2 SUMMER OF LOVE
Summer 1967 was like bright sunshine before a terrible storm. It was known as the 'Summer of Love'. Love, peace and brotherhood were in the air. In London, Scott Mackenzie's record San Francisco was at the top of the hit parade, and.spoke of 'gentle people with flowers in their hair'. There was a vision of a paradisal state where beautiful, non violent flower children grooved, dropped LSD and made love in an atmosphere of gentleness and peace. The Beatles' song, All you need is love summed up the prevailing mood. But for me the vision was soon to be buried under the needles and the crushed Methedrine ampoules as that freaky summer gave way to a hard and destructive winter.
It was during that summer of love that I moved into the Parish of St Anne, Soho, in the West End of London. Although I did not become its Assistant Curate until November, I took up residence in July and during the summer months I found myself living in Kingly Street, a small street parallel to Carnaby Street. Carnaby Street represents the commercial exploitation of the psychedelic movement. In that summer it rang with beads and bells, and terms like 'hippy' and 'turn on' became widely used. International Times was sold in the streets. A Beatles LP proclaimed, in words from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, 'Turn off your minds, relax and float downstream. This is not dying'. There was a sense of hope, a mood of peaceful tolerance, as the Soho streets were thronged with the flower children and their message of love. Like some new prophetic figures they preached their gospel of peace and smoked pot with tranquillity
By the time that I moved into Soho I was fairly well acquainted with the West End drug scene and with the clubs which were used by drug-takers. There were two main groups of clubs: the big discotheques, some of which had live groups performing, which advertised in the musical press and gathered large numbers of teenagers; and the small, all-night 'coffee clubs' which catered for a more restricted, perhaps subcultural, group, with heavier drug involvement. The East End youngsters whom I knew tended to go for the big clubs, though some of them, including homosexuals, were attracted to the smaller ones. The drug traffic in these clubs was principally in amphetamine tablets, Dexedrine (dexamphetamine sulphate) and Drinamyl (dexamphetamine sulphate and amylobarbitone) being the most popular. Drinamy/ had been produced in 1951 by Smith, Kline and French, and was an amphetamine-barbiturate mixture. It became known as 'purple heart' although it was, in fact, blue and triangular. Abuse of Drinamyl reached epidemic proportions in Soho in 1963, and the publicity led to the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act 1964. But the Act was not particularly effective because it included no controls on manufacture, distribution or records of sales, and the traffic continued unabated. We found that high-dose amphetamine abuse was commonly associated with a very disturbed, sexually confused group of young people who tended to concentrate in certain clubs in the northern part of Soho, and, with the cooperation of the managements, a group of us began to sit around in some of these clubs and to establish points of contact within them.
About the same time that I started my own club work, Barbara Ward of the Soho Project began to operate as a detached youth worker in the small clubs, as well as in some coffee bars and amusement arcades. She was an experienced youth worker who had worked in the Teen Canteen in the Elephant area of South London, and in Hox ton, and she was able to establish herself fairly quickly within the groups of drifting young people. The idea of the Soho Project was to provide a mobile youth worker who could act as a liaison between the young people around Soho and the facilities of the youth service. In 1969 Carol Bohnsack, an American, joined Barbara, and in 1970 the Project took over offices in Charing Cross Road and changed both the methods and scope of its work. But in the summer of 1967 the club contacts were at an early stage of experimentation.
1966 and 1967 were years in which various individuals began to concern themselves with making contacts with the socially isolated and 'outsiders'. In the East End, Sally Trench, who subsequently wrote up her personal version of events in Bury Me In My Boots, started to move around the Stepney bomb-sites. In the West End, Vic Ramsey was drawing large crowds at his evangelistic meetings in the basement of Orange Street Chapel, not far from Soho, and was making links with the Trafalgar Square beatniks. In Soho, these were the years of Judith Piepe, a small German, middle-aged woman, who for several years operated as a freelance 'social worker' in some of the clubs. Judith was a colourful, extrovert figure, and became known to a wide audience by introducing the songs of Paul Simon to the British public in a series of talks on 'Five to Ten' in Holy Week, 1965. Towards the end of 1966 Judith appeared in a TV documentary 'Outcasts and Outsiders' in which, scenes were taken in Soho clubs and some of the problems associated with homosexuality and drug abuse were discussed. The programme attracted a great deal of attention and probably brought a number of people around the country to some awareness of the needs of the isolated and outcast. My own feeling, however, was that the programme was a mistake, both because it focussed excessive attention on the work of one individual in a field where publicity can threaten very delicate and confidential relationships, and also because it offered a rather romanticized and sentimental view of the Soho area. It is always tempting to obscure the hard and complex problems of alienated youth beneath the language of pietistic and moralizing songs or slogans about involvement and care. However, Judith did very valuable work in Soho, and was helpful in introducing a number of us to the clubs where she had been working. By the summer of 1967 she had virtually withdrawn from this work, though she maintained a close contact with the folk clubs.
My own initial contacts were with a club frequented by young male homosexuals off Wardour Street. The club opened at 9.00 p.m. and stayed open until about 3.00 a.m. and all night on Fridays and Saturdays. About half a dozen of us felt that some kind of built-in welfare service was needed, and, as the management was keen to encourage this experiment, we set up a management and welfare committee of which I became Chairman. For a while during the summer we ran an advice service during the daytime, but the bulk of counselling and help was given, casually and informally, during the night. The idea was very simple: it was merely to provide a few people who would be available, sitting around the club, willing to talk and discuss problems in a non-authoritarian accepting manner.
The clientele of the club were mainly young, and were either homosexual or experimenting with homosexuality. The average age was about 18-19. There were at this time only a few heterosexual girls, and a large number of 'chickens', that is, very young, pretty boys who were acquired and used by the older ones. Promiscuity was normal, and relationships changed very rapidly. The kids were always 'falling in love', acquiring new 'affairs' (which lasted for a whole week!), and having endless dramas. Clothes and money were often crucial in the creation of new affairs. This period was really the screaming peak of the young homosexual clothing industry, and frequently! got the impression that it was more a matter of falling in love with a boy's clothes than with him as a person. The atmosphere in the club, as in many young gay clubs and bars, was superficially light-hearted, girlish and hysterical. Most conversations were about sexual exploits, and were a combination of fact and fantasy, where the borderlines between the two became very blurred.
One girl who was well known on the London gay scene in 1967 made some very perceptive comments about it. 'The people on the scene now are all very young or theY're all old, there's no in-between . . . they're all either very very young and been going for about six months or a year and think they know it all, think they're beautiful, but after a year they suddenly go to pieces. . . after having various affairs, VD, etc . . . find they're spotty and aged and can't cope . . . I don't think anybody grows up on the gay scene at all. . . Whether they're a boy or a girl. They never grow up.' It was very much the adolescent acting-out of a homosexual role which dominated the life of this club, and it was against this background that any help would be offered.
Use of amphetamines by kids in the club was closely related to the confusion about sexual identity. There was as much boasting about the number of pills consumed as about the number of sexual acts. In fact, it was arguable the amphetamine highs were more pleasurable than sex to many of the youngsters, or at least that it was only when they were 'blocked' that they could act out their homosexual role. The maintenance of a 'camp' image was essential to the life-style of the club, and amphetamine use helped to create the artificial security in which this was possible. 'Contact highs' became very real in this highly charged atmosphere: whether or not the pills made you high, you had to feel and act high! So one got a crazy, artificial world in which conversation revolved round pills, affairs and clothes (on the high side) and frustration, paranoia and suicidual feelings (on the come-down.) Paranoid delusions and fears of persecution were common, and were increased by the spread of Methedrine. I remember keeping one young pillhead overnight in the flat. He spent most of the night searching in the cupboards for policemen, screaming at the non-existent crowds from the window, and ended the night at 5.00 a.m. by telephoning the West End Central Police Station to complain that I was attempting to 'lace' his coffee with LSD! During amphetamine 'horrors' the kids would see small insects or 'meth bugs' crawling all over them, and would exhibit terrific fears of being pursued by the police. We found, however, that those who used this and other clubs tended to leave the West End and the pill scene when they began to come to terms with themselves sexually and emotionally, and by 1970 it was noticeable that most of them had left.
The incidence of sexually transmitted disease was high among these pill users, though not among the 'junkies'. Drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases do not go well together, partly because intravenous drug use is often a substitute form of sexual activity. A study of the patients under the age of thirty in the VD clinic which served Soho showed that only 18 per cent had drug experience. We did find, however, among the young homosexuals that promiscuous sexual activity and the use of amphetamines were very commonly associated. Many of the young 'chickens' were afraid of attending the clinic, but equally worried that they might have gonorrhoea, and the demand for antibiotics added a new dimension to the circulation of brightly coloured capsules! Several colleagues of mine, two of them psychologists and one a male nurse, operated a very helpful informal advice centre on VD and were able to link many of the boys with the local clinic.
A great deal has been written about the increase in sexually transmitted disease. International travel has added a number of difficulties to the management of the problem since it is often hard to trace the contacts, especially in the case of syphilis where it is the more necessary. In Soho there seem to be three principal factors involved: high promiscuity among many young people of both sexes; the concentration of promiscuous male homosexuals within the central area; and the widespread use of the West End 'call girl' rackets. I doubt whether prostitutes play much role in the spread of infection today. The men who use the West End prostitutes include those in search of abnormalities and deviations; those who are too shy to make deep relationships with women but might use prostitutes' services several times a year; and those who are in a hurry and go for a 'one nighter'. The call girl system, which is well organized and operates by telephone, caters particularly for overseas visitors, and there is a good deal of VD among this group. The young people with whom I was involved were promiscuous and did not take great care, and some would indulge in casual, amateurish prostitute activity around the clubs, coffee bars and amusement arcades.
One of the results of Judith Piepe's TV programme was that a young doctor, Ian Dunbar, offered his services to us to do voluntary medical work in Soho. At first Ian began to visit one of the clubs and was able to advise a number of young people on medical problems. But after a while we felt that it would be more valuable if he were able to take on a small number of heroin addicts as NHS patients. So in December 1966 a small clinic was opened on three evenings each week at St Anne's House. This ran for just over a year until the Dangerous Drugs Act 1967 came into effect and the patients were transferred to the new treatment centres. Ian Dunbar was a sensitive and dedicated physician, one of the few doctors who, within the National Health Service, were prepared to give time and care to heroin addicts. He started to use simple group therapy methods with his addict patients, whose number grew to about two dozen.
One of the controversial aspects of Ian Dunbar's work at St Anne's was his use of one of the medical preparations of cannabis, cannabis tincture, in the treatment of addiction. He originally used cannabis tincture as a 'weaning' drug. However there were accusations from some sources that such prescribing amounted to an indirect 'legalization of cannabis' since it was well known that some patients would 'cook up' the medicine, that is, pour the liquid over tobacco leaves, allow the alcohol content to evaporate, and smoke the residue. Dunbar explained the use of the drug in a talk at St Anne's on 31 August 1968:
Over the last nine months I have prescribed tincture of cannabis quite freely to several hundred people. They can be divided into two groups. The first group are patients under treatment, with cannabis used like any other drug as a therapeutic aid. I feel that the effects of cannabis are in many ways similar to LSD but very much gentler. I use it as a psychotherapeutic facilitator. It seems to help patients get insight into their problems. The second group are people who have been smoking cannabis abroad or who had to obtain it on the black market. I prescribed cannabis to them so that I could meet them in my consulting room, talk to them, find out what sort of people they are and learn of their aims, ambitions and outlook on life. This group was by far the larger and numbered about two hundred.
He noted also the existence of a smaller group with 'a deep sense of futility and rebellion' who were 'high risk cases for heroin addiction'. 'By prescribing cannabis for them, which they are going to buy on the black market anyway, they are at least being kept under observation. This is one of the first steps in preventive medicine.'
What Ian Dunbar was doing in fact was to apply the same principle to cannabis which the British medical profession applied to heroin: that it was preferable to prescribe the drug and thus keep it under medical observation than to allow black market forces to operate freely. However, his use of cannabis aroused a great deal of hostile criticism, and on 10 January 1969 the Recorder of Oxford, in a test case, ruled that if cannabis tincture is poured on tobacco and allowed to dry, what remains is cannabis resin and is therefore illegal. The judgement has interesting implications for cough mixtures which leave a sticky residue round the rim of the bottle!
