King of the Hippies
Notes for an Alternative
History of Britain
1960 - 2000
Written with the collaboration of
The Rev Rick Mayes &
Introduction: ‘Like him or loathe him’ by Jeremy Sandford.
Prologue: ‘The Vision of Albion’
Land must be made available for everyone, shared out more fairly. Beyond this lies something even more important - the Vision of Albion.
1. Life on John Lennon’s Island
John Lennon and Yoko Ono give Sid an island off the West coast of Ireland. He sets about colonising it and scores of people come to live there. A disastrous storm. Fire sweeps through the little colony. With regret Sid returns to England.
2. Childhood on Exmoor; Flashback
A lonely dreamer. Neighbouring self-sufficient smallholdings demonstrate to Sid one way he could go. Exmoor visions of what the future might hold for him.
3. Dropping Out, on the Beach at St Ives
Sid as a beatnik. Harassment by the local population.
4. The Slough Municipal Gardens Love-In
Sid attempts to live in the city. Organises an Asian factory strike. Takes part in the occupation of 144 Piccadilly. Organises a ‘love-in’ in Slough municipal gardens.
5. The Village Squat
Return to the country. Sid and his band take over a deserted village in Wales. They are evicted.
6. The First Days of Festival (1971)
Sid returns to discover that festivals for hundreds are being held in Windsor Great Park and for thousands at Glastonbury. Sid creates a free food kitchen for thousands. Madness and death of one of the organisers. First Glastonbury Festival. First Stonehenge Festival. Why more land must be made available for the people and especially for festival.
7. Life in Tipi Valley (1977-1982)
Sid feels he needs a rest. A friend has just brought over the first American Indian tipi to be seen in Britain. He gives one to Sid. Observations on tipi life. Sid gets involved in the setting up of Tipi Valley. Hundreds join him. Sid joins the Ecology Party, helps set up first Green Gathering.
8. The Peace Convoy
Creation of the Peace Convoy. Perhaps the high point of Sid’s power as a leader. New Age Travellers. Why do people go on the road? The Vision of Albion.
9. Rainbow Ecological Village (1983)
Sid helps set up the Rainbow ecological village at Molesworth, built on land leased to the American Air Force. At length the peaceful community is surrounded and broken up by the army.
10. Eviction from Nostell Priory, Annals of the Peace Convoy
The Convoy arrives at Stonehenge festival. Thousands of people celebrate. Negotiations with police and officialdom. The first Stonehenge ceremony (1976) initiates it as a temple.
11. Decline and Fall of Stonehenge (1984)
But Stonehenge is changing. Darker elements. Drug dealers. Sid sets up a ‘police force’, attempting to curb the power of the evil dealers. He performs weddings, christenings, a funeral. Sid becomes victim of an intended murder from which he is rescued just in time.
12. The Trashing in the Bean Field (1985)
The state versus the convoy; as the convoy once again approaches Stonehenge to celebrate another festival. The trashing in the bean field and its aftermath. Sid leaves the Convoy.
13. Oak Dragon, Rainbow Circle, Rainbow 2000
A period with the Green Party ends with Sid joining the Oak Dragon camps, in an attempt to set up a ‘Living University on the Green Earth’. Sid is inspired to break away to set up the Rainbow Circle Wholistic University Camps, where study takes place amid meadows and trees, in a series of marquees, domes and benders. Scenes at Rainbow Circle camps. The happy outcome of Sid’s vision. Sid’s passionate belief in the importance of celebration leads him to set up the Forest Fayre for thousands in the Forest of Dean. Sid leaves Rainbow Circle and sets up Rainbow 2000, visited by thousands.
Epilogue: Land Rights and Rites. Squatting for the masses. Return to the Vision of Albion.
Like him or loathe him, it’s been hard to ignore Sid Rawle.
