HOW I CAME TO GLASTONBURY
Published in the Glastonbury Communicator, September 1986: one of a series of articles by different people describing how they came to be living in the town.
I spent the winter of 1984/85 at Molesworth, as one of the Rainbow Village; and after the traumatic night of our eviction in February last year I came to Glastonbury. I needed peace and quiet – which I found in a secluded field in Butleigh – and I came with an overwhelming need to write. First, I wrote about the eviction itself – 8,000 words of it, which I’d pass around to people to read and which sometimes made them weep – and then the rest of the story of Rainbow Fields at Molesworth. By Easter I had a full-length book in scrawly long-hand and biro-corrected typing.
Then I went looking for a publisher; but with no success. The small ‘alternative’ publishers all seemed booked up for 2 or 3 years ahead with theoretical works by anarchist philosophers and desk-bound ecologists. The big ‘straight’ publishers couldn’t decide whether my book was a novel, or a political work, or social history; and it got sent back with comments like “we like your style, but where is the political content?” or “This is very interesting, but we don’t really deal with political material like this.”
I gave up, got myself on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, loaded an old duplicator into the back of an old J4 van, and went off on the road. One day, I would publish the book myself. I spoke to a friendly printer who wanted £3,000, 1,500 of it up front. Maybe one day I would print it myself. In South Devon I visited the Plymouth Resource Centre where I was able to use their typesetting and electro-stencil facilities to produce a booklet, in slightly grubby and on-the-road style: the last chapter, the eviction, ‘The Last Night of Rainbow Fields Village at Molesworth.’
By that time events had moved on; the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ had already happened and travellers were in the news all over the country, not just in Cambridgeshire. ‘Unique Publications’ began as a bit of a joke one day, whilst I was typing out a newsletter for duplicating: “Get these UNIQUE PUBLICATIONS only from us …” The Molesworth booklets sold for £1 each, in theory to rise money to publish the full length book. In practice I was living on whatever money I could scrape together wherever I was; but the business was slowly becoming more business-like, and eventually I shall be publishing full length books. ‘The Last Night’ will be the first.
At the end of the summer I arrived back in Glastonbury, at Greenlands Farm, which I found to my surprise to be full of rainbow Villagers: it was a double home-coming. I discovered I could use a photocopier very cheaply if I joined the local Liberal Party. But when the Enterprise Allowance Lady came to inspect my ‘business premises’ I had to do something about it: I set up a workshop with the Roneo, work bench, this & that – more of a theatre set really. “I can see you’re doing your best under difficult circumstances” she said, “but I’ll have to come and visit you again before Christmas.”
Meanwhile, the folks from the rainbow Village were wondering why everything in my booklet was written by me, and none by anyone else. People were writing their own accounts, as well as poems and other things; I like to think I made the written word respectable amongst this particular group of travelling anarchists, enemies of the rpess and scornful of academic learning and political polemicizing. From out of this came ‘Rainbow Village on the Road’, a collection of the Villagers’ writings, from the time immediately after the eviction when they were still in Cambridgeshire, playing cat & mouse with the police in the ice and snow.
In December I was lucky enough to move into a house in Chilkwell Street; the Enterprise Allowance Lady came to visit and was visibly impressed with the desk and telephone I was sitting behind; without all the effort needed to keep a bender together I had twice as much time and energy for printing and publishing, and with more and more people wanting my sevices I soon had more work than I could reasonably do on the Liberal Party’s photocopier. I hired my own.
Unique Publications had already become famous in a small way, by producing ‘The Times of Avalonia’. Now that I was living in town, I soon became involved with the ‘Communicator’ and other projects; so that before long I had more work than I could reasonably do at home, in a space that I shared with other people. It was time to find my own work space – which appeared as if by magic.
The ‘Rainbow Chronicles’ continued, with Sheila Craig’s collection of material commemorating the Battle of the Beanfield and Stonehenge ’85. This came out on June 1st 1986, exactly a year after the event. Its publication was in effect part of the 1986 Stonehenge campaign, which was then in full swing. The events of this summer, together with the Greenlands Farm episode, mean that there are presently two more volumes of the ‘Rainbow Chronicles’ waiting to see the light of day – and they will be available as soon as possible.
Along with all this, I have been able to help several other people to publish their own booklets – something that I am always keen to do. And I shall continue to keep the cost of leaflets, posters and general photocopying as low as possible. I like my work and I’m pleased to be doing it in Glastonbury – the only place outside of the cities, I feel, which could support such a venture.