Messages, reflections, memories, anecdotes, biogs . . .
From Mike Quigley
From Elizabeth Grant
Further to Julian's message about our trip to Turkey, our German driver in fact lived in Lebanon, and we had many intense discussions with him and another Israeli driver on the nature of Israel.
My main memory is of camping in Turkey, where apart from being completely washed out on one occasion, I spent much of the night on another occasion listening to discussions with Turkish students who recounted cases of arbitrary arrest and torture in that country. I can remember concluding that we were all just dilettantes.
From Dave Wilson
I have finally got to read the Essex pages - this is Bosnia and it has taken months to get it together. I would be very interested to communicate with anyone interested in Bosnia (I am presently Director of the Pavarotti Music Centre) or who might have bright ideas on the centre and its future. If anyone's passing through Mostar come and see me. We do music therapy, music teaching (schools) rock school, techno music, concerts, gigs, drama, dance, exhibitions and have two recording studios which are state of the art and cheap for any professional musicians out there.
I see Andrew Mack's name there in New York UN. Would like to talk to him : Kofi Annan sent us a genuine (non-Sartrean) message of support for the opening. So did Tony Blair (whoops).
Someone referred to the Porton Down demo in London. My job, along with Alaistair Hatchett was to organise the petition to be delivered to the Min of Defence. I was stuffing empty forms into a large envelope. Alaistair hammered on the large steel doors like a scene from Macbeth and a small man opened a side door and politely took the "empty" envelope from us. The horse guards climbed down from their steeds and drew swords at the few of us around. It was in the Sun the next day and they probably paid him to do it. By the way I got on the front od The Sun when George Brown took a swipe at me in Colchester after I had been abusing him over Vietnam. I ran out through the feet of some NFers. The headline was "Up and at 'em George". Anyone got a copy or remember the date. It was election time.
It's getting to the time of life when you start collating your memories in the hope that someone might find it of interest when they go through the attic.Greetings to one and all, David Wilson.
From Pete Shore
A Question of Balance
There had been a lot of activity at Essex about South Africa. The involvement of Barclays Bank in the apartheid economy was notorious, and a demonstration against the Bank, and a mass withdrawal of accounts from the campus branch, was called for.
The demonstration, to be held in the University Square immediately outside the Bank, was intended to be lively and humorous. A student, who shall remain nameless but, for the sake of argument, I will call Tim Butler, was dressed up as a stereotype banker - long black coat and top hat - and was carried around and around the Square on the shoulders of some of the stronger comrades.
When the following throng had gained enough size and momentum, Tim was steered into the Bank and up to the counter. Tim was well over six feet tall, and was still perched, although now a little precariously, on the somewhat sagging frames of his colleagues. The top hat made him seem even taller.
"In protest at Barclays' involvement with the evil apartheid regime of South Africa", intoned Tim, loftily, "I demand to close my account with this Bank".
The clerk, although clearly nervous, was not to be fazed. "And your name, sir?" he enquired politely.
As he gave his name, Tim wobbled rather dangerously.
"One moment, sir", and the clerk consulted a sheaf of papers. Soon came the announcement: "I'm afraid it will not be possible for you to close your account".
"And why not?" demanded Tim, sensing a typical conspiracy of international capital.
"Because you have an overdraft".
Collapse of stout party, as they used to say......
From Laurent Uren
Can something really be changing? The Swiss and the French are claiming Pinocchio! Reading Jan's piece, I remember how when the repression hit hard in Latin America thinking that we thought the CRS were bad. But we were white and European and close to home. A bad beating was as much as was tolerated (or needed).
I had applied to the University of Santiago and if the Colegio de Mxico had not given me a scholarship earlier I would have certainly been in a similar situation. As it is I have felt the guilt anyway. I mean the courage of these people!
