Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Free Festivals in Wales

Free festivals were counter-cultural events set up by hippies in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. They mostly took place in rural settings, were anti-commercial, were awash with psychedelic drugs, and the music was provided by bands like Gong. They attracted - and were sometimes organised by - people who lived on hippie communes. Others who were drawn to such gatherings were squatters from the cities, as well as 'plastic' weekend hippies. Well-known Welsh stops on the free festival circuit were the Meigan Fair in the Preseli mountains, and the Psilocybin Fair, Pontrhydygroes. Other smaller festivals included the Ogwen Valley Fair, the Elan Valley Free Festival, the Gilfach Free Festival, Rhyader Fair Free Festival, Clyro Court, Twmbarlwm Free Festival and Llanbister.

A number of factors brought about the demise of the free festival circuit. Local authorities had begun to evict city squatters on a large scale with the result that many of them permanently hit the road. Travelling from festival to festival they didn't always share the same idealistic psychedelic philosophy as their hippie hosts. They also brought with them more destructive drugs such as heroin. Drug dealing for profit on a large-scale gave the police the perfect excuse for intervention. The major confrontation between the so-called Peace Convoy and the cops came in June '85 when a large group of travellers en route to Stonehenge were diverted into a field. Egged on by Tory politicians and the right-wing media the police gave the travellers a predictable battering at what became known as the Battle of the Beanfield. The final nail in the coffin for free festivals came in 1994 with the passing of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Devil's Apricot

Award-winning short, The Devil's Apricot, stars Eggsy out of Goldie Lookin' Chain who is doing some proper acting. He plays Damon Lewis, producer for the devil at Treble Six Records, and the man who inserts subliminal satanic messages into recordings. Features amusing Mumford and Sons joke. The Devil's Apricot was written and directed by Jonathan Brooks.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beyond the Boundaries

Beyond the Boundaries was a literary magazine that came out of Cyncoed, Cardiff, between 1994-1997. It specialised in "science fact and fiction, fantasy and horror". It was a product of the Welsh Speculative Writers Foundation (whatever happened to them?) and was edited by John Sheppard. The first edition came out under the title of Mab Sêr (a reference to the Mabinogion and stars) but from Issue 2 onwards it became known as Beyond the Boundaries. The magazine contained writing by Welsh and Wales-based scribes notably Lionel Fanthorpe, Rhys Hughes, Brian Stableford and Ceri Jordan, as well as interviews with esoteric luminaries from further afield such as Terry Pratchett, and king of the crab invasion novel, Guy N Smith. This finely illustrated magazine ran to about 11 issues in total and retailed at £1.90. The reasons for its demise are unknown to me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Allen Ginsberg on LSD in Wales

Here's a cool picture of beat poet and hippie guru, Allen Ginsberg, tripping on LSD in the Black Mountains. I've mentioned previously on this blog his acid-fuelled Welsh excursion and the poem, Wales: A Visitation, that he wrote while under the influence of the drug. The poem was first published in hardback by Cape Goliard in 1967 in a special edition that included photographs of Ginsberg in Wales taken by his publisher Tom Maschler. If you have one of the 100 signed copies of the first edition then it's worth between £500 - £600.

The above photograph is ©Tom Maschler.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Dark Daughters

The earliest (?) description of cocaine snorting in Welsh literature can be found in The Dark Daughters by Rhys Davies (1947). It's a very strange and sadly neglected novel. It's the tale of Mansell Roberts, an ambitious Welsh chemist who goes to London to make his fortune and ends up owning four brothels. He has three daughters (Marion, Gwen, Kate) by his loyal Welsh wife, and one illegitimate daughter (Laura) with his lover - a music hall actress. Upon the death of his wife he returns to live in a remote country house in Wales. There his daughters embark upon a long and bitter campaign of psychological warfare intended to make their father feel as shit as possible about his ill treatment of their mother. They really are a twisted and unpleasant family of extreme dysfunction.

The cocaine arrives in Wales via gone-to-seed toff Alex who is a friend of illegitimate daughter Laura. Here are some quotes:

He took from his waistcoat pocket a small paper sachet professionally folded. "Would you care for one of them? I think I can spare one."
"What is it?"
"A scrap of magic. You inhale it into your nose like snuff. So much cleaner and simpler than drink, soaking oneself in vile liquors like swine at a trough, coarsely blowing onself out with fermenting poisons."
"A drug?" Gwen still smiled. "Yes, I'll try it." She took the white sachet.
"Do you realise it's cocaine?" said Laura idly, but staring in surprise.
"Hold your tongue, Laura," scolded Alex. "You're far too puritanic about drugs. You think like a policewoman sometimes... Sniff it up, Gwen. Off the back of your hand... Don't spill it!"

Rhys Davies evidently had a literary interest in the recreational use of drugs. In 1975 he penned a thinly disguised biography of his heroin-addicted friend, the writer Anna Kavan, entitled Honeysuckle Girl.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Bastards

Pure Evil - or Charles Edwards to his mam and dad - is an artist and musician from Wales now residing in that there London. The above print held at the V&A and titled Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Bastards is a subversion of Peter Blake's famous design for the Beatles album. Already a much parodied image, Pure Evil's approach is to replace the Beatles' favourite icons with a blood-curdling historical line-up of dictators, despots, and serial killers such as Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, and Ted Bundy. His piece was originally made with a scalpel and glue in 2007. A limited edition run of 300 prints was issued, each carrying the Pure Evil motif and a fingerprint. According to his website he created Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Bastards in his parents shed in the Black Mountains after having his US visa revoked. You can check out and purchase more of his outstanding prints here - I particularly like his Richard Burton's Nightmare and his JF Kennedy's Nightmare if anyone wants to buy me a slightly unsettling Christmas present.

A Taste of Apples

The first ever explicit, meat and potatoes, depiction of the sexual act in the Welsh-language novel can be found in Ienctid Yw 'Mhechod (Youth is my Sin) which was written by John Rowlands. Published in 1965 it was runner-up in the literature competition at the National Eisteddfod held in Swansea in 1964. One adjudicator said: "Many Welsh publishers would have scruples about it." In 1966 the book was given an English translation and re-published under a new title - A Taste of Apples. Rowlands' novel is the story of a married minister (Emrys) who has a sexual affair with a young woman (Elsa). The complication in their relationship is that Elsa shares a house with her gravely ill mother. While she and the minister are downstairs getting it on, her poor mam is upstairs dying. Cue much guilt when the old woman eventually carks it while they are on the job. In a nutshell: sex, religion and death. The original Welsh-language cover of the book has an abstract, yellow, globular design; the English-language version has a saucier, soft-focus, blue-filtered headshot (see pic). Make of that what you will.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Surrealism in Wales

Currently at The Last Gallery, Llangadog, Dyfed, is an intriguing exhibition entitled Surrealism in Wales. The title of the exhibition is its only non-Surreal element as Surrealism in Wales is precisely what you will find on show there. John Welson, Orlando Mostyn Owen, Millree Hughes, Ken Cornwell and Neil Coombs are the diverse group of contemporary artists involved. From the playfully subversive to the purely abstract they engage with Surrealist ideas and techniques in relationship to place - that place being, of course, Wales. If you can't make it to Llangadog you can purchase the limited edition exhibition catalogue here.