Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Ken Kesey in Swansea

In 1999 Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)) turned up in Swansea in a replica of his famous Magic Bus. He was in the UK to celebrate the solar eclipse and to search for Merlin. Merlin, it was said, would reappear before the start of the new Millennium. Swansea would be the only Welsh stop on Kesey's Where’s Merlin? tour. By all accounts his psychedelically painted vehicle was parked on Castle Square, while the Beat/Hippie legend himself spent the day chatting to Welsh fans and inviting them aboard his bus. In the evening he gave a talk on Merlin at the Brangwyn Hall and did something vaguely theatrical. The event concluded that year’s Dylan Thomas Festival.

In 1964 Kesey and his Merry Pranksters had steered his original Magic Bus –FURTHER – across America on an era-defining trip. That LSD-fuelled epic journey was immortalised by Tom Wolfe in counter-culture classic, The Electric Kool–Aid Acid Test (1968). His 1999 jaunt to the UK was funded by Channel 4 who were filming proceedings for a projected documentary. Not sure if that doc ever saw the light of day but it probably means that there is footage knocking around somewhere of Ken Kesey in Swansea. Which is, like, Far Out. Kesey died in 2001, aged 66.

*The above photograph shows Ken Kesey in Swansea in 1999 and is the copyright of Jeff Morgan/Alamy Images.