Inspired by Alexander Trocchi’s essay ‘A Revolutionary Proposal: The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds.’
In 1965, Alexander Trocchi decided to convene a conference to forward his sigma project for a parallel society of a million like minds, linked into a ‘spontaneous university’ from which would grow an invisible insurrection, a cultural revolution. Looking for a vacant country house in which to hold this cultural jam session, he hit on Braziers Park, a well-established commune whose aim was ‘conscious co-existence: to make conscious the process of which we are a part’. The residents of the Park, gentle intellectuals with leanings towards Fabianism and Quakerism, welcomed the conference, but stressed with perhaps a hint of anxiety that they expected good manners in return.
The like minds that Trocchi had invited included the radical psychiatrist RD Laing, the anarchist artist John Latham, IT co-founder Tom McGrath and assorted lovers and hangers-on. According to the poet Jeff Nuttall they were simply looking for a place where they could go a little madder than they already were. The weekend turned into a continuous drunk, stoned party. John Latham created an artwork of a tower of books which was lit and became a flaming pillar. The commune members sat up all Saturday night with a loaded gun at the ready to protect themselves. At midday on Sunday the group fled from each other with colossal relief.
Through the years the Braziers Park community has survived and flourished, and over the weekend of the 18th-20th October it’s hosting another conference, A Million Minds, to explore liberating ideas and ideals – free universities, anti-psychiatry – from Trocchi, Laing & co to the present day. There will also be discussions round the 1967 Dialectics of Liberation Congress (summoned by Laing to ‘demystify human violence in all its forms and to explore new forms of action’), mental health and everyday life, and the place of women in the Sixties.
Among those taking part will be psychiatrists Joseph Berke, one of the founders of the Free Universities both of New York and London, and Leon Redler, colleague and friend of RD Laing (both also co-organisers of the Dialectics of Liberation Congress); Martin Levy, organiser of this conference and currently writing a book on the Dialectics Congress; Jakob Jakobsen, artist and member of the Copenhagen Free University; Jacky Ivimy, writer/director of the theatre event Dialektikon ’12; founder of the Artist Placement Group Barbara Stevini, poet Ed Reiss, writer Howard Slater, Geoff Bamford from the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and others who took part in the Dialectics of Liberation Congress and/or the New Experimental College of Denmark (NEC).
This will be a twenty-first weekend, not a Sixties one (alas?), so there’ll be talks, discussions, films, country walks, foraging, music and poetry, maybe a (non-book) bonfire…
Friday 18th – Sunday 20th October
“A Million Minds”
Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation / Free-spontaneous Universities Movements from the 1960s to present
Perspectives on education, mental health and every day life
We will explore the free universities movement, the 1967 congress and dialectics of liberation, the London anti-university, alternatives in higher education and anti-psychiatry.
A participatory weekend of talks, panel discussions and films – we will have time for informal discussion and leisure activities including country walks, foraging, art, music and poetry
(subject to change/suggestions welcome)
7.00: Dinner – a shared meal with the resident community and volunteers
8.00: Welcome and introductions – (Martin Levy, Trish Whitham, Alan Clark)
This will include a brief check-in with everyone, the expected format of the weekend, with chance to contribute suggestions, and a potted history of Braziers Park
8.15: Film: The Anatomy of Violence (Peter Davis, 1967) and the 10 minute film of the Sigma event at Braziers Park in July 1964.
9.00- till late: Options: Film: Peter Davis Anatomy out-takes or poetry readings and/or musical session
9.00: Meet up, check in and confirm the day’s activities.
9:30 – 11:15 Why a Million? Panel discussion on the congress on the dialectics of liberation, with presentations by Martin Levy (the dialectics of liberation congress), Jacky Ivimy (alternatives in higher education, women and the 60′s) and Geoff Bamford (dialectics participant)
11.15 Refreshment break- organic tea, herbals and fresh ground coffee with home-made cookies
11:30 – 1:00: Panel discussion on the London anti-university, the Copenhagen Free University and other free universities, with presentations by Jakob Jakobsen and others tba.
(Parallel sessions/activities possible tba)
1:00 – 2:00 Lunch – a shared meal with the resident community and volunteers
2:00 – 3:30 Open activities – House and/or estate tour, food foraging, introducing the BP archives (with Alan Clark)
3:30 – 5.00: Memories, impressions and reflections: Trocchi, Laing, Ginsberg and the sixties. Panel discussion chaired by Jacky Ivimy and Alan Clark with presentations by Leon Redler, Barbara Steveni and Geoff Bamford.
5.00: Refreshment break
5:30-7.00: Open activities: unstructured time for strolling, making things, talking and thinking. Or for further untimetabled presentations, options will be listed
7:00 -8:00: Supper with the community
8.30 onwards: Party/ impromtu activities/ general relaxation/a bonfire if it isn’t raining – bring your favourite poems/musical instruments
7:45 to 9:15 – Breakfast
8:00 to 9:00 – optional quiet meeting in the Library
8:00 to 9:00 – optional laughter yoga session
9:15 meet together for a morning round / check in
9:30: Film: Norwegian documentary about the anti-university and student radicalism.
10.00 – 11.30: Current programme: within and without the wen. Panel discussion on higher education and its alternatives, with presentations by Howard Slater (autodidactism) and Ed Reiss (a double critique), Aggie Forster (The Woodcraft movement)
(Parallel sessions/activities possible.)
11.30: refreshment break
11.45: Joe Berke lecture and Q&A: The Free University of New York, Mary Barnes, the congress, Kingsley Hall and the anti-university, with an introduction by Martin Levy
1.00: Lunch – shared meal with the resident community and volunteers.
2:30-3.30: Closing session – The format of which may arise out of the earlier sessions. What have we achieved? Where are we at? What next ? Feedback….
All contributors are also contributing to the costs of the weekend, no-one is being paid for contributing. Braziers is a specially authorised society with charitable status and a historic house to maintain. All costs are based on the actual costs of running the house and estate and providing delicious home-cooked, organic meals. Braziers is run by a community of permanent residents who exchange labour for food and accommodation helped by a small team of volunteers from around the world.
Day rate: £40 incl lunch & refreshments
Weekend rates: £170 per person single occcupancy (includes room, all meals, refreshments) £140 per person in shared twin room, £120 small dormitory, £100 camping/barn (all meals included)
Concessions available to people on low income – please ask
To book contact Trish firstname.lastname@example.org 01491 680221
Alexander Trocchi’s essays ‘The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds’ and ‘Project Sigma’ are available here:
Info on Trocchi & Laing at Braziers Park from Communes Britannica by Chris Coates: