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31 August 2007

Counter-cultural Surrey

[This article was originally posted here]

Often regarded as a staunchly conservative English county, Surrey does have something of a history as a focus point for counter-cultural activity. During Cromwell's Republic, Gerrard Winstanley set up a commune on common land at St. Georges Hill, near Weybridge - now one of the most exclusive areas of the country. Those gathered around Winstanley were known as the Diggers (although they called themselves the True Levellers). They promoted a form of Christian anarcho-communism, stating in The True Leveller's Standard Advanced (1649) that:

[the] Earth (which was made to be a Common Treasury of relief for all, both Beasts and Men) was hedged in to In-closures by the teachers and rulers, and the others were made Servants and Slaves: And that Earth that is within this Creation made a Common Store-house for all, is bought and sold, and kept in the hands of a few, whereby the great Creator is mightily dishonoured, as if he were a respector of persons, delighting in the comfortable Livelihoods of some, and rejoycing in the miserable povertie and straits of others. From the beginning it was not so.

Winstanley explained his forward-thinking egalitarian beliefs in The New Law of Righteousness (1649):

Every one that gets an authority into his hands tyrannizes over others; as many husbands, parents, masters, magistrates, that live after the flesh do carry themselves like oppressing lords over such as are under them, not knowing that their wives, children, servants, subjects are their fellow creatures, and hath an equal privilege to share them in the blessing of liberty.

Needless to say the Diggers were harassed by local land owners and eventually the group dispersed. Nevertheless, their legacy lived on. In the 1960s a group in San Francisco called themselves the Diggers in memory of Winstanley et al.

In the Nineteenth Century, Surrey again played host to another experiment in communal living. A group centered on the christian socialist and education reformer James Pierrepont-Greaves set up a commune at Alcott House in Ham Common called the Concordium. The group, including Charles Lane, William Oldham, and Henry Gardner-Wright, believed that spiritual and social renewal would be achieved by a change of lifestyle. As such they promoted vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, mesmerism and other 'new age' ideologies.

3 August 2007

Forty years on: the 'Summer of Love' in retrospect (Part 2)

[This article was originally posted here]

Since the summer has returned here in the UK, I have returned to my review of online articles about the summer of 1967. First up, we have several reminiscences shared by denizens of San Joaquin County, CA on's 'Recalling 1967's Summer of Love'. For other memories of that summer see the comments on James M. Kushiner's 'The Summer of Love at 40' article at Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments blog.

The 2b1 Records website gives details of an Anniversary Concert co-ordinated by Boots Hughston, to be staged in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco on September 2nd. Many famous faces from 1967 will be performing, including 'Country' Joe McDonald and (what remains of) Canned Heat. A site dedicated to 30th anniversary celebrations of 'the Summer of Love' is still on-line.