`The first fair I came to was the last Barsham in 1976. It was quite a turning
point for Jill and myself, because for years and years we'd done performances
in indoor situations. We had gone through a phase of science fiction
performances with all high technology synthesisers, tape-recorders and so on,
where we did things on the decks of space craft , operating everything
ourselves technically. Then they started to have one-day festivals in London,
there was one called the E.1 festival. So we started doing outdoor performances
and became what I might call 'science fiction alchemists'. Still, performance
for us was like make-believe, simulation, or like 'let's pretend', like
Even then in London, the marvellous thing for performers was to escape from a
captive audience situation, as in a room or a hall, where people have come to
see you: they've paid money and they've sat down and you're under some terrible
obligation to them. But in doing outdoor performances you are completely free
of that, because people can stay as long as they want to, and they can walk
away - it's what I call 'non captive situation'.
But it wasn't until the last Barsham, at the height of the drought in `76, that
things really changed. Ten years before, we had discovered Stonehenge and
Silbury Hill and things and we hadn't known quite how to relate it to ourselves
as artists, this interest in ancient sites. Anyhow, the Thursday before we
came to Barsham, we decided for the first time ever to do some performances
which we called 'elemental'. Things which were to celebrate the sun, fire,
water, earth and air.
As we were sitting in our workshop in London, (which we later discovered was on
a ley line from Hackney Old Church Tower to the Tower of London) there was a
pitter- patter of raindrops on the roof, just for a couple of' minutes at the
height of the drought. We didn't realise it would be significant. Anyway, we
came up to Barsham; it was amazing as we came down the road and saw it all laid
out - we'd never seen anything like it in our lives before, the flags and
pennants like a whole wonderland, it was beautiful. They gave us somewhere to
set up and on Saturday we did our first elemental ritual. Some Christians were
watching us and within about fifteen minutes there were thirty of them them all
sitting around us singing hymns and things.
Well, the sun was shining and I made a sort of dragon thing with two legs and
it had a skull on it. "There was straw and we lit a fire with a magnifying
glass, and with the ashes from the straw which we mixed with earth... we
simulated rain. It was sort of funny - we had a big T sponge and pieces of
cotton wool full of water, and I had a piece of `lightening maker' made of
jagged aluminium. As I stuck this into the sponge. Jill squeezed it so water
came down - so we had simulated rain, like a storm as well. Then we simulated
the corn growing up through the earth, and we put on different costumes, bird
costumes and things, and within about two hours, there was a thunderstorm and
the whole drought came to an end.
Suddenly, out of all of our years of performing, it had all become very real.
Everyone said `what a coincidence' and people kept blaming us for ruining the
whole fair. on the Monday it was still raining when I had this sudden urge to
see the sun again, so I got this dragon thing pointing at the cloudy sky; I
didn't know where the sun was and a little crowd had gathered round. I put a
piece of red fur in its mouth, the clouds suddenly parted and the rain stopped,
then the sun came through and everyone applauded and said what a coincidence it
After that I bought a Japanese, no, a Russian government-surplus weather
station and the next fair we went to was the Bungay May Horse Fair. Every
halt-hour Jill took readings of what the earth temperature, barometric
pressure, humidity and so on were doing. I made a sunshine recorder and a thing
to measure wind-speed; at one point in the day we had the urge to see the sun.
It was cloudy and we put a spiral of hay on the ground, which we lit and we
walked bare footed. It took a whole halt-hour to do, but as we got to the
centre, the sun came out and everybody applauded.
When we got back to London we drew up graphs with all these different things,
barometric pressure etc., and found that while the temperature had been
falling, the humidity had been rising, and that within five minutes of our
starting this ceremony, everything had immediately changed.
It was wonderful for us: it meant the years of performing which were simulation
or `let's pretend' had become very real. But that was the great thing about
performing at the fairs: the fact that we could do things in real time, we
could do things without any thoughts of entertaining people. We could just be
ourselves and we didn't have to worry about people at all. . When you are a
performer, you've got the business of timing and keeping the show going, and if
things go wrong you have to cover up and if people start getting restless...
Whereas at the fair you could just indulge in being yourself and go on in real
time and do things for real. That was the big breakthrough.
At many of the fairs, at Barsham too, I think, there were great communal
ceremonious things organised, which were marvellous. What we experienced then,
which we were to go on to experience at all the fairs, was a feeling of magic.
We felt strongly that all the fairs were given themes, usually themes that we
could relate to, so all our performances at the fairs were things to do with
the theme. So in the midst of everyone getting drunk and listening to hands,
Jill and I always felt we were getting to the magic core, expressing the very
soul of what the fair was all about.
