a maze of words leading to …?

Green Collective

I’d been one of the organisers of these outdoor camps for several years prior to my formally becoming a citizen of Avalonia and acquiring the associated passport. Aside from the Gathering at Molesworth air-base (of which more another time), they had all taken place not far from Glastonbury and held over a five or six day period …

I remember one Green Gathering in particular. There were kid’s areas, women’s areas, men’s areas and areas for those of indeterminate gender, age and I.Q. There were even areas for areas.

There were hot showers and even hotter sweat lodges. There were domes and pyramids. There were workshops on a hundred and one subjects, including one on Advanced Telepathy … which was not advertised because the attendees would know when and where. There were drugs and hugs. There were geese, goats, rabbits, mice, cats and dogs, horses and donkeys. There were stalls, cafés and Vinnie’s Cider Palace. There were puppets, clowns, jugglers, acrobats and Wild Tree Man Jumping Crazy drumming live up a tree.

There were also The Milk Float Wars, police road-blocks and a mass outbreak of amoebic dysentery.

In short (with the exception of the dysentery, which lasted pretty long), we aimed to provide something for everyone, including the doctors.

As organisers, we quickly learned not to use a loudhailer to address as “punters” those who had bought tickets – we apologised unreservedly and agreed it was totally antithetical to the spirit of the Gathering.

We were also forced to recompense those who attended the “World’s First Workshop to Demystify Time”, in which participants were asked to bring a hammer and a watch. However, we did later – and with full justification in my view – subtract these monies from the entertainment fee paid to the Tibetan-Ukranian Mountain Troupé. [1]

Speaking of whom, it should be noted that Tibetan-Ukranian Mountain Troupé clung doggedly to their name without a shred of supporting evidence and in defiance of all probability. Moreover, they shamelessly claimed to be on a “World Peace Mission from Lhasa” – indeed these very words were proclaimed on the front of their main touring bus in preference to any normal destination-legend such as “Clapham” or “Tooting Beck”.

Still, many a punter participant got very excited at the thought of meeting real-life Tibetans and Ukrainians. And who were we to argue, as the customer participant is always right.

Blackboards were set up outside each marquee and chalked with the title of the current activity taking place inside. I recall with especial fondness the facial expressions, ranging from puzzlement to fear, of many first-time visitors as they encountered these notices. What, for example, were they to make of “Navaho Back Adjustment”? One woman confessed to the vision of a giant Indian brave who hoisted people aloft in a two-handed lift, then cracked them down hard over his knee in a single plunge. Before venturing in, she’d even checked the rear entrance for groaning victims crawling out.

Then there was “2pm: Off on the Up-beat will be going to Brick-boing-on-barrel.” No one knew what the hell this meant, but the less-energetic avoided it anyway. And for such people there was always the option of “A constant performance in the Tibetan marquee of Absolutely Nothing in aid of world peace.” A sub-text proclaimed this “a show critically acclaimed the world over”.

The Green Gatherings, as you might expect, were not short of social innovators. An American called Bill Hinely, who believed that playing is a natural state, ran workshops which explained “that the idea of work is a historical mistake.”

Nicholas Albery, meanwhile, ran a session called “Bosses and Slaves”. This involved “dissolving the parental responsibility” and exhorted adults to “Be the slave of your child for 40 minutes.”

As for the “Negatist Seminar“, according to the blackboard “Negatism implies that language is obsolete and remains the obstacle to global change.” Unfortunately, when her audience had assembled, the organiser refused on principle to speak and spent the entire workshop making peculiar signs and sigils in the air.

For the serious-minded there was a workshop on “Types of bombs and reactors.” This was followed by a “Brainstorming to stop the Nukes”, which produced the following helpful suggestions:

  • Tell absolute lies.
  • March with thousands of naked people. (Elements of one Green Gathering did in fact do this, albeit on a smaller scale.)
  • Publish the programme of a We-Told-You-So-Party, to be held in London’s Hyde Park after the War.
  • Brainwash babies into free thought.
  • Issue hoax government leaflets asking every family to nominate a survivor for a place in the local bunker.
  • Offer to take souvenir photos of the families who have a place in the bunker.
  • Advertise a Post-Holocaust Horror Pack, including a four-legged nappy, a three-inch nail for mercy killings and a metal container for carrying lethal doses of aspirin around the neck.

Ahh … it all was such fun.

[1] These were often known simply as “the Tibetans” (thus neatly side-stepping the mis-spelling of Ukrainian), which in turn was sometimes shortened to simply “Tibet” – though many observers thought this a somewhat grandiose title given the circumstances.

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