This exhibition by Dave Allen is hosted by the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries at Portsmouth Guildhall, marking the 50th anniversary of the so-called ‘Summer of Love’ with a particular focus on Portsmouth in the late 1960s, and the legacy of those interesting times. The familiar histories tell tales of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Swinging London, and young people with flowers in their hair, and bells around their necks travelling in their thousands to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district to join the hippies already there.
The histories of those times often tell us that after the explosion of colour and new sounds in 1967, the following year’s revolutionary spirit became more political and less peaceful, leading to some terrible events in the immediate aftermath (examples are Altamont, Manson and Kent State). In the hippie movie Easy Rider, Captain America (Peter Fonda) confesses “We blew it”. In contrast, this show reveals a different, more positive view of the Summer of Love legacy, celebrating the best of the spirit of 1967.
The spirit of those times was not only music, poetry and politics, or indeed sex, drugs and rock and roll. Alongside the colour and noise, a quieter revolution grew in areas like spirituality, ecology, green issues, diet and complementary healing. This was almost invisible in the mid-1960s, especially in Portsmouth, but is far more common these days.
In San Francisco, a group of community activists known as the Diggers provided free food and advice for the many young people who arrived with no money and nowhere to live. One of their number, Peter Coyote, looked back on those days recently, appearing in a television programme, revealing that “we were right about a lot, and we were wrong about a lot” (1). He developed that view, saying:
“It’s probably fair to say that the counter-culture lost all the political arguments. We didn’t end racism, we didn’t end imperialism, we didn’t end war, we didn’t end misogyny – we just lost them all. But on a cultural front we won every single one. There’s no place you can’t go now where there’s not an organic food movement, slow food movement, women’s movement, environmental movement, alternative medical practices like homeopathy, and acupuncture, alternative spiritual practices like Buddhism, or Hinduism. Culture runs a lot deeper than politics (2)”.
THE SPIRIT OF ‘67 show is part of an ongoing exhibition programme hosted by the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) at the University of Portsmouth in partnership with Portsmouth Cultural Trust at Portsmouth Guildhall.
Preview Celebration Event
Thursday, 21 September 2017, 6-8pm
Freda Swain Room, Portsmouth Guildhall
Refreshments provided, book on Eventbrite
About Dave Allen:
“I was 17 in the Summer of Love (I’m a Libran with a Leo rising sign and moon in Gemini). I left school, grew my hair, hitched to the West Country beaches, went to my first open-air festival (at Windsor), joined my first proper band, and studied art with the wonderful Doug Everitt at Highbury College. My life changed dramatically, for ever.
I have used ‘art’ techniques in this show, where possible drawing on the spirit of visual art from the period – the hand-made, collage, the abstract, constructivism, pop art and mixed-media. In places, you might spot a clear reference to an artwork of those days. If so, that’s partly in the spirit of the yippies ‘Steal this Book’ (3), and sometimes ‘Playful’ (4).
Is it an art exhibition? Perhaps, but I’m with Robert Rauschenberg, whose work had a huge impact on me in the 1960s, and has continued to do so ever since.
It has never bothered me a bit when people say what I’m doing is not art. I don’t think of myself as making art. I do what I do because I want to”.
Dave is a former head of School of Media and Performing Arts at the University of Portsmouth.
Further reading about Dave and the Portsmouth music scene is featured in Portsmouth’s Star and Crescent here, where he discusses ‘Is Portsmouth the Birthplace of British Rock and Roll’.
- Sky Arts: ‘The Beatles, Hippies & Hells Angels’ June 2017
- BBC: ‘The Summer of Love: How Hippies Changed the World’ June 2017
- Yippies: the political hippies. Abbie Hoffman coined the ‘Steal’ phrase
- Richard Neville was editor of Oz; his memoir of the 1960s was called Playpower