Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground by CJ Stone
C.J. Stone, acclaimed columnist for the Guardian and the Big Issue, travels the land and investigates the curious state we're in.
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by CJ Stone.
Published by Faber & Faber May 1st 1996 price £6.99.
Abridged by the Author.
It began with a vision. He sat on a rocky outcrop in Ibiza, and, in his mind's eye, saw the ancient monument of Stonehenge teeming with new life. The festival lasted for ten years, and influenced a generation. This is the Story of Phil "Wally Hope", his vision, and his tragic death.
The first Stonehenge Free festival was a quiet affair. This was Summer Solstice 1974. Maybe five or six hundred people, and one band: a synthesiser combo called Zorch. The festival over, about 30-40 people stayed on. They were all called Wally. There was Phil Wally, also known as Wally Hope, the organiser. There was Arthur Wally, Chris Wally, Wally Egypt, Wally Moon, Sir Wally Raleigh, and Wally Woof the Dog. Everyone was Wally.
There's some debate as to where the name Wally came from. Some say the Isle of Wight 1969 where a sound engineer called Wally had gone missing. Others say it was a missing dog at some other festival. By the early '70s it was the festival joke. Every festival had its Wally-chant, a few moments when the cry "Wally!" would circulate like a mantra.
In any case when Department of the Environment officials went round the Stonehenge site sometime in July 1974, to find out who was living there, they were met by a bunch of Wallies.
They were taken to court in August, and made front page news. They cited God as their witness, and gave their address as "Fort Wally, c/o God, Jesus, Buddha, Garden of Allah, Stonehenge monument, Salisbury Plain." They were all in fancy dress. Phil himself was resplendent in the full dress uniform of an Officer of the Cypriot National Guard. When the court found against them and ordered them to move, Phil came out and announced to the press: "We won, because we hold Stonehenge in our hearts. We are not squatters, we are men of God. We want to plant a Garden of Eden, where there will be guitars instead of guns and the Sun will be our nuclear bomb" The press loved it. The Wallies returned to Stonehenge, hopped over a fence, and the whole procedure had to begin again. They held on till Christmas Eve. Some of them opened a squat in London Road, Amesbury, which became the focus for more Stonehenge related activities.
Phil went off to Cyprus for the winter. He returned in early spring, ready for the next round of preparations. More letters. More posters. More leaflets. Hours and hours spent making plans, writing, thinking, talking, getting on people's nerves. He drove a brightly painted Ford Cortina with a rolled up, half-sized tipi on top, and travelled about the country spreading the message. He was a prominent figure in the Underground, hanging round in Portobello Road, dressed in his Hope tee shirt, with his close-cropped blonde hair and his lithe athletic body, like a Sun-worshipping warrior, handing out leaflets and talking to anyone who would listen. It was all very amusing and enjoyable. He didn't want to cause trouble. He was totally unaware that anyone would mind.
Then in early May 1975, having done all that he could do, he set off to the South coast to await the coming time.
Phil stopped off in the Amesbury squat, on his way to Devon or Cornwall, and the police raided. They were looking for an Army deserter. There was no Army deserter. What they found was a small quantity of Acid in Phil's pocket. He was taken into custody. And there are no witnesses to what happened next. No longer bolstered up by the support of his Wally friends, Phil's elliptical self-justifications may well have sounded like madness. "God told me to do it. I'm the Son of the Sun. Acid is a sacrament given to us by God." By the time he appeared in court he was blocked out by Largactyl, a brain-inhibitor, and completely incoherent.
Phil had been sectioned. The excuse was that he was refusing to wear prison uniform, saying that it brought him out in a rash. He was administered an anti-psychotic drug in large doses. Friends tried to contact him, but were blocked. Later they arranged for a Solicitor to contact him, but his way was blocked too. Eventually they decided they had to visit him.
Only close relatives were entitled to visit, so Gee went down posing as his sister. Phil shuffled round to see her, walking like a zombie. Only weeks before he'd been the picture of health, lithe and tanned and in control of his faculties. Now he was pale and bloated, his tongue swollen and lolling round in his mouth. Gee suggested they sit in the garden. He led the way, walking stiffly, his arms and legs at odds with each other. In the garden, Phil shuffled into the shade. He couldn't stand the sunlight.
When she got home she announced to the others that they had to get him out. They conceived a plan to help him to escape. They would take him to Holland by boat. But it all depended on his compliance, and when she returned to the mental home to tell him their plan she found him thoroughly institutionalised. Gee was aware that he was about to be destroyed. He said, "No matter what they do, they can never take the little spark of Jesus from my stomach."
The 1975 festival took place, while Phil was still inside. It was a resounding success. Thousands attended and danced in the sunlight, gloriously hedonistic. There were many bands, appearing on two stages, and the quality of the acts was sometimes very high. There was a collection for the farmer who's land they were occupying, and a substantial amount of money was raised. The farmer came away satisfied. And there was a massive clear-up afterwards. Everything was done properly, with the best will and organisation imaginable. Phil's vision brought to life.
And then, two days after the last van had pulled away from the Stonehenge site, Phil was released. He was "cured". Somehow or another he managed to drive the hundred and fifty or so miles from Salisbury to Epping. It took him two days. He was forced to stop every twenty minutes to sleep. When he arrived at Gee's House he was in a complete state. He was pale and bloated, shuffling along like an automaton. His face was mask-like, puffy, with no signs of expression. All his well-toned muscles were gone. Gee put him on a diet, with ginseng and other curative herbs, and he did improve slightly. But it soon became apparent that his condition was permanent. Worst of all for this once self-sufficient Son of the Sun, he was afraid of light. He would sit in a darkened room all day, brooding, sobbing, unable to do anything to help himself, a creature of the shadows.
