Banned Books at the V&A Museum
We're thrilled to let you all know that our next outing is going to be a pair of concerts at the V&A Museum in London, with some new commissions on the theme of banned books and censored material. As a starting point they have asked us to delve into their boxes to look at the newly acquired Oz Magazine archive - an Underground Press print publication that ran in the UK between 1967 to 1973 and was the subject of the famous obscenity trial in 1971.
These very special concerts are gong to be held on the evenings of Friday 20th April (8pm) and Saturday 21st April (7pm) in the stunning National Art Library room in the V&A Museum. Seating is limited and tickets can be bought in advance (£12-£15) here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/event/l4zNkk49/the-bookshop-band-2018
We spent a fascinating day in the V&A archives, a place not dissimilar to the final scene of Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc, row upon countless row of closed boxes of treasures, although you get the strong impression that these boxes are not lost - unlike in the film, meticulously archived by the staff at the V&A, and available to the public, on request, to investigate in their various reading rooms on and off site (thoroughly recommended).
Our knowledgeable guide took us through the Oz archives, recently acquired from the estate of Felix Dennis, one of the later editors of the magazine, suggesting various boxes to start with. She picked out all the glorious techni-colour editions of the magazine, letters to and from the editors, photos of the office raids and the subsequent street protests outside the courts, notes from the court cases, judge summaries, Hippie Hippie Shake scripts and mitigating statements from the accused.
We came away from the day, minds and eyes buzzing, both with a new clarity about issues around free speech and censorship, but also more confused than ever. As Robert Sharp of English Pen told me - just when you think you've settled your mind on all the arguments surrounding free speech and censorship, along comes an argument to throw you completely off again. It's all very well to look at the physical object that is The Oz Magazine, to see the images and read the words and to have reactions and opinions, but it's another thing completely to get an understanding and feeling for the context in which the magazine existed in - the times, the society, and the moods of the generations surrounding it.
We're going to be heads down over the next few weeks digesting everything we saw and read to compose a few new pieces around the subject for performance - along with other related songs - at the V&A Museum on the 20th and 21st April. Book your tickets now to hear the results here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/event/l4zNkk49/the-bookshop-band-2018
Do you have any recollections of the Oz Magazine, the obscenity trial, the protests or any memories from the time of the Obscene Publications Squad? Please do get in touch. We'll be reading, researching and writing the songs over the next few weeks, and the more material we have to work from the better.