water system. London Life speculated further by quoting Dr. Donald Johnson, former MP for Carlisle, who confidently asserted, ‘It is quite feasible that LSD could be used to take over a city or even a country. I agree if it were put into reservoirs, it would disable people sufficiently for an enemy to take control.’

This brief, but ill-advised, mention of LSD as a psychedelic contaminant thus entered into the media’s consciousness and began to spread, becoming a counter culture virus and a media bête-noir on both sides of the Atlantic within months.

In America, the media-led moral panic about LSD hit fever pitch in the latter half of the Sixties and there was a genuine fear among the political establishment that unchecked use of the drug could overthrow the cherished American way of life. Psychedelic activists, both serious and of the merry prankster variety abounded. They were re-cast by media and law enforcement agencies as terrorists, hell bent on indiscriminately bending minds with the devil-drug no one really understood. Suddenly, LSD seemed to be everywhere; at parties, on campus, at suburban barbeques, even in the workplace, slowly and insidiously changing peoples’ consciousness, telling them that things were not as they appeared. ‘What if’, pontificated Mom and Pop, ‘what if these freaks manage to get us all to take it? We’ll all become like them.’ There goes the neighbourhood!

The November 1966 edition of Vue, ran one of the many scare stories published about LSD that year, ‘Why They Had to Outlaw LSD’. In a round up of the drug’s effects writer W.H.Carr, clearly having taken a huge dose of disinformation, noted, ‘A few ounces of it, dumped in the water supply of a major city, could shake up millions.’ This paranoia, now firmly entrenched in the minds of Mr & Mrs America wasn’t lost on some elements of the counter culture, who decided to use it to their own advantage in the escalating war between hip and straight society.

In June 1967, during a federal investigation into organised crime, the motives of the Neo-American Church, founded by Art Kleps, a former associate of Tim Leary, were called into question. Dr. James L. Goddard, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, gave damning testimony in Washington before the House subcommittee. He quoted Neo-American Church publications that stated they believed in the psychedelic assassination of politicians and the placing of LSD in city water supplies should the Church be suppressed. Goddard also read from a document that said that if the Church was attacked in any way, it would fight back with psychedelic weapons such as ‘clouds of dust sprayed over cities and LSD in the water supply.’

Scary stuff and just what the straight suburban masses feared. But Goddard had failed to realise that the Neo American Church were acid surrealists, psychedelic pranksters for whom the idea of acid in the water supply was almost as powerful as the real thing. They had no intention of carrying out their plan but knew it would freak the straights out!

Abbie Hoffman, another self-confessed acid prankster and ‘Yipee,’ probably generated the most notorious instance of the LSD in the water legend. Besides being an acid-head, Hoffman was also very active in left wing politics, a somewhat dour movement, to which he brought humour and surreality. During the run up to the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968, Hoffman was in daily contact with the media, trying to get them to take him seriously, but at the same time using acid prankster techniques to get headlines.

Hoffman recalls, ‘There was a point when we announced to the press that if they fucked with us we were going to put LSD in the drinking water’. The reaction to this threat was dramatic and the story was heavily covered on TV and in the papers, with thousands of National Guardsmen being posted to guard the reservoirs against hippies. This particular version of the legend took on an interesting twist when Hoffman said, ‘…we’re negotiating with the Deputy Mayor behind the scenes and I said, ‘Why can’t we work this out? To show my good faith, I’ll tell you that you can take all your soldiers away, because it’s chemically impossible to put LSD in the water supply—LSD simply doesn’t dissolve that readily.’

Time magazine wryly noted how easily Chicago’s political administration had fallen for the scam, hook, line and sinker, ‘Mayor Richard Daley and his police and military aides appeared to accept at face value all of the fiery statements made by the demonstration leaders. Chicago’s newspapers repeatedly listed diabolical threats aimed at the city, ranging from burning Chicago down by flooding the sewers with gasoline, to dumping LSD in the water supply, to having 10,000 nude bodies float on Lake Michigan.’

The Deputy Mayor was now caught between a rock and a hard place. ‘I know it can’t happen’, he agreed, immediately contradicting himself by saying ‘but we can’t take any chances anyway.’ The acid in the water myth had now gone beyond reality and common sense and could not be stopped, even in the knowledge that it was not even chemically viable to dose large numbers of people in this way. As LSD evangelist Tim Leary once said, ‘LSD is the drug with the most unusual emotional and psychological effects when compared to any other drug. Because just the idea of the drug is enough to cause terror among those who have never even taken it!’

Hoffman also recommended that the Deputy Mayor check with the chemistry department at the university to double check whether it was possible to dose a reservoir with LSD. The politician replied that he had already asked the scientists on his staff who had told him it could not be done. Nevertheless, such was the paranoia surrounding LSD that the Deputy Mayor was concerned that Hoffman might be using ‘better scientists’ and thus on such shaky reasoning were the National Guard despatched to prevent hippies pouring LSD into the water system.

Abbie’s brother Jack commented, ‘He had people convinced, actually convinced, he was going to drop LSD in the Chicago reservoir and get the whole city tripping. Can you imagine believing that? It would have taken dump trucks full of LSD to have any impact, but Abbie was so convincing he had them eating out of his hand.’

Sadly even some of the more serious elements of the hippie community began to fall for their own psychedelic confidence trick, further fuelling the acid in the water legend. Political activist Mary Sue Planck recalls ‘Well, I had heard people talking about putting LSD in the water in Washington DC, and in other places too. Anytime let’s say a politician was coming to town to speak somewhere people would fantasize about going down there and dumping a few hundred hits, or a few thousand hits…’

Hippie exploitation books and films were all the rage in the late 1960s and the LSD in the water legend was a godsend to them. 1968’s Wild in the Streets was a satire featuring a rock star who is elected as President when the voting age is lowered to 15. In what must have been a very real fear for many Americans at the time, he sets up concentration camps for everyone over 35 and yes, you guessed it, dumps LSD into the Washington D.C. water supply! Deanne Louis Romana’s The Town that Took a Trip had the strap line, ‘In Eden everybody’s thirsty and the water supply is full of LSD!’

Robert Siffert’s 1969 novel The Polluters dealt with the subject in some depth. ‘‘We decided.’ The boy ran on, ‘that the only thing to do was to get this society back to reality was to shock it into a sense of awareness of the now…We’ve expanded their minds…We got together with others who knew the score …We got the chemistry students the engineering drop-outs…we picked out the biggest centres of the establishment in the country. We found a way to get into the public waterworks in each city…he grinned at Stan. ‘Acid!’ “’Acid?’ asked Stan. “’ LSD, man, the greatest boon to mankind!’” LSD was now so infamous and feared that the entertainment media had to invent something even stronger.

In the 1969 episode, Is This Trip Necessary, the popular spoof secret agent series Get Smart saw evil scientist Jarvis Pim (Vincent Price) threatening to spike Washington DC’s water supply with a psychedelic even stronger than LSD!

But if straight culture had fallen for the myth it seemed that the counter culture had done so too. In 1973, Michael Hollingshead, the maverick Englishman who had turned Tim Leary on to LSD in 1961, published his autobiography. It seemed that the usually perceptive Hollingshead had fallen hook, line and sinker for the LSD in the water legend. What had started out as right wing paranoia from Major William Creasy had been adopted as a possible truth by Hollingshead and psychedelic luminaries, Timothy Leary, George Litwin, Gunther Weil and Richard Alpert who jointly signed this statement.

‘If an enemy does drop LSD in the water supply and if you are accurately informed and prepared, then you have two choices. If you have the time and inclination you should sit back and enjoy the most exciting education experience of your life (you might be forever grateful to the saboteur).’

As is the way of Urban Legends, they wax and wane. The 1970s saw rumour go underground for a while as LSD use became less of a novelty. Then, in 1978, after years of surveillance and infiltration, the police finally cracked the UK LSD manufacturing and distribution ring known in Operation Julie. There was a media free-for-all and every acid myth known to man was trotted out to scare the public. During the sentencing of the primary conspirators in early 1978, the Daily Mirror rushed into print with front-page headlines trumpeting, We’ll Blow a Million Minds! ‘An entire city stoned on a nightmare drug – that was the crazy ambition of the masterminds behind the world’s biggest LSD factory. They planned to blow a million minds simultaneously by pouring pure LSD in to the reservoirs serving Birmingham’. Despite the headline filling most of the front page, other than those few sentences, nothing more was heard of the dastardly plot which was, of course, non existent.

Dick Tracy, in his highly critical piece on Operation Julie for the New Musical Express, quoted the Mirror, adding ‘The water supply story can be traced back in the media to at least the mid-’60s and probably before. I have had personal experience of this while working in the information caravan at one of the large Isle of Wight festivals, when I heard an almost identical story being dictated over the phone by a Mirror reporter. It wasn’t true then, either’.

From fiction to fact and back again the acid in the water supply legend found a home in Ken Chowder’s 1985 novel Jadis, ’It was absurd how easy it was to invade the lives of others: put mercury in the oranges, cyanide in the Tylenol, LSD in the reservoirs; shoot the pope, shoot the president, shoot Sadat, shoot down the Korean plane, invade Grenada; all too easy.’

Except, as we are seeing, it’s not ‘all too easy’ to put LSD in the reservoirs. The idea is great, many people talked about doing it, even more feared the possibility, but there is no evidence anyone ever tried to make it a reality. But the fear certainly was.

Homer Loves Flanders, a 1994 episode of The Simpsons saw Shelbyville dosing rival town Springfield’s water supply with LSD. This leads Homer’s wife Marge to drinking the tap water and commenting, ‘Oooh, the walls are melting’. Even in a show like The Simpsons, which has more drug references than any other TV show the myth of LSD in the water was still so potent that executives from the Fox Network tried to prevent this show from airing.

Probably the most recent example of the LSD in the water myth was cleverly embedded in the script of Torchwood, a Dr Who TV spin off series. In the episode called Everything Changes (broadcast in 2006) Captain Jack Harkness queries what evidence it would take before people accept the presence of the Cybermen. The character playing Gwen Cooper retorts, ‘My boyfriend says it’s like a sort of terrorism. Like they put drugs in the water supply. Psychotropic drugs, causing mass hallucinations and stuff.’

So, much rumour and speculation about LSD in the water supply, but could there really be any truth behind the claims? Well, of course it could happen, people could put LSD in a water supply such as a reservoir but would it have any effect? I consulted a retired LSD chemist, who commented:

‘I did a quick calculation which might help. Assuming that the drinker drank 1/2 pint of water, and needed 100 micrograms, then you would need 1kg of pure LSD for every million gallons in the reservoir. That’s not counting any decay from sunlight, heat or chlorine in the system.’

As an example the Elan Valley reservoir system in Wales, built to provide the city of Birmingham with its water supply, holds 100,000 mega litres. Using the LSD chemists calculations it would require astronomical quantities of acid, unrealistic and unfeasible to manufacture, to even begin to effectively contaminate the water supply for Birmingham.

The problems multiply further. Only a tiny amount of water in a reservoir is actually drunk neat – the majority is boiled or used in cooking or other domestic processes such as washing up, lavatory flushing, gardening etc., all of which would destroy the psychoactive component of the LSD. So the idea, while theoretically possible, if a wide range of variables could be stabilised, is really a non-starter. Why then has it had such a hard to kill existence, constantly re-appearing in slightly different forms each year?