I'm thinking now of activities where performances aren't hooked at all, cutting
hack on performance, because entertainment budgets in a fair are getting very,
vary... You see, when you put on a fair, you go into a field, having discussed
and planned it throughout the winter, a little group of you, and in the field a
week before the fair, you're laying down your water-pipe's, digging your
lavatories and you start to put things up. Maybe there's twenty or thirty of
you, and you've got into a whole experience and then, when the stallholders
start to come they're rather like intruders that are coming along and spoiling
this lovely thing you have been working on. It may sound selfish but just two
days seems so short when you watt it to go on and on, in fact you want it to go
on all the time. It was very good this year when there was a whole weeks
workshop at Mersey, and the Green gathering at Glastonbury. I think people want
things to go on longer than just two days.'
Q. WHAT SORT OF THING WERE YOU TRYING TO DO AT ROUGHAM? YOU HAD A BURNING EARTH
`No, I had a goddess laid on the landscape on the ground. Well, things have
happened to me this year - Jill, who I've known for... well, we've been
together twenty years; last year our relationship started to disintegrate and
we actually separated in July.'
Q. SO YOU WERE PERFORMING BY YOURSELF SUDDENLY?
`Yes, but a lot is happening at the moment. Society is changing fundamentally
at the moment, and one of the more beautiful things that is happening is with
women: women are finding themselves, realising that several thousand years ago,
in the neolithic times of hunters and gatherers, it was largely a matriarchal
society, when women gathered 85% of the food. Women were the inventors of most
things. I'm sure women discovered fire, women evolved pottery and all sorts of
things. There was a good balance I think, a balance with nature and a balance
with men and women, and then somehow, I don't know how, gradually it all became
a patriarchal society. And women can see it now: they have been getting married
and having children, and looking after the children and their husbands -
they're brought up by their mothers to operate in this way. Women are releasing
themselves from all that, it has been an amazing year.
I have a sort of image of man floating in the sea. In a way, man has never got
over leaving his mother. Mothers spoil their sons and their sons never learn
and later seem to find their mothers in their wives or women. What men seem to
do is surround themselves with women to support them - so they are floating in
the sea, afraid they will sink and their wives, sweethearts, secretaries, etc,
are all supporting them emotionally, in all sorts of ways. And yet men conned
women into believing that they are the ones that are going to sink. Women are
realising that they can let go and swim and men are experiencing a sort of
So I experienced a sort of panic when Jill and I were breaking up. There was I
going to be without a woman to support me. I'd always been supported by women,
and I had been doing a lot of reading and thinking and also talking to a lot of
women, so I began to recognise a not necessarily female quality, the thing of
giving which women seem to have. I have experienced finding this partly female
aspect of giving within myself.
Jill and I had been working on something called `The Earth Goddess' and I began
to feel left out. Jill had been getting carried away with this Earth Goddess,
believing perhaps that she was the Goddess. I realised that this Earth Goddess
was in all women, and also, I mean, I felt shut out, and I thought what man
must find is this Goddess within himself. So I started doing performances with
a graphic Earth Goddess painted on the ground.
This same Goddess was celebrated in ancient times at four points in the year,
during the fire festivals which were roughly midway between the solstices and
the equinoxes, when she is seen in four aspects. In the Spring she is seen as a
maiden awakening, in Summer as the bride at the moment of conception, and then
in Autumn as the mother, and lastly, as the old hag in Winter. These are four
stages of womanhood as well as four stages in nature, of the seasons.
I had to do a whole ritual in. which I found the Earth Goddess within myself,
at the same time worshipping her, and so that's what I did at Rougham. First of
all I laid out this whole figure on the ground in white lime. Then I awakened
her senses like a young maiden, let's say a young girl of sixteen never having
experienced being made love to before. I awakened her sense of sight first,
then her sense of hearing, then her taste and her sense of touch. That was the
first stage; next I had a large corn-dolly, a great phallic symbol which I
penetrated into her uterus, and then she conceived and then a great orgasm of
fire and light elemental colours spread up through her body. Then I curled up
inside her womb - I was a baby being reborn (as I have experienced a kind of
rebirth this year,) and then, right at the end, I sort of died and set fire to
all the straw around the figure, which symbolised everything being burnt and
going back into the ground for Winter, to be born again next year.
So I was also building in lots of wishes, secret wishes about relationships
with women, because I do like being in love, and I do like someone being in
love with me. I do like living with a woman, sleeping with a woman every night
and making love to her - the whole complete package deal of love and home and
everything! So, I suppose I was building in certain wishes that maybe I was
making love to all women, and dreams that maybe I would meet someone... my
magic, you see, it's my magic! I believe also, although it seems a crude word,
in telepathy, in that you send out signals and receive them; so I was sending
out signals everywhere. I wasn't doing magic for one person, I was just sending
out vibrations to men and women, in fact, everyone.'