John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins

John “Hoppy” Hopkins was a British photographer, journalist, researcher and political activist, and “one of the best-known underground figures of ‘Alternate London’ in the late 1960s.”


hoppy 12Martin Luther King

hoppy 11Ringo

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hoppy 20Malcolm X

hoppy 13Paul McCartney

hoppy 23John Lennon

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Photo of Mick & Tambourinehoppy 7
hoppy 27Rolling Stones

hoppy 6Marianne Faithfull

hoppy 14Jean Shrimpton 

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hoppy 17Allen Ginsberg

hoppy 24Hoppy’s Poets

hoppy 16Bertrand Russell


John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins
(15 August 1937 –
30 January 2015)

At the age of 20 he graduated from Cambridge University (which he had entered on a scholarship in 1955) with a degree in physics and mathematics, and embarked upon a career as a nuclear physicist. However, a graduation present of a camera changed his career. Arriving in London on 1 January 1960, he began to work as a photographer for newspapers, music magazines includingMelody Maker, and Peace News. He photographed many of the leading musicians of the period, including The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He also recorded the seedier side of London, with photographs of tattoo parlours, cafes, prostitutes and fetishists.

By the mid-1960s he had drifted into the centre of London’s emerging underground scene and recorded many peace marches, poetry readings and “happenings”, as well as photographing leading counter-cultural figures including Allen Ginsberg and Malcolm X. He compiled and stencil-duplicated the names, contact details and interests of all of London’s “movers and shakers”. He then gave all of them a copy. This action is credited with greatly boosting the cultural velocity of the 1960s London-based underground movement.

In 1965, with Rhaune Laslett and others, he helped set up the London Free School in Notting Hill. This in turn led to the establishment of the Notting Hill carnival, first organised by Laslett with the guidance of local activists including Michael X. As an extension of the Free School news-sheet The Gate in 1966 Hopkins and Barry Miles co-founded the influential magazine International Times (IT). Hopkins also set up the UFO Club with Joe Boyd,[2] with Pink Floyd as the resident band.

Arrested for cannabis possession, Hopkins elected for trial by jury. In court on 1 June 1967, Hopkins explained that cannabis was harmless and that the law should be changed. The judge, describing him as “a pest to society”,[3] sentenced Hopkins to nine months in prison for keeping premises for the smoking of cannabis and possession of cannabis, although he served only six months.[3] A “Free Hoppy” movement sprang up and, as one particular consequence, Stephen Abrams began co-ordinating a campaign for the liberalisation of the law on cannabis. This led to the publication in The Times on 24 July of a full-page advertisement that described the existing law as “immoral in principle and unworkable in practice”, signed by Francis CrickGeorge MellyJonathan Miller and the Beatles. Paul McCartney, initially clandestinely, arranged the funding for this advertisement as a tribute to Hoppy, at the instigation of Barry Miles.[4]

Hopkins remained a member of IT′s editorial board and a major contributor, and founded BIT as an information and agitprop arm. Hopkins favoured the more anarchistic elements in the “underground” centred on Ladbroke Grove, such as former UFO doorman Mick Farren, who by 1967 was also working at the IT newspaper.

In the 1970s Hopkins was involved in researching the social uses of video for UNESCO, the British Arts Council, the Home Office and others, and edited the Journal of the Centre for Advanced TV Studies. Later, he worked as a technical journalist in the video trade press, and co-authored distance learning video training courses. Subsequently, he took and exhibited macro photography of flowers and other plants, and co-authored papers on plant biochemistry at the University of Westminster. He also exhibited his photographs of events and personalities in the 1960s. He died at the age of 78 on 30 January 2015.

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7 Responses to John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins

    1. Hoppy was one if a kind and far more important than many are aware of. I hope his photo archive is taken up by someone who can help revive and show the wonderful pictures. He deserved to have far more recognition for what he did. A gentleman, a scholar and an artist who will be remembered.

      Comment by Victoria Lukens on 31 January, 2015 at 1:26 pm
    2. Hoppy was at the forefront,helping change,looking to the future, taking note and care of the times he lived through.Thank you for,the photographs ,the Free School,Carnival,IT,Bit,UFO,TVX ,working and shopping in wc1,changing my life, a real gent.

      Comment by john Geoffrey Morris on 31 January, 2015 at 5:30 pm
    3. I worked at Fantasy Factory regularly throughout the 80’s and got friendly with the lovely Hoppy. In all that time, despite my alternative, lefist leanings, I got no inkling of his illustrious part in the freak movement. My later dealings with him plus my later reading left me with the impression is of a gentle soul, a cutting edge thinker and a gifted photographer. His photo archive was trashed by the Special Branch in a spiteful raid on the IT offices. Without that pointless act Hoppy’s latter years would no doubt have been a lot more comfortable. Pigs indeed. Happy trails John.

      Comment by Tom Hickmore on 1 February, 2015 at 11:13 pm
    4. A mentor and pioneer who helped enlighten many of we young Hippies at the time (for me 1968).
      Another loss. Will be remembered.

      Comment by Martin (Brad) Bradley on 3 February, 2015 at 2:21 pm
    5. IT was crucial to my beginnings as a writer, it is within the pages of that newspaper that my first published pieces appeared. While I never got to meet Hoppy his influence was so important to the world of the late sixties and early seventies when so much suddenly became so possible. His quiet presence in the following years was like a rock in a zen garden – always there, a centre around which so much else occurred. Thank you Hoppy, fare well.

      Comment by Richard Noyce on 4 February, 2015 at 10:09 am
    6. Joe Boyd introduced us to Hoppy in Sound Techniques Jan. 1967 as we made our recording debut.He arrived in a “mac” which he kept on and played low down barrel house bluesy piano for our song “Bootleg Whiskey”( which became the B side to “Granny Takes A Trip”). It took him only 20 minutes and it was great.John Peel speaks of Hoppy ( in jail by then) and us on his last “Perfumed Garden” show on pirate station Radio London, but mistakenly says he`s playing on Granny.Of course we subsequently learned of Hoppy`s importance in the counter culture movement and met up many times.In recent years we met up a couple of times and he offered to reprise/ revive his piano talents for us should we record again.He was a sort of Pied Piper of the flower power scene, but much much more.He gave a lot of people a good time and brave enough to risk his neck for his beliefs.A remarkable man who I was proud to know, albeit briefly.Joe Beard/PURPLE GANG

      Comment by Chris Joe Beard on 4 February, 2015 at 11:32 am
    7. The short obituary leaves out so much because Hoppy’s life was very full. I remember him from the five-star squatter days when all of that and everything else too seemed possible. Always a friend, a kind person, Hoppy will be missed by me and by many.

      Lin Solomon

      Comment by Lin on 4 February, 2015 at 4:13 pm

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