After the clinic in Soho closed, Ian Dunbar became increasingly interested in the medical care of young hippies and, with two colleagues, in January 1969, he set up a kind of hippy family doctor service in premises in Notting Hill. It was a pity that this did not develop for financial and accomodation reasons, for he was one of the few doctors who was in touch with a significant section of pot-smoking, drop-out youth, for whom the provision of medical care within a framework sympathetic to their culture was, and is, fragmentary.
At this time too, various organizations were being formed in response to the 'growing problem of drugs'. One of the earliest of these was a body called the National Association on Drug Addiction. It was very short lived and contributed nothing of value, and there must be few workers in the field who regret its death, but it provided the basis for a national organization to co-ordinate efforts and information. It was followed by the Association for the Prevention of Addiction (APA), originally known as the Association of Parents of Addicts, formed in 1967. This organization had a temporary headquarters in St Anne's House from 1968 to 1969 when it moved to the nearby Covent Garden area. APA developed out of an article in the Guardian of 24 February 1967, entitled 'My son takes heroin', in which a mother appealed for an association of parents who would be able to help each other. By 1971 the APA had branches throughout the country and was involved both in educational work and also in the setting up of short-stay hostels and rehabilitation facilities.
Another body which came into existence in 1967, and with which we have had very close contact from the start, is Release. Release was originally set up to help young people who were arrested for drugs offences, but it later found itself involved in a wider area of social provision within the emerging Underground. Its original organizers, Rufus Harris and Caroline Coon, are both close friends of mine, and we have been able to co-operate both in individual cases and also in several large scale projects, such as the club 'Implosion', sponsored by Release, on whose committee I served, and the provision of welfare facilities at the Isle of Wight pop festival in 1970. In the early days of 1967-8 we found that Release and St Anne's overlapped considerably in their care of individual people. But as the drug scene spread geographically, the Notting Hill area developed its own distinctive cultures, which were quite different from those of Soho. Gradually we found ourselves moving apart insofar as we were being heavily overloaded with the problems of individuals, but we continued to maintain regular exchange of ideas and information.
Since 1967-8 the growth of voluntary organizations in the drug field and related fields has been very striking. Some older bodies too have become involved with problems of drug abusers. Broadly speaking there are four main groups of organizations who work in this field. First, evangelical Christian groups including old-established societies like the Salvation Army, Church Army, Silver Lady, London Embankment Mission, and so on; and the more recent groups, mainly inspired by David Wilkerson's work in the United States. Secondly, communities and groups which stand within the Christian tradition such as the Simon Community, St Mungo's Community, Samaritans, and some religious orders, the best known of which is Spelthorne St Mary. Thirdly, various social work-orientated bodies such as St Martin-in-the-Fields Social Service Unit, APA, New Horizon, the National Association of Voluntary Hostels, and so on. Finally, there are the groups which have emerged out of the Underground itself such as Release, BIT, Gandalf's Garden, Street Aid, Solarium and various communes, centres and fringe mystical groups.
A major problem which confronts all voluntary groups working in the drug field is that of co-ordination. The cries for co-ordination in social work go back many years. In 1910 the Consultative Committee for the Homeless Poor attempted to co-ordinate activity in the field of vagrancy and there have been numerous attempts since then. In the drug scene, hardly a month goes by without some attempt to co-ordinate the agencies. I sometimes used to wonder whether anyone was actually doing any work with drug addicts, but everybody was co-ordinating the work! The workers in the West End area (who knew each other very well) were constantly being invited by officials from other bodies to come together into a co-ordinating group for the West End. We usually found that this was more for the benefit of the organization concerned, since, although we all knew each other, those who had called the meeting did not know anybody! Yet the need for co-ordination is a real one for there are a whole host of projects which fail in aim and efficiency, which bear no relationship to each other, and which seem to have sprung into existence purely on an ad hoc basis. The classic example of this occured soon after I had left the East End when the only two 'specialized' shelters for crude spirit alcoholics in the British Isles opened within weeks of each other, a few hundred yards apart, in Cable Street. In the drug scene too there has been a sudden growth of interest and activity, a great deal of duplication and overlapping, and a tendency for groups and organizations to answer the needs of those who founded them more than those of society as a whole.