In the 70's the exiles started turning up in Mexico first the Uruguyans, then the Chileans, then the Argentinians. Of course because they were educated and European they received more attention than the 70,000 Guatemalans who died since the coup against Arbenz, the Salvadoreans etc.. Mexico has always been very good at covering up its own bloody regime by extending asylum to Latin American exiles. So,Cuba doesn't look too bad in context. Even if it has sacrificed the cornerstone claim of having transformed itself from the brothel of the US.
By the way can anyone tell me what Blair's England is like seen from Essex late sixties?
Message from Chris Allen, Australia|
Sat, 24 Oct 1998
Nefarious huh! There is no respect from the young these days.
Anyhow, not long after they let me out of jail I gathered a bunch of flowers and walked into the Granada police station and offered it to the police officer who had been in charge of my case. His wide eyes and open mouth remain a fond memory. Anyhow, maybe this was the last straw. I was called in soon after and told I was to get on the train the next morning to Malaga, get the afternoon plane to London and never come back.
Now Tom Brass -who was one of the Essex mob in Spain at the time- had done a poster-sized cartoon of Franco and I -a sort of celebratory present to me. Toms loathing of the former was manifest in his pen and it was a highly scurrilous piece. The sort of work that would deeply upset the old dictator and his cronies. The following morning it was rolled up and poking out of my rucksack as I arrived at the station and bade farewell to my friends.
Much to my surprise two armed policemen joined me. Even more to my surprise there was a police car waiting for us at the other end which took us to the police station. I was told to leave my rucksack at the commandants office and then I was put in the cell. As I was led off I could see the offending document still poking out of the top of the rucksack. I spent an anxious few hours, drawing a solace from the Viva Che that had been scrawled on the wall by a former inmate. But it was OK. They never did search my rucksack and, rather gratefully I boarded the plane.
From Andrew Pring
A few thoughts for the night. They say if you remember the 60s you weren't there and so my memory is a bit vague. I tried to keep it relatively clear around the politics of the time and so I remember Grovesnor Square, the RSSF conference at LSE - the end of the NUS, the fiasco anti - Porton Down demo (outnumbered by the fuzz protecting Downing Street), taking over the Leicester uni food demo - see us were on telly and the Enoch Powell bomb scare, presentation, demo, the iron bar - which I did not see honest guv and subsequent mention in the House. Unfortunately I was one of the 'Dope can get you through times without essays but essays cant get you through the times without dope' brigade and so I completed on the 'Turn on, Tune in, Drop out" message unlike the rest of you - who hid in the library at least at times. I remember reading ' We are lepers not students- give us bells not degrees' on someones wall but that was in York uni and that was another 2nd year story.
Give my love to anyone who remembers Pring - the return of Pring from York (unrecognised for weeks without his hair) and who I shared escapades and joints with.Love
From Warwick Downes
Message for the gathering on Saturday: I hope you do justice to the memory of the SocSoc parties in Wivenhoe House
From Sheila Rowbotham:
Reflections on the first Women's Liberation meeting in the UK
From Ailsa Wild
Hey, you guys don't know me, I'm Chris Allen's daughter and have just taken up asking questions about my father's nefarious political doings. It's kinda crazy / amazing / cool stuff. I really liked checking in on this homepage. Am currently writing a bit about Chris in Spain. Was anyone reading this there? Do you have stories to tell? I'm all ears! Hope your reunion is as raucus and life changing as '68.
Three vignettes from Julian Harber,
1) Hitching with Rick Coates to Nottingham in May of 1966 to a Workers' Control conference organised by Ken Coates. (Ken Coates was soon to be expelled from the Nottingham Labour Party for his opposition to the war in Vietnam) It took all night and we arrived exhausted. Later on that day (or the next?) the conference was electrified by the arrival of a nervous but charismatic speaker from the National Union of Seaman. For this was during the national seamans' strike and the strikers had just been denounced by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson and his Minister of Labour Ray Gunter as a "communist conspiracy". The young speaker had just produced a pamphlet "Not Wanted on Voyage" (I still have the copy I purchased from him). His name: John Prescott.