The answer is that fear lies at the heart of this particular urban legend. Fear of LSD, fear of losing one’s mind. Fear that a sub culture who wishes to overthrow the existing order might employ LSD to disrupt commerce and ‘ordinary’ life. The idea that psychedelic terrorists would tamper with the water supply adds an extra frisson of terror to this urban legend. Water is fundamental to us as individuals, we can’t avoid drinking it in some form and we trust implicitly that what comes out of the tap is safe.

So, next time you hear some raddled old hippy banging on about how the psychedelic revolution could happen if the entire water system could be dosed with acid raise a glass of tap water to him and laugh. You are safe. Or are you…?

Bio: Andy Roberts is an historian of Britain’s LSD psychedelic culture and author of Albion Dreaming: A Social History of LSD in Britain (Marshall Cavendish 2008, 2012). His other research interests include, listening to music, hill walking, beach combing, reading, landscapes and their mysteries, natural history and paranormal phenomena. Musically, he has been severely influenced and affected by the Grateful Dead and the Incredible String Band among a host of others. He first fell down the rabbit hole in 1972 and has been exploring the labyrinth of passages ever since. His views on the psychedelic experience are (basically) – You take a psychedelic and you get high. What happens after that is largely the result of dosage, set and setting.

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Drawing a Line



I just need a line to rhyme

in the scribble to quibble and dribble

from the paper plate pages of drivel

a peculiarly familial individual whose name they may say

pointed fingers their way

on the stair way well, reasonable, but guess if it sells?

Well, cells sell in oblivion’s boutique full of last week’s endless grotesque freak chic

Chelsea cheek, meat street, bleak unique streak

I just need a line to speak

to rift and roar and rail and rumble rough and tumble

to trip and to fall and to stumble

like a gum ball rally mumble from the briar and the bramble’s stamp hall collectables.

Damn understandable, thank you, under the table thumb tool.

Just like you’re supposed to.

I just need a line to go through.

Picking out bits in fits of rage from prose and plays for days in a haze such strange ways

and this is it. Isn’t it?

I just need a line coz I want it.

To coil and spoil and toil and foil and split the believers from the believable if that’s possible.

No shop no game no stop no blame

I just need a line not to change.



Greg Fiddament
illustration Nick Victor


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Jody Porter
Photo Nick Victor




Bio: Jody Porter is poetry editor for daily socialist newspaper the Morning Star. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Magma, Best British Poetry 2013 (Salt), Best New British And Irish Poets 2016 (Eyewear) and elsewhere. Originally from Essex, he now lives in London where he is involved in the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

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        An Appreciation of Amanda Thompson and The Big Believe’s album ILLUMINATE


Have we unknowingly witnessed the death of the song? At a time in which originality in terms of limited forms is a matter of arrangement over direct innovation Amanda Thompson has arrived under the guise of her band name The Big Believe to deliver ILLUMINATE, a collection of varied tempo ballads that restore classic pop song writing to the highest standards of achievement. Each track is a heartfelt delivery and call for emotional reformation, proffered to us on waves of softly focused, melodic poperterica, wonderfully easeful arrangements and the sweetest of voices. The lyrical demands are simple but ingenious calls for change and at 39 minutes and 46 seconds this elegant release is the perfect pop artefact for a public normally averse to treasuring the rare pieces of gold studding the muddied and addled age to which we are living and attuned to, like an abandoned, post David Lynchian ear.

Arriving on a driving and insistent guitar chug, Creatures,  the opening track on this sublime album of melodic and harmonic treatments, calls on us all to ‘follow our leaders and turn into creatures tonight’. It’s safe to say that The Big Believe do not want us to become a nation of Tory smeared mutants of conservatism, but rather ones of resistance and self awareness.  In ‘whispering something into our perfect ears,’ the ease of Thompson’s voice soothes and opens the record with the kind of likeability all pop music needs if it’s to be met only half way. In this instance the music invites its own welcome, a gentle vampire keen to transfuse all they have taken, restoring and re-colouring the song of survival and change.

Ambiguphobia’s accusatory bassline stutters and ushers itself into being, with a deftly inventive winding melody and a wonderfully expressionistic lyric in which ‘Your eyes are red/You are blue/But don’t expect me to cover for you’ creates among its protagonists the sense of ‘an urban disturbance.’ The ambiguity of modern life and love is therefore delivered along with variations that transform clichéd phrases elegantly and effectively, through lines such as ‘Stone the crows/Heaven knows there is blood on the riverbank.’  The wonderfully sparse yet fully realised guitar pop on which such sentiments are delivered revitalises those limited forms previously mentioned, revealing them to be the necessary links between the heart’s desire and the throat’s reverberance. Indeed, the song’s coruscating refrain of ‘I’m never never never never lying for you,’ shows how these wonderfully impressionistic lyrics connect with the title to create a fully satisfying meaning, all within the three minute format.

Hands, Heads, Triangles is a classic in conception and practise with its majestic piano line. You may keep your lighters in your pockets but your eyes will not stay dry and your hearts will not be able to resist a tremble as you listen. There is something in the chord sequence that rises above the familiar and connects to the best parts in all of us. And the words chosen provide a true sense of completion as the ensuing verses ask of the listener/subject to ‘Follow me down…to where no one’s around…and we can see space…our hands behind heads… a triangular shape as we watch the stars..’ In these standard chords and notes a simple gesture is poeticised and its description lifted to the point of anthem. In effect, this is a small miracle of voice and notes that shows how the reduction of expression allows for a greater flow, uniting the earthly experience of all of us to the cosmic recognition of the few. In Amanda Thompson’s hands the beauty of normal experience is celebrated through the notes she channels through her hands and mouth, and the back cover photo of her as a child adds to the affection one feels for both the music contained within this CD, and its maker. This is echoed delightfully as the song shimmers to a beautiful conclusion of piano, soaring synth strings and gently shaken tambourine.

My Automaton’s call for the singer to be the lifeblood of her own object of desire, in order to re-energise or propel them into action, reveals a song that speaks of the great indie bands of the 80’sand 90’s, from Felt to the House of Love, with elements of The Commotions thrown in for good measure. As you listen to the album, what strikes you most about these songs is the careful arrangement of space, silence and structure in and around them. This showcases the power off the multi-instrumentalist, especially when they possess Thompson’s understanding of the music they master (or mistress) so completely.

Wired is a dreamlike weaving of its intentions, telling of someone who is not ‘a typical guy, or a typical girl,’ but is rather just wired that way; a pansexualist perhaps who reflects and no doubt represents a society no longer intent on obeying previously accepted rules of desire, and is searching for new forms of perception or understanding. There is a Blur type drive to the construction of the song that links the aims of their album Leisure to that of 13. Its energy and enthusiasm are infectious and add to the album’s careful adjustment of pace and intention, while still observing a common tone and approach.

Conversely, the following track Illuminate, has a touch of Oasis in its winding verse melody, as if Thompson was asking us to balance and consider the period when British pop music still meant something more to its practitioners and consumers, beyond the shallow demands or desires for fame. This is perhaps an unconscious intention on Amanda’s part but on listening I hear those traces and progressions, as if she were cleverly commenting on pop song formats and styles in order to tell her own tale and set sail her own musical vessels on the congested seas of receipt and unanswered renewal. Indeed the softly sung la la like waves of the song’s ending wash the piece away, helping it to cover an aural landmass greater than those infusing and playing from a forgotten platform, half of the known world away.

Great Things Blast has a wonderfully explored musical trigger line with a bass riff that births the song and allows the singsong elements of the vocal to weave insistently around us. As the song opens up there is a controlled power offered that asks the listener to join with the protagonist to ‘feel the blast machine’ that she hopes ‘makes your day.’ Here then, is a playfulness delivered slyly, exemplified by the line ‘Feel it in me/Killing Softly’ and clearly meaning more than just the song of a mysterious muse, but rather, the need to express the desires we all feel and fall prey to, and dare I say it, Illuminate them.

Pay for Soup has a delightful Throwing Muses type feel and you hear Thompson calling with a resonance and sweetness for the subject/object to ‘break the fourth wall and join with the city.’ The song is a call for both freedom and collusion, a joining of person and place, and indeed, there is a feeling in all of these songs of the need for and insistence on much needed forms of direct communication. The singer is invoking and provoking her muse into action and asking for a greater light, that these almost themed songs, ably represent.

Lost in Reverie’s spidery guitar line show how melodies plucked from the air can be pushed towards the road of strings and create structures of response where emotion can be effectively housed. Thompson choruses herself and becomes the girl-band in everyone’s head, the personal ensemble of choice there to comfort and contrast with, forever ensuring that there will be, in time, some form of lasting light for those who are stumbling and for those whom the darkness will always allow to be lost. The illumination necessary is sourced from within and these songs to me are the soundtrack of a personal and general discovery to be shared by the many,  that banishes the migraine of confusion and restores or sets the creative hand into play.

Closing piano ballad, You Already Are, swoops in and away like a brow of birds heading over the sea, chasing concerns, worries and conflicts away. It is the effective summation of a gently voiced commission in which those attentive to the message seek whatever light is left to us to be shared and offered. What is the big believe? Not just the name for a solo musician assuming a band identity, but rather the generic title for the event or activity that occurs when one is listening to all effective and affecting music. We play it to alter the space around us. We use it to colour the air. In this artful and charming album that air becomes something infused with feminine courtesy, sensitivity and intelligence. Where others are brazen, Thompson is considerate. While others rattle and disturb she seeks to console. This is music as companion, there to prepare us for greater journeys and more expansive preoccupations. It is the presence and the contribution of a sister to the heart and a friend to the flesh. As the album ends with intricate guitar twisting, the listener has been refreshed and emboldened. Like all worthy artists, The Big Believe allow you to create your own art. That may happen through your own hands and mouths as they play and prepare, but for now it remains in your ear. Illuminate your own darkness and check out.


David Erdos 16/7/17
Photos Keith Rodway

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Grenfell Tower part 1

Thank you for finally listening

Although now it is far too late.

The death toll continues climbing

While nervously you speculate.

Black clouds of neglect still shroud us;

ferociously the flames rage on

It’s 16 hours and counting

Our heartache will never be gone.

We reported our fears to you:

Again- and again- and again!

With this dawn of devastation,

do not think of dodging the blame…

Prevention always beats a cure

Why didn’t you listen to us before?


(c) Dave 1289  14/06/2017 RIP

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Heathcote Williams Tribute

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The Story of Your Enslavement

Stefan Molyneux

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Spirit Guides


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Secret Simon Says


An Evening at SIMON DRAKE’S HOUSE OF MAGIC.  Saturday July 22nd 2017



Of  the places we know, we will often surrender their secrets, and for those we don’t, we resist them, too often fearing an unwelcome and possibly overly adventurous soul. And yet once in a while one receives an out of the blue invitation to explore other places to which we wouldn’t normally go. For those in the know and those far beyond it, Simon Drake’s House of Magic is a dream destination, located above ground and in a properly conscious realm. That it seems like a dream once you are inside, shows the scale of its beauty and that the experience inside should be treasured, both as sublime entertainment and as a touchstone for the vanishing world Drake reclaims.

