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The London art world is a labyrinth, and there are many different ways in which one might make one’s way through it. My own interests encompass the countercultural demimonde, rather than being contained by the gallery scene which is sometimes separated out from it by those art historians whose focus is objects rather than the human communities from which cultures emerge. This fifty year plus overview of London bohemia draws very much on my mother's life and experiences, as well as my own. In 1960 at the age of sixteen, my mother Julia Callan-Thompson (1944-1979) left Newport in south Wales for London. She immediately immersed herself in the Soho beatnik scene of the time. During the early to mid-sixties Julia worked as a hostess in Murray’s Cabaret Club alongside Profumo Affair scandal girl Christine Keeler, and also appeared as an extra in films such as "Accident", "Casino Royale", "Becket" and "Spy With A Cold Nose". She also did brief stints as a fashion model but drug dealing was a much more regular source of income for her. Julia came to know many different cultural figures, and some of them are more closely associated with the fifties than the sixties. I was conceived in the summer of 1961 while my mother was living in Islington, but before I was born she moved to 24 Bassett Road in Notting Hill. It was a fortuitous change of address because the area surrounding it was bohemian and once there Julia met many interesting people. Bassett Road runs west off Ladbroke Grove, and along with Oxford Gardens and Cambridge Gardens this was the sixties and seventies countercultural heart of Notting Hill. Among those already resident in the building my mother moved into was Russ Henderson, who had the first steel drum band on the streets of London and later played an important role in setting up the Notting Hill carnival. Also living at 24 Bassett Road was communist bookseller Ruth Forster, a Jewish refugee from Nazism and veteran of the anti-fascist resistance, who in the early sixties was still close to German writers such as Gustav Regler (the English translation of his autobiography "The Owl Of Minerva" is out of print but easy enough to find).

It wasn't at home in Bassett Road that Julia met the men she knew with links back to the 1950s London art scene, it was when she was out and about. So take the tube to Ladbroke Grove, turn left out of the station, wander down to Cambridge Gardens and turn left into this street. My mother died in the back basement flat of 104 Cambridge Gardens (probably from a heroin overdose) in December 1979. Try to imagine what Cambridge Gardens was like when the rents were cheap and most of the houses were broken up into bedsits. 104 is a residential building, so we can't go in, we'll just look at the exterior. Next we'll double back to St Marks Road and turn left, this will take us across Oxford Gardens and into Bassett Road. We'll turn right into Bassett Road, but look back on 58 to our left as we turn, where Julia lived at the end of the sixties in a pad she briefly shared with the reforgotten legend Terry Taylor. Wandering down Bassett Road let's check out 24 where my mother lived in a top floor flat from 1961 to 1966 (again this is a private house, we can only look at the exterior, we can't go inside). We'll carry on down Bassett Road until we get back to Ladbroke Grove where we turn right. We'll walk past the tube station until we see the Kensington Park Hotel on our right, at the junction with Lancaster Road. The KPH was one of my mother's locals, close to home and a place to meet people, so go inside and raise a glass to her memory. Suitably refreshed, we'll carry on up Ladbroke Grove and turn left into Elgin Crescent. My mother moved from Bassett Road to a flat at 55 Elgin Crescent in 1966 (again these are residential flats so we'll just look at the exterior). We'll walk along Elgin Crescent to Portobello Road and on our left we'll see The Duke of Wellington. In the old days this pub was called Finch's and those who know the area still refer to it by this name. In the mid-sixties Terry Taylor lived in a flat abutting this pub. My mother had met Taylor somewhere in Notting Hill by the mid-sixties, he can't recall where, and we'll return to him because he's an important link back to the fifties art scene in Soho. If after a drink in Finch's you want another, then there's also Henekey’s in Portobello Road which was another of my mother's hang-outs; but I'm not going to tell you exactly where it is, this is supposed to be an art tour not a pub crawl. Once we've finished drinking, we'll walk up Portobello Road - taking in the market as we go - to Notting Hill Gate. At the end of Portobello Road take a right onto Pembridge Road, and there on our left as we walk up towards the tube we'll find the Notting Hill Book Exchange. This emporium was established relatively recently but it has the feel of a lot of places that have disappeared from London. I ran into Ian Hunt (the new deputy editor of "Art Monthly") recently, and we were talking about how we used to spend a lot of time hanging out in London bookshops but don't anymore because most of the decent ones have closed. Although the Notting Hill Book Exchange doesn't go back that far, it has a good vibe and something of the atmosphere of the old boho London bookshops of the seventies and eighties. Next we need to turn left out of the book exchange and go down on the underground from Notting Hill to Oxford Circus. I'll return to our trip later, right now I need to digress back to Terry Taylor and then introduce a new character Bill Hopkins.