Ken Coates was eventually reinstated to the Labour Party and went on to be MEP for Nottinghamshire. More recently he has been expelled again (along with Hugh Kerr) for his opposition to Blairism
2) As secretary of the Socialist Society organising a meeting on June 13 1967 with speakers George Zis and Alastair MacIntyre protesting about the colonels' coup in Greece on April 21. (For family reasons I had to be away from the university and so could not attend the meeting). Later on some of us became involved in a crazy scheme for foreign students to travel incognito to Athens and unveil anti-Junta banners in Syndagma Square. It never materialised.
It was only in 1984 when I met the murdered Greek MP Lambrakis's secretary Mikhalis Peristakis and the legendary Manolis Glezos on the Marathon Peace March - both of whom had been imprisoned under the Junta that I fully realised the amateur stupidity of those 1967 plans. Along with numerous others Mikis had been badly tortured after the coup..
Students elsewhere in Britain were rather more effective in their protests. But who now remembers the LSE students who went to prison for occupying the Greek Embassy in London and the Cambridge students who suffered similarly at the hands of Justice Melford Stevens for disrupting a reception at the Garden House Hotel at the end of a 'Greek Week' in Cambridge?.
3) Hitching to Turkey with Elizabeth Grant at the end of August 1968. We had been warned that the Bulgarians were not keen on men with long hair so I had a good trim before we left England. But this was not good enough for the border guards who refused me entry. So Elizabeth trimmed me further on the spot with the German businessman giving us our lift looking on with patient amusement. Eventually I was allowed top enter the country. The border guards nonetheless seemed very tense. It was only later we found out that we had chosen to enter Bulgaria on the day of the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Later on in Izmir we met sailors from an American warship anchored off the coast. They said they were not being well received by local students opposed to the war in Vietnam. We said were on the side of the students.
Message from Chris Allen, Australia
You are in my thoughts a lot these days. Great to know that this event is happening -it's a little too far for me to make it but my heart is there. I am proud to have been a part of it all. I don't remember the black beret Jenny, wasn't I wearing the top half of a general's jacket (stripes and all) that I picked up at a jumble sale?
Yep, the rest is history and history continues.
From Colin Rogers
Of course, its all a cover - Pinochet just wanted to stay here long enough to buy us all a drink on Saturday. What a joy! Looking forward to seeing you. Love, Colin.
From Tim Clark, Berkeley, California
Thanks for taking the trouble to seek me out in my e-mail impervious ivory tower. Of course I'd be at the George next saturday like a shot - if it wasn't a bit less than 6000 miles away. I'm not going to send you a fake Jean-Paul Sartre telegram but I do think '68 in Essex was desolate and wonderful. It so lacked uplift! It had no ideals to realise.... I miss the sound of John Bull's voice from the back of the room, snarling at Keith Ives "Let 'im speak". Give people my best.
From Lorraine Pannett (nee Hughes)
I realise we'll all be there for Essex 68, but I would even more appreciate (especially in the light of the events of the last 36 hours) some words from Mike Gonzales on Chile - maybe that will be possible formally or informally.
From Dinah Forbes, nee Bolton
Adrian Jansen recently e-mailed me with news of the Essex reunion later this month. I'm sorry I'm not going to be able to make it, but as I now live in Toronto, Canada, it's just a bit too far to go.
I was at Essex in 1968/69, briefly serving on the Students Council, which appointed me, horror of horrors, as the Council member on the notorious disciplinary committee. My year at Essex was a reckless dive from a protected rural upbringing into sex, drugs, and revolution. I wish I'd had the strength and the support to keep it together, but I didn't. I crashed. I failed my first year exams, but returned to Essex after the summer break anyway. If I remember correctly, I was allowed to sit them again - and again failed, but by one mark. When news of this got out, someone, somewhere decided that failing me was a political decision. And, yes, as a consequence there was a sit-in of the lecture block over my cause and that of three others. I left not too long after. It took me a long, long time to recover.