For twenty years the location has been kept by the streets that surround it. City bred, near suburban, this article holds a clue. But the place is a world away from your own while still being part of it somehow, and when you bidden, you follow a visible path from the tube. These glorious pictures show the world that awaits you; a former Victorian pub, reborn in the mid 1990’s under Drake’s hands and supervision to become a kind of portal to that former existence and age. Once through the gates, it is a small cherub that greets you. This is Drake’s adorable young daughter Alice, whose enthusiasm for what’s in store is the best self promotion on hand. 


An immediate pit stop at the pop up magic shop introduces you to some of the devices you will encounter later in the evening, from talking statues and wands, to constantly evolving handkerchiefs, with the attendant card decks applauding their own ever focusing powers alongside the potential you offer, should you choose to buy and indulge. 

This allows you a taste of Simon’s secrets and also connects you to the vibrancy of his world.

Then a lush garden awaits with its circuitously winding path and exhibits; a rainbow of colours resistant and free from the London heat and the rain. A conjuror whose head is revealed on a silver platter breaks through stunned silence and bids you welcome inside.

A gold and blood red bar then consumes the eager client, as staff smile and charm you, housing their own secret skills…


On the night I was there, all manner of delights met my senses from Drake’s assistant and former partner, who is quite possibly one of the most attractive women in London, clad in a vampiric red dress to innovative producer, singer and musician Max Reed and the angelically gifted vocalist, Joe Payne, both former members of cult band, The Enid, and now using the House of Magic as a gateway to their own new practices. These and the other helpers form part of a magic circle of their own, connected to Drake as they house the inherent beauties and mysteries of a new and possibly golden age of accomplishment.

The air itself, once you are within the walls, feels warm and exotic. A sense of privilege settles, as if you have stumbled upon one of those secret haunts your ghost wants.  And what is your ghost?  Simply, that inner need for the different. The desire in people that leads us on to discover somewhere secret and strange in themselves. But look, it is here. Everything seems to be talking; plant, stair and shadow; small, whispered words, meant for you.  

No sooner inside, then the true magic happens. This time in the form of a roterie of mingling conjurors, delighting and bewildering those in attendance with their outlandish and dexterous skills,  framed by hands. Rather than shake  yours, they stun, as from the standard tropes of coins, cards and string, wonders ensue, both in result and execution for close up magic; the art of deception and thrill, is two arts. It is a matter of the techniques employed and thus, the many years each has taken to master, and then our own disconnect as we watch them, that small incomprehension that remakes us as children and grants our lost sense of wonder new form. 

We know as we watch that there must be some explanation but when we cannot provide it, the child in us bubbles forth. Magicians catch us in that air spun, filmic vessel and in that way elevate us beyond and above the pale day.

Bid to seek my fortune under the auspices of the Whispering Chair, I did so and received a sensually voiced summation of my own character and hopes. I half feared hearing the circumstances of my eventual demise, but was pleased to receive positive encouragements that allowed me to press on towards the fracturing light of my own journey and the sensitivity placed before me allowed me, in moving, to feel a true sense of place. 

The room is on two levels and the artfully designed stage and arrangements lend the Victorian features and Dickensian air a gathering sense of the arcane. The House of Magic is a bordello for your own desires, if not fantasies and the warmth and rich, alchemising colours lure you into a happily shuffling of your own sensual states and on, into a card like range of opportunities and decisions.

This pleasing near somnambulance is quickly contrasted by a ramshackle tour of the haunted cellar in which a fruitily voiced and ghost faced tour guide (who swears divine allegiance to his master, Drake) blends horror and innuendo effortlessly, assisted by the most attractive woman in London in an act which in cheekily placing the ‘unt’ in the Munsters like moments that follow, helps to arouse those of all dispositions, and pushes comic joy and exuberance into first place amidst the other shocks and sensations. In the House of Magic the brain is parboiled and the eye seduced wildly. And then the stuttering  heart is rubbed slyly, by a glamorous red fingernail.

These are the rooms of delight and this is the house of seduction. Seemingly inanimate objects are breathing and as the tricks play and warp you, your world finds new reason as your thoughts in expanding, are enticed by such beauty to almost attain genitals!


As below, so above.  Re-emergence from the cellar sends you up the wooden staircase to the higher floors and Drake’s sumptuous lounge, full with his immaculately chosen magic library, (studded by talking bookends) and self made diabolica, neighboured by expansive drapes, ornate mirrors and all manner of subverted Victoriana. Here you may take your ease until the aromas of dinner greet you, and you descend back into the main hall to take your place at carefully arranged tables.  What other viewing experience throws a tasty and nourishing dinner in for its consumers and allows the chance for its invited audience to engage and properly know each other? This sharing of the experience is crucial and makes one feel all the more special and inclusive, part of a communal, public response to this private function which has already been full of riotous glamour and invention. 

As the vegetarian and meat buffet flowed downstream towards cake and coffee, the sleight of hand artists returned with evermore magic handshakes and the sense of expectation was building as the cloud bearing showtime seemed to almost shape itself in the air. This was dry ice of course, artfully lit, but conducive to how I was feeling, drained by life and so ready to be beguiled and drawn in. I was aware as I sat that this was the exact sort of place I always hoped had existed; a special enclave inside the subsiding normality of the city, in which new sensations could be both enjoyed and invoked.  I felt positively happy placed there, despite all of my other troubles, and especially at that moment, and looking around me so did the other hundred souls gathered close.

When we talk of prices these days, more often than not, its mere fashion. The being seen as important as the what it is or the where. But it is quite different here as the evening is shaped like a package; wonder, entertainment, excitement and more than a cheap thrill or two.  Aside from that, thought and proper consideration surround you; a form of experiential designing, and the creation at once of a world. Whether with illusion of jokes, there is something else going on here; an alternative promise that the world, re-imagined, can and should be how we want. You can live out a dream by just looking around you.  And take it at face or soul value.  Now, who could challenge that, or resist?

The voice of Heathcote Williams resounds through a series of taped introductions and the majesty of his music, through spoken word still enchants. Hearing him on this night was unbelievably poignant, three weeks on from his passing and the recording reminded me of how his own magic will now be weaved by all of those who will miss him inbetween each starred day.

Like all main events there was  a support act who delighted many. With his mixture of gags and song-craft, Elliot Mason was a further hors’d’ouevre for all of those hungry for this three course night to go on.

When Drake’s show began with an empiric descension, you knew at once that the master, from his uncharted realm had arrived. From his time as British TV’s magical almost Bowie style innovator, bridging the gap between David Nixon and Derren Brown, to his work as a stage director, designer and consultant for everyone from Kate Bush to Daisy Campbell, Drake is the key to all manner of cultural chains. He has befriended and met everyone worth knowing and his reputation increases with each passing year. The chance of seeing these shows is to catch such sparks of connection and his still boyish charms are undaunted, from the day he first entered our screens, unto this.  Drake is showman and host, a vibrant rattlebag of the spirit. Quick with a joke and a challenge and versed in the spiel and the spool. He chooses each song and administers music. He packs every shadow with muscle and verve. He takes care. Just a few minutes on from his collegial hosting, here he is now in show mode, connecting the ages and making all of the lost importances cool. An artful dance with props and tropes then ensues, with electric mouth and dazzling assistant. Hands are sawed, sparks and fires, in fact, all manner of things lost to air. It is a magical ride that unites entertainer and shaman breeding good, old style magic passed and surpassed with true flair.

I won’t elaborate on the facts of the act as Drake’s show is his province, but what he gives us is something of both the present and past and the next. From the lures of levitation which allows us to ‘appreciate the intimate extent of the non gravity world,’ to bawdy moments of irreverence, one feels returned to a time when you could still be enchanted and where the simple mysteries still remind you of just how little you know. Of course, we are not supposed to know everything. That is what keeps us rooted as people. But I believe that we all know the darkness that magic, when it favours us, can help lift. And so this show of laughter and sparks, with its tongue in its cheek and lascivious mouth hanging open, also highlights a future when we can still be beguiled by that dark. When we can still seek escape and refuge from the fools out to shape us and where we can see the smoke’s shape through life’s plastic and glimpse the shimmer of the bewitchment of stars far beyond.

As the Simon Drake show gave way to over three hours party, the spirits held, stamped and conjured were formed from those of us there, in his court. Kings crown belief and often create their own subjects. On that night in London we were happy to be part of Drake’s realm. This part of the city means more than its nearby Bridge and close Cricket. Its tales and bright chapters house the calls and the orders from which your own evolving story begins.

Every event has its King, so here is one in ascension. The air around tastes of promise and the atmosphere crests allure. Indulge and imbibe. And then settle down with strange spirits. The wheel of fate is revolving… And so I bid you, I urge you; master the dark, dare delight.


David Erdos, 24/7/17
Photos Simon Drake             


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In searching for a treasure trove of publications springing from the avant-garde, deliberately irrational, early 20th-century European “anti-art” art movement known as Dada, where would you first look? Many corners of the world’s historic cultural capitals may come right to mind, but might we suggest the University of Iowa? Even if you don’t feel like traveling to the middle of the United States to plunge into an archive of highly purposeful nonsense, you can view their impressive collection of Dada periodicals (36 in total), books, leaflets, and ephemera online.

“Founded in 1979 as part of the Dada Archive and Research Center, the International Dada Archive is a scholarly resource for the study of the historic Dada movement,” says its front page. The collection contains “works by and about the Dadaists including books, articles, microfilmed manuscript collections, videorecordings, sound recordings, and online resources,” and in its digital form it “provides links to scanned images of original Dada-era publications in the International Dada Archive,” including the influential Dada and 291, as well as “many of the major periodicals of the Dada movement from Zurich, Berlin, Paris, and elsewhere, as well as books, exhibition catalogs, and broadsides by participants in the Dada movement.” (Note: if you click on magazines in the collection, you can download the various pages.)

The history of the archive, written by Timothy Shipe, also addresses an important question: “Why Iowa? One answer lies in a clear affinity between the Dada movement and this University. The internationalist, multilingual, multimedia nature of Dada makes Iowa, with its International Writers’ Program, its Writers’ Workshop, its Center for Global Studies, its Translation Workshop and Center, its dynamic programs in music, dance, art, theater, film, literature, and languages, an especially appropriate place to house the Dada Archive. A brief glance at the history of Dada will make this affinity clear.”


You can learn more about that history from the Dada material we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture: the video series The ABCs of Dada which explains the movement (or at least explains it as well as anyone can hope to); the material we gathered in celebration of its hundredth anniversary last year; and three essential Dadaist films by Hans Richter, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp. That will put into clearer context the 36 journals you can peruse in the University of Iowa’s Digital Dada Archive, some of which put out many issues, some of which stopped after the first, and all of which offer a glimpse of an artistic spirit, scattered across several different countries, which flared up briefly but brightly with anarchic energy, destructive creativity, a forward-looking aesthetic sense, and no small amount of humor.

