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greengalloway

As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Living with an Alien Invasion

Signal Crayfish populations in local area.







The front page of my local paper was dramatic this week. We are being invaded by an alien species.


Dramatic, but not as dramatic as the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001 when 750 000 cattle from 1500 farms in Galloway and Dumfries were slaughtered and burnt. The Army had to be called in to help.



I have written a timeline for the alien invasion. It has been going for 20 years.


Signal Crayfish in Dumfries and Galloway

Summary
Since 1996, when first discovered, an initially small population of American Signal Crayfish has increased to become a major problem. Proposals for eradication were made in 2004 but not acted upon. By 2009, the numbers in Loch Ken, the epicentre of the problem, had grown to the extent that the removal of 700 000 signal crayfish over three months made little impact. 

A three year programme of trapping on Loch Ken was suggested in 2009, but not acted upon. By 2014 signal crayfish had spread to two reservoirs, one 15 km and the other 25 km from Loch Ken. The smaller of the reervoirs will be drained later this month in an attempt to eliminate the crayfish. There are no plans to eliminate crayfish from the other one.

Loch Ken is a popular visitor destination for coarse fishing, sailing, water skiing, canoeing and windsurfing. To prevent the spread of signal crayfish from the loch a ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ biosecurity campaign is in place. However, any attempt to strictly enforce bio- security would risk deterring visitors and conflict with the promotion of the natural heritage value of the area.

There is therefore a major conflict of interest developing between the need to halt the spread of signal crayfish beyond Loch Ken and the impossibility of eradicating or even controlling the millions of signal crayfish in the loch.


Timeline
1.The North American Signal Crayfish was introduced to the UK in 1976 . It was farmed to produce crayfish for restaurants. It was first recorded in Dumfries and Galloway in 1996 in tributaries of the Ken/Dee river system. By 1999 it had reached Loch Ken. 

2. 1 In 2004 Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned a report ‘Strategy for the containment and possible eradication of American signal
crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) in the River Dee catchment and Skyre Burn’. (The Skyreburn flows into the Fleet estuary near Gatehouse of Fleet.)

2.2 In 2004 SNP MSP  Richard Lockhead asked a question (S2W-11046) in the Scottish Parliament about signal crayfish. Lewis MacDonald replied 27 October 2004- 

“Scottish Natural Heritage has taken steps to deal with the signal crayfish issue in Scotland. As well as helping to fund eradication programmes, it has also commissioned a research report entitled, Preparation and Implementation of a Strategy for the Containment of American Signal Crayfish in the River Dee Catchment, Kirkcudbrightshire. SNH is also involved in the development of publicity materials for this species, which are designed to educate the public about the dangers of translocating signal crayfish to other waters.”

4. In 2009, as part of her PhD research, Zara Gladman monitored the impact of trapping approximately 650 000 signal crayfish in Loch Ken. [Note: Dr Gladman has explained she carried out a before and after study, not the main trapping exercise] http://theses.gla.ac.uk/3977/ 
Following this research a further three year trapping programme was recommended, but this did not happen.

“It was recommended that the trapping programme continue on Loch Ken for a further three years with part justification that the initial research had suggested that a heavy trapping programme may have a significant impact on the crayfish population. However, no further action has been taken on this recommendation.”

5. 1 In 2014  SNP MSP Joan McAlpine asked  a question (S4W-20621) about signal crayfish in Lochrutton  and the Lochfoor Burn near Dumfries.

Paul Wheelhouse replied

 “I am advised by Scottish Natural Heritage that they have not yet identified an effective method for the eradication of North American signal crayfish in water bodies such as Lochrutton and the Lochfoot Burn, albeit this is an objective the Scottish Government is keen to pursue if at all possible. The Fisheries Trusts and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) are working together to raise awareness of appropriate biosecurity measures that water users can take to avoid spreading the species, and other freshwater invasive species, to other parts of the catchment or to other parts of Scotland. This includes launching a number of biosecurity campaigns across Dumfries and Galloway this spring and summer to raise awareness of invasive non-native species, including the Check Clean Dry and Be Plant Wise initiatives across the region. All campaigns are being co-ordinated by SEPA with support from a variety of partner organisations such as Police Scotland, the Galloway Fisheries Trust, the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust, the River Annan Trust, Dumfries and Galloway Council Ranger Service, Solway Firth Partnership and Scottish Natural Heritage. These campaigns will be supported by the distribution of thousands of leaflets, identification guides, posters and signs across the region.” 

5. 2 In 2015 there was a Petition, PE 1558, to the Scottish Parliament which called  on the Parliament ‘to urge the Scottish Government to amend the existing licencing regime to allow for the commercial trapping of American Signal Crayfish in Scotland.’ This call was rejected. However, in May 2015 Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency produced a lengthy response to the Petition.

This included an action plan for the signal crayfish problem in Buittle (Dalbeattie) Reservoir which is part of the Urr catchment.

6. On 4 August 2016, the Galloway News revealed that Buittle Reservoir will be drained later in the month in an attempt to eliminate signal crayfish.

7. Between 2017and 2021, as part of the Galloway Glens Landscape Heritage project, a Loch Ken Fisheries Survey will be carried out. The survey will include  identifying the extent of the loch’s signal crayfish population. This survey was proposed in the 2015 SNH/SEPA response to Petition 1558. 

Complicating Factor.

The EU Water Framework Directive of 2000 (2000/60/EC) required river systems to be brought up to ‘good ecological and chemical quality’ by 2015. However, ‘heavily modified water bodies’ were only required to achieve ‘good ecological potential’ by 2015. A 2002 case study identified the Dee/Ken river system as a heavily modified water body.

The main reason for this designation was the effects of the 1929 Galloway Water Power Company Act. This led to the construction of a hydro-electric scheme, completed 1935, which affected the Doon (Ayrshire), Ken and Dee (Galloway) river systems and their catchments.

The 80 year old hydro-electric scheme restricts the migration of salmon upstream. Modifications could be carried out to improve the system for salmon, but they would be expensive. The Water Framework Directive allows the benefits - in this case renewable energy- of heavily modified water bodies to be taken into account. 

‘Appendices to the 2015 update to the river basin management plan for the Solway Tweed river basin district’ - Appendix 8.1, p. 51, explains the current situation.

Where restoring the water bodies to good ecological status would significantly compromise the benefits Scotland obtains from their modifications, we have designated them as heavily modified water bodies. Instead of good ecological status, our goal for these water bodies is to achieve good ecological potential. Good ecological potential is the ecological quality that can be achieved without a significant adverse impact on the benefits served by the modifications, including benefits to environmental interests, such as wildlife conservation.

In other words, even if it was possible to eradicate signal crayfish from the Ken/Dee river system, it would still only achieve ‘good ecological potential’ because it would remain a heavily modified water body. Likewise, an extensive programme of trapping, as proposed in 2009, might reduce the numbers of signal crayfish in Loch Ken, but the costs would be excessive for a heavily modified water body.

On the other hand, Loch Ken is a highly popular visitor destination for coarse fishing, sailing, wind-surfing, water-skiing and canoeing. All of these activities have the potential to allow the spread of signal crayfish to other locations. Loch Ken has been targeted by notices and information about the UK wide ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ campaign which is designed to limit the spread of invasive non- native species. http://www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry/ 

However, while the Loch Ken Management Committee agree that biosecurity is important, they do not want create a message that the loch is ‘closed for business’ which would discourage visitors. During the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis, access to the countryside in Dumfries and Galloway was effectively banned which had a major negative impact on tourism.



Monday, August 01, 2016

In Search of Space-the Hawkwind Log

August 1972. Silver Machine by Hawkwind had been released 8 June and by July it had reached number 3 in the UK charts. I didn’t buy the single, but I remember going to visit my school friend Iain MacDonald at the Kings Arms Hotel in Castle Douglas which his parents then owned. I was still a glam fan, listening to T Rex and Bowie and Slade. But Iain had the first Black Sabbath album, Aqualung by Jethro Tull and In Search of Space by Hawkwind, recorded in 1971. A few weeks later Iain sold the Hawkwind album to me for £2.50. He played the Sabbath and Tull albums and then the Hawkwind one.

While it was playing I read the 24 page Hawkwind Logbook which came with the album. Without exaggeration it was a life changing moment. I had just started reading science fiction. J G Ballard’s short story ’The Terminal Beach’ in an sf short story collection is the one I recall most vividly, an account of a typical Ballard subject wandering among the ruins of a nuclear test site on a Pacific island. I may or may not have already started reading Michael Moorcock’s pulp fictions.

What blew my not quite 14 year old mind away was the combination of the psychedelic space rock music on In Search of Space and the Bob Calvert/ Barney Bubbles text and images of the Hawkwind logbook. The entries in the log, all dated, mix past, present and future. It begins with part of Michael Moorcock’s ‘The Black Corridor’, and goes on to include a whole range of alternative/counterculture references, from the magical and mystical to the political and ecological, filtered through acid inspired science fiction.

 It is not possible to pick out individual entries in the Log to illustrate. The Log plus music are a totality, a complete and complex ‘situation’ which is too information rich to be compressed. What the complex totality did for me was inspire an interest in the alternative/counterculture which has lasted 44 years. It even influenced my understanding of punk. In the extremely hot summer of 1976 I visited London and wandered around the Notting Hill/ Ladbroke Grove haunts of Hawkwind. When White Riot by the Clash was released in 1977, I was able to connect its references to the 1976 Notting Hill carnival riot to a place I knew and so realise the contemporary relevance of punk - which I might otherwise have missed.

And finally… here is what I encountered all the years ago - the music and the text/images. Enjoy

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The railway that went the wrong way


Caledonian train on Portpatrick railway circa 1880 near Gatehouse station- 6 miles from the town it served


The railway that went the wrong way

The British and Irish Grand Junction Railway was proposed in April 1856 and approved by Parliament in August 1857 as the Portpatrick Railway. But as early as August 1856 it was argued that Cairnryan near Stranraer not Portpatrick should be the line’s terminus. It was also argued between 1856 and 1858 that the line should be routed via Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright.

Neither of these proposals were accepted and the railway was built to a port only suitable for sailing ships following the route of a stage coach road surveyed by Thomas Telford in 1809. By 1864, only two years after the line reached Portpatrick, the railway was running at a loss. It was leased to the Caledonian Railway which developed Stranraer as a successful ferry port.

Stranraer’s success was based on long distance traffic but the railway failed to stimulate the local economy. In 1851, the population of Galloway was 86 510. By 1961 it had fallen to 57 984. The lack of local traffic on the railway that went the wrong way made its closure in 1965 almost inevitable. Note: a petition for re-opening can be signed here
https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/reopen-the-dumfries-stranraer-railway

Dr Beeching
In June 1965, the railway between Dumfries and Stranraer and a branch line from Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright were closed. A freight only branch from Newton Stewart to Wigtown and Whithorn had been closed the year before.

The closure of these lines had been proposed in the 1963 report ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ by Dr Richard Beeching. Beeching’s argument was that competition from the road network since 1952 meant that large parts of Britain’s Victorian railway network were no longer economically viable.

From 'The Reshaping of British Railways, 1963

Pressure from businessmen and politicians in Northern Ireland kept the line from Ayr to Stranraer open for overnight/sleeper services to and from London. This service was seen as vital for Northern Ireland in the days before air travel became the preferred option.

The early use of roll-on/ roll-off vehicle ferries on the Stranraer/Larne route, despite the tragic loss of the Princess Victoria in 1953 (built in 1947),  helped to draw traffic away from the railway and onto the A 75 and A 77 roads. Unfortunately this exacerbated a problem which had been identified even before the railway was built.



The Short-Sea Crossing
The Portpatrick Railway, as the company which built the  line from Castle Douglas to Stranraer and Portpatrick was called was planned as a strategic route to take advantage of the 21 mile short-sea crossing from Portpatrick to Donaghadee in Ireland. From 1662 until 1849, Portpatrick had been the port used by the Royal Mail service to Ireland. By 1838, 8000 to 10 000 letters per day were passing through Portpatrick. Scottish mail was carried by daily by coach from Glasgow and the English mails by coach from Dumfries.

But in 1850 the railway network reached Holyhead in Wales with a 22 hour steamer service to Kingstown ( Dún Laoghaire) for Dublin. This then became the preferred Royal Mail route to Ireland and the Portpatrick- Donaghadee route was dropped.



But in 1856, the UK Treasury hinted that if Portpatrick and Donaghadee were to be connected to the British and Irish rail networks, then they would once more become the main Royal Mail ports for the Irish mail service.

The Short Railway Route
The Portpatrick Railway was planned to achieve this financially lucrative objective. Its main promoters, lord Dalrymple, heir to the earl of Stair and William Dunbar of Mochrum, had little interest in local traffic and so civil engineer Benjamin Blythe came up with the shortest possible route between Castle Douglas and Portpatrick.

The original plan involved a direct line from Glenluce to Portpatrick, with Stranraer served by a freight branch but this was overturned at a meeting of shareholders held in Newtown Stewart in September 1856 (H Thorne, ‘Rails to Portpatrick’, 1976, p.4).

The original route of the railway between Glenluce and Portpatrick
would have followed the 'New Intended Road' shown on this 1821 map.

Unfortunately, the  Portpatrick company refused to budge on another part of Benjamin Blyth’s proposed route. This took the railway north from Castle Douglas to Parton and then west through the Galloway hills to Creetown. An alternative route, which would have taken the railway via Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown was rejected in 1857. A similar route which would have taken in Kirkcudbright as well was rejected in 1858.

The sensible argument that the alternative route would increase local traffic on the route and make it more financially viable were loftily dismissed on the grounds that the Portpatrick was a national rather than a local railway.

Alternative route as proposed 1856

Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser
21 January 1857. Part of surveyors report on alternative route.

Alternative route as proposed and rejected in 1858

The line from Castle Douglas to Stranraer was opened in 1861 at a cost of £290 000. Although work had begun on the last 7 miles to Portpatrick in 1858, the work was not completed until 1862, at a cost of £70 000. The delay was due to the government, having spent £500 000 on improvements to Portpatrick harbour, being unwilling to commit to further work.

In 1864, despite the railway reaching Portpatrick and Donaghadee also having a rail link, the Postmaster General informed the Treasury that the Holyhead route would keep the Royal Mail contract ‘for the foreseeable future’. (MacHaffie, ‘Portpatrick to Donghadee’, 2001p. 65)

Failure
The Portpatrick company had gambled -and lost. In 1864, the Portpatrick Railway leased its track and rolling stock to the Caledonia Railway for 21 years. In 1868 the Portpatrick harbour branch was closed. Under Caledonia management, Stranraer was developed as a successful ferry port. When the lease expired in 1885, the Portpatrick was taken over by a partnership of the Caledonian, Glasgow and South Western, London and North Western and Midland railway companies. In 1923 the London Midland and Scottish railway absorbed the Portpatrick and other railways in south-west Scotland. After nationalisation in 1948, British Railways took over until closure in 1965.

The history of the Dumfries to Stranraer line and its branches has been the subject of three books:
David Smith ‘The Little Railways of South-West Scotland’ (1967)
H D Thorne ‘Rails to Portpatrick’ (1976)
C E J Fryer ‘The Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railways’ (1991).

Fraser G MacHaffie ‘Portpatrick to Donaghadee -The Original Short Sea Crossing’ (2001) provides vital background information missing from the railway focused books.

The Cairnryan Railway?
Today, both P & O and Stena ferries are based at Cairnryan. Remarkably,
MacHaffie reveals that even as the Portpatrick Railway company was being formed in the summer of 1856, the steamer Semaphore arrived at Cairnryan on 11 August 1856 with members of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and leading Belfast businessmen. This group met members of the railway company committee and suggested to them that Cairnryan should become the departure point for Belfast and the proposed railway’s destination. The railway company replied that the line to Portpatrick had to be built first before other possibilities could be explored. (MacHaffie, p. 62)

MacHaffie also describes successive, failed, attempts to improve the harbour at Portpatrick, from John Smeaton’s plans drawn up in 1768 to Thomas Telford’s proposals in 1809 and John Rennie’s more detailed plan drawn up in 1819.




Beginning in 1821, work on Rennie’s plan continued until 1836, but after storm damage in 1839, it was left unfinished. As MacHaffie notes
It is doubtful if Portpatrick Harbour, even if completed could have done the job. It was designed with sailing ships in mind and we must question John Rennie’s claims, as late as 1842, that the original plans required no modification to accommodate steamships. (p. 31)
Rennie made the claims at Parliamentary Select Committee hearing where Captain George Evans of the Royal Navy said attempts to make the harbour safe were ‘a useless expense, just the same as throwing the money in the sea’.

By 1856, it should have been clear to lord Dalrymple, William Dunbar and others involved in promoting the Portpatrick Railway that Stranraer or Cairnryan were the future and Portpatrick was the past. 

Telford’s Shortest Road
Unfortunately their focus on the past carried over into the route chosen for the railway. In 1809, as well as making recommendations for the improvement of Portpatrick harbour, Thomas Telford also sketched out the route of a road from Gretna Portpatrick which would be 15 miles shorter than the existing Old Miltary Road, constructed in 1764/5. In 1811, John Rennie made a more detailed survey of part of Telford’s proposed road. In 1821, John Ainslie showed the route of the proposed road on his map of Southern Scotland. The map can be seen here.

Ainslie’s map shows the proposed road cutting across the head of Luce Bay directly from Glenluce to Portpatrick. It also shows the road running inland from Creetown towards Parton and on to the pick up the route of the present day A 75 at Auchenreoch Loch.

As discussed above, Thorne (1976, p.4) noted, the original route of the Portpatrick Railway would also have run direct from Glenluce to Portpatrick, with Stranraer served by a branch line. But what neither Thorne nor Smith and Fryer realised in their accounts of the Portpatrick Railway was that the Creetown to Parton section of the route also followed the Telford/Rennie road as shown by Ainslie.

'Intended Road' John Ainslie, 1821


Route of railway as built 1861

This is Rennie’s 1811 description of the road route, which precisely matches the Portpatrick Railway route.

The new Road is proposed to depart from the Road leading from Newton Stewart to Cree Town about three quarters of a mile west of the latter place, and from thence it proceeds up the vale of the Money Pool Burn to Drumore. The highest part of the ground in this district is about 462 feet above the Newton, Stewart Road, and is about six miles distant from it the rise is very regular, and in no place will it be greater than one foot in 35 ; but generally the rise is not half of that quantity. 
 A new Road is now making in this direction, and indeed a great part of it has already been made. It has however been badly laid out, and will require to be altered in several places. 
From this summit, the Road descends gently to Drumore east of which it crosses the great Fleet River, and then ascends up a vale to the ridge of high ground between thence and the little Fleet, the highest part of which is 428 feet, and no part is the rise more than one in 39. From the Little Fleet, the line of Road runs to Loch Skerrow and skirting the south side of that Loch, it descends gradually to Stroan Loch: the steepest part is about one in 38.