My name is now Dinah Forbes, though I'm no longer married to the bloke whose name I appropriated. It was Dinah Bolton back then, and if anyone who remembers me would like to get in touch, I'd be, well, thrilled. I can be reached at email@example.com (home) or at firstname.lastname@example.org (work).Cheers,
From Laurent Uren
I have just read about the arrest of Pinochet in England. I want to shriek and applaude and hug someone (before reality sets in and he gets negotiated back home). So I think who to share it with and its obviously you people out there. (Right on! - webmaster)
There is an outstanding Argentinian cartoonist, Quino - digression - does anyone know what happened to Tom Brass - the one Special Branch came looking for after he did that great drawing of Phillip "not standing up for the Queen"? Back to Quino. Quino's cartoon strip depicts a bunch of kids. Argentinian Charlie Browne gang, except with all the social and political awareness the Americans, god bless their warm hearted fuzzy, air conditioned souls, lack. In one of his strips, Mafalda hears two cigar-smoking bloated plutocrats saying " Yes,yes, when I was twenty I also went in for all this I'm going to change the world stuff". She rushes back to the gang saying "Sonamos (we're screwed) - we'd better hurry and change the world otherwise its the world that's going to change us".
In many ways it did, but not enough to forget that some of best fun I had was with people who used to think at least six impossible things before getting up at the crack of tea-time.1968 there was Paris,and Essex and Prague and Tlatelco.
1973 The coup in Uruguay and then in Chile led to the disappearance (which meant dying at the end of an endless torture session that could on for days, weeks or months) of thousands of our generation in those countries (30,000 in Argentina alone) and then the world underwent Thatcher and Reagan.
So if today Pinochet is sitting in even a comfortable English jail at the age of 82 it is something to cheer about.Love to all
From Dave Wilson
I am very sorry not to be able to attend the `68 Reunion but want to send greetings to Julian Harber, Chris Ratcliffe, the Essex friends I still see and many of the others I have seen on the list but who I am ashamed not to have seen for so long. Chris may remember that the last time we met was when I invited him to dinner in Rayleigh Tower after he had been banned from campus, which left them and us with the intriguing legal problem of whether he was allowed to walk through the university to my flat.
I am presently in Mostar as director of the Pavarotti Music Centre. I am pleased to say that we are having some success in using music and other cultural activities as an alternative to fascism and nationalism. I see my work as a continuation of the spirit of `68 and, despite enormous destruction and death, the battle is not over and we have not lost.
I hope you all have a great evening,
From Laurent Uren
I am amazed to see on the list so many names I remember with great warmth.
Who would have thought thirty years ago that we would be going in for "alumni reunions" class of '68 (I feel much too young to have been doing anything thirty years ago).
Here in Mexico the city has just been remembering the massacre on October 2 1968 when hundreds (or thousands, we'll probably never know because the bodies were disappeared) of students at a totally peaceful meeting, considerably less violent than Grosvenor Square (more like Aldermaston) were gunned down in La Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Appropriately on the site of the pyramid the Tlatelolcos used to sacrifice their victims.
I left for Mexico after finals and have only been back four or five times. Once on my last day in London I bumped into to Johnny Etheridge who was playing with Stephane Grappelli that night.
Here in Mexico I bumped into to Linda King (Art History) who married a Mexican. She is now I believe Deputy Director for Unesco in Germany. I also bumped into Charlie Posner who apparently commutes between London and Mexico and I am told that Gordon Brotherston has a house in Tepoztlan but have been unable to confirm.
Thanks for the email list. Some of the people on it have been very important in my life.
Some of the other people I remember: Dominique who wore different color socks, Shannon Coles, John Lindsel, Dave and April Cook, Gabby Lewis and of course the Latin Americans Carlos Monsivais who used to teach Spanish and has become a major figure of the anti establishment left here, Jose Emilio Pacheco who was poet in residence, Marco Antonio Montes de Oca (another poet) whose opinion of British academia was forever jaundiced by a reply from Philip Edwards chairman of the Literature department who, when Marco asked him what he thought of Malcom Lowry's "Under the Volcano" replied in best Hugh Grant English diffidence: "Er... well, actually... I'm a Shakespeare man myself!"