If summer 1967 was a summer of love, it was also a summer of acid, representing the first major epidemic of LSD abuse in the United Kingdom. LSD had been introduced medically in 1954 in Britain and there had been considerable, unpublicized use of the drug in psychiatry from that time onwards. It was not, however, until 1962 that non-medical use of psychedelic drugs began in the United States, and in 1966 it played a more important role than cannabis in providing the pharmacological basis for the growth of the hippy culture in San Francisco. Out of the San Francisco area came acid rock, new experiences in psychedelic sounds as well as a whole new vocabulary, and the resulting 'psychedelic culture' made a tremendous impact throughout the nation. The writings of Timothy Leary were becoming known among a restricted audience in 1965, but it was not until 1967 that the use of LSD, and the popularizing of an Underground culture in which it played a central role, really caught on among young people. The British psychedelic movement drew considerable cultural support and inspiration from San Francisco. It was from there that the new vibrations, the emerging brotherhood of love, were seen to emanate. As one of their poets said:
'Oh beautiful for hairy beard,
For psychedelic smiles,
For strobescopes and costume weird And runaway juveniles.
Haight-Ashbury, Haight-Ashbury, America unbound!
Within thy good old neighbourhood The rising Underground.'
In June 1967 the San Francisco Deanery Clergy issued a statement:
The Church must take the hippy movement seriously . . . . These young people are saying something . . . . If the Church simply condemns the subculture for drug abuse, or for vagrancy, or for uncleanness, or for irresponsibility (whatever that may be) it falls into the position of defending intrinsic values—values which need no defending if they do indeed exist. If the Church is really to exercise its prophetic ministry, it must be open to communicate the real message of the new Haight-Ashbury community to the world, and to communicate the Gospel of Freedom to the Haight-Ashbury.
Why was LSD so important? What does it do? It is one of the most powerful of all psychoactive chemicals and its ingestion brings about profound alterations in an individual's subjective environment with changes in perception and in consciousness. Dr Humphrey Osmond, in the earliest definition of 'psychedelic' in a paper published in 1957, described a psychedelic compound such as LSD as one which 'enriches the mind and enlarges the vision'. Because of its action the drug has been compared to mystical experience in which for a period of time the individual transcends his ego and attains a state of 'cosmic consciousness'. Timothy Leary sees the psychedelic experience as 'a journey to new realms of consciousness' in which may occur 'the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time dimensions, and of the ego or identity'. But there is a dark side to the picture. Many experience adverse reactions. The drug may precipitate a long-term psychological disorder of schizophrenic type. In the psychedelic community which was emerging in 1967, LSD symbolized and helped to create a new approach to reality by breaking down the walls of the ego, but it also led many into an area of consciousness where they were lost and from which they only returned as broken and disintegrated people.
The incidence of adverse reactions or 'bad trips' was so great in the San Francisco psychedelic culture that emergency medical facilities became an urgent necessity. The formation of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic on 7 June 1967 marked a vitally important stage in the growth of counter-culture medical care. It was the first of a number of free clinics to be set up, and in 19701 attended the first symposium of free clinics at the University of California Medical Centre. Today in the Bay Area besides the Haight—Ashbury Clinic, there are the Black Man's Free Clinic, formed in October 1968 in McAllister Street, serving the Filmore ghetto district, and the Berkeley Free Clinic, formed in May 1969 and closely linked with the Berkeley Free Church and with the free speech movement. There are also free clinics in Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Washington and New York.
The emergence of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic was one of the most positive and long-lasting events of the summer of 1967. Its full story and background are told by Dr David Smith, its founder, in Love Needs Care (1971). Initially the clinic was intended to be a 'calm centre' where bad LSD trips could be dealt with. In 1967 it was dealing with about forty bad trips a day, and throughout the summer, from July to September, about 10,000 patients were seen. In the calm centre, a quiet room with subdued lights, the patients were 'brought down' with low-pitched, positive conversation ('talkdown') with a stress on changing anxiety into a realization that they were still themselves. The clinic's methods of 'crisis intervention' and `talkdown' are now widely used in bad trip services in this country as well as the United States.
