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The view from the Mud.; Part two
Recollections of those who attended Phun City.
David the Daytripper wrote
Bath and West showground, the summers around Phun city. A farmer from Pilton
gets under the fence. He was bald and curious, I had auburn locks tumbling to
my waist and was also curious.
I wore sailors trousers and had hitched from Glasgow, where I had sold "original art" door to door. He had come from a small farm near Glastonbury and wore jeans. I soon got into the swing of it, being my baptism of lyre, the Grateful Dead had brought some Owsley acid over in the WEM cabinets and the sun shone.
The acid was handed out like the sacrament, free at the point of use. The trip was great, the best I ever had and after borrowing a few things, I set up a free tea stall and donated the moneys raised to the newly formed Release.........treating myself for the work I had done, to a train ticket to Worthing, where I heard there was to be a festival.On arriving in the town, I got a bedsit floor to crash on and signed on. The summer was great, no one knew what the hell we were, not even us. I screened off someone's screen print at the local art school and flogged them on the front for 50p....different times. I'd walked into the college and just helped myself, though I had paid for the paper. We got pulled once, on the front. I kept shouting "kamerad" and we both put our hands up. The law got embarrassed and we took the opportunity to stuff our stash down the panda cars seat.
From the Phun City Planet newsletter
went to the Phun city ground before it started and set up a free food kitchen
on the edge of the wood. Two new metal bins a large fire and guess what? nettle
I crashed in an old roadworkers caravan, solid and green just inside the woods.
The stage got built and the people started to arrive. Large tents and a sign that flashed changing words was set up and Mick Farren held court in one of the tents, the music kicked in, the acid flowed and the sign flashed "London has been nuked, you are now free". The lights played over the small audience and we played up to the lights.
The absence of fences just seemed natural, a space in which we could freak out and have some fun.
Dave Page, "Motherfuker", hassled the organisers for some bread for the free food kitchen and though they'd obviously lost a lot of money giving us a free, good time, they donated and Dave sat down in the path of the local bus, we went into the nearest town and got some food and booze.
Later some difference broke out between "Buttons" a biker who was there and "Motherfuker".
Man it was like "High Noon", the lights fading, the funs winding down and this biker drives his car at top speed, right up to Dave's little hut at the entrance to the woods. Dave doesn't move a muscle and somehow after the car has come to a screeching halt inches from Mr Page, the dude gets out and they're all over each other and well like I hear the biker had apparently brought over Hells Angel accreditation for the UK and like Dave had been the freak spokesperson and like they formed a pact, that we would do no harm to each other.
To this day I have never heard or read of a hippy doing harm to a biker and visa versa. Which is nice..divided we fall etc.
Well the Red Umbrella catering had gone bust and were throwing their food into the rubbish pit. I wanders up and start lecturing this poor sod on material possessions, so he asks me to give him the cowry shells round my neck....no way says I...point made.......hey capitalism isn't that bad, man.....Wavy Gravy, Woodstock.
We were going to stay in the woods
after, but one sunny morning the pigs arrived in buses and upset the people
left in the woods and turned them out of their tents. I remember one old sergeant
photographing us, like a fascist photographing gypsies, as Larkin says, it's
The woods, a spot in which I had reserved, was now covered in shit, the mess wasn't much and the whole thing ended..I went back to Worthing and in 1970 brought the land and money together and then helped build the Glastonbury Fayre of 1971.
I e mailed Mr Farren some years ago and got a nice reply.He was and is a hip gentleman and I would gladly help him out. I met Edward Barker at an anti madness industry do in London, not long before he died....they never talk about his madness only his genius, they're one and the same thing.
city was just that, fun....we gave a toss and tried in our naive way to make
a difference, we brought colour back to the British palette and that is no bad
Free nettle soup anyone?
So,I dropped half-crown in the collection bucket and used the liberated balance of my admission fee to buy a quid deal plus 2 tabs of strawberry fields. Tab no. 1 was settled on my tongue before we reached the performance stage. I think that Roger Ruskin Spears from the Bonzo Dog Doo Da Band was on stage playing (things begin to get muddled here!!) a leg.
Later discovered a track on one of the more recent Bonzo albums called 'noises for the leg' played on the Theremin Leg. So the on stage leg may not be a mischievous lapse of memory. Angels were liberating everything in sight; beer tents, fish and chip vans, wood from the toilet block. These stocky guys simply pushed and pulled at the flimsy wooden framework that had sheets of black polythene stapled to it. The timber fed the angel's bonfire for the rest of the night...what joy!!
The Pretty Things were on next and played a storming set of psychedelic rhythm and blues.
