Artists: Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart

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GONZO WEEKLY #164: Jon meets Ian Abrahams

One of my favourite authors working within this field that they call rock and roll is Ian Abrahams who is not only an extraordinarily good writer and researcher, but a damned nice bloke as well. I first came across him by accident when I was laying out a new edition of his entertaining and informative book about The Waterboys, who are – by the way – a band of whose music I am rather fond.

Working with him on this project was a great pleasure, and I remember telling him at the end of it that I hope we do something together in the future.

Then, some months after, I was talking to the ever talented Don Falcone about his work with one-time Hawkwind chanteuse Bridget Wishart, and somehow Ian’s name came up in the conversation. I then interviewed the lovely Bridget who – in passing – told me that she had been working on a book about the history of the British Free Festival movements alongside – you’ve guessed it – Ian Abrahams.

Fast forward a few more months, past all the business deals and things that I neither understand nor have anything to do with, and I found myself working with Ian again.

The idea of an oral history of the British Free Festival movement is such a good one, that I wonder why nobody had thought of it before. Jonathon Green was responsible for two excellent books of oral history covering the early days of the British ‘Underground’, but this was nearly all set in the 1960’s and mostly in London whereas the whole concept of the Free Festival movement was that it was a rural rather than an urban exercise, and in many cases was the only time that many of the revellers ever went into the countryside.

When I started to read an early version of Ian and Bridget’s book for the first time I was mildly surprised to see how many of the main protagonists I knew personally or at least had met. Some were, or had been, friends of mine. And several still were.

Although I was too young to have attended the legendary events in the 1970’s I was at quite a few of the most notable events, such as the Treworgey Tree Fayre which was held in Southern Cornwall in 1989 and which was one of the most anarchic events of its time. I enjoyed it massively, and thought it was splendid. But with the benefit of hindsight, if I am truthful, I can see why the powers that be would not let events like that continue.

So, with the book complete and its appearance for sale in the shops imminent, I decided that it would be great fun to have a chat with Ian about this enormous project.

So I did.

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Ian Abrahams and Bridget Wishart Biography

Hawkwind biographer, and their ex-singer (now chanteuse with Spirits Burning) team up for a monumental journey. This long awaited and remarkable book is arguably one of the most important that we have ever published. The British free festival movement, and the way that it was viciously quashed by successive waves of The Establishment is a story that many have skirted around, but until now no one has done justice to. Ian and Bridget's extraordinary book is an oral history of these turbulent times and deserves to be seen in the same illustrious light as Days In The Life: Voices from the English Underground, 1961-71 by Jonathan Green. Ian and Bridget have done a great service to music lovers and social historians alike.

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