Underground Press - in The United Kingdom

In The United Kingdom

In London, Barry Miles, John Hopkins and others produced International Times which, following legal threats from The Times newspaper was renamed IT.

Richard Neville arrived in London from Australia where he had edited Oz (1963 to 1969). He launched a British version (1967 to 1973), which was A4 (as opposed to IT's broadsheet format). Very quickly, the relaunched Oz shed its more austere satire magazine image and became a mouthpiece of the Underground. It was the most colourful and visually adventurous of the alternative press (sometimes to the point of near-illegibility), with designers like Martin Sharp. Other publications followed, such as Friends (later Frendz), based in the Ladbroke Grove area of London, Ink, which was more overtly political, and Gandalf's Garden which espoused the mystic path.

Neville published an account of the counterculture called Playpower, in which he described most of the world's underground publications. He also listed many of the regular key topics from those publications including Vietnam, Black Power, Politics, Police Brutality, Hippies & Lifestyle Revolution, Drugs, Popular Music, New Society, Cinema, Theatre, Graphics, Cartoons etc.

The underground press offered a platform to the socially impotent and mirrored the changing way of life in the UK underground.

Police harassment of the British underground in general became commonplace, to the point that in 1967 the police seemed to focus in particular on the apparent source of agitation: the underground press. The police campaign may have had an effect contrary to that which was presumably intended. If anything, according to one or two who were there at the time, it actually made the underground press stronger. "It focused attention, stiffened resolve, and tended to confirm that what we were doing was considered dangerous to the establishment", remembered Mick Farren. From April 1967, and for some while later, the police raided the offices of International Times to try, it was alleged, to force the paper out of business. In order to raise money for IT a benefit event was put together, "The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream" Alexandra Palace on 29 April 1967.

On one occasion - in the wake of yet another raid on IT - London's alternative press, somewhat astonishingly, succeeded in pulling off what was billed as a 'reprisal attack' on the police. The paper Black Dwarf published a detailed floor-by-floor 'Guide to Scotland Yard,' complete with diagrams, descriptions of locks on particular doors, and snippets of overheard conversation. The anonymous author, or 'blue dwarf,' as he styled himself,' claimed to have perused archive files, and even to have sampled one or two brands of scotch in the Commissioner's office. The London Evening Standard headlined the incident as "Raid on the Yard". A day or two later The Daily Telegraph announced that the prank had resulted in all security passes to the police headquarters having to be withdrawn and then re-issued.

By the end of the decade, community artists and bands such as Pink Floyd, (before they "went commercial"), the The Deviants, Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, Michael Moorcock and Steve Peregrin Took would arise in a symbiotic co-operation with the underground press. The underground press publicised these bands and this made it possible for them to tour and get record deals. The band members travelled around spreading the ethos and the demand for the newspapers and magazines grew and flourished for a while.

The flaunting of sexuality within the underground press provoked prosecution. IT was taken to court for publishing small ads for homosexuals; despite the 1967 legalisation of homosexuality between consenting adults in private importuning remained subject to prosecution. The Oz "School Kids" issue, brought charges against the three Oz editors who were convicted and given jail sentences. This was the first time the Obscene Publications Act 1959 was combined with a moral conspiracy charge. The convictions were, however, overturned on appeal.

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