JIM HAYNES

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Do your own thing: a call to counter-culture
byMick Brown,
The Daily Telegraph, November 6, 1993
section: Pg. 44
Telegraph Magazine:
WHEN Jim Haynes first arrived in Edinburgh from America in 1956, the city was 'dark, dank, cold - everything under yellow smog'. There was one coffee-house. The Edinburgh Festival featured only classical music and the big national theatre companies. 'There was nothing fringe, off-beat, radical or crazy', he remembers. Jim Haynes made up his mind to put it there.
He had been posted to Edinburgh by the US Air Force, 'the most congenial posting I could find'. Between midnight and 5am he eavesdropped on Russian radio signals; by day, he attended Edinburgh University.
Haynes had always been interested in ideas and literature. Looking for an outlet for both, he opened a small bookshop, dealing exclusively in paperbacks, based on the model that was beginning to flourish in Greenwich Village, but the first of its kind in Britain. The Paperback, which opened in 1959, was the first bookshop in Britain to stock the writings of the American 'beat' authors - Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. It also stocked Henry Miller when Miller was banned in this country as obscene.
More than a bookshop, The Paperback became a salon, a coffee-house, a gallery, a meeting place. In 1960, to tie in with the Edinburgh Festival, Haynes staged a play in the basement, sowing the seeds of what would later become the Traverse theatre, the focal point for the fast-growing Edinburgh Fringe.
Jim Haynes, in short, was an emissary of 'counter-culture'. Just as America had given us Coca-Cola, ultimate symbol of consumerism, so it was to give us the vocabulary of dissent. The uniformity of Eisenhower's America in the Fifties bred myriad forms of rebellion. The teenager as a separate social entity, to whom things could be sold, mutated into the juvenile delinquent who spoke his own language, distinct from the vocabulary of middle-class America. Britain had its own non-conformists, of course. The Teddy Boys were a peculiarly British phenomenon, their drape suits and brothel creepers a parody of upper-class dress. But America was to provide two more crucial models. Rockers were the heirs apparent to Marlon Brando's Wild Ones - leather-jacketed, existentialist ton-up boys, terrorising family motorists on the North Circular. The Beatniks were the intellectual arm, first appearing in Britain in the late Fifties, affecting the black turtle-neck sweaters and open-toed sandals worn by the San Francisco beats. A decade later, these would transmogrify into the hippies, whose garb was actually something of a mixture of the Sergeant Pepper glad rags of Swinging London and the LSD fantasies of San Francisco. The student movement spread from the campuses of Berkeley and Ohio to Grosvenor Square. The social tumult of Sixties America gave birth to 'black power', feminism, the gay rights movement, all of which would find their equivalents in Britain. By the mid-Sixties, Jim Haynes had moved to London. He installed the Traverse in the Jeanetta Cochran Theatre London - the first place where the underground films of Andy Warhol were shown in London.
He was one of the founders in 1966 of IT magazine, Britain's first 'underground' newspaper and in the same year Haynes founded the Arts Lab in Drury Lane: London's first space for the artistic 'happenings' which so characterised the period - theatre, poetry, living sculpture from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. 'The ideology was to never say the word "no" , ' says Haynes. 'And out of it, God knows what would happen, but whatever it was would be fun.'
In 1969, with Germaine Greer, he founded Suck - which claimed to be the world's first 'sexual liberation' newspaper, the news-sheet of what came to be known as 'the permissive society'.'People talk about the permissive society, but nobody ever gave me permission to do anything. I have a brain and a body and I have the right to do what I want to do with it. The rallying cry then was do your own thing. But I think it was respectful.' Jim Haynes now lives in Paris, where he teaches media studies. What happened in the Sixties, he suggests, was the flowering of American corporate capitalism, and the inevitable reaction against it. What has happened since affirms its supremacy. 'McLuhan was right. We live in the global village. And America has always had the biggest talking drum.'
 
 
 
 
©The Daily Telegraph, 1993

 

 

1993, The Daily Telegraph: Do your own thing: a call to counter-culture

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