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MARCH MADNESS...

No one can fail to be appalled, sickened and horrified by the terrible mass shootings in New Zealand two days ago. A vile crime committed by a neo-nazi, white supremacist, far right bigot, spurred on by other hate-filled, ugly souls with heartless agendas that would drag humanity back to the dark ages, if they had their way. My heart goes out to the Muslim community now having to endure the grief caused by this foul idiot.


It's difficult to comprehend the kind of insanity that drives these dangerous louts to such extreme acts of violence. And for what purpose? To what end?


It seems we're in danger of seeing a resurgence of hateful, aggressive and intolerant attitudes fostered by the unfortunate rise of populism in many parts of the world. Sadly, examples of this are too many to mention.

What happened to the shift towards more liberal, all-embracing, enlightened thinking that I was proud to enjoy as a teenager during my mid to late 1960s years? Where now is the possibility of a more gentle, creative society? What's to blame for this cult of ignorance? Is it a lack of enlightened education? Or is the nastiness that infects social media to blame? I don't know the answer, but I despair...


Thinking back to the aforementioned cultural liberalisation that blossomed in the 1960s, I'm reminded of the time when, in 1968, I organised Wakefield's first free outdoor concert in Thornes Park. It was an unbelievable 51 years ago! 51 years, gone almost in a flash, so quick and yet so much has happened, both in personal terms and in terms of our wider world. I remember that concert as if it were only yesterday. I'd set the entire thing up from my desk at the West Riding County Supplies Department where I worked as a Local Government Officer in the soft furnishings department of that organisation. I'd later move to the job of computer progress chaser, working in tandem with the County Hall's first computer Department.


Computers back then were big machines and the one installed at County Hall looked like something from a '60s spy movie. It filled an entire room and had spools of spinning tape, dozens of dials and clattering print-out machines that were more akin to old fashioned teletype gizmos than modern day laser printers. Todays digital tablets are far more powerful than that room filled with its spinning, jittery, clattering machinery.


But, before I was promoted to Computer Progress Chaser I sat behind a desk in the Soft Furnishings section and ordered curtains and other fabrics for various Government establishments. The job involved me helping various people such as headmasters, police chiefs and basically anyone from a local government institution, to pick curtains and carpets for their offices. I'd then have to order the fabrics from various suppliers, and in the correct widths. This meant that I had to work out, from basic measurements supplied by these people, the correct length and width of material needed to furnish their office with curtains. It's fair to say that I was pretty much useless at this. The only part of the job I enjoyed was looking through the swatches of different patterned fabric and trying to guide the customer towards some striking op-art pattern or colourful abstract modernist material.


I didn't like working there but, as they say, "it was a job." The majority of the people I worked with were extremely suspicious of me as I didn't conform to whatever a 'local government officer' is supposed to look like. I had semi-long hair, wore a pink satin tie and turned up for work in winter wearing the deep scarlet artificial fur coat that I would later wear on the rear cover of my 'Northern Dream' album. I was told to get my hair cut and tone down my clothes but I simply ignored it.


I remember I'd got a calendar which had a black n' white photograph of a naked John Lennon and Yoko Ono, taken from their 'Two Virgins' album photo' shoot. The photograph showed them with their backs turned to the camera, no genitals or breasts visible. I'd pinned the calendar up alongside my desk but it caused a big controversy in the office. Various mutterings went on and it was reported to the section head who marched up to my desk and ordered that it be taken down immediately. I did as I was told but noted that some of the men at the other desks had nude pin-up, full colour calendars on display. I guess it wasn't the nakedness that offended them so much but more the fact that it was a counter-cultural hippy, and with a strange Japanese wife. Clearly, the new liberalism had yet to penetrate the corridors of local government.


Nevertheless, I made good use of the office to my own ends and chose official local government notepaper to write a letter to the Wakefield Council department who controlled the use of the park's bandstand. I wrote, (in very polite and refined terms,) that I was seeking permission to stage an 'art event' featuring poetry and music on the park's bandstand. If I'd have said it was going to be a rock concert, akin to Wakefield's own '