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5 The 02 Trial in 1971 polarised the ; nation and provided a vivid social 7 comedy at the same time. All great material for a play. as Tom Lappin
heard from director Sheree
Folkson. while Tom McGrath
remembers what it was like to be
there at the time.
The last great battle of the 60s was fought in 1971.
A decade on from the Lady Chatterley trial, obscenity was again the issue. but the forces of that : catch-all body the Establishment were arrayed this
time against an entire generation weaned on w ~-
Dylan. anti-war protest. sexual liberation. psychedelic drugs and Sergeant Pepper. In the
dock were three likeable Aussies. Richard
Neville. Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis. editors :
of the contentious Oz Schoolkids Issue.
The 02 Trial gets a revealing dramatic replay : this week in the BBC Performance, written by Geoffrey Robertson. who should know what he‘s talking about. as he was the defence solicitor in the original trial. helping barrister John Mortimer to assemble a cast of prominent counterculture figures to give evidence on behalfof the editors.
‘Geoffrey led me to believe that the play is virtually the transcript of the trial.‘ says the play‘s director Sheree Folkson. ‘which is extraordinary because it is so absurd. so funny. It‘s a bizarre
piece ofsoeial history. It gives you this
extraordinary insight into the British legal system
at its most ridiculous.‘
The British legal system looking ridiculous isn‘t exactly an unknown phenomenon in more recent times. but that aside. the play does convey the sense that this is all A Long Time Ago. And it‘s
more than just the loon pants. ‘What you really get from it is an impression of the amazing differences between society then and society now.‘ says Folkson. ‘Things have become so much more homogenous. Then. you really did have these two extremes ofsociety. both completely different. Just the way they looked. Nowadays. anyone who goes to court. a football hooligan or whatever. will wear a suit and tie. they‘d put on the attire of the establishment because they know that‘s what you do. But there was just no question of it then. There was no concept of trying to conform. They‘d turn up in the hippy dress. the T-shirts. jeans and long hair. because the way they dressed was part of the
This ofcourse makes it extremely funny to watch. With the initially amusing premise that the main issue at stake here is a mock-up of a cartoon featuring Rupert Bear nursing an erection, laughs aren't exactly at a premium. ‘They literally don‘t even speak the same language. The judge keeps querying expressions like “right on“. and the
prosecution counsel calls a dildo a “dill-doll“.‘
Ifthis all sounds like an extended Monty Python sketch. it should be remembered that Neville. Anderson and Dennis faced possible life sentences ifthey were found guilty. ‘The fact that you are in the courtroom does give it an edge.‘ says Folkson. ‘Within the humour ofwhat‘s going on. they genuinely are in a quite serious position. I hope it comes through that. OK it is funny, but their liberty is at stake.‘
Fear not though. the editors were freed on appeal. and lived moderately happily ever after. To tie in with the play they. along with Germaine Greer and other interested parties. will appear on a Late Show Special to discuss the implications of ' the trial, and the repercussions it had. Did it
shatter the Establishment to its very foundations,
, or just mean you could read Viz in peace?
The Trials ()f ()z is on BBC2 Saturday 9 November at 9.45pm
The Late Show 02 special starts at 9.30pm, and continues after the play.
_ Hazy daze
Tom McGrath, editor of IT, another alternative magazine of the late 60s, gives his memories of the time and the trial: ‘It’s difficult to remember exactly what happened in the 60s because we were all off on some trip or other. There was a period of economic boom which coincided with the psychedelic explosion and LSD becoming generally
70 The List 8 -— 21 November 1991
available for the first time —that was definitely a big factor. The explosion in the imagination that occurred in so many people simultaneously and the creativity which resulted from that in all fields made the end of the 60s really different. There was also a feeling of kicking over the parent society; that was a response to the post-war period when everything had been so organised. Education, aims, career- there was a whole pattern that was laid down forthe post-war child and you were getting a kind of reaction against that.
The 02 trial itself was more to do with sexuality. The loosening up of sexual
behaviour, acceptance of the body and new types of “domestic arrangement" were all part of the hippy thing. But at that point it was all still very male in its outlook. Feminism didn’t really get strong until the 708.11“! Oz publishers were just very unaware of feminism, they weren't anti-women.
The great factor in the hippy society was recognition of one another. In the first big fund-raising events that we did, we suddenly discovered that there were more people into it than we could ever have imagined. There was no sense of rivalry or one-upmanship between us and the 01 publishers, it was just great to meet them and we
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expressed general cooperation.
That feeling lasted for about one year. It was like a dream come true and it really did feel like a movement. But there were other things happening. The drugs were a big problem as far as the parent society went and they were a problem in themselves too in that they were killing people off. Also it meant that more exploitative types could move into the situation, wearing psychedelic clothes as it were. The destructive aspect of it was under the surface all the time. But even so, I think definitely something was achieved, the breakthroughs that happened then have continued to this day.‘