Then came the rain. People stopped where they were and rustled into silver survival space blankets. Carol and I were having too much Phun...sorry!! and continued our reccy of what was available on site. Giant polka dot mushroom made of plywood and fibre glass beckoned. Tall enough that we could take a moment or 2 to skin up a joint without struggling against the elements. This overgrown fungus only needed 1 thing to complete the picture...a garden gnome.
Suddenly, he was there...Alan Love...with long red beard, stripey bauble hat, leather waistcoat, flickering paraffin lamp. We played naive games of hide and seek and tig around the mushroom. Alan invited us into his tent which turned out to be a giant inflatable penis. A giant penis crammed with freaks smokin', and showing the Ray Bradbury movie; Farenheit....220 degrees or something. The inflatable belonged to TVX who operated out of the Arts Lab up in the shade of Centre Point at top of Tottenham Court Road. They might have had some footage worth chasing.
I was restless and cold so I headed for the angels' bonfire. I was into bikes and soon fell into relaxed chat. The fact that they were all pubescent guys who bore no similarity to their violent American cousins helped.
A tent door opened and out
popped the head of Buttons, big boss of London chapter. He pointed to one of
the angels 'Hey man, roll a joint'.
'Sorry Buttons....I'm too smashed'. 3 times Buttons got knocked back. Nothing ventured etc.
I yelled out, 'I'll roll your joints'. A big bag of grass came my way and I spent a happy hour or 2 sitting in the sidecar of a vintage Norton rolling the fattest joint for the bikers and me.Only disconcerting event was when a dying bonfire prompted chants of 'more wood, more wood', and as the toilets were defunct the angels threw the giant mushroom on the fading fire.
Next day, I made attempts to find Carol but no luck, so I spent the day watching the musicians.
I thought Jeff Dexter was a great mc/dj and he had the best pair of trousers imagineable. Darkness approached as the MC5 walked onto the stage. Some guy from their entourage gave a hi-energy demand for revolution that shook me up. An American guy I'd met earlier kept muttering 'no, man. This isn't America. These guys aren't America. The band were bizarre, stoned, theatrical, wonderful but too much for my overindulged brain.
I staggered to the drug help tent who soon gave up on trying to talk me down and instead plumped for a handful of sleeping pills instead. Somehow I got home to London next day but without Carol. I tried long and hard to find her but the nearest I got was hearing about a hippy wedding on a radio news broadcast. It took place at the Isle of Wight Festival and when the happy couple were asked where they 1st. met the response was in perfect unison. 'Underneath a giant mushroom'.
Thanks for reminding me of
how wonderful it was.
Love and Peace
PHUN CITY 24-26 July 1970
Mick Farren then editor of IT and a few cronies hit upon the idea of organising a rock festival near his home town of Worthing in Sussex. The principle aim was to raise money for IT which had been nicked under the obscene publications act for its gay small ads and were facing fines of up to £5000 an immense sum in those days. It was also thought that this might be an opportunity to have a Good Time and piss off the local worthies. The last aim was almost achieved before plans were formalised. - the local council where thinking of applying for an injunction to have not only Phun City stopped but those planned for the Isle of Wight and Plumpton as well. 'Nuisance' was to be the grounds for the injunction but if that failed 'hygiene regulations' were to be used, (a foretaste of the 'Health & Safety Police' of today). They did not go through with this when told that they would be liable for costs if the application failed. In the end the festivals were allowed to continue but not before one of the main backers, record company CBS got cold feet and pulled out.
Irish entrepreneur Ronan O'Rahilly and his company TVX stepped in with an offer of about £2,000 for the film and TV rights. It seems that very little of this money actually showed up but things struggled on and a video tape was made but 40 years later this is still to be made available. I seem to remember O'Rahilly operating from a double decker bus parked near the stage.
In early July a group of us went to look at the site with Our Glorious leader Ron Bartholomew after the White Bear on a Sunday afternoon. A previous editor of IT was an old West London contact of Ron & Neil’s called Dave Hall which is how we got the job. Dave was a dope dealer and responsible for the IT headline "Dope Runs Out!" on the front page of the paper when his profits were running a little low....
My first job on the way down was opening Ron's light ale bottles and passing them to him as he drove the gold bullion truck to the site in Worthing. One of the unfortunate side effects of this was that he fell asleep at the wheel and went off road into a ditch, - no harm done but a good excuse for a piss break. We met one of the organisers, Jezz Cox and had a look round the site followed by a trip to a local pub. I slept it off in the van on the way back, my bottle opening duties presumably being performed by someone else. We got back to Southall at 2.00 am, crashed out, and I was off to work for Bert again in the morning.