The line of Road must necessarily cross the Dee, near the place where it comes out of the Loch, and in this place a Bridge will be required, where the Dee is small; and Mr. Morrison informs me that the situation is favourable. From this place, Mr. Morrison has surveyed two lines, the one to pass down the Vale of the Dee and cross Loch Kenn at the Boat or Ferry of Roan; the other, to recross the Dee at Newbridge, and pass down the South side of the Vale to Loup Eye, and there to cross Loch Kenn. 

At the former place the water of Loch Kenn is deep, but the channel is much narrower than at Loup Eye : it cannot be conveniently Crossed, unless by a Bridge of one Arch, which will require to be 180 feet span; this can easily be done economically by a cast-iron arch, and even with such an arch the expense will be great, amounting, as per annexed Estimate, to £ 14,201. This is far beyond what I expected it would cost; but much of the expense arises from the badness of the foundations, all of which will require to be piled…

So when E and B Blyth of Edinburgh were drawing up their plans for the Portpatrick Railway between June and September 1856 they used Ainslie’s 1821 map and simply copied from it, making the new railway follow the route of a road first proposed 49 years earlier by Thomas Telford. 

What might have been
If the opponents of the Portpatrick Railway’s route had known this, it would have strengthen their case for taking the railway via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse to Creetown rather than by Crossmichael, Parton and the Galloway hills.  Furthermore if Stranraer / Cairnryan not Portpatrick had been chosen as the terminus of the route the overall cost of the new railway would have been dramatically reduced.

A Lochryan Railway, routed via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse as well as Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas, would have placed the most populous and prosperous parts of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on a main line of communication between England and Ireland. This would have added extra income from local traffic to the railway and promoted the growth Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse.

Potentially then, by the 1960s, the economic and social value of the railway would have been significant enough for it to successfully resist the sharp edge of Dr Beeching’s axe.



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Demanding the Impossible

When the Kill Your Et Puppy Collective met The Mob

Midnight. One more night without sleeping. Spent some time today in a surreal exchange on facebook about the pic below when Viv Albertine defaced a  punk exhibition at the British Library for ignoring women.
"After seeing female punk bands erased from an exhibition celebrating the genre, The Slits guitarist decided to take things into her own hands..."

Apparently, more women were involved in country and western music than punk so Viv should have scrawled 'What about Dolly Parton?' instead.


I did something similar myself once. Reading a book which highlighted the importance of Crass in anarcho-punk, I scrawled 'What about The Mob' on the page and wrote to the author....who didn't know anything about them. So it goes...That was 20 years ago. Not much has changed since then. Crass still define anarcho-punk in the same way the Pistols still define punk.


Eleven years ago I started this blog. Here is the first post. 'In the beginning there was punk' about the summer of 1976. Mark Wilson of The Mob saw it and rated it, which was encouraging. And here is the third 'Subway surfing anarcho-goths' Among other things it connects the Parliament Hill Fields Mob gig with the St James Church flyer above and the gay punx page from Kill Your Pet Puppy 4 (September 1981) below.


Pinki, who is mentioned in the gay punx piece is in this 1978 photo in pink and black. So is Lisa (later singer  with Blood and Roses) and Phil and Cory. Cory is also in the gay punx piece. I think it is Evelyn half cut off on the left. It is a bit hard to read the gay punx article, but if you can mange to, it is a shocking powerful description of what life was like back then in 1979/81.

Next up is Kill Your Pet Puppy Communique 2. 29 February 1980. I have been trying to work out the original sources for this. So far I have found one is a surrealist document from 1925 (see below)  and other is the Communist Manifesto from 1848. This is the original quote from the Communist Manifesto "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. " See if you can spot where it pops up in the KYPP Communique. (Hint, second page)





I have underlined in red the surrealist quote used in the KYPP communique. It is on page one. 



What is quite amusing about the use of version of surrealist and communist quotes in the KYPP Communique is that Guy Debord  did something similar in 'The Society of the Spectacle'  Example:

Thesis 1
"All of life in the societies in which modern conditions of production reign presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles."
Marx, Capital: "The richness of the societies in which the mode of capitalist production reigns presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities."
For more see this greengalloway post 'Sources used in The Society of the Spectacle' 

In other words, when Tony Drayton was writing the communique he was using the same situationist techniques as Guy Debord. Impressive, huh? And since Tony had started 'Ripped and Torn' in Glasgow back in November 1976 and carried the zine on through 17 editions ( Ripped and Torn 18 was edited by Vermillion) before starting Kill Your Pet Puppy in 1979, his punk credentials are beyond question...

What is your point, caller?

My point is that for all the millions of words written about punk and more recently about 'anarcho-punk' the particular reality/experience of punk which found an expression in Kill Your Pet Puppy remains unknown. Sure, the zines exist, the music of The Mob, Brigandage, Blood and Roses, Hagar the Womb and Flowers in the Dustbin also exists as do hundreds of photos buried away in the KYPP archives.

But the actuality of our lives and our world remains forgotten.

Society of the Spectacle Thesis 157

Another side of the deficiency of general historical life is that individual life as yet has no history. The pseudo-events which rush by in spectacular dramatizations have not been lived by those informed of them; moreover they are lost in the inflation of their hurried replacement at every throb of the spectacular machinery. Furthermore, what is really lived has no relation to the official irreversible time of society and is in direct opposition to the pseudo-cyclical rhythm of the consumable by-product of this time. This individual experience of separate daily life remains without language, without concept, without critical access to its own past which has been recorded nowhere. It is not communicated. It is not understood and is forgotten to the profit of the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable. 


|Maybe it is a compliment. That what is actually/truly subversive will always be excluded from history, will always be too complicated and confusing and dangerous to be fitted into narratives of recuperation. That we were and still are realists who demand that which  remains impossible 

 the revolution of everyday life.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Space Travel to Nowhere


Preface

As directors of the public transportation system in the Bay Area, we feel that it is out duty to enlighten the public on the nature of our operation. People too often take the way they travel for granted, so we are taking this opportunity to inform them about our real purpose. We hope that after reading this brochure, our patrons will be better able to appreciate the services we provide.

B. F. BIAGGINI
Vice-President, Southern Pacific Transportation Co.
ALAN L. BINGHAM
General Manager, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
B. R. STOKES
General Manager, Bay Area Rapid Transit District
GENE TEELING
General Manager, Public Relations, Greyhound Bus Lines
JOHN M. WOODS
General Manager, San Francisco Municipal Railway



We are all going nowhere. No matter where we travel, our destination seems strangely like our place of depature. Wherever we look, we find various conditions of misery; at home, at work, and in all the places in between, we see the same void, we encounter the same emptiness. Our uneasiness with our daily lives is something we can't avoid - while we may think we're "different" from everybody else, we can't help noticing that everybody looks the same in the crowds on our way to work. The poverty of urban life is not confined to the slums and ghettoes - it exists everywhere. All of us share a vague feeling that everything that happens is beyond our control. The various occupations that distinguish us - workers, shoppers, students - are only so many roles. We don't choose to live the way we do; it is forced upon us in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways. We don't ride the buses because we want to, but because we have to.