From Jan Fairley
I am an Essex 68 person - arriving in October 67 - into Comparative Studies - eventually did Literature - with an extra language year - who was that wonderful Argentinian who taught Spanish and taught us to tango? - I now sometimes write about tango! -
Weird and exciting seeing all those names of people going to the reunion which I probably unfortunately won't make - and recognising half of them - it was such a small place in those days and one knew everybody - I sat on the committee led by that remarkable lawyer that was set up after the sit-in (student rep representing the Art Department with Tim Clark)
I went to Chile after Essex in September 1971 - and taught as a lecturer in literature and history there in the university in Temuco in the south for two years 1971-3 - somehow survived the coup - had to get out quick - and returned and worked in human rights/solidarity cttee etc - eventually going to Oxford in '75 to do an M Phil Latin American Studies and then Ph D in Edinburgh when I turned myself into an Ethnomusicologist writing mostly about Latin American and Iberian musics (Chile, Cuba, Spain). I have three children 23. 18, 16.
I earn a living these days as a freelance mostly writing and broadcasting about music for newspapers, magazines, journals and books - I was a BBC freelance for ten years and had a world music programme in Scotland for 4 of those. I am presently on the ethno editing team for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians - I specialise in Latin American Popular musics - I did two years 1995-7 as Director of Edinburgh Book Festival - but then returned to my first love, music.
Best experience was going back to Chile as Visiting Professor Musicology teaching Popular Music courses for a number of months in 1994 - fun - good to be back in a democratic Chile - but a generation like those of us who were at Essex were wiped out by the military which makes a difference to the energies there - I do occasional teaching and am involved in various academic associations and journals..!
From Charles Posner
I am very sorry that because of our work in Mexico I cannot be with you at the time of the reunion. I wish everyone lots of luck. All the best, Charles Posner
Mark Robertson has very kindly sent us several more of his memories which we've put on a separate page:
From Mark Robertson
Monday, October 5, 1998
I arrived at Essex in September 1968, a 17 year old callow youth, sporting the whispy excuse for a beard I had been cultivating since I had left school in Edinburgh at the end of the summer term. I had chosen Essex because of what had happened during the previous academic year, which I had followed avidly in the "bourgeois" press. I had come to Essex for the politics but my no. 1 priority was to lose my virginity.
The first person I remember meeting, also part of the leve for that year, was Pete Gilpin, who was much older than me and had a real beard. He was already an member of IS and it was because of him that, later that term, I signed up, and had a membership card to prove I was a revolutionary..., I only became a hack later. (The cards were abolished later "for security reasons".)
At the beginning of the first term we received a questionnaire prepared by David Marsden to profile the new students. I replied that I was an anarcho-syndicalist
I was very disappointed that there was "no room at the inn" on campus. I was packed off to a freezing boarding house in Clacton, where we had bacon and eggs with tinned tomatoes in a freezing dining room for breakfast before catching the bus to the campus. After that I spent many nights crashing out on people's floors in the towers because the last bus to Clacton left far too early. One night Andy Mack and Liz ?McGovern? drove me back to Clacton, I sat in the back seat and radio and its controls were behind me. He drove very fast and insisted on changing station (several times) while we hurtled through the night... I was very impressed.
To start with I was not too sure about what was "u" and "non-u" in terms of image. I even bought a university scarf! I soon realised what was what and purchased a black beret, an Army great coat and some khaki suede riding boots.
This was of course about the time that Black Dwarf published the Bolivian Diaries.