Some of the organisers of the Windsor Free Festival had negotiated with the government for a replacement site. Watchfield, a disused W.W.II airport. This was the only time in history that the government ever co-operated in the organisation of a free festival. Phil wanted to go. The others didn't think he was up to it. It was August, near the bank holiday. They were trying to hold him back, but he insisted. And as he stepped out of the door there was this tremendous thunderclap, and a downpour, and a bolt of lightning struck the vegetable patch. It was the last time they saw him.
He died at his home, soon after the festival was over, choked on his own vomit on the kitchen floor. The verdict was suicide.
Fierce Dancing on Amazon
Sample chapter from Fierce Dancing
- Prologue: New Year
The last thing I remember was the whiskey. I remember the soft, golden glow in the glass as I raised it to my lips like a warm promise. It twinkled at me merrily, reflecting the multi-coloured Christmas-lights stretched across the bar. And that's it.
It began with a small band of Hippies, clinging to the remnants of their summer festivals. Next came Punk, with its culture of anger and rejection. After that Rave, and everyone just wanted to dance and take drugs again. But when the Criminal Justice Act came along, Auntie Britain was seen as a kindly guardian no longer. Hippie idealism, punk anarchism, rave organization and New Age mysticism, forged in the fiery heart of dance culture, became melded into a new force. DIY culture was born. Or at least that's what the purveyors of post-rave politics like to claim. But is it true? Does hope really lie in the wearing of nose rings? Can we counteract the forces of repression by making sure that our margarine contains no animal fats? Are tattoos the answer? C.J. Stone, acclaimed columnist for the Guardian and the Big Issue, travels the land and investigates the curious state we're in.
Reviews of Fierce Dancing
‘Wry, acute, and sometimes hellishly entertaining essays in squalor and rebellion.' Herald
'If you think an alternative lifestyle means free-range eggs from the supermarket and lead-free petrol for the company car, read this book. Read it anyway. A paperback original, it costs a fraction of the price of a Glastonbury Festival ticket and will pass the time waiting for your case for obstruction to come up in the Newbury magistrates' court. It is an abuser's guide to what might once have counted as the Counter Culture and can now be summarised as A Bunch of Crusties Who Get Up Late. C J Stone (make that C J Stoned, to take account of his mental state while conducting his researches) is the best guide to the Underground since Charon ferried dead souls across the Styx ... He's unbeatable when he walks the walk and talks the talk with some loopy conversationalists. They open up to him over a beer, joint or tab ... Stone joins enthusiastically in their road protests, free festivals, anti-Criminal Justice Act demos and pow-wows in tepees. He dances in woods to illicit sound systems ... Each chapter has a wonderful life of its own with a terrific cast of characters. Even when he does not go out auditioning for them, his raw material knocks on his door. The man who comes to repair his computer turns out to have encountered an angel in Glastonbury Abbey.' Independent on Sunday
'If you are looking for coming cultures of resistance, you'll find them here ... C J Stone has written a painfully honest account of life on the other side of a workaday consumer society. He is an unashamed old hippie - a commune-dweller in the early 1970s, possessor of a Mondragon-type goatee - yet has raved and eckied with the youngest of them in search of continuity between undergrounds then and now.' New Statesman and Society
'This book is one of the few records of what life in the counterculture is like, and, more importantly, demonstrates that its supporters did not come from nowhere ... brilliantly written ... provides a rare historical insight into the unbroken development of alternative culture.' Q Magazine
'The book has the ferocity and passion of a clenched fist, yet still manages insights into the human condition, beautifully observed theories on existence, and some laugh out loud moments of humour taken straight from real life situations... The most topical depiction of protest and alternative living you are likely to read this decade. A chapter entitled 'Beanfield' is described as 'the dark heart of the book', it illustrates police brutality and Establishment intervention on the premise that whatever they can't control is out of control. It is a heart wrenching chapter ... A book like Fierce Dancing should cause revolution ... An exhilarating reminder of the state of Britain today.' City Life
- Like anarchists, only not as organised - Books - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent
If you think an alternative lifestyle means free-range eggs from the supermarket and lead-free petrol for the company car, read this book. Read it anyway. A paperback original, it costs a fraction of the price of a Glastonbury Festival ticket and wil
- Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground by C.J. Stone - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists
Fierce Dancing has 5 ratings and 1 review. Andy said: A much needed history of the free festival movement in the UK. Not as crusty as that last sentence ma...
- Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground - C. J. Stone - Google Books
It began with a small band of Hippies, clinging to the remnants of their summer festivals. Next came Punk, with its culture of anger and rejection. After that Rave, and everyone just wanted to dance and take drugs again.
- The Fragile Ego
I was there to sell my book to the salesmen and women whose job it was to sell my book to the retailers, whose job it would be to sell my book to the public.
More by this Author
It seems to me a self-evident truth that the universe has meaning: that it is not just a random process of accidental encounters clashing together to create this chaos we call existence.
Something real. Something hopeful. People putting themselves on the line for beauty and nature and living up to an ideal.
Synchronicity is not external to us, it is internal to us. It is not a law of nature, it is a choice we make. Does the universe have meaning? Yes it does. It has the meaning we choose to give it.