On Tuesday 21st at 8.00 pm the truck was loaded with 500 ft of plastic pipe, a number of wash hand basins and a mass of plumbing paraphernalia not to mention half a dozen mainly inexperienced but enthusiastic would be plumbers. We drove to Putney to pick up Neil and Andy Fargeon from the flat of Neil’s new girlfriend Christine. This motley crew of 9 wrapped itself around the plumbing gear on the floor and we set sail for Eccleston Common Sussex.We arrived at the field at around 2.00 am to be met by ex-Deviants guitarist Mac McDonnell who showed us to a muddy patch upon which we erected the tent and established Freeman Syndicate HQ
Up at 7.00 Ron sent Mick
Orme & myself to help erect the stage. This turned out to be an easy task
as the construction was of light weight aluminium poles that just clipped together.
It soon turned out that we had built it directly underneath a power cable so
it had to be moved. Dave
(Boss) Goodman decided that we could just pick it up & carry it and with the help of a bunch of hippies from the woods this prodigious task was duly accomplished.
After helping with the stage we were put on digging a trench for the water supply from the road to the site. Andy had a bright idea, and using his considerable blagging skills, he borrowed a plough off a local farmer and we got the pipe in and covered over in no time. The next couple of days were spent in the much the same way, screwing pipes together, digging sewage pits and fixing basins & stand pipes up under the direction of Chairman Ron, Jezz Cox and Mac, followed by the pub in the evening. Things didn't go smoothly as there were problems and delays getting the water turned on -the local water board would not accept a cheque and wanted cash!
By Friday night people were starting to arrive including Mick Farren. Andy had always worshiped him for some reason and latched on to him immediately. His reward for being such and ego feeding sycophant was to be given the keys to Farren’s hired open top Land Rover with the word’s “ Can’t drive man, got asma” and become the great man’s official chauffeur for the duration. This enabled Mick to stand holding on to the cross bar while being driven through the crowds of adoring fans. In practice it also meant that Andy had wheels and we tore about all over the site being very official and important.
Neil had taken the precaution of bringing his own tent and when not actually working was holed up in it with girl friend Christine, consuming prodigious amount of dope and beer. We didn’t see much of him although Christine did emerge at one point , pressed a 10 bob note into my hand and asked me to ‘score some hash’. This was new. I had hardly ever seen the stuff let alone bought it or smoked any. Eager to please I wandered off looking for the sort of hippy that might be able to assist me. This should have been a disaster, I could have been sold anything, but I struck lucky and returned with a lump of excellent "Paki Black" and an enhanced reputation.
Dave Hall and his wife Ronnie dropped into our tent one evening and started rolling joints. I didn’t smoke so he gave me a lump to eat and I promptly fell asleep without feeling much of an effect, (luckily). This was the first time that I had ever tried a prohibited substance. Not many people seemed interested in drugs around the Freeman Syndicate, Ron and the slightly older generation didn’t bother and stuck firmly to booze, Neil was of course an enthusiast..
At about 7.00 on Friday the music started with ‘Stray’ one of my favourite bands and later on Mick Orme arrived with a car load of White Hart regulars. The main band of the evening was 'Free' due to play at 10.30. They could see that the number of paying punters was pretty few and demanded their full fee up front. When this was shown to be not possible they packed up and left. The only band to do so.
The food concession for the event had been sold to a Mr.Carter and his Red Bus company for £250. This gave him exclusive rights to all food apart from health food, fruit and macrobiotic stuff. Basically he was flogging overpriced burgers & hot dogs and had invested in 50,000 bread rolls 100,000 hamburgers 20,000 doughnuts and £15,000 worth of booze, expecting around 20,000 punters.
Either ignorant of this cosy arrangement or indifferent to it, Stan Demidjuk and cohorts from 'Friends' newspaper set up a stall selling cheap cheese rolls, cakes, tea & coffee. Carter took exception to this and threatened extreme violence if they continued. After a meeting with him Stan & Mick Farren were forced to concede that selling an exclusive concession meant just that but as a form of compromise they were allowed to give the food away free for as long as it lasted. Carter offered to leave if given his money back but that would have left the site with hardly any food at all.
By Saturday afternoon the promised poetry tent had still not been erected so a very drunk Jeff Nuttall and a few other poets decided to use the empty 'Jesus Tent' for their performance. They were joined by William Burroughs, Alex Trocchi. and Allen Ginsberg. A trumpet and cornet were produced and attracted a crowd of about 30 people.
The rightful owners of the tent took exception to the content of some of the poems and asked the artists to leave – getting pretty violent in the process and trying to snatch the poems away. There was a bit of tussle and it was obvious that things could not continue so we agreed to leave.
