Inside Culture Monday 10 July 2017
Creativity, Culture and a world of Ideas on Inside Culture presented by Fionn Davenport 10pm Mondays RTE Radio 1.
Profiles, interviews, features and discussion with emerging and established Irish and International people in the creative and cultural sectors.
This is a versatile programme that can move across disciplines from crafts to cultural agendas and will include long-form discussions and features on well known artists, cultural topics and the history of ideas. The range will give an access point for the general listener as well as a more seasoned and professional arts listenership.
This programme aims to create an intimacy with artists’ work and provide textured pieces that inform and provide a listening experience with high production values.
Independently produced by Zoe Comyns – the show brings together a team of innovative radio makers who have a passion, understanding and sensibility for Arts and Culture who will create a far-reaching and fresh sounding series that complements the existing output on RTE Radio 1.
Inside Culture, Monday 10th July
This week Inside Culture is in San Francisco to revisit the Summer of Love of 1967.
Through a mix of interviews and archive material the programme looks at the hippie movement as it began to emerge and the effect it had on the city as well as on the wider world.
Fifty years ago, thousands of young adults crowded into San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. They were responding to a movement which had sprung up in the Bay Area and which had grown out of the Beatnik movement of a generation before.
Haight-Ashbury in 1967 (Photo by Jim Marshall)
Coffee and jazz was replaced by acid, marijuana and a new sound - psychedelic rock. A new identity - that of the hippie - was also created and its message of peace, love and happiness was one that spread quickly and drew huge numbers of young people who were desperate to escape the overriding conservatism of the times.
San Francisco writer and activist Rebecca Solnit describes the era as one of tension between an established world order which accepted the threat of nuclear obliteration, the use of noxious chemicals and sexual and racial inequality and the next generation who rejected these values.
Fionn Davenport hears how the movement began - how the Beatnik area of the city, North Beach, became too expensive and the Haight-Ashbury district with its cheap rents grew in popularity. We hear from Arthur Round who was living in Haight during the mid-sixties.
Fionn meets with the Music Critic from The San Francisco Chronicle, Joel Selvin, who has written many books about the period. Joel explains how the identity of the hippie was slow to emerge but it soon galvanised around the music of local bands such as Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and Jefferson Airplane. They fused into what became known over time as The San Francisco Sound and the bands began to appear at local venues such as The Filmore and in outdoor spaces in parks and fields. These began to grow in size until one infamous gathering, The Human Be In, attracted tens of thousands of people at the Golden Gate park on January 14th 1967. Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, High Priest of LSD Timothy Leary (whose famous mantra Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out was uttered that day) and many of the bands led the crowd.
Fionn with Joel Selvin
Allen Ginsberg at the Human Be in 1967
This was a turning point and from here on the media began to pick up on the hippie movement which led many others to join it.
They came in their thousands and overwhelmed San Franciscans who were unused to the crowds. Haight-Ashbury was the focal point and the local community was unable to provide housing or healthcare for the young, homeless runaways. The media reported clashes with the police - and not just in San Francisco - and by June 1967, the Summer of Love had exploded onto the national and international headlines.
As well as acid (LSD), cannabis was an important part of the identity of the hippie. From Janis Joplin’s song Mary Jane to the graphic art of the era, weed as it was called, became hugely popular and so much so that today the city of San Francisco is still associated with it. In 2016 the ‘recreational use’ of marijuana was legalized in California and it’s possible to visit clinics around the city to purchase many blends of the drug and apparati connected to consuming it. Fionn travels to one at Haight-Ashbury with the two co-founders of Green Guide Tours Stewart Watts and Trevor O’Donnell. There he meets former sheriff of the city, Ross Mirkarimi who now runs BASA - the Bay Area Safe Alternatives - the oldest cannabis dispensary in the Bay Area. It opened in 2003.
Green Guide Tours offers a 2 hour walk around San Francisco’s ‘cannabis spots’ and takes in the homes of The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin as well as BASA. During the walk, people learn about the history of cannabis use, the issues around stigmatization and aspects of the criminal justice system concerning cannabis laws. Ross Mirkarimi brings Fionn through the clinic at BASA, introducing him to several varieties of cannabis and explaining how San Francisco’s connection to cannabis - often associated with the Summer of Love - was intensified during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.
He visits the home of Rusty Goldman who is also known as Professor Poster. Rusty started collecting posters advertising concerts and events in the 1960s and he recalls those days vividly. Through an older brother, Rusty was always in the company of some of the leading lights of the hippie age and even lent a hand to painting Janis Joplin’s porsche.
He remembers a visit to Ireland in the 1970s, where he stayed for a few weeks and explains how he got around Britain and Europe on a motorbike.
If the San Francisco Sound isn’t something you’re too familiar with, Fionn introduces us to some of the big bands playing at the Monterey Pop Festival which was held in June 1967. By that stage The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia was complaining that the whole thing had become too commercialised and Scott Mackenzie’s zeitgeist song, Flowers In You Hair, was seen as a by-product of the rush to make gold out of the Summer of Love. Not so, says Fionn, as he explains how the song went on to inspire mass demonstrations around the world and he also tells us about The Mamas and The Papas’ hit song, California Dreamin’.
Judy Goldhaft belonged to a group that called itself The Diggers. As the crowds arriving on the streets of Haight-Ashbury were showing no signs of abating, a Death To Hippie mock funeral was conducted down the street to ‘call the whole thing off’. Tour buses were going down the same street and the police were warning that they would take drastic actions to stem the flow.
Digger Judy Goldhaft (Photo by Chuck Gould)
The Diggers became something of a next generation Hippie. They organised food, clothing and homes for the people arriving to the city, they arranged events and published pamphlets but as the congestion in the city and the explosion of the movement led to the inevitable increase in rents, they moved outside the city to the surrounding countryside where they became pioneers of The Back To The Land movement - developing a sustainable living and practising organic farming. It’s here, she tells Fionn, that you begin to see the real legacy of 1967 and The Summer of Love. The work the Diggers conducted in the immediate aftermath of that summer can still be seen in the Bay Area today and much further around the world.
Perhaps, says, Rebecca Solnit, the San Francisco writer and activist (who can remember the Human Be In - just about as she was 6 years old) but there is a dominant narrative about the hippie movement which has to be challenged.
Fionn visits her at her home to hear her argue that in fact many of the progressive movements we now associate with the Summer of Love had already begun in the years before. From feminist and gay organisations, to scientific work on ecology and the black civil rights movement - Solnit says that the hippie era was harvesting the crop of work that had gone on before. She acknowledges the changes brought on by the period though she confesses that she was more sympathetic to the Punk movement which was to follow in the decade ahead.
One thing can not be questioned, however. That is the fact that 50 years later The Summer of Love has contributed to the identity and culture of San Francisco today - a city undergoing much change but a place, nevertheless, which still basks in those hazy months of 1967.