End of Part 1
From Jennie Fortune
Friday, 2nd October 1998
Here goes then - arriving as an 18 year old girl/woman at Essex, I hadn't got much of a clue about what was going on politically except that it involved exciting-looking men. My first experience was my dad coming with me into the coffee bar and we sat down opposite three men adorned in beards, moustaches and black berets (seriously!) - I think it was Chris Allen, Raffy and Paul Goodchild having just got back from Cuba. My dad was very upset and tried to get me to leave the university immediately - I declined and the rest is history.
Another seminal memory is Mike Prior and Gaby trying to convert me to feminism and my shocked reaction being - but this is going to split-up families! Mon ( Willis ) told me that one of the few women who ever braved it to get up and speak at a general meeting was hooted at "get 'em off". Over to you Mon or any other women out there.
From Tim Butler
I have a recollection of wandering around Wivenhoe House with you complete with arsenals of spray cans and then you (CR) lost a contact lens. In the end we recruited the help of a security man to find it - such was the arrogance of (middle class) youth. Cannot remember if we found it.
See you on 24/10
From Andrew Mack:
Don't know who put me on this list but it was a real jolt to see all those once-familiar names. I remember the 'bomb' at the Enoch Powell meeting well and May '68 where the entire Sociology Dept. seemed to be in Paris (Revolution 101: Practical). I see Pete Abel from time to time, Hugh Kerr once in Canberra, but have been mostly in OZ for past 25 years - last real job was Chair in International Relations at the ANU (this was pure luck since, as a one-time sociologist I have never taken an IR course in my life.) The most direct link today is via Tim Butler who became my brother-in-law in July this year. I understand that Robin Jenkins is alive and well in France somewhere.
Am now in New York (arrived two weeks ago) working as Kofi Annan's Director of Strategic Planning which is extraordinary but leaves little to relax. Will miss your reunion .. too much on to come over..
From: Angela Wright
I did the first year in Social Studies in 1969/70.I was far too intoxicated by the utter lack of boundaries at Essex compared to my rather restricted childhood in Dorset and consequently I failed the first year exams due to doing very little work and had to leave. This was a great trauma at the time as I thought Essex was wonderful and definitely the place to be. However, with hindsight I think a lot of what was happening there at the time was quite negative and destructive and could have been disastrous for me had I stayed.On the positive side I'm glad to have been around to witness some important moments and I'd like to make contact with other people who were there too.
From Chris Ratcliffe
I came out to see this grey-bearded creature from 30 years ago wandering slowly up the hill of our street. Although Andrew Pring came on business, we spent some hours reminiscing. He reminded me of our visit to Steeple Bumpstead.
It was the first ever UK student sit-in - at Leicester. I packed about nine into my Morris Minor van and we drove there. We passed Steeple Bumpstead and all had a good chuckle at the name. On the way back, we stopped and for some reason decided that the village namepost might make a good memento. While we were trying to remove the signpost, a car came round the bend and went into the back of mine. The Morris was undamaged but the smart car was seriously mis-shapen at the front. Out of the car came a Colonel Blimp type, still in uniform, who started a tirade of "We fought the war for the likes of you" type comments. Out of the back of my van came a succession of exceedingly hairy Essex types - Raffy, I think and Dane and Andrew Pring
The police arrived and I pointed out that my van had been stationary and the other driver should have been looking where he was going - ignoring that I had parked on a sharp bend. The police started testing my van for roadworthiness. The handbrake wasn't working. They told me to take it out of gear and then went to the back of the van to push. Andrew said that as soon as they had gone round the back, I quickly put the van back into gear so it didn't move. What they didn't notice either was that I'd had trouble with a broken accelerator cable and was having to operate the throttle by hand. To drive, one hand operated the piece of string connected to the throttle and the other the steering wheel.
We got back to the campus in time to see the news. The only students you could make out in the news footage were students from Essex!
Ah, the follies of youth!!! :-)
Andrew also reminded me that Pink Floyd got banned from the campus for selling acid!
I was able to show him photos of himself - one as Jesus on a cross and another dressed as Guy Fawkes for the Enoch Powell meeting.
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