Meanwhile Burroughs had passed out in the corner – although still looking magnificent in a full leather trench coat and smack ravaged face- he didn't seem well at all. Attempts to wake him failed so me and a couple of others including Alex Trocchi half carried and half dragged him over to the medical tent. I wrote an article on the incident for the duplicated news sheet 'Phun City Planet', being produced by the New London Arts Lab from the Bit tent.
Later performances took place in the Theatre Tent. Trocchi was by this time living in the woods and embroidered one of his readings by rolling a joint and smoking it in front of about 30 of us. This seemed very brave and certainly impressed an 18 year old on his first week away from home.
When not needed by Ron I spent the time enjoying the bands, adding to my collection of underground publications, and generally looning about with Andy, Neil and the Bit people, although the weather was cold & wet I was having a brilliant time. I spent some time discussing the underground press with Bill Butler from the Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton.
Sunday night was the climax of the whole event with the MC5 performing live for the first time ever in Europe. I recorded my feelings at the time describing them as 'plastic' 'incredibly pretentious' and 'a load of crap'. Listening to their records some 40 years later only confirms this view. The musical highlights for me were Edgar Broughton, Pink Fairies, ( Oh, yawn, I suppose they will take their clothes off again.......) and Pete Brown, my old orange juice drinking chum from Uxbridge who turned up unbilled and unpaid just to join in the fun, (and maybe there was a new LP to promote?). Mungo Jerry were also excellent jamming along with everyone who wanted to join in. The local drug squad was on duty attempting to 'mingle' but stuck out like sore thumbs, particularly when pointed out from the stage by Implosion DJ Jeff Dexter.
Throughout the festival and before people had been living and building tents and camp fires in the woods – quite a few intending to stay there for the rest of the summer. By the end of the festival on Monday morning there were over 100 people living there in make -shift shelters.
As things drew to a close and everything was being packed up their main problem was finding something to eat. As has been said Carter's Red Umbrella catering concession had come with enough food for 20,000 people and found a lot less than 8,000. This left them with a mass of food going stale. While I was walking about early on the Monday morning I noticed his men throwing boxes of bread rolls and food into the cess pit. I asked them why they were doing this and said that there were people in the woods who would be very glad of it. They said that they were sorry but if the disobeyed Carter's orders they would get the sack.
I rushed off to the nearest of the shelters and told people what was going on. There were a few who came out and started to grab as much as they could before it was destroyed but most of the food ended up in the pit.
Such small comforts were short lived. At about 3.00pm on Monday a squad of police arrived and began to systematically work their way through the woods smashing down the tents and destroying what they could. Peoples possessions were pushed into the mud and they were forced out without time to collect their gear. This action was illegal as the area of 100 acres was still on hire at a cost of £700 for the next day or so, not that anyone would have been able to do anything about it even if they had known.
Bit and a few of the others of us who were still working there followed the police in to salvage what we could and take it back to the Bit tent to start a 'lost property' pile. Some were luckier that others. Andy followed a police dog which lead him to a large lump of dope! He patted the dog which was well happy to have been of service.
The fun over, it was time to pack up and leave. Ron lead us to the organisers tent and half a dozen or so of us received £2 each for our weeks work. We were well happy to have received anything at all – Ron had made it clear from that start that he was a working man doing a job and that he would not hear any excuses when it came to payday. Just about everyone else got paid in lumps of dope or tabs of acid if at all.........
Although planned as a fund raising event Phun City lost £6,000. Lack of people and poor advertising and dreadful weather, not to mention a lack of fences and any way of keeping accounts resulted in the festival being declared 'free' - possibly the first one ever.
Buttons and the London Hells Angels turned up and being old friends of Farren and his crew were generally very well behaved and helped a lot with general organisation and collecting money in return for beer and respect....
When the site was being closed down and dismantled someone helped themselves to a large part of the aluminium stage which had been hired by Bit. Whether this was another unpaid contractor or some outside rip-off merchants will never be known but it resulted in Bit, and Neil in particular as signatory, being threatened with court action for almost £400.
Some time later Neil and I were clearing up at the old Arts Lab in King St after a benefit when we found some lengths of Zip-Up's scaffolding. We phoned them and they came to pick it up but although it was theirs it was not the Phun City stuff. I don't think it ever came to court in the end, they were probably advised that suing penniless hippies was a waste of time and money.
Having sorted out the
plumbing as far as he could Ron was thinking about the next job which
was the National Jazz & Blues Festival at Plumpton near Lewes in Sussex.This
was an annual festival run by the Marquee Club in London and the one on
August 6-9 1970 was to be the last before it was moved to Reading in 1971.
Some wag had sprayed "Plum for Phun"on the side of the van in
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