The way we are forced to travel says a lot about the way society functions. Transportation is only a means to an end. This is demonstrated all the time by the vandalism of young school kids. In breaking windows and slashing seats, they have at least exposed the purpose of transport: to herd people from place to place, from home to school or a job and back again. On the buses, we see the same faces every clay, but no one ever speaks to each other, except about the most unimportant things - yestersay's sports results, the latest TV programs, elections, and so on. We encounter a real absence of communication here, and our trivial conversations only hide the fact that nothing is ever really said. Every day, we repeat the same gestures endlessly; we climb aboard, deposit our money in the coin-box, and sit down with a newspaper or a book. We try to avoid looking at the other passengers, because we would only recognize our own unhappiness in their blank, featureless stares. We are so aware of our discontent that we have to provide others with an image of happiness. Unable to smile, we wear yellow "smile" buttons on our lapels and say good-bye to each other with the trite "Have a nice day," because we know we never will.

Our own isolation - our own inability to talk to other people - is not the result of a decision we make; it is expected of us. We travel in a hostile world, a world which is designed to keep us apart. Life in the city is not "difficult" simply because ther is high "crime rate", as the newspapers would have us believe: the real crime which is committed against us is the way we are robbed of life daily, in our work and in our free time. Our senses are assaulted by a chant of the dead that comes at us from all sides. The advertisements are the first things that strike us when we get on the buses. If we look out the windows, we find an even larger graveyard in the shops and billboards. Everything there is to see bears a price tag.



All of this comes as no surprise. We all feel that we've been had somewhere along the line, but if we try and locate the reasons for our dissatisfaction, we come to the disturbing conclusion that they are to be found everywhere. A trip on the bus is just a part of daily routine that makes up our "lives". The boredom we experience on the buses does not leave us when we arrive at our "destinations" - the next eight hours only offer more of the same. The true meaning of work can be found in the face of the bus driver, whom we ignore every day. We have nothing to say to him because we know only too well what he goes through.

In various ways, we all express a desire to escape from our situation. After work, we try to get home as quickly as possible and to forget about what we've been through all day by having a few drinks or smoking dope with our friends. We look for someone to talk to in the bars, but after a while we don't even do that much. Our encounters become casual and meaningless; the pleasure we desperately seek is always absent. Our "pursuit of happiness" only deadens the pain without getting rid of it. In our so-called "leisure", we are not free either. We spend our time like we spend our money, in the pursuit of things, as we buy the latest useless items. We take in the latest film or TV special in order to "relax". But here again, life eludes us - all we see is its shadow. We are always condemned to be passive spectators.



We are prisoners of a time which does not belong to us, but to someone else; the manner in which we spend our days is determined by circumstances we cannot control. The way things are hasn't come about through some sort of "accident", however. Our travel, work, and leisure are all maintained by a system which is based on a division between those who run the machinery and those who are caught up in its workings. This isn't simply a "rat-race" which is a "necessary" part of daily life: the race we are running in is organized for certain people's benefit.



The bosses whom we run into everywhere we go - in the schools, factories, offices, unions, and throughout society - don't just happen to be there; they keep the whole show going. But even though we all know we're being treated like shit, we tend to accept it as inevitable. We postpone our happiness until a distant future, to be reached when we pay off the last mortgage or after we retire. But our "happy tomorrows" either come too late or not at all.

We experience a hundred humiliations every day. Whenever we are told what to do, whenever we pick tip a paycheck or a welfare payment, or are insulted by a "superior", we are reminded of our own impotence. We find it hard to suppress our anger, but when we do strike back, it is usually against only one part of our humiliation - we demand higher wages, better working conditions, an end to racial and sexual discrimination, and so on. Even when we manage to win on a particular issue, we find afterwards that things go on much the same as before. After the thousands of partial victories (civil rights, equal pay for equal work, paid health-care plans) we have gained over the years, we become painfully aware that the system can easily absorb any opposition which does not oppose it totally.



Changing all of this - putting an end to our alienation - does not simply consist of taking over a bus, but everything that affects us. To seize control of society is to seize control of our lives. All of us share a common condition of powerlessness, no matter how different our jobs are. However often one may hear of the "silent majority," the majority of people in America belong to a class whose real interests go against the interests of those who rule us. In the offices and factories, in the department stores and shopping centers, workers have had enough of "business as usual". Many of us have begun to ex-press our discontent in actions: from breaking the smallest rule to open disobedience in the form of wildcat strikes and sabotage.

When we realize the depth of our dissatisfaction with the world, we start to see how much really needs to be changed. All the reformist, from the liberals to the New Left, who want to patch up the existing system, are only trying to give us the same crap in a slightly different form. They talk of reforming everything - transport, work, government - to prevent us from seeing what's really wrong with society. However, the "urban crisis" that every politician and news analyst talks about will only be overcome when it is seen as a crisis of power - the cities will become "livable" when they become ours. This doesn't mean some kind of "community control" which would make the Board of Supervisors, the police, the schools, more "responsive" to the "citizens". Instead, it requires the destruction of existing authority and the creation of our own democratic forms of organization: workers' councils in which we control and make decisions on everything that goes on.



It is not just one particular boss that must be gotten rid of; rather, it is the whole idea of bosses that has to be destroyed. Those who speak of revlution and at the same time preach about the Party and "correct leadership" are our enemies. It's no secret that it's as dull in Peking as it is in San Francisco. A genuine revolution does not mean a change in bosses but a real change in the way we live; it must be made for ourselves and not in the name of an external "cause". Such a change cannot be accomplished by simply "dropping out" - society will only be transformed when we actively confront it.

Revolution isn't impossible, and those who say so are the most afraid of its ever taking place. It hasn't always been like this - in San Francisco, workers are no strangers to radical activity. The 1934 longshoremen's strike, despite opposition from the union leadership as well as from the bosses, grew into a general strike that shut down the city. Workers controlled the flow of traffic in the city, coordinated the distribution of food, and organized armed resistance to the police and National Guard. The municipal strike in 1970, which began among the transportation and postal workers, was another instance of what could develop if we begin to assert our power. These examples, however, are only the first steps towards a revolutionary transformation of the city.