Another characteristic feature of the period since 1967 has been the enormous volume of literature about drug abuse which has appeared in this country. In 1967 there was very little, apart from some rather technical but dated material such as E.M. Schur's Narcotic Addiction in Britain and America, a great deal of American material which was not applicable to the British situation, and a certain amount of hysterical and factually ill-informed literature, most of it of Christian origin, I felt that there was a need for a fairly cold, factual account of drug abuse problems which was addressed directly to adolescents. It was in an attempt to meet this need that Drugs for Young People: Their Use and Misuse was published in November 1967. It was written with a colleague, Brenda Jordan, and was published during the week that I began my work on the full-time staff in Soho.
On the same day as the book appeared, my first day as curate of the parish, I was summoned to the Old Bailey to give evidence for the defence in the trial of Herbert Selby's novel Last Exit to Brooklyn. It was a curiously symbolic beginning to a ministry in Soho. The trial attracted national publicity and brought upon me a certain amount of abuse and the usual anonymous letters. Some of the evidence for the prosecution was quite fantastic. I was asked to comment on the extent to which the book reflected accurately the social problems of city districts. I suggested that Selby had portrayed with a great deal of sensitivity some of the despair and frustration of human beings and if that helped to spread understanding and compassion among its readers, the effect could only be good. It had certainly been some help to me personally. I was asked whether I would be prepared to distribute copies around Soho. This seemed to me to be a particularly ridiculous suggestion both because the book had been published in Soho—by Calder and Boyars in Brewer Street—and was sold widely there, and also because the people of Soho were perfectly well acquainted with the issues discussed in the book. I explained that it would be preferable to distribute copies in the 'respectable' suburbs of London where people preferred to shut their eyes to the realities which the novel described.
I felt that the trial exposed two continuing characteristics of our society. The first was the widespread and deep-rooted fear of, and disgust at, sexuality and the tendency to view 'depravity' and 'corruption' in exclusively or predominantly sexual terms. It was always the descriptions of sexual intercourse, never the descriptions of violence and bloodshed, which were alleged to affect readers adversely. The second characteristic was the wide gulf between the generations and the determination of many to maintain the gulf. The Oz trial of 1971 brought out the same trend more clearly. My ministry in Soho began with the trial of Last Exit and ended with the trial of Oz.
So in November 1967 I became part of the full-time staff of a parish which I already knew quite well and with some of whose problems I was already heavily involved. My Rector, John Hester, was well-established in pastoral work in the theatrical world through the Actors' Church Union. He was then based at St Anne's House though he later moved his office to St Pauls' Covent Garden. Also on the full-time staff at St Anne's at this time was Miss Joan De Saumarez-Brock, a devoted and remarkable lady in her seventies, who held the post of Warden of St Anne's House and was widely known among alcoholics and vagrants in the area as 'the lady'. Judith Piepe was still officially on the part-time staff but had virtually withdrawn. Later, in 1970, we were to be joined by Susan Davis and for a time by John Hamblin.
The parish of Soho is a particularly strange one in three main respects. First, in that its pastoral involvement is more with the non-residents than with the residents, for while the residents number only a few thousand, they are heavily outnumbered by those who pour into the district by day or by night. Secondly, Soho has no Anglican parish church, and although there is a small chapel inside a large house, the pastoral ministry is far more 'dispersed' than in more conventional areas. Thus I found that I was spending more time in coffee bars, clubs, pubs and bars than in a church building, and I saw my emerging ministry as that of a 'detached priest', detached not in the sense that! was in any way separate from the Body of Christ, but certainly in the sense that I consciously severed myself from the bondage of an institution in order to be of service to a wider population. I began to find that I was moving in circles where a priest had never been seen, and spending more time with non-Christians than with Christians. It seemed to me then, as now, that the essence of priesthood lies in sacrifice and reconciliation: the priest exists to reconcile man to God and to the rest of humanity, to build bridges, to break down barriers, to lose himself in serving the world. In Soho I felt that if I could achieve anything at all, it would be through immersing myself in the subcultural life of the district, in what was popularly misnamed the 'underworld' and in identifying myself particularly with the isolated and the outcast. The Last Exit trial was symbolic of the world in which I was to minister: it represented the hopelessness and tragedy of so many, and the enormous gulf which is perpetuated when we shut our eyes to the sufferings of others. As one of the witnesses for the prosecution commented, with tragic irony, he did not mind such things happening in real life, but he did object to their happening in literature.