When in 1970 Mick Farren, Edward Barker and David Goodman named the festival that they were organising 'Phun City', they condensed much of the commitment of the Western counterculture of that time in just those two words. Phun City: it reminds of a North-Vietnamese free zone in the middle of England. A hotbed of revolt and dangerous fun. (logo design by Edward Barker)
The three-day 'people's festival' near Worthing brought together drug-fuelled rebels like The MC5, William Burroughs, The Pretty Things, The Pink Fairies, Farren himself, and combined music, radical politics, literature, graphic design, and visual arts. It was one of the last large multidisciplinary events that successfully mixed politics, arts, and fun before the music industry commercialised these events and pulled their teeth.
Musician, writer, editor, and anarchist Mick Farren, at that time the spearhead of the London underground, was one of the few Europeans who joined forces with the Detroit based White Panthers. The White Panther Party was in fact an artists' collective founded by John and Leni Sinclair that modelled and named itself after the militant Black Panther Party. In 1968 this collective dedicated all their creativity to "cultural revolution through a total assault on the culture which makes use of every tool, every energy and every media we can get our collective hands on". Because of their strategic use of various art forms we regard Mick Farren and John & Leni Sinclair as pivotal figures in Western revolutionary art.
When multidisciplinarity serves no other purpose than crossing nominal barriers between art disciplines or between various fields of research, it is no more than tame artistic play. We, The Buggers, feel that multidisciplinarity is only vital when it leads to dangerous or genuinely innovative mixes. In our view the drive to cross barriers in art should also be a drive to tear down conventions in thought. Farren and the Sinclairs demonstrated that multidisciplinarity is as much an artistic as a revolutionary tool and that it can be fun at the same time.
Mick Farren and John Sinclair would probably have been rebels in any society. But much of their revolt resulted directly from moral rejection of the repressive and racist Anglo-Amercian societies of those days and the American war against the people of Vietnam. Farren and Sinclair are romantic revolutionaries. They take as much inspiration from political revolutionaries as from literary heroes or musicians. Ho Chi Min plays drums with Bo Diddley. Music is revolution.
In the 60s and 70s Farren and Sinclair reclaimed public space through riotous multidisciplinary events but also through self-created media: records, magazines, writings, photographs, posters, pamphlets. Part of their program was taking fun - sex, drugs, music - out into the streets. Their assault on official culture consisted of vandalism of public space (in its broadest sense) and the creation of free zones, Phun Cities, strategies that evoked serious repression before they were adopted and used for commercial ends by capitalist industries.
The Buggers repeat their call to reclaim public space and to develop contemporary strategies against the occupation of public space by capitalist industries. In our previous pamphlets we already mentioned vandalistic strategies like self-destructive art, hostile modifications, desexualisation and sexualisation as circumstances or times require, and now we add to that the creation of free zones. Bugger the sham!