The tasks that presently face us are complex, but at the same time, the future can be ours if we want it to be. In revealing the true secret of modern society - the misery of daily life - we have already toppled capitalism's house of cards, the illusions that keep us where we are. The next moves await everyone who wants to start a different game.

original date of publication: 1973
published by POINT - BLANK!
p.o.box 42548, san francisco CA, 94142 USA
reprinted 2000 by NOT BORED!
POB 115 NYC 10009-9998 USA
web version by self defense! (sd@giga.or.at)



Thursday, June 30, 2016

Castle Douglas the Book



The talk I have written for the launch of Castle Douglas -Portrait of a Forward Town by Allan Wright and Alistair Livingston.

30 June 2016 at The Workshop Gallery 183 King Street, Castle Douglas

The area around Castle Douglas was once described as a ‘paramount centre of power and wealth’. This may seem a slight exaggeration, but the author was actually a  historian describing the situation 2000 years ago when the Romans decided to build the first of several forts and marching camps at Glenlochar two miles to the north of the future town. The wealth and power of the area then is symbolised by the beautiful bronze Pony Cap found on Torrs farm 200 years ago and now in the National Museum of Scotland.

The suggestion is that one of the key tribal territories of the
Novantae as the Romans called the local people, lay along the Dee/ Ken river system with a religious and political centre in the Castle Douglas area. The political centre, the chieftan’s residence might have been the large Iron Age roundhouse built on Meiklewood Hill between the Dee and the Blackpark marshes. The crannog on Carlingwark Loch, near which the Carlingwark Cauldron was fished up in 1868, might have been the religious centre.

What happened next is a mystery, because 600 years later the ‘paramount centres of power and wealth’ in the Stewartry were the Mote of Mark above the Urr estuary and Trusty’s Hill above the Fleet estuary. We have to move forwards nearly 800 years before the Castle Douglas area becomes important again.

This time the focus of power and wealth was Threave Island on the Dee.  It was here that Archibald the Grim, the new Lord of Galloway decided to built his castle. The island had probably been fortified by the indigenous lords of Galloway previously, but unfortunately, the construction of Archibald’s castle has obscured evidence of earlier buildings on the island.

Like the Romans before him, Archibald chose the location for its strategic importance since from it he could control both north/ south and east/west routes through the central Stewartry. The route to the north lies through the Glenkens and into Ayrshire.

The east/west route is less obvious but south of Glenlochar down to Gelston and across to what is now the Dalbeattie road there are still areas of marshland as well as Carlingwark Loch.  Before the nineteenth century these marshes were even more extensive. The  only dry route through this wetland area lay over Carlingwark Hill.

As well as controlling long-distance travel through the Stewartry, Threave castle was also a bridgehead for a major cultural change. Archibald and his successors were Scots speakers but in Galloway Gaelic was still the language of the people and their leaders. The lands around Threave castle were grange lands, growing oats and barley to feed the occupants of the castle. Carlingwark, Blackpark and Whitepark were named by Scots speakers planted around Threave by Archibald and the Douglas lords of Galloway.

We can still see a boundary between Scots and Gaelic. Whitepark is one of the Scots farms but the neighbouring farm of Cuil was named by Gaelic speakers. In 1325. King Robert granted the Barony of Buittle to his good friend James Douglas and the charter defines the boundary. Part of the boundary lay between Torrs farm in Kelton and Breoch in Buittle. Neither Whitepark nor Cuil are mentioned but by 1455 Whitepark had been created out of part of the Torrs lands and Cuil out of part of Breoch.

One of the meanings of Cuil in Gaelic is ‘corner’ and it lies right in a corner of Buittle as defined by the 1325 charter. 600 years ago then, the stream which flows down from Torrs to the Cuckoo Bridge and into the Gelston burn was marked a boundary between Scots and Gaelic speakers.

Where the Roman power lasted long enough, villages grew up around their forts and some eventually became towns and cities. In the Middle Ages, a similar process occurred as settlements grew up around castles.

With Castle Douglas though, it was the Plantation of Ulster which created the nucleus for its later development. As early as 1635, in inn owned by Thomas Hutton  on Carlingwark Hill was  recommended  to travellers from England using the Gretna to Portpatrick route. Thomas Hutton’s son-in-law had a blacksmiths forge at Carlingwark which provided an other useful service for travellers. This Portpatrick route then became a mail route. By 1765 the rough tracks along the route had been  upgraded to create a military road.

The new road inspired Alexander Murray of Cally to start planning what was to become Gatehouse of Fleet. With better transport links the potential for agricultural improvement encouraged  Sir Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw to have short section of canal cut between Carlingwark Hill and the Dee. This was used by barges carrying shell-marl from Carlingwark Loch to farms up the Dee/ Ken river system.

This shell-marl was whiteish clay built up in Carlingwark loch over thousands of years from the shells of fresh water snails and the bones of fish and was a substitute for lime as a fertiliser. It was dug up from the edge of the loch and also dredged up by boats using bag and spoon dredgers. The technique had been invented by the Dutch for their canals and used a large canvas bag attached to an iron ring which was hauled along the bottom of the loch  and then dumped in the boat. It must have been a very messy job.

To make it easier to get at the marl, a cut was then made through Carlingwark Hill into the loch. This partially drained the  loch and ensured a good supply of water for the canal. I used to think that the barges were loaded with marl in the loch, but early maps show an extension of Marl Street leading down towards the canal across the Carlingwark meadows. Where this reaches the canal there is the faint trace of what looks like a loading bay.

Alexander Gordon built houses for the marl workers and hoped to turn the new settlement into a small town. Unfortunately, he was an investor in the Ayr bank which failed in 1772. This scuppered his plans and he eventually sold Carlingwark to William Douglas for £14 000 in 1789. Gordon had also proposed a more ambitious  canal project which would have run from Kirkcudbright parallel with the Dee to Threave Island and then, he hoped, extend north from Loch Ken towards Loch Doon and the Dalmellington coal field. A Glenkenns Canal Act was passed in 1803 but never taken forward apart from a couple of locks which were built at Culvennan to by-pass a shallow section of the Dee.

The Carlingwark canal was still in use in the 1790s when the Old Statistical Account of Scotland was being written. By the time the New Statistical Account was being composed in the early 1840s it had fallen out of use. This was probably because by then a whole set of new turnpike road had been built, including one from Castle Douglas to Palnackie so that it became much easier to import and distribute  lime.