Related Content:

Download All 8 Issues of Dada, the Arts Journal That Publicized the Avant-Garde Movement a Century Ago (1917-21)

Download Alfred Stieglitz’s Proto-Dada Art Journal, 291, The First Art Magazine That Was Itself a Work of Art (1916)

Dada Was Born 100 Years Ago: Celebrate the Avant-Garde Movement Launched by Hugo Ball on July 14, 1916

Three Essential Dadaist Films: Groundbreaking Works by Hans Richter, Man Ray & Marcel Duchamp

The ABCs of Dada Explains the Anarchic, Irrational “Anti-Art” Movement of Dadaism

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


  • About Us

    Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.


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‘After the Revolution’: Heathcote Williams as Playwright


Jay Jeff Jones writes in London’s Theatre Record:

Like [Jeff] Nuttall, Williams was multi-talented and constant in his espousal of utopian anarchy. He was as uncompromising as he was compassionate; an intellectual force that alternated poetry and playwriting with direct action for causes that included the homeless, battered women and the environment.

His first major play, “AC/DC,” produced in 1970,

created the kind of impact beyond the theatre’s walls that no longer seems possible. In it, he scourged his subjects: the parasitical manipulation by media, celebrity culture’s “psychic capitalism” and the fashionable radicalism of psychological gurus. In one review it was described as “the first play of the 21st century”. [. . .]

Nicholas Wright, the director of the original production of AC/DC, wrote that Williams “showed no ambition to do anything so silly as conquer the theatre and stayed as cheerful and classy as ever, the man you most want to bump into walking around a corner.” Well, as it turned out, the final years of his life saw an extraordinary productivity: a constant flow of verse, lush with anger, humour and originality that reached so many audiences newer and younger than an old rebel should expect. Despite a debilitating lung disease, he would often write through the night and, according to one of his many visitors, . . . had long since worn away the letters off the keys of his keyboard.

Read the entire piece. Although succinct, it is large in perspective and wonderfully detailed.

After the Revolution
by Jay Jeff Jones
Reprinted courtesy of THEATRE RECORD

For the past two years, television documentaries, press articles, books and exhibitions have been exploring and celebrating the socio-cultural upheaval of what’s expediently labelled ‘The Sixties’. With a wealth of 50th anniversaries of key moments of rebellion and misrule to choose from and mostly being viewed in a mood of bubbly nostalgia; attention has focused on music, fashion, graphic design, psychedelic experimentation and sexual permissiveness. Today, the latter two may appear somewhat quaint.Much less attention has been paid to how the same revolutionary spirit enlivened and transformed British theatre; the literally dramatic changes that resulted from the daring and disorderly fusion of avant-garde art, guerilla street politics, underground poetics and youthful audacity. The common experience was romantic hardship and a euphoric contempt for the status quo.

Compared to the vitality of London theatre today, a constantly evolving fringe and performance innovations, alternative theatre in the early Sixties was barely visible. When Kenneth Tynan pithily commended the Royal Court and Theatre Workshop for ‘engaging and challenging one’s social and political beliefs’, there was little else challenging what the theatre in Britain was, or what it could be.

I should confess; I spent most of 2016 as the co-curator of one of these ‘anniversary’ exhibitions; “Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground,” which was held at John Rylands Library / University of Manchester. Not only was Nuttall (1933-2004) a leading figure in the Sixties’ counterculture, he expressed his original imagination across a wide range of disciplines, with theatre highly featured alongside painting, sculpture, poetry, polemic, teaching and playing jazz cornet.

Shortly after John Calder facilitated the first British happening at the Edinburgh Festival in 1962, Nuttall began to create his own in London, often in the basement of Better Books, and followed through by co-founding the People Show. (The People Show, bless it, is still in business and last year celebrated a half century of enthralling, baffling and provoking audiences.)

The revolutionary theatrical inspiration from that arrived in London from the USA included touring productions by La Mama and the Living Theatre. On the Living’s second visit, in 1969, they performed “Paradise Now” at The Roundhouse. The Living’s radical intentions were at the heart of its most legendary shows and few other companies carried commitment so fiercely in word and action; a tribal collective; vagabond, culturally eclectic, committed to peaceful hedonism and often, one step ahead of the authorities.

London’s changing theatrical spirit also benefitted from the arrival of individual American expatriates, with little in common except nationality and a desire to make relevant, new and exciting work. Charles Marowitz, Dan Crawford, Ed B (Berman), Nancy Meckler, Bernard Pomerance, Sam Shepherd and Jim Haynes all made notable impressions; with Haynes, the founder of the London Arts Lab, remaining closest to underground culture ideals and mischief.

Jay Jeff Jones

Haynes was also one of the founders of Edinburgh’s original Traverse Theatre, a converted apartment in a redundant brothel, where the first play of Heathcote Williams was performed. Like Nuttall, Williams was multi-talented and constant in his espousal of utopian anarchy. He was as uncompromising as he was compassionate; an intellectual force that alternated poetry and playwriting with direct action for causes that included the homeless, battered women and the environment. To widely expressed dismay, he died, on July 1.That first play, “The Local Stigmatic,” was initially written for radio, at the encouragement of Harold Pinter. Pinter arranged for it to be staged by dropping one of his one-acts from a double bill at the Traverse. Williams’ second play, “AC/DC,” on its low-key premiere at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs, created the kind of impact beyond the theatre’s walls that no longer seems possible. In it, he scourged his subjects: parasitical manipulation by the media, celebrity culture’s ‘psychic capitalism’ and the fashionable radicalism of psychological gurus. In a review, it was described as ‘the first play of the 21st century’.

Later he worked with Ken Campbell on “Remember the Truth Dentist” (also at the Theatre Upstairs) and Max Stafford-Clark, when an adaptation of The Speakers, his study of Hyde Park Corner orators, was the opening production of the Joint Stock Theatre Group.

He did write further plays, most recently “Killing Kit,” concerning the death of Christopher Marlowe, and his poems will continue to be widely performed and recorded. Another early short play, “The Immortalist” is regularly staged by Jack Moylett and Alison Mullin and will next be seen at the London Irish Centre on September 29.

Nicholas Wright, the director of the original production of “AC/DC,” wrote that Williams ” . . .showed no ambition to do anything so silly as conquer the theatre and stayed as cheerful and classy as ever, the man you most want to bump into walking around a corner.” Well, as it turned out, the final years of his life saw an extraordinary productivity; a constant flow of verse, lush with anger, humour and originality that reached so many newer and younger audiences than an old rebel should expect. Despite a debilitating lung disease, he would often write through the night and, according to one of him many visitors, the epitomical underground journalist Jan Herman, had long since worn away the letters from the keys of his keyboard.

‘After the Revolution’: Heathcote Williams as Playwright

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Hail Displeaser!


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Holy Bread



The hunger was the woman with a friendly, foreign name-tag.

That busy Saturday.


A miracle healer, as pale as milk, passed through the city –

a reminder that we all had our role to play in the war.


For a moment, his voice stopped the curious shoppingbagscrowd-

echo between tall cement buildings.


A sudden rain followed, baptised my sleeping bag,

in the queue at the Lower Street Food Bank.


The history sliced a nearby road in tiny squares of holy bread.



Maria Stadnicka
Montage: Claire Palmer


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Grenfell fallout

The 10 questions that need answers

Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

July 13, 2017

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The video surveillance report 2017

Photo courtesy of @Natalie_Oxford on Twitter under CC4.0

The Grenfell fire has vindicated many in the fire industry’s worst fears about several longstanding problems.

Not only that, a drip-drip of revelations is revealing a litany of other shortcomings – of the council, firefighting equipment and the government’s response, among others – that have shocked even fire industry insiders.

Here are 10 of the most pressing questions that need satisfactory answers if councils, the government, the construction industry and the fire sector can work together to prevent similar tragedies happening again.

1. Why are cladding tests limited to one type of cladding when several other varieties could be combustible too?

More than 200 cladding samples taken from high-rise tower blocks in 54 local authorities since the Grenfell tragedy have failed tests, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

However, testing has been limited to aluminium composite material panels – those implicated in the Grenfell fire – even though other varieties of cladding may be similarly combustible. Niall Rowan, COO of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection, told The Independent that non-aluminium cladding systems, such as CEP and Carea, would also fail government tests. “I would put money on it,” he said. “They are different materials to the Reynobond but they would all have a similar reaction to fire under the fire test.”

“The Government’s gone chasing after cladding and missing the bigger picture – they are saying: ‘We want limited combustibility,’ but the construction industry has been reading building regulations as Euroclass B for years.” Niall Rowan, COO, ASFP

Rowan also pointed out that the government’s testing scheme has used a more rigourous combustibility grade – ‘A2’ or ‘limited combustibility’ – than stipulated in Approved Document B, which only prescribes class 0 (Euroclass B), a lower threshold.

“The Government’s gone chasing after cladding and missing the bigger picture – they are saying: ‘We want limited combustibility,’ but the construction industry has been reading building regulations as Euroclass B for years.

“This is why we have been pushing for a review of the building regulations for years and why many in the fire sector are very angry because this should not have happened.”

2. Why were the lessons from Lakanal ignored?

The coroner’s report into the Lakanal House fire that was published in 2013 is widely seen as an opportunity missed to rectify myriad problems with fire safety in social housing and high-rise residential blocks.

Six people died in the 2009 fire at Lakanal House in southeast London and several recommendations were made in a bid to prevent similar tragedies.

In a letter to then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, Coroner Frances Kirkham highlighted several problems.

She urged the government to “encourage” high-rise housing providers “to consider the retro-fitting of sprinkler systems” – but, crucially, didn’t say that they should be mandatory. The government claimed a letter was sent to housing providers to this effect, but has declined to make the letter public.

Kirkham also said there was “insufficient clarity” on ‘stay put’ advice in the event of a fire. The revelation in question six below suggests thinking around when people should stay where they are and when they should exit a building is still muddled four years on.

The coroner was unequivocal about Approved Document B, the building regulations for England last updated in 2006. She called it “a most difficult document to use” and recommended a comprehensive review – particularly of a section on the spread of fire on the outside of a building.

Four years on, Approved Document B remains unchanged.

3. How did Scotland respond so much quicker, and more effectively, to its own high-rise fire than England did to the Lakanal blaze?

The Lakanal House inquiry took four years to complete, with the findings published in 2013, much to the anguish of grieving relatives.

But even if the lengthy process was justified on the grounds of thoroughness – and that is debatable – the inaction on so many of its recommendations undermined the whole exercise anyway.

The swift conclusion to an inquiry into Scotland’s very own tower block tragedy – the 1999 fire at Garnock Court – and the more decisive action taken by Holyrood afterwards, serves as a damning counterpoint.

While the 2000 inquiry into the Garnock fire, in which one person died, “did not suggest [that] the majority of external cladding systems in the UK currently in use pose a serious threat to life safety or property in event of fire, they did go on to add, we do not believe it should take a serious fire in which many people are killed before all reasonable steps are taken towards minimising the fire risk,” fire-risk consultant Stephen Mackenzie told IFSEC Global.

“They then go on to make commentary about the inclusion of standards through the British Standards Institute, revision of the Approved Document B, and the title of that report under the reference was The Potential Risk of Fire Spread in Buildings via External Cladding Systems.

