Big Day Out
Yesterday, Saturday 22nd October, unseasonably warm, a quiet Saturday in London. Well, not quite. We started the day in a craft fair just a short walk away. The usual unimaginative selection of scarves, jewellery and knick-knacks managed to be decorative but not useful or original. Unfortunately the stands were overshadowed by the venue, a graceful church by Regent’s Park now known by the predictable name of One Marylebone (Jan will know what it’s called).
After this, we walked into the West End, shopped, grabbed some lunch and got married. Actually, we got upgraded. Having been in a civil partnership for nearly 10 years it was time to finish the process with our lovely registrar Victoria. We didn’t tell anyone because we’d had that bash before, at the start of the process a decade earlier. It never occurred to either of us to take photos, but the photographer for a very large wedding party was shocked that we weren’t firing off selfies and insisted on taking a few photos. On the back of his business card were personal details, including; ‘Loves Lego, Once wrestled an alligator.’
I never post pics of the other half here because, you know, privacy. So, after the paperwork we got lost in Waterloo looking for a new venue, and found ourselves here, in the tunnels underneath the old station, where there’s a new theatre and an events space which are almost impossible to find. You’d think it’s not a site for the lily-livered, but it’s really just a network of funky tunnels that weave in and out of the old elevated railway stations, and feature in ‘The Memory of Blood’ and ‘Wild Chamber’.
I feel more relaxed and happy in places like this than in an English country garden. Graffiti artists were brightening up the dank walls throughout the network. They have a code of what can and can’t be done. ‘Spray like a gangsta, don’t behave like one’ is one of their mottos. Several such alleyways and tunnels are being rediscovered and utilised, but you have to know they’re there before you can find out what’s happening.
Finally we ended up in a vault where the 50th anniversary production of the original ‘Hair’ happening was being performed with plenty of drugs, nudity and immersive interactivity. The production is a museum piece now, a plotless piece of hippy agitprop, a be-in packed with now obscure political references and charming dopehead nonsense that feels utterly alien and of its time. Still, it captures the rise of a nihilist counter-culture for which the only alternative was accepting a draft call-up and going to fight in Vietnam.
What must New Yorkers have made of it in a city then dominated by establishment plays? When Milos Foreman turned this peculiar melange of stunningly lyrical moments and Turn On & Drop Out banalities into a film he had to impose a story over it, and found it inside the original script; the tale of a hippy torn between patriotism and the anti-establishment, who finally chooses to go to his death. The film was remarkably European and is one of the best of its era, although hardly seen now.
So we ended the evening dancing in a beribboned vault, then staggering home to eat late. Just another Saturday in London.