The most important of the new roads was what was to become the A 75 and which replaced parts of the Old Military Road. It can be seen marked as a dotted line on John Ainslie’s 1797 map of the Stewartry running from the Old Bridge of Dee to Auchenreoch Loch and then on to Dumfries.

Gatehouse of Fleet was also on the new road. With its cotton mills and other industries the new town of Gatehouse looked set to become the new town of Castle Douglas’ main rival. Castle Douglas had an interest in the cotton industry, but it was probably no more than a building where several hand-loom weavers were based rather than a spinning mill. By 1831, the shift to power looms had made hand looms redundant so only the name Cotton Street survives from this early stage of the town’s development.

For the rest of the story about how Castle Douglas overtook Gatehouse to become the most successful of Dumfries and Galloway’s 86 planned towns and villages you will have to buy the book.

But since there were a few interesting points I had to cut short in the book, I will mention them now.

One of these is that if Thomas Telford had had his way, Castle Douglas might have remained a small village. In 1809, soon after the Union with Ireland, Telford was commissioned to survey the route of the shortest possible road from Carlisle to Portpatrick. Telford did so and came up with a road which cut straight across country from Auchenreoch Loch to the Boat of Rhone at Parton, then by Lochs Stroan and Skerrow through the hills towards the Cree above Creetown. After crossing the Cree the road headed for Glenluce and then from Glenluce straight across the head of Luce Bay to Portpatrick. Telford reckoned this route would be 15 miles shorter than by existing roads.

Luckily for the new town of Castle Douglas, this road was never built since it would have missed out on the advantages of being on a major transport route.

At this point I was going talk about the Portpatrick Railway, but the I remembered that, earlier this year my friend Sandy Rogerson  set up a Facebook page ’Reopen the  Dumfries-Stranraer Railway’. The page has now had  1782 likes. This has encouraged Sandy. Last week he visited Castle Douglas Community Centre to check the cost of hiring a room- £12.50 an hour. The next step will be to make a booking and hold a meeting. I have offered to give a talk on the history of the local railways.  If there is enough support at the meeting we will form a Railway Committee and start campaigning… so watch this space.


To finish up I will start with a  quote from Allan’s Introduction to the book.

I have savoured numerous views offered from the surrounding gentle hills & gaps between trees & buildings that surround the town. Taken delight also in how on the outskirts, both the agricultural lands and the wilder habitats merge into the dwelling spaces in a respectful way, I reckon kids growing up here are most fortunate to have real countryside to grow up in.

As a kid who grew up here, I have to agree. For a few years after it closed, the most exiting way to reach the wilder countryside was by walking out along the Kirkcudbright railway the past the golf course, the sewage works and the ever smouldering cowp until we reached the Blackpark marshes and the Carlingwark Canal. This was long before the Castle Douglas By-pass was built in 1987, so the area seemed a remote wilderness and we could image ourselves as explorers discovering an unknown landscape filled with the eerie piping calls of lapwings..

Over time it became very difficult to make the same journey but luckily in 2003 the Castle Douglas Community Initiative were looking for ideas which would benefit the town. After discussions with my brothers Ian and Kenneth, we suggested making a path from the town out to Threave Estate along the old railway line.

It took three years, but in August 2006 it was opened from Blackpark Road to Threave. In 2013 the Abercromby Road to Blackpark Road section was opened so it became possible to walk all the way from Burghfield Park to Lamb Island on the Dee or out to Threave Castle.  Then last New Year’s eve floods washed away the footbridge over the Carlingwark Canal.

Thankfully, Dumfries and Galloway Countryside Rangers have been able to get the bridge replaced by a new one and upgrade the path which is now open again.

The idea behind the path was to physically connect Castle Douglas with the surrounding countryside and with the past as represented by Threave Castle. Allan’s photographs provide a visual counterpart to this idea, helping to connect town and country, often blurring the distinction between the two environments.


The railway path plan was loosely linked to an earlier idea. In in June 2000, I wrote a letter to the Galloway News. A row was brewing about a plan to re-open the Castle Douglas abattoir. I suggested re-locating it on the Abercromby Road Industrial site and encouraging other food businesses to  move there as well. The site could then be called the Castle Douglas Food Park while the town could be promoted as Castle Douglas Food Town.

Within a couple of months a steering group had been formed with myself as secretary. Thinking about how to promote Castle Douglas as a Food Town and after much discussion with Ian and Kenneth and others, the idea that emerged was of the Food Town as the shop front for the promotion of regionally produced food.

We knew that Castle Douglas was already a place people came to shop from across Dumfries and Galloway. We also knew that the town drew in visitors and shoppers from the north of England and the south of Scotland. If we could work with Wigtown as the Book Town and Kirkcudbright as the Artists Town it would create a cluster of visitor attractions.

But at the time , the region’s tourist economy and the food economy were seen separate spheres, so the challenge would be to break that division down. The hope was that farmers would start to see visitors as their customers and visitors, worried about BSE and other food scares, could be reassured that locally produced food was not only safe to eat but good to eat-  because it they could see the food  growing or gambolling about in a beautiful landscape. The marketing message would be ‘They say you can’t eat the scenery. In Castle Douglas you can.’

I must have been in touch with Allan at the time, since I have found a letter he sent me saying he would be glad to help with what was then still just a ‘publicity project’. Unfortunately next year, 2001, was the year of Foot and Mouth so everything was put on hold. When the Food Town was finally launched in 2002 it was a less ambitious and more King Street level event.

Coming back to the future, while I am sure visitors will buy it, I hope that Allan’s book will also become an essential purchase for people living and working in Castle Douglas. A familiar place, however fascinating it might seem to others, can easily be taken for granted by those who live there. Allan’s photographs let us see Castle Douglas and its surroundings with fresh eyes.

At the same time, as I explain in my part of the book, Castle Douglas is a small, rural, market town which has survived and prospered by continually reinventing itself. Marl and cotton, foundries and feed mills, stage coaches and steam trains have all come and gone. Each time the familiar and traditional has passed over into history, Castle Douglas has managed to adapt to the changes and move forward.

Since last week the challenge posed by the future has grown immensely. Will Castle Douglas be able to reinvent itself yet again to survive in this brave new world which has opened up before us?

That is a very difficult question to answer tonight.

But what I do know, if we include  the two  standing stones on Ernespie Hill, is that 4000 years of history tells us that the Castle Douglas area is a strategic location at the heart of the Stewartry surrounded by good quality farm land.  Those advantages sustained countless generations before Castle Douglas existed and have sustained the town and its people for the past 224 years. As one of life’s optimists, I am sure they will continue to do so.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Festivalized- buy this book!