“Let’s look at legislation. We did it in Scotland. When we reviewed our fire safety legislation we also brought in new building regulations, we brought in new technical handbooks. And I believe, if memory services me correct, the most recent release was either in June 2016 or June 2017.”

By contrast, Approved Document B – the guidance framework for construction regulations in England – has not been updated since 2006.

“I am aware that the building regulations are under constant review,” continued Mackenzie, “there seems to be a dichotomy in the turnaround time: four years for the Lakanal report, one year for the Scottish Garnock report.

“We appear to be limping on with a very outdated and outmoded document.”

4. Why was there an apparent deficiency in firefighting equipment?

While initial analysis in the wake of the fire focused on cladding, firefighting equipment has come under the spotlight in recent days. A BBC Newsnight investigation uncovered multiple deficiencies, including that a high ladder did not arrive for more than 30 minutes.

Also known as an ‘aerial’, the ladder would have given firefighters a better chance of extinguishing the blaze had it arrived earlier, a fire expert told the BBC.

Are cuts to the fire service to blame for the shortcomings in firefighting equipment? Or is the problem more organisational and procedural? 

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “I have spoken to aerial appliance operators in London […] who attended that incident, who think that having that on the first attendance might have made a difference, because it allows you to operate a very powerful water tower from outside the building onto the building.”

Low water pressure was also said to hamper efforts to quell the flames, while firefighters reported radio problems.

Are cuts to the fire service to blame for the shortcomings in firefighting equipment? Or is the problem more organisational and procedural? Perhaps the UK’s comparatively – and deceptively – strong fire safety record had simply bred complacency in making sure enough equipment was available.

Find out more on the BBC.

5. Should COBRA have been convened in the wake of the fire – as it is following terror attacks?

Stephen Mackenzie, a fire risk consultant who has spoken out on the Grenfell fire regularly in the media, believes the UK’s worst-ever tower block fire warranted the most serious government response. “I think we’ve seen a comparison between the Grenfell fire and Finsbury Park terrorist attack,” he notes. “Immediately following the Finsbury Park attack, Theresa May convened COBRA.

“That should have been the case on Thursday [the day after the fire], [or] the latter hours of Wednesday. Convene COBRA, get emergency personnel leads in, coordinate with local authority responders, and have a better response and management of media, and [to] the families’ and residents’ concerns.

“I feel it could have been sharper, more effective, and then the central government may not have received some of the criticism it has.”

He adds that “there are a number of professional bodies in the UK that can facilitate” the transition “from the emergency services response into the softer response by local authorities and the government. So it might be another line of enquiry for the coroner report, and also the public inquiry.”

6. Why was the advice to “stay put” given for the first two hours of the fire?

Advice given by the fire service to “stay put” inside Grenfell Tower as the fire spread was only changed after nearly two hours, the BBC has reported.

The policy was only changed at 2:47am, one hour and 53 minutes after the first emergency call.

Based on the ill-founded assumption that the fire can be contained – as it should be if suitable passive fire protection is in place – the advice was potentially fatal to anyone who followed it once the fire had spread rapidly from the room of origin.

With the death toll now estimated at around 80, the ‘stay put’ policy is now under serious scrutiny.

Fire safety notice in Grenfell Tower

7. Why have calls to retrofit 4,000 tower blocks across the country gone unheeded?

Coroners, fire safety professionals and organisations and fire and rescue services have repeatedly urged the government to legislate for the mandatory installation of sprinklers in social housing, over many years.

In February 2013, following a 2010 blaze at a 15-storey block in Southampton, coroner Keith Wiseman recommended to Eric Pickles, then communities and local government secretary, and Sir Ken Knight, then the government’s chief fire and rescue adviser,  that sprinklers be fitted to all buildings higher than 30 metres (98 ft).

The following month, Lakanal coroner Judge Frances Kirkham submitted similar recommendation to Pickles.

“In our commitment to be the first government to reduce regulation, we have introduced the one in, two out rule for regulation […] Under that rule, when the Government introduce a regulation, we will identify two existing ones to be removed.” Then housing minister Brandon Lewis rejects calls to force construction companies to fit sprinklers in 2014  

In a previous report into the Lakanal House fire,  Ken Knight had said that the retrofitting of sprinklers in high-rise blocks was not considered “practical or economically viable”.

However, the evidence Kirkham heard at the inquest prompted her to suggest that doing so “might now be possible at lower cost than had previously been thought to be the case, and with modest disruption to residents”.

This is apparently backed up by a successful retrofit at a Sheffield Tower block in 2012. A report on the installation demonstrated that it is possible to retrofit sprinklers into occupied, high-rise, social housing without evacuating residents and that these installations can be fast-tracked.

8. Are green targets, red tape reduction or austerity to blame?

Inevitably, the media’s focus has varied depending on the political leanings of the publication in question. While the Daily Mail predictably highlighted the prioritisation of green targets as a potential factor, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn even more predictably blamed austerity.

Back in 2015, when the FSF called for a review of Approved Document B, then Conservative MP for Canterbury and Whitstable Julian Brazier said: “My concern is that, at a time when building regulations are more prescriptive than ever on issues like energy saving, the basic requirement to make the building resilient to fire appears to have been lost sight of.”

The fact that Grenfell had just undergone £10m worth of refurbishment to “enhance the energy efficiency of the building” lends credence to these fears.

Artist and writer Akala, however, asserted that “they put panels, pretty panels on the outside so the rich people who lived opposite wouldn’t have to look at a horrendous block.” Whether you agree with this sentiment, that the fire alarms still didn’t work following a £10m refurbishment is appalling.

Another strand picked up was the Conservative Party’s (and to some extent New Labour’s) long-held policy of slashing regulation – or red tape – to boost business.

George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian that: “In 2014, the then housing minister (who is now the immigration minister), Brandon Lewis, rejected calls to force construction companies to fit sprinklers in the homes they built on the following grounds:

“’In our commitment to be the first Government to reduce regulation, we have introduced the one in, two out rule for regulation … Under that rule, when the Government introduce a regulation, we will identify two existing ones to be removed’ […]

“In other words, though he accepted that sprinklers ‘are an effective way of controlling fires and of protecting lives and property’, to oblige builders to introduce them would conflict with the government’s deregulatory agenda. Instead, it would be left to the owners of buildings to decide how best to address the fire risk: ‘Those with responsibility for ensuring fire safety in their businesses, in their homes or as landlords, should and must make informed decisions on how best to manage the risks in their own properties,’ Lewis said.

“This calls to mind the Financial Times journalist Willem Buiter’s famous remark that “self-regulation stands in relation to regulation the way self-importance stands in relation to importance”. Case after case, across all sectors, demonstrates that self-regulation is no substitute for consistent rules laid down, monitored and enforced by government.

“Crucial public protections have long been derided in the billionaire press as “elf ’n’ safety gone mad”. It’s not hard to see how ruthless businesses can cut costs by cutting corners, and how this gives them an advantage over their more scrupulous competitors.”

9. Is the privatisation of fire-safety research a problem?

Stephen Mackenzie, a fire risk consultant who has spoken out on the Grenfell fire regularly in the media, appears to think so. “We’ve increasingly seen over the past decades, our fire research provision within the UK, which is internationally renowned, becoming increasingly privatised,” he told IFSEC Global during a recent interview. “Whether it’s a research establishment which is now a charitable trust, whether it’s a fire service college which is now under the major government support contracts, or the emergency planning college which is under another support service provider…”

10. Why must it take mass casualties to trigger serious change?

It is a fact of human nature that we do not intuit and respond emotionally to risk in an entirely rational way. So it is that 30% of us are, to some extent, nervous about flying, yet few of us worry about hurtling down the motorway at 80mph – despite the fact that you are vastly more likely to die in the latter scenario.

There was no shortage of plane crashes before 9/11, yet none of those crashes had been seared into people’s nightmares. The numbers of people avoiding flying duly soared in the wake of the disaster. This was despite the fact that security was tightened following 9/11, reducing the risk of further attacks.

In his 2008 book Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, Dan Garder reflected that the thousands of people who eschewed flights in favour of driving in the wake of 9/11 actually increased their risk of dying. “By one estimate, it killed 1,500 people,” he wrote. “On their death certificates, it says they were killed by car crashes. But, really, the ultimate cause of death was misperceived risk.”

Fire disasters of the magnitude of Grenfell are – mercifully – rare. It had been eight years since Lakanal and few remembered it. People were still dying in fires but it rarely made the front pages. Instead, the media was devoting much of its time to the spate of terror attacks and before that, the countless terror attacks that were foiled.

Politicians, believe it or not, suffer from the same askew intuition over risk as ordinary people. Faced with an inbox full of warnings about myriad threats, the Prime Minister inevitably prioritised those that seemed most immediate, most viscerally terrifying and which the media and general public seemed most concerned about.

Fuelled by the decades-long trend of falling fire deaths, fire safety had fallen down the list of priorities. That is certainly no longer the case.

Undoubtedly, so horrific was the Grenfell fire that something will undoubtedly now be done. Whether enough is done, or whether the right things are done, is another matter.

But why must it take a tragedy of such proportions before the problems – which were flagged time and again by fire organisations – are taken seriously? The risk was always there.

While such fires are rare events, any sober analysis would have revealed that Lakanal could readily happen again and that casualties could be far, far worse. And yet it is only when the industry’s worst fears are realised that the momentum for change can truly build.


Grenfell fallout: The 10 questions that need answers

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 (At The Helm Records, 2017)


At last a record that colours the dream.

Skittish electronica and plaintive acoustic strumming leads us deliciously into Land of the Cuckoo, the first song on Oh, SealandDavid Bramwell’s new album as Oddfellow’s Casino. Bramwell is ploughing the same star kissed field as artists such as Robert Wyatt, Broadcast, Cat’s Eyes, Matt Berry and Grasscut, with their mixtures of ghostly folk and eerily urgent song craft, but his accomplishments single him out for special praise. The beauty and elegance of both voice, lyric and melody is exceptional. These are the kind of songs the Wicker Man’s Paul Giovanni might have written if had lived to update his own template, and yet these supercede even those seminal efforts with an ease and grace you rarely detect in popular song.

Its the fashioning of a wholly believeable world and its aesthetic in sound that strikes you most, with Bramwell’s ear for detail, texture and the resonance of simple lines and motifs an offshoot of his work as author, broadcaster and radio documentarian.  The press release for the album talks of pastoral explorations of the English countryside and of Bramwell’s frustration with the home nation, alongside his fascination with it. He captures that scent of Albion and ancient England that lingered in such forgotten masterpieces as The Black and Green Knights of yore and which filters through the work of the playwright David Rudkin, whose seminal TV play Penda’s Fen is eulogised later on in the album. More importantly he adds his own singularity, making him very much part of Alan Moore’s musical coterie that includes the more ephemeral soundscapes of David J and Tim Perkins, and it is therefore no surprise to learn that the album was part inspired by John Higgs’new book Watling Street, leading to the record’s finest cut on which a certain Northampton bred shaman and magus of the muse cameos . 

