EarthWorkshop

Whilst living nomadically in a van in 1971 and 1972 I wrote two books on basic life supports, 'Survival Scrapbook: Shelter' and 'Survival Scrapbook: Food' which were published by Bill Butler's Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton (1972). [1] After a spell teaching at the Architectural Association I joined a seven strong eco-commune that had been formed by the artist Eric Raven and the architect and Street Farmer [2] Peter Crump who had both been working at the Architectural Association. We occupied an Old Vicarage built within a Neolithic circle in Llandeussant, an ancient settlement on the west end of the Brecon Beacons which was to have been paid for by the proceeds from the sale of Peter Crump's London house. [3]

We intend to use our background experience from the broad based disciplines of art, architecture and literature to explore possibilities of life support systems that may be developed and controlled on a small scale and that will integrate most fully with the existing support systems of nature.[4]

There was a personality clash between Raven and Crump, which resulted in the vicarage being sold. I had spent the winter months finishing the third book in my Survival Scrapbook series - 'Energy' and going on a 37 radio and TV talk show promotional tour of the USA where the Scrapbooks had been republished by Schocken Books. Earthworkshop was perhaps the least successful collective I have taken part in although it was a unique experience to those involved.

After another year in Wales attempting to live on the income from these books, income that was never paid, I returned to London in 1976 and lived in a short-life house in Flodden road, South London which included a disused church, another vicarage and a church hall. [5] This loose community formation had no explicit cultural programme or identity so I am not including it as one of my 'collectives'.

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[1] Survival Scrapbooks Shelter and Food were followed by Energy in 1974. These three were then republished in the USA by Schocken Books. These were the basis of an exhibition/installation by the curators Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobson in February 1999. See Art Monthly (March 1999, Issue 224 pp35-37) for a review by Laura Moffat.

 

[2] The Street Farmers had arisen from the Architectural Association as a kind of radical eco response to the technological supremicism of Archigram. The main personnel were Bruce Haggart and Peter Crump. They produced two or three issues of a loose-leaf journal and would make public actions dressed in green boiler suits. A third Street Farmer, Graham Caine, built a full size experimental 'eco house' on the playing fields at Eltham, South East London, where he lived for a year. (See, Mother Earth News, No. 20 March 1973 p62)

 

[3] The main people who actually lived at the Earthworkshop were Stefan Szczelkun, Eric and Chrissie Raven and their daughter Poppy and Bernard Seal. These five were joined for shorter periods by Roger and Brett.

 

[4] From an Earthworkshop fundraising document. (see also Gorman 1975 pp141 and 145/7) The Earthworkshop project were offered the bleak Welsh quarry site which subsequently became the home of the Centre Alternative Technology.

 

[5] Larry of the rock group Pink Fairies lived in the hall and Lemmy (who would later form Motorhead) was a regular visitor. The Street Farmer Bruce Haggart lived in the vicarage with his wife Kate and child Sholto. We had parties in the church in which the 101'ners played. They were led by Joe Strummer who later formed 'The Clash'.