Big thanks to John Serpico. Photo shows Root Boot at Stonehenge in 1984, not the Poison Girls in 1979 - as the original photo by Big Steve confusingly said. 

Festivalised
Music, Politics and Alternative Culture
Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart

This book is an essential purchase. Even a vital purchase. Buy this book here. Read it. Stop reading it…the resulting excess of sorrow will make you laugh while the simultaneous excess of joy will make you weep. Following this road of excess will lead you to the free festival of wisdom. Because as Mr. Blake once said “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

I could go on to fill this whole review of ‘Festivalized’ with William Blake quotes, but I won’t. For any one who ever went to a free festival this book will evoke a host of powerful memories. Freaks, hippies, Hells Angels, punks, travellers, squatters, peace campers and ravers- all are here in a psychedelic collage woven from the accounts of over 40 participants.

But if you weren’t there, if the scent of wood smoke doesn’t trigger acid flashbacks, what does ‘Festivalized’ have to offer? The most recent reason I can give is provided by Anthony Barnett who  argues that the pressure for the UK to leave the EU comes overwhelmingly from England. The anti-EU movement, Barnett says, has gained traction because unlike Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, England does not have its own devolved parliament. As he says “England’s frustrated desire for democracy has turned it against the EU rather than the real culprit, the British state.”

In Scotland the same frustrated desire for democracy was able to express itself through a demand for independence. The British state offered a devolved Scottish parliament as a substitute. The demand for independence did not fade away though and had to be bought-off again in 2014 by an offer of a more powerful devolved parliament. Significantly, the Scots have tried to distinguish their nationalism from ’blood and soil’ nationalism through an emphasis on the cultural and civic distinctiveness of Scotland - that Scottishness is an identity of choice rather than one given by place of birth.

For people living in England, it is much harder to disentangle Englishness from Britishness. This makes it more difficult to create an English identity which is not entangled with the reactionary myths of Empire. The Scots, Welsh and Irish all contributed to the British Empire, but can claim ‘the English made us do it’. So long as no distinction between Englishness and Britishness is made,  Englishness remains reactionary rather than liberating.

If a post-imperial English identity existed, what would it look like? The outlines of an alternative England began to emerge in the 1960s, partly through a revolution in popular culture. As a key text of the time, Jeff Nuttall’s book ’Bomb Culture’ (1968) explained, the Cuba Missile Crisis of 1963 shocked his post-war generation into the realisation that, at any moment, everything in their world which seemed so solid could in an instant be vaporised and turned into radioactive air.



As the 1970s got underway, the ‘Bomb Culture’ explosion gave rise to many fragments. One -see ‘Radical Technology’ (1976, edited by Geoffrey Boyle and Peter Harper)- evolved into the Green movement. Another was the free-festival movement.



As Andy Roberts ( Albion Dreaming, 2008, p. 155) put it

Free festival were a response to a variety of emerging needs within the counter-culture. Night clubs and commercial festivals did not appeal to the sensibilities of acid sensitized hippies  who were questioning ideas of profit and control; wanting to be more  than just consumers of what the entertainment industry produced. There was a demand for events self-generated by the counter-culture , which would provide hippies with gatherings where they could live out there life-style with like minded people in a spirit of celebration and purpose. Another factor in the development of the counter-culture was the growth of communes  and the squatting movement in London. By necessity this had led to a more communal way of life; who, streets in London had been colonized by squatters and it was a natural progression from community in the cities to communality in the countryside.

The Albion of Andy Robert’s book is William Blake’s Albion (2008, p.8). Although Blake’s Albion encompassed the whole of Britain, in the same way that his contemporary Robert Burns’ poetry encompassed universal themes from a Scottish perspective , so Blake’s poetry encompassed universal themes from an English one. [Blake 1757-1827, Burns 1759-1796]

As ‘Festivalized’ shows, the countryside of the free-festival movement was the English countryside. Its Albion was an alternative England and the free-festivals by their very existence rejoiced in Blake’s vision of the British Empire’s end.


The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their
      stations;
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry'd,
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!
Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst.
Let the slave grinding at the mill run out into the field:
Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air;
Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years,
Rise and look out; his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open.
And let his wife and children return from the opressor's scourge.
They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream,
Singing, 'The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher
      morning
And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night;
For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease.'
[William Blake, ‘America: A Prophecy’]

But as Philip K Dick knew (VALIS, 1981) and the free-festival movement discovered, the Empire never ended. For the British state in the 1980s and 90s, the alternative England of the counter-culture’s Albion Free State, the post-imperial Englishness of the free-festival movement were a threat to the established order and so had to be eliminated.

Although mentioned only in passing by Steve Lake of Zounds in ‘Festivalized (2015, pp 107-110),  The Mob, a free-festival/ punk crossover group from Somerset, anticipated what was to happen with their song ‘Witch Hunt’ released in 1980.

Stubbing out progress where seeds are sown
Killing off anything that's not quite known
Sitting around in a nice safe home
Waiting for the witch hunt
Idle plans for the idol rich
Knitting the economy, not dropping a stitch
Destroying anything that doesn't quite fit
Waiting for the witch hunt
Still living with the English fear
Waiting for the witch hunt here
Still living with the English fear
Waiting for the witch hunt here
Changing your course for another way
You better stop that or be willing to pay
Never mind son, you'll come around some day
Under pressure from the witch hunt
Killing off anything that’s not quite known
Stubbing out progress where the seeds are sown
[The Mob, Witch Hunt, 1980]



Under pressure from the British state’s witch hunt, progress towards an alternative Englishness was all but stubbed out.
It is perhaps only now, as the British state writhes on the horns of the European dilemma, that we can see what was lost. Without the existence of alternative forms of Englishness, England’s frustrated desire for democracy has become regressive.

There is no future in Ukip’s vision of England. In the absence of any alternative visions of Albion, Ukip’s dreaming will become a nightmare from which we cannot wake. Yet, as ‘Festivalized’ shows, when liberated from the single vision of Empire’s sleep, hundreds of thousands of English people were able to create the antithesis of Ukip’s England.

Yes, as ‘Festivalized’ also shows, under increasing pressure from the British state it became impossible to sustain the free-festival movement. But the very fact of its emergence and existence shows that England already has within itself the dream of a time it must now possess in order to actually live it.


Clifford Harper, illustration for Undercurrents magazine, No. 20, February-March 1977