The lyrics throughout this collection house genius levels of observation and evocation centred around a troubled isle. If England can be seen to resemble the sealand of the title in the most general of senses, then it is a state of place and being that is slowly becoming unmoored from its points of origin and these worries and affects are evidenced in Cuckoo’s opening verses:

‘In the gardens of stone/ the storms of England are shaking our bones/ Tearing the roofs off/ There’s a hawk on the wire/ There’s a fox in the schoolyard..’

Warnings which are served by the flute like clarity of Bramwell’s voice and his exquisitely tasteful instrumentation. The summoning of the natural world under threat from invasive forces is an old one but at a time when music threatens to negate its own purpose in terms of meaning and in relation to the mainstream, here is a chance to wade through fresh rivers of intent and ever dampening and eroded landscapes in order to scale our own seas of endeavour and to unearth our own stars.

That the waters heal wounds and create borders is an image continued by the near title song Sealand, which tells of how an abandoned World War Two fort became an independent principality in 1967, under the auspices of Prince Roy and his equally Royal consort, Joan Bates, resistant to pirates and an attempted coup, and which is still retaining its standing today under the Bates’supervision. Here then is a folk tale (complete with delicately handled sea shanty style choir) made real and the music entrances as much as the words, through eloquent concision, invite and enveigle: 

‘These are the last days of Rome/These are the dark days of summer…’ through to:

‘An island of no laws/crowning every house.. in which ‘the boy is on his own’and offering ‘warning shots if you get to close.. Six miles from the shore/we’ll take this land by force..’

Such sentiments settle like a curtain of night in our minds.

The words are powerfully chosen and show Bramwell’s writerly skill. We talk a lot in music about mult-instrumentalists creating believeable worlds and experiences, but little about artists who operate across several forms, fusing and exploring the bridges between them. Bob Dylan’s Tarantula is more acid off-shoot than literary marvel and only Gil-Scott Heron, Leonard Cohen, Alan Moore and Heathcote Williams have criss-crossed beween page and plectrum with as much efficiency as Bramwell demonstrates, and this is just the first two songs out of twelve.

A shimmering synth figure and propulsive bassline creates a rippling effect that leads us to Down in the Water with its people sleeping there; a powerful and deceptively simple image that promises a sense of both threat and evolution. The song mesmerises, with its idea and images recalling such neglected stories as the old BBC series, The Changes, with Magog sleeping under the earth, and yet more of David Rudkin’s work,most notebaly Artemis 81’s more outré moments, separate to its gothic premise. The sheer tunefulness of this simple descending melody, accompanying guitar clangs and synth scream passages lifts the spirit and bears it off all the way down through the darkened forest and out towards the waves of the night churning sea. A treated saxophone like threnody completes the song and sounds like the dew infused dream of a sleeping God seeking his final sanctuary. It is these carefully controlled forces that makes this record so extraordinary.

Sons and Daughters of a Quiet Land is as English as Ackroyd in which those ‘lit by the old ways hold you down by the collar..’ The sons and daughters of the lost town are reminiscent of the English weather and melancholy mothers of Grasscut’s wonderful song Richardson Road, and the gentle guitar and synth lines that Bramwell uses, speak of Pentangle, Vashti Bunyan, Bias Boshell’s Trees and the type of music you would want to write while sitting on Alderley Edge and looking in at the flame coloured windows of Alan Garner’s house, as he Brisnagamen’s on into the folkloric dark.

Swallow the Day, a co-write with Grasscut’s Andrew Phillips is this record’s Excellent Birds, written by Peter Gabriel and Laurie Anderson and also covered by them both.  In Bramwell’s version of his and Phillips’ song, the carefully chosen motif and swaying melody sweeps you up instantly. Here then, is a balladeer of the old school. There is in his writing and delivery something wholly authentic and contemporary; a gentle effusion of sounds and atmosphere that completes itself as successfully as guitar maestro, Antony Phillips’ evocation of Tudor England in his first album The Geese and the Ghost.

Mustard Fields’s ‘milky skies’ tells us of the mixtures of dangers and refuge for lovers who are ‘Spies alone.’ The trumpeting elevation in melody and driving guitar line add a touch of Fred Firth in his gentler moments and is ushered along by the sheer pleasantness of Bramwell’s voice and the support of a heavenly voiced backing singer. The guitar then grows and growls to conclusion, showing both the power behind the idyll and the anger and frustrations felt by those bemoaning the corrupted land at the hands of the political, militaristic and possibly chemical chicanery.

Danu is a spoken word piece with Eno-esque backing that is taken from one of Bramwell’s radio documentaries in which he eulogises the River Don that flows from South Yorkshire to the Arndale Centre, Sheffield and beyond. It is a wonderful evocation and a propulsion to Eno’s own On Land, adding words as music to create and to summon old earth.

The Ghost of Watling Street is the album’s masterpiece and lead single. Written at the request of John Higgs to complement his new book, it charts a journey along Britain’s oldest road and features the aforementioned Alan Moore as the journey moves in search of ‘a black star,’ from the old Tyburn site to the late, great Steve Moore’s Shooters Hill, where Alan himself encountered many of his own wonders. It is Moore who then talks ‘of wandering too far from some ancient totem..that we must find our way back to..’ The guitars chime and charm as Bramwell’s voice returns, and takes on an enviable aural purety. The accompanying video, enabled by counter cultural centrepoint Megan Lucas is a gem of impressionistic response to Bramwell, Higgs and Moore showcasing this seminal territory and the dream like beauty and brevity of the song ably represent this collection of masterly pieces, like any great single should.

Children of the Rocks echoes its title with bluster and force and reverberating guitars lift and soar accordingly as ‘rains came in autumn to cool the earth..’ There is a touch of seminal late 80’s indie band, The House of Love to this track as Bramwell summons not only ancient England but also a fairly recent one, and at a time when musical expression as a whole actually meant something. Now it is up to people and bands such as Oddfellow’s Casino and the numerous interconnected associations and practitioners to take a gamble on the intricacies of innovation and the arrangement of limited resources in order to remind us of what is truly possible. Music must change as Pete Townshend once said, rather  shakily, if only because it is the most ordered of responses capable of the greatest affect on the largest number of people. Should this album not reach the multitudes it will alter and redefine the privileged ones who do encounter it. It is as Townshend once described King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, ‘uncanny.’

Josephine’s simple piano outlays a developing song of dedication. One senses and almost hears a candle lit night in an old century as the song’s protagonist and his unclaimed love seek unity. A suffused slow trumpet solo speaks of this hopeful joining and acts as an enchanting Robert Wyatt like echo to the noises and music conveyed.

Penda’s Fen military snare heralds ‘the roads that define you’ as the song perfectly captures the story and situation of that long lost albeit recently revived and released piece of televisual magic.  The play, a startling love child forged by David Rudkin’s preoccupations with myth, homosexuality and societal repression and oppression, and Alan Clarke’s thrillingly artful execution is represented by the music’s growing power, as Bramwell as Stephen the protagonist of the play seeks to gain the ‘land of Jerusalem’ and prove himself as God’s or England’s own rightful son.

Blood Moon guides its hero home through an easeful crest and fall of piano, in which ‘the skin and bones of the old world are his.’ They are ours too, under the gentle and refined guidance of David Bramwell’s Oddfellow’s Casino, in which we gamble not with our own fates and fortunes but rather with our hopes and dreams about what is possible in artistic endeavour in any form, but particularly in music. What this album shows above anything else is how artfully controlled forces allow for a true breadth of expression to create songs and music that lasts in the mind for as long as it lingers in the heart. The songs that comprise this collection are intellectually thrilling and emotionally appealing. The record  is appealingly packaged and actually about something. It is music that enlivens the brightest morning and adds resonance to the deepest night. Listening to it one is easily transported to the very edges of England. Stare now at the surrounding waters that frame and dare us and as you listen there will be moments in which you are transported and finally able to summon all forces and to locate your own star in the sea.



                                                                                                            David Erdos 24/7/17

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Ode to Heathcote

We’re hoping you’ll let us know
Your new cosmic address.
Your death has been rather a blow
And we’re all in a terrible mess!
We don’t know which way to turn –
We THINK it’s to the Left –
But if you wouldn’t mind
Just sending a sign
Then at least we’d feel less bereft.


Ian Ross

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Redirected: to Heathcote

you changed your cosmic address
so I can’t reply to your email 
or come round for a chat,
can’t walk past the window 
past the protesting posters, 
catch a brief glimpse of you being yourself,
won’t receive any new poem cards to hungrily devour in seconds, grinning with the brilliance and yes, dying is annoying but
I can still read and 
inspiration’s a permanent lodger with the ever-same postcode 
squatting rebelliously in your poemthoughts for whoever seeks a spark – 
your words will do this for generations of blue whales,
the ultimate magic trick no one can guess,
forever alive to explain, express,
always present to inspire, possess.
I’ll send this now then, to your cosmic forwarding address.
Fatima Lahham
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I too would have fallen
for your grave purity.
I have always
had a weakness for
a girl with a guitar.
Easy to see you
and Bobby as perfect
partners, too perfect
to last long—
sooner or later
you were bound to
crash that mirror.

Marvelously concentrated,
you presented to
a soul-starved world
a picture of soul.

No one’s muse,
you became
a truth-teacher,
in which role
you were harrowingly
tested by the bombs
of Hanoi, the bullets
of Sarajevo.

old concert footage,
I fall in love—
that seduction of
the past, does it
snatch at you too?
Do you also
ponder where
it went, that grace,
that dark wind
collected in the eyes
and in the voice’s
unwavering clarity?

What hasn’t
changed is the fact
that you were on
the right side of history.
Into our time God
sent a Black Lion,
and you walked
a while beside
him on the path.
Because you not only
sang but spoke,
there are people
alive today
who did not kill,
who did not die.


—Thomas R. Smith

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When a River Emerges from the Dead Sea


My mental wire renders

Images of worn out routes,

After a short circuit happened

In the pathways of daily burdens;

My diseased body quiver with its weight

The hard stitch rubbles skin snatchers;

Leeched of life force

I have little energy to breath;

The voice I hear is not my own,

They dictate notes in familiar tone

But full of foreign phrases,

Which they disguise as invitation;

I wish I could dissolve from memory

Or hide in my skull cave;

But it is not wise to stifle;

Then an unlearned laughter came

A spring springs from sun rays

A river emerges from the Dead Sea

There are two ways to live a life

I can pursue the difficult one


Sandeep Kumar mishra

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The Republic of Frestonia

The Republic of Frestonia

The unlikely true story of a community of squatters who, faced with eviction, retaliated in a way that shocked the world.

The Unlikely

True Story


Notting Hill, London, 1977

The neighbourhood at Freston Road, acquired by the Greater London Council (GLC), had been allowed to deteriorate into such a state of disrepair that tenants had to be rehoused, effectively dismantling a community. But by the mid-1970s the area had become home to a new community; a bohemian mixture of artists, writers, musicians and drug addicts. The residents’ circumstances varied. Some gravitated to the area to keep costs low while they honed their skills, for others it was the ideal of communal life. Some had no choice. The winters were hard, resources were scarce, and police protection was a foreign concept.

Among the residents were social activist Nicholas Albery and actor David Rappaport. The playwright Heathcote Williams, a close friend of Nicholas’, lived in Notting Hill.

Derelict house

Owners of properties in the area would often destroy their own roofs to deter squatters.

