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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Revisiting Britain's Technicolor Dream, 40 years on

The 14-hour psychedelic spectacular that changed a nation is to be brought back to life
By Anthony Barnes, Arts and Media Correspondent (for Independent on Sunday)
Published: 08 April 2007

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Oil-light projections slither across the walls while dancers high on acid flail their hair to a seemingly never-ending soundtrack of otherworldly songs. Welcome to the legendary 1967 psychedelic "happening", the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, seen as one of the most important events in the British counter-culture and the appetiser for the summer of love.

Forty years on, the heady vibe, music and theatrics are to be recreated at an event designed to help relive and celebrate the anniversary of that key moment in culture. Later this month, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London will host "Our Technicolor Dream", featuring some of the acts that headlined the original show, including the Pretty Things and Arthur Brown, who later topped the charts with "Fire". Films, light-shows and a play will also rekindle the spirit of the original.

Funded by the underground newspaper International Times, the Technicolor Dream was said to have drawn up to 10,000 people to north London's Alexandra Palace on 29 April 1967. There they mingled with figures such as John Lennon, heard Pink Floyd perform mind-numbing riffs as the sun came up, and smoked banana-skin spliffs or dropped an LSD-related drug called STP.
For just £1 a head, they were promised "30 top groups", though no one really knew who would be on the bill. Some of the action was captured in Tonite Let's All Make Love in London, Peter Whitehead's film about swinging London.

Arthur Brown told The Independent on Sunday: "It was really the big gig where the underground ceased to be underground and became part of the mainstream. It was a bittersweet experience because this underground movement became a big commercial phenomenon. You had people like John Lennon and his mates who came down and absorbed it all and took it to a wider audience, although of course we didn't know that at the time.
"There were a lot of drugs around but at that time I wasn't touching it at all. That was part of what you came to these things for. You came in from the provinces and got a bit smashed and stoned."

Hugh Dellar, one of the organisers of the ICA event, said: "It was really the first of the all-night illegal drug parties and was sort of a template for all that went on after that. It scattered seeds in all sorts of directions. It was similar to punk in the sense that it unified people and then sent them off in all sorts of different directions.

"I'm 38 and I grew up fascinated by the 14-hour Technicolor Dream. The more I learned about it, the more interested I became because it contained all the elements of what had come before it and all the seeds for what would come after. In many ways it was the pinnacle of British youth culture. The people who were involved in it went on to be key figures in other areas. Mick Farren, who was one of the organisers, was at the forefront of punk."

The new event, which takes place on 21 April, will feature films of leading trippy lightshow artists the Boyle Family, whose work was at the original show, and a play inspired by Syd Barrett, the late Pink Floyd frontman. Original organisers Barry Miles and John "Hoppy" Hopkins will discuss their involvement in the gig.

"We're trying to celebrate it without copying it," said Mr Dellar. "It is not strictly a recreation of the original: that would be insane. We wanted it to be a blurring between a curated event - which is why we've involved some of the key figures to talk about it - and a big rave warehouse party."

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