They're Giving Away YOUR Money to Spoon Feed Hippie “Art”*
Notes from The Arts Lab Newsletter 1969-1971.
A project by November Books.
Wednesday 16 November, 6-8pm
until 3 December, 11-6pm
In 1967, inspired in part by happenings at Better Books and The Spontaneous Underground events at the Marquee club, Jim Haynes founded the 'Arts Lab' on Drury Lane, a mixed use space that served as a drop-in centre for countercultural figures in the late sixties. During Haynes' time there the lab served as a backdrop for various landmarks in cinema, theatre, music and performance art, and inspired a wave of similar centres across the UK as well as internationally renowned spaces such as the new ICA, The Milky Way in Amsterdam and Entrepot in Paris.
By 1969 the original Drury Lane lab was floundering, but around the country labs had taken Haynes' concept and run with it, resulting in a flowering of regional arts, and acting as an enabler for avant garde theatre and film, new music, performance art and cultural experimentation. The many people involved today read as roll call of alternative and mainstream British culture- David Hare, Cornelius Cardew, Mike Figgis, Barry Miles, David Bowie, Alan Moore, JG Ballard, COUM, The Pink Floyd and countless others. Anarchic and DIY in spirit, the arts lab movement dissipated in the early seventies, due to lack of money, drugs busts from the police, infighting and in many cases indifference from the wider public, with many labs evolving towards the squat movements of the seventies, where radical politics became the primary focus rather than avant garde culture.
But- during their short existence, Arts Labs provided a space and a context for almost any type of cultural experimentation, and without their existence, the landscape of both the arts and popular culture today would look significantly different. This show is concerned with The Arts Lab Newsletter, a publication produced by BIT information service from October 1969-August 1971 to act as a listing for activities, a directory of people involved, a platform for new ideas and a discussion forum for happenings and experiments. In the pages are everything from the fantastic to the mundane- metaphysical rantings, a speech by RD Laing, JG Ballard's exhibition of crashed cars, pop festivals, an inflatable geodesic dome in Hammersmith, communist cinema in Birmingham, free jazz in the West Country, an orgy in Romford, kinetic theatre in Liverpool, drugs busts at Eel Pie Island, mice eating David Bowie's finger puppet theatre in Beckenham, The London film-maker's co-op, skinheads causing trouble in Northampton. Through it's details of successes and failures, we find a unique insight in to what must have been an exiting, and equally frustrating time to be involved in the arts in Britain.
*The Daily Mail, March 16th 1970. Headline from an article exposing Arts Council funding of new cultural activities.