In 1977, the Greater London Council (GLC) announced plans to redevelop the area, the details of which are captured in an edition of the Tribal Messenger. As former resident Tony Sleep puts it:

“The GLC decided that it was intolerable having 120 people living in these damp old dirty houses and it would be a much better idea to knock them all down and make us homeless…”

Inspired by a previous visit to Christiania, Copenhagen, Nicholas Albery put forward the notion of seceeding from the United Kingdom, establishing the Free & Independent Republic of Frestonia. Albery chaired a meeting attended by 200 locals. A referendum was held on Sunday, October 30th with unanimous support for secession. Citing a legal loophole, the residents took the collective surname of Bramley, in an effort to support their request to be rehoused as a single family. An application for membership of the United Nations, was submitted, opening:

“We the Free Independent Republic of Frestonia, herewith apply for full membership of the United Nations, with autonomous nation status…”

Within the application were detailed plans for an independent nation, signed by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, David Rappaport-Bramley. The stunt was picked up by the media, Rappaport-Bramley made radio and tv appearances, and before long the world was watching.

A Republic is Formed

Visa for unlimited entry

Getting stamped with a visa for unlimited entry was a highpoint of any tourist trip to Frestonia.

The Republic issued its own postage stamps, visiting tourists could have their passports stamped with the official Frestonian visa stamp and pick up a copy of the national newspaper, the Tribal Messenger. The National Theatre presented Heathcote Williams’ play The Immortalist and The Clash recorded parts of Combat Rock at Ear Studios in the People’s Hall on Olaf Street.

The application even announced the intention to:

“generate our own power supply… [and] our own national radio station, which will in no way interfere with the broadcasts of neighbouring nations.”

The international media were captivated, with coverage from the UK current affairs TV show, Nationwide, and attention from news teams across the United KingdomUnited States, Canada, Spain, Denmark and Japan. The neighbouring UK government were forced to respond and the enigmatic leader Nicholas Exelby-Bramley (Albery’s pseudonym) received letters from Sir Geoffrey Howe MP, and Horace Cutler, leader of the GLC.

Against All Odds

A modern view of Frestonia

The Bramleys Housing Co-operative worked with the Notting Hill Housing Trust to build quality homes for the residents who wished to stay.

The furore forced the GLC to negotiate and eventually the Bramleys Housing Co-operative was formed, assisted by local lawyer Martin Sherwood, giving the residents a voice in development plans for the area. The squatters-turned-separatists had fought hard and won.

Although concessions were made, the site was redeveloped to make safe, livable homes for the residents, many of which live there to this day, along with the generations that followed.

What became of the Republic? The United Nations never responded to the application, nor was the notion ever officially dismissed. The Republic of Frestonia is as much a reality now as it was then. And the spirit in which it was formed serves as a reminder that, faced with oppression, anything can happen when we work together as a family.

After all, nos sumus una familia.

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The Allen Ginsberg Round-up – 324

Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 324

For all you sticklers for detail out there, Sunday July 17, Allen’s appearance with Sopwith Camel, was in 1966. The following year (1967) found him in London, speaking at Steven Abrams‘ “Legalize Pot Rally”. Barry Miles was inevitably there. There weren’t too many classic moments of the “Sixties when Miles wasn’t  present!  Miles’ 2002  memoir, “In The Sixties” just got re-issued in a profuse illustrated edition – see here.

And speaking of the ‘Sixties counter-culture in England, look out also for this – (and the resulting exhibition – “The British Underground Press of the Sixties” (opening in September))

Saluting the Underground Press.  In San Francisco, of course, “Summer of Love“,  there was the remarkable San Francisco Oracle 

Salutary reading – Geoffrey Rips 1981 article – “The Campaign Against The Underground Press” . 

Nice dual-review of Michael Schumacher’s First Thought – Conversations With Allen Ginsberg and Bill Morgan’s The Best Minds of My Generation – A Literary History of the Beats in the current issue of  The Gay & Lesbian Review .

From Philip Gambone’s sensitive observations:

“Ginsberg perennially aimed for “a deepening of heart rather than a shallowness of heart.” These two volumes reaffirm that radical, and necessary, humanity. His message—that “only with basic friendliness would it be possible for a nation to create a political world that was livable”—is as sorely needed today as it was during the heyday of the Beats.”

Hey, today it’s  Bastille Day – and Woody Guthrie’s birthday

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Tinderbox plc: a poem for Grenfell Tower

  By Anna Chen

A poem for Grenfell Tower marking a month since the disaster

Today marks a whole month since the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, yet the conflagration that killed at least 80 people seems ever present, still fresh in the mind and the heart. This is more than an accident, a natural tragedy — call it gross negligence, call it murder, someone had to make a buck. Only £2 per panel of cladding separated the chances of survival from inevitable death. Then there were the absent sprinklers, the single stairwell, the lack of adequate firefighting equipment, the destruction of regulations designed to keep us safe, and all the other corrupt, mendacious, money-grabbing decisions taken that led us to this point.

While the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea took £55 million a year in rent from the remnants of its social housing, only £38 million made it back to the property that yielded so much loot that the borough was able to amass £274 million to spend on council tax rebates for the better off and flashy opera events in Holland Park. The poorest paid for the amusement of the wealthy. Funny how there’s always money for those who need it least.

Artists are engaging with events. Here is my attempt to make sense, reflect and refract. I hope my readers get something out of it.

Tinderbox plc

At the hot point
Of the turning world
A spark lit the flame
That caught the cladding
That burnt the facade
And threw a light
On the burned-out shell
Of the state of the State,
By Lucifer’s light,
A glimpse of hell
Roiled and erupted.
Two pounds of flesh
Per shake of dice
No values known,
Just the cheapest price
In modern Britain plc.

A giant with his fiery sword
Sliced and smote from the flash at four,
He slashed the night to twenty-three,
Dividing the world, rich and poor.
He made his mark, he slashed the dark
On the bias to the roof and higher,
Earth to sky, sheer cliff of fire,
Sliced the tower to light and ash
On one side life, the other a fire of flesh,
A cash-fuelled slomo waiting-room of death,
Each poisoned breath counting down
Lives extinguished but not the flames
Blackening air with soot and cinders.
That is my neighbour, this is a mum,
There is the artist, those are children
Unto the last babe in turbulent dreams
Such horror wreaks and wrecks.
This is the state at the top of the heap,
What power sows, the weakest reap.

Another giant slashed and burned for years
And turned a world upon its head,
A bonfire of red tape set in motion
A cascade of events, invisible, minuscule,
Each piling onto each in spidery increments.
Action group Cassandras screamed murders in waiting,
Grievous bodily profit with intent.
Lift a rock and see what crawls,
So many in the frame, your head spins,
The shitlist lengthens with every trawl,
Cash is cruel, cash is king:
National Grid gas pipes, KCTMO, austerity,
Stay Put, politicians, the construction industry …
Even Maggie Thatcher takes a bow
Her dishes are all cooked by now,
Her high rise cladding on simmer the year the miners struck,
No law now, just luck and the gift that keeps on giving,
She slashed and burned faster than the FR60
One-hour fire-hold rule she flamed,
Halted building, sold off social housing,
Health and safety not gone mad. Just gone.

Aberfan, Hillsborough, Grenfell Tower,
Who had the cash also had the power
To wrap Babel in plastic, for the view palled,
No thought for the living when the opera calls,
A class event, a bagatelle paid for with Grenfell rents,
Rip off the poorest, the system bent.
Gas pipes up the stairwell, smoke in the vents,
Alarms on the fritz, saved a few pence,
Water pressure failing, too little spent,
Retrofit sprinklers too high an expense
And on ignition, stay put was their best advice.
Two pounds of flesh per shake of dice
No values here, just the cheapest price.

The giant scrawled in smoke and flame
Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
But the firefighters came in all the same
Through Bosch’s vision, the scorching Hotpoint near,
Over bodies they clambered, up clogging stairs
Barely three feet wide, on a wing and a prayer
And an underfunded gulp of air.
The sullied air chokes but the horror is pure,
Breathe deep and inhale fury and fear,
Cyanide, asbestos and your neighbours.
Which is the most toxic?
Down in your lungs even now
The death clock ticks, reset

Time was the enemy.
Fire was the enemy.
Mammon was the enemy.
Kensington and Chelsea council was the enemy.
Kensington and Chelsea TMO was the enemy.
The industry was the enemy.
The government was the enemy.
They sprung a trap, a trap was sprung.

Yet still we lived. Watching from an outer circle,
We were resourceful in those hours.
In our heads, at least, perhaps a car could provide a landing.
Could a mountain of mattresses soften the fall?
For these were no princesses on the pea
But cheeky, boisterous girls and boys.
We wished a man could fly.
We wished for Superman, iced chunk of Thames in tow.
We wished a child could bounce,
That they weighed a quarter of an ounce.
We wished we could put gravity on hold
Stretch this moment til an escape was found,
Slow down damn time til they reached the ground.
A thousand people prayed a million wishes:
For a Star Trek transporter to beam them away,
A fakir’s rope dropping as the gentle rain from heaven,
For wings to sprout, something miraculous to get them out.
A ladder! A tall ladder, a platform with a high pressure hose,
No, too fanciful when the giant slashes and fire stations close.

Did those knotted blankets lead someone to safety
Or a dead end?
“I had my whole life ahead of me,” Gloria Trevisan told her mum.
And it was.
Six and a half minutes with Rania Ibrahim
Is to take a trip to a dark side,
Her voice rings out truth everlasting.
Walk with her, it’s the least she deserves.
Walk with the Grenfell dead and soar with the angels.
A bonfire of people followed the bonfire of regulations
As surely as night followed night followed darkest night of the soul
Cry cruellest murder, the tower can never be put right.

Over the main route into London from Heathrow,
Looms a burnt-out colossus:
A coked-up Tory wideboy in a cheap suit with a pocketful of loot;
We all learnt the meaning of metaphor that night
In Tinderbox plc.

by Anna Chen
12th July 2017

The author was born and raised in Hackney in east London and lived at Hackney Downs and the Gascoyne Esate.

Apologies for not being able to find the photographers who took the photographs on this page. Please let me know if you took the photographs and if I have your permission to use them with a credit (or if you’d like them taken down). By the same token, please feel free to publish my poem with a credit and link to this page. Thank you.

EDIT: More poems are turning up. I’ll link to some of them here.

Grenfell Tower, June, 2017: a poem by Ben Okri. ‘If you want to see how the poor die, come see Grenfell Tower.’ Video here

This video of “No Alarms” by Sana Uqba made me cry with its haunting rhythms and powerful imagery

The Merited Moral Remembrance Of The Wilfully Massacred Residents Of Grenfell Tower – Poem by Stanley Collymore

“Grenfell” by Olga Dermott-Bond

“Nowhere”: a response to the housing crisis by poet Tony Walsh – audio

“A Hope for the Future” by Angi Holden

On the Liturgical Poetry website, “Grenfell”

“Grenfell Tower” by Lisa Rey

“Towering Shame” by Sarah McGurk

Video of “Grenfell Fell” by Rakin Cisse Niass

“Grenfell Tower” by Maxine Black

“Kensington and Chelsea” by David R Mellor

Video of “Grenfell Tower Fire” by The Truth Poet

“Of Grenfell Tower and other scandals”: Why we must Whistleblow a wind of change, by John Pearce.