He never claimed for himself the title or position of ‘King of the Hippies’. That name was coined by journalists. Nonetheless, he is now that rare thing, a middle aged hippy who is still a hippy. He was in at the start and still trucking. He has never gone ‘straight’. His ‘alternative history’ is hilarious, sometimes angry, sometimes tragic, always remarkably filled with action.
He is the squatter to end them all, having squatted flats, houses, commons, forests, a village, boats, an island, an army camp, Windsor Great Park.
Property owners have urgently attempted to put locks on their houses, land, and daughters, when Sid has been around. It is Sid’s claim that each of our young men and women who could be ordered to die for their country in time of war have a right to, at any rate, a few square yards of meadow or mountain.
Sid believes that access to the land for the underprivileged is becoming harder, and that many obstacles are placed in the way of festival and conviviality. He has fought hard for these things. He has involved hundreds, sometimes thousands, with him. Through his personal bravery, crowd gathering propensities, and frequent appearances on the media, he has become something of a folk hero.
Surrounded by beautiful women and grubby children, he lived for some years in a tipi, and more recently in a converted G.P.O. van for half the year at the summer long series of camps he organises, the other half being spent in a rural prefabricated bungalow crammed with women and children.
Both riot police and the army have been brought in to break up some of the operations in which he has played an important part, and it is possible that some of the campaigns described in this book will go down in history in the way that those of the 17th century Diggers have.
Sid’s thirteen chapters of ‘Notes for an Alternative History of Britain, 1960-2000’ are at various times idyllic, poignant, angry, and hilarious.
He is not only the observer of the events he describes but also often was a prime mover of them, himself playing a prominent part. There have been very few written records of the events he describes. His book is history in the making, a story that has to be told.
The Vision of Albion
In the end it all gets back to land. Looking back, I see that a link that runs through my life concerns the right to land and property on it.
Shared out equally, there would be a couple of acres for every adult living in Britain. That would mean each family or group could have a reasonably sized small holding of ten or twenty acres and learn once again to become self sufficient.
The present day reality is the reverse, with some folk owning hundreds of thousands of acres and others owning none.
There’s talk of community in war time. We can be ordered to go and fight and die for Queen and country. In peace time is it too much to ask for just a few square yards of our green and pleasant land to rear our children on?
That’s all we want, myself and the squatters and travellers and other people in the many projects I’ve been involved with. Just a few square yards of this land that we can in wartime be asked to go out and die for.
And if we ever achieve that, what else? What else is what I call the Vision of Albion.
Albion, the most ancient name of this fair country. It was in Albion that the industrial revolution occurred. And I and many others now have a sneaking suspicion that in Albion will be forged the first post industrial society, a Green Community in this green land, living in equity and peace.
The Vision of Albion is a vision of one world united in love, a vision of unity in diversity. Not the same chant every day. Not everyone finding the same cure for the same ills. But a vision of all people uniting in love and respect for one another.
We have to find out how all us individuals in the world can have enough space to live in love and harmony, enough to be self-sufficient and be ourselves, and how to give everyone else this space. That is the vision of Albion, that is the Rainbow vision.
It is the Rainbow vision because the rainbow is the symbol of God’s promise. And it is the vision of Albion because there is a sneaking feeling amongst some of us that it is from these islands, the islands that make up Albion, that change will come. So many of the white man’s dreadful fuckups in the world originated here. It is from these islands that peace and harmony must also come.
Although we’ve given the world so many of its institutions and, for so much of the world, a common language to communicate to each other in, we’ve lost our own real ancient roots. We don’t know who built our stone circles, how they did it, how they loved, what their economic system was, what their religion was.
All over the world there are other peoples who do remember what their roots were, people who are still in touch with their tribal history. What lies deep in their systems must also lie deep within our system. We have to learn to find it again.
We have to reclaim or rediscover some of their ancient wisdom, the wisdom of ancient Albion.
There’s no magic in this, no mystery. The mystery is that we keep ourselves in hell when we could be in heaven. That’s the mystery.
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