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At Glastonbury this year I unveiled the Shell Climate Solutions Roadshow, a showcase of all the greenwashing ideas oil companies like Shell might use in order to #burnthefuture.

Full photos, illustrations and video on the project page.

A surprising number of people thought it was a genuine corporate Shell exhibition and at least two people were wasted enough to think it was a Shell garage and tried to buy cigarettes.


Hell logo T-Shirt
Two colour screenprint

Tory Petrol Bomb T-Shirt
Two colour screenprint


Hell Sticker Set
Die-cut vinyl stickers. £1 each or the set of 6 stickers for £3


Just a quick thanks to my recent new backers on Patreon. I’m currently holding onto my studio by the skin of my teeth so every bit of support from you lot counts. If you haven’t already and would like to chip in towards whatever I’m up to next, even $1 a month really helps. Thank you!




Next exhibition at my gallery/studio/comic shop WAR Gallery in South East London is going to be original art work by the incredible Gareth Brookes.


Facebook event


The opening evening is on the 4th August at 6pm, all welcome. Byob and there’ll also be something drinkable there to drink.

darren cullen

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Rise, Rats Rise!

It should be a privilege to steer the ‘great’ ship,      

not freewill to pillage and sell and betray.              

The spoon of the privileged scoops only to gain,     

like pirates they strip all our assets away             


They kill off our lifeline: protection and health    

and drown out the warning of social destruct.

Their privatisation is pleasing their greed,                               

so now we’re in need of a social erupt  


‘cause rats in battalions slay silver-spooned                                 

             stallions and now it is our time to rise!                                         

We’ll bring down these fat cats, and make right their                   

wrong acts; together, we will turn the tide.                                   


Enslaved by systemic poisonous feed,

ensuring the rats can’t get near the elite.

In black, tax-payed limos they deal for the few

as globalised greed eats up homes on our street


They just keep on pushing the unjust divide          

and burn all our bridges so riches can thrive.       

While building their walls to keep out the reaper,

the rats keep on racing but now we must rise


        ‘cause rats in battalions slay silver-spooned                                

             stallions and now it is our time to rise!                                         

We’ll bring down these fat cats, and make right their                   

wrong acts; together, we will turn the tide.                                  


Deceit and deception the soil for their seed       

but rats cannot ask or reap what they sow:    

a harvest to feed their insatiable want.           

They twist at the truth to protect all they grow        


The artery to the heart of corruption               

and we need to block their unjustly flow…            

They sell plastic promise; the price is neglect.  

We must ensure that it’s their time to go.


So rise rats, rise!



Dave 1289

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Methinks Thou Doth Protest Too Much


The Show That Never Ends, David Weigel (Norton)

Close to the Edge, Will Romano (Backbeat)


David Weigel’s book claims to examine ‘the rise and fall of prog rock’. In 289 pages of overview and history (plus notes and index), with little critical or personal input, he regurgitates and juxaposes reviews, interviews and articles from the past to examine the phenomena that was progressive rock. In the current issue of The Wire magazine, Chris Cutler points out that ‘music is one big thing and the people who do it are constantly stealing and borrowing from other genres. It all evolves together.’ In Weigel’s world, however, prog rock is a genre separate from anything else: he seems oblivious to how postpunk bands like Magazine, XTC and Simple Minds reinvented the keyboard in music, drawing on the prog rock punk had supposedly banished, how ambient might be linked to prog rock and krautrock (which doesn’t really get a mention at all), and he doesn’t  want for one moment to admit how silly the sub-Tolkien fantasy worlds evoked in many 1970s’ epics really were.

I’m a big fan of King Crimson, Yes and Van der Graaf Generator, but since I left school back in the 1970s you wouldn’t catch me trying to defend them as the best thing since sliced bread, nor would you have ever found me listening to ELP or Jethro Tull, let alone associating the latter with prog rock. It doesn’t take most musical listeners to realise that ‘taste’ is a major factor in the scheme of things, and that it really doesn’t matter if a lot of other people prefer a lot of other music, be it pop, metal, grime or reggae. Especially in the digital age where we are awash with music, and rarities are easier than ever to hunt down and listen to.

Anyway, I digress. Wiegel has a clear hierarchy of bands he rates, so much of this story centres around King Crimson, ELP, Jethro Tull and Yes. He sometimes allows Van der Graaf, Soft Machine, Rush and Genesis into the mix, and occasionally throws in some details about obscure Italian and other proggers, but not a lot. Later in the book he discusses Marillion and the rise of neo-prog, but then the book kind of peters out, with a nostalgic wave backwards to ‘proper’ prog rock in days gone by. Done and dusted, the end of his musical history, prog rock is over.

The back cover suggests that this book is a ‘completist saga that leaves no chords unexplored, no story untold’ but I’d beg to differ. This is a poorly researched and badly written book that totally deserves its appalling cover of a winged tiger standing on a doubleneck guitar! If this was an album it would be a quadruple live album soon relegated to the sale and secondhand bins.

Will Romano’s Close to the Edge  is subtitled ‘How Yes’s Masterpiece Defined Prog Rock’, which seems a bit of a silly thing to say, but his book is a much more coherent and informative read than Weigel. Romano offers a critical context, some band history (and band future) as well as details of how the album was composed and recorded,  as well as the ensuing promotional tour. He not only draws on critical and journalistic material but interviews he has conducted with the band, so there’s plenty of fresh material woven into his thesis.

Romano includes chapters on Yes’ lyrical wordplay and Roger Dean’s art work, as well as a critical assessment of ‘the impact of Yes and Close to the Edge‘. It is, it has to be said, a bit po-faced and over-the-top at times, but Romano makes a clear argument and writes well, even though I suspect I’m not alone in actually preferring other Yes albums! He also does have a sense of humour about his project, one clearly shared by the jovial grump Rick Wakeman, who is, it seems, always ready to offer a quip, pun or bad joke.

1972 was a long time ago, and there’s plenty of contemporary debate about whether rock music was a 20th Century phenomenon that does not function in the same way today, as we navigate and access digital worlds, or if it has simply moved on. People are still listening, albeit in different ways, and new music of all sorts is still being made. Romano’s book works well as a kind of sociology text (without meaning to), an exploration of a past age where LP records were important in every way, from cover design and lyric sheet through to the music and engraved run-out grooves. Whether we need to argue about which LP was best, greatest, or which genre bands could be labelled as seems less and less important; wider contexts, connections and associations, more and more so.

Rupert Loydell


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The last of the fire-breathers

The poet of the counter-culture was 75

NO ONE knew quite how the accident happened: how at some point in the 1970s Heathcote Williams set himself alight on the doorstep of his lover, Jean Shrimpton, an icon of the age, and ended up in Charing Cross hospital. It had evidently started as a conjuring trick; he loved magic, because it gave the illusion of breaking rules. But it was unclear whether he had been eating fire, or breathing it.

Breathing it, of course. Words flamed out of him all the time, seeming to make electricity flow through his wild red hair. Poetry was nothing if it was not an incandescent roar. Its role was not to tranquillise. He could write with gentle lyricism if he chose, especially when following in his most famous book, “Whale Nation”, endangered creatures through the sea:

Naked, with skin like oiled silk, smooth as glass…
no drag, no turbulence, a velvet energy…

But the beauty ended with the winches, spades and slicers of a factory ship, in a slick of oil and blood.

To shock and expose was his job. Poetry had to unsettle, subvert, with luck destroy, whatever stopped human beings thinking freely and acting justly, as he understood justice: consumerism, militarism, modern psychiatry, ossified institutions, brain-numbing new technologies. His “investigative poems”, often long-studied and footnoted, were meant to stop the ravaging of the natural world, not just by Japanese whalers and African ivory-poachers but also by tweedy, trigger-happy, slave-trade profiting, jewel-encrusted British royals.

In water, in the air

Right to the end, starting in the International Times and Oz and then in pamphlets from his Open Head Press, he scorched everything and everyone he hated, from Boris Johnson (“a face that needs to be punched”) to Donald Trump, whose name “suggests…the passing of wind”. He stood in the radical tradition of red-haired Blake, transcending old worlds to build new ones, and wild-haired Shelley, whose youthful rebel-trail through Eton (nearly expelled) and Oxford (defiantly leaving without a degree) he had followed almost exactly. He was Prospero and Ariel, sorcery, mischief and danger, all in one.

Poetry being fire, it had to be part of the body language of the poet. It must be spoken and performed, his mellifluous voice lulling among the wonders in order to underline, more starkly, the horrors. He wanted to move, like the whale, in a sonar world that still contained the pulses of fifty-million-year-old sagas of continuous whale-mind: “elegant cetacean music…lyrical litanies on the bio-radio…rumours of ancestors, memories of loss, memories of ideal love…”

The closest he could come to this was perhaps the state of anarchy in which he lived in the late 1970s, in his Free Independent Republic of Frestonia in Notting Hill, where buildings were squatted and food and beds shared in a ferment of ideas. He wrote his words on walls then, spontaneous swift thoughts: “Housing is a right, freedom is a career.” “Words don’t mean anything today.” Or he shouted them, to make them part of the air the authorities and the people had to breathe.

He went on doing this on stage, television and film, appropriately playing both Prospero and a mad pyschiatrist: an increasingly dishevelled figure with accusing eyes, modelling himself on largely unknown orators of the London streets. The list of poets who had most influenced him, he told GonzoToday, included Paul Potts the People’s Poet, a homeless pamphleteer; and the men who stood on milk crates in Hyde Park, the subjects of his first book, “The Speakers”, chief among them Bill MacGuinness, who once tried to break into Buckingham Palace to ask for a glass of water, and who said: “When anyone is going to take your mind, make it a blank.”

This was a theme that tormented him: the taking of minds by media or machines. Living, burning poetry already seemed traduced when it was plucked from the air and written down, forced into rhymes and sonnet forms; his was demotic and free-flowing. It was further betrayed by being printed, posted, stored and sold. He would rather give it away, and had to be forced by his publisher to do a single book tour. Commerce would not sully him.

Fame made him run away; celebrity, despite the Shrimpton blip, appalled him. Two plays, “The Local Stigmatic” (written at Harold Pinter’s urging) and “AC/DC”, dealt violently with the modern envy of stars. But “AC/DC” also took on the destruction of minds by machines. Its schizophrenic hero/victim, Perowne, believed he had been programmed to receive TV shows directly, his “instinctual patterns” stolen and replaced; he ended, after a brisk trepanning, admitting cosmic forces his brain could not absorb. In human terms he had indeed become a blank. And this was also happening every day, as Mr Williams wrote in “Autogeddon”: each car journey, “the TV of travel”, sucking people’s neural waves into thought-free “double-glazed mulch”. The answer? Slash the tyres, put sugar in the tank, block the exhaust…

When he died, there were plenty of poets left. But no fire-breathers.

This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline “Burning bright”


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where the psychedelic ’60s took off

This magical drug mansion in Upstate New York is where the psychedelic ’60s took off

Owned by one of America’s richest families, Millbrook hosted Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Mingus and more