To date Terry Taylor has been treated as a very minor figure within the history of youth culture despite the key role he played in London’s fifties art scene and sixties drug and occult underground. Described by Tony Gould in "Inside Outsider" as ‘unconventionally successful’, Taylor was for a time chiefly of interest to cultural historians like Gould because characters in the Colin MacInnes novels "Absolute Beginners" and "Mr. Love and Justice" had been based to a greater or lesser degree upon him. More recently fictionalised impressions of Taylor have appeared in both Esther Freud's "Hideous Kinky" and my novel "Tainted Love". In 1956 MacInnes got talking to Taylor in a drinking club in Berwick Street. At the time MacInnes was living above Gallery One in D'Arblay Street and Taylor was working as a passport photographer in Wardour Street (while in his leisure time pursuing an interest in modern jazz and getting stoned). Gallery One was owned by Victor Musgrave whose wife was Ida Kar, an important post-war photographer. At this time John Kasmin (a famous gallerist in his own right in the sixties) was Kar's assistant. Ida had an open marriage with Victor and after MacInnes introduced Taylor to her, Terry became her lover (despite an age gap of 25 years between them). Meanwhile Kasmin became Kar's business manager and Taylor took on the unpaid role of her photographic assistant. The atmosphere at Gallery One around this time is summed up for me by a series of pictures Kar took of Taylor getting stoned after a photographic session for the little known jazz singer Judy Johnson; these extraordinary images appear to have been hidden from public view until I included them in the show "Hallucination Generation" at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol earlier this year (2006); apparently their first public showing. For a time, Taylor took to living at Gallery One, but eventually he moved on to Notting Hill. After this relocation Victor Musgrave introduced Terry to Detta Whybrow when by chance both turned up in D'Arblay Street at the same time. In conversation Taylor and Whybrow discovered they both lived close to each other in Notting Hill. Shortly afterwards Terry called on Detta at her home and they became lovers. The relationship is said to have inspired MacInnes to write "Mr. Love and Justice", but Terry insists he was never a pimp like the Frankie Love character in that book (despite a conviction, he was in fact living with - not living off - the woman) and made his own money.

Terry Taylor's drug novel "Baron’s Court, All Change" was published in 1961 and from this date onwards he also spent a lot of time in Tangier. In his memoir "Journey Around an Extraordinary Planet", American beatnik poet Johnny Dolphin describes how he got heavily involved in a magic group formed by Terry Taylor and various Berbers which met in Tangier to materialise thought forms. The process combined smoking grass with magic and the practice was brought back to London. By the mid-sixties Terry, Detta and the circle around them (including my mother) were very interested in LSD. Partly because of her work as a high class prostitute, Detta knew people from all walks of life and persuaded a chemist she knew called Victor James Kapur to make LSD for her when it was still legal. The acid is said to have been very pure and an intense tripping scene developed, as well as much street dealing. Of course, it wasn't long before LSD became illegal and a series of police raids in November 1967 led to Detta and some of her friends appearing on the front page of "The Times" and at Bow Street Magistrate's Court over drug offences. Kapur received the heaviest sentence of nine years at the Central Criminal Court in May 1968, and was removed from the Pharmaceutical Register later that year. Thus Terry and Detta provide a perfect example of the overlaps between many different marginal worlds (art, prostitution, drugs, occultism, writing) in fifties and sixties London.

Gallery One had moved to D'Arblay Street in 1955; pior to that it had been in Litchfield Street on the other side of Charing Cross Road. At that address one of the tenants had been the writer Bill Hopkins, who like Taylor befriended my mother in the sixties. Hopkins recalls the old Gallery One building being filled with a mixture of the respectable, he was himself night editor for the "New York Times", and prostitutes. This seems to have been a fairly common feature of low budget central London housing of the time. Hopkins' only novel "The Divine & The Decay" was issued by MacCibbon & Kee in 1957; coincidently it was this publisher who also brought out the work of all three of Gallery One's resident writers (MacInnes and Taylor as well as Hopkins), and of course Ida Kar photographed all three of them too. Hopkins was closely associated with the angry young man movement, and in the late fifties lived in a house in Notting Hill's Chepstow Road with fellow 'upstart' writers Stuart Holroyd and Tom Greenwell; the spare room was shared by the better known scribblers Colin Wilson and John Braine, who lived out of London but rented this pad for use when they were in town. After a failed attempt to set up a new political party at the end of the fifties, Hopkins became an antiques dealer in Portobello Road and played a key role in the development of the modern market in that street. He remains to this day a passionate collector, particularly of outsider art, and I first met him in the late-eighties through our mutual connections to the Gimpel Fils Gallery.

Hopkins recalls the 'outsiders' of all classes meeting in Soho's fifties bohemaia - artists, writers, gangsters, prostitutes. He doesn't mention drug dealers and he appears monumentally uninterested in them, but he did inadvertently provide introductions via a third party between one of my mother's pot smuggling friends and a highly regarded artist of the sixties who was looking for a break into drug scamming. My mother's close friend shall remain nameless since he was never convicted for his illicit activities, but one of those he introduced to the drug scamming game, sculptor Francis Morland, was caught and jailed, so I can tell you about him. Morland was a London art world insider with a part time teaching job in the sculpture department at St Martin’s College. His mother, Dorothy Morland, had been director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. His work in bronze of the early sixties was well received. An anonymous "Times" critic covering the "Sculptors of Today" exhibition at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford praised him for ‘distinguished modelling coupled with imaginative insight’ (11 May 1962). The following year, alongside David Hockney, Joe Tilson, Peter Blake, Allen Jones and Derek Boshier, he appears in Gerald Laing’s photograph "London Artists in Paris"; this was taken during the "Biennale des Jeunes" at Musee de la Ville de Paris. 1963 was a key year for Morland, since he moved from working in bronze to using fibreglass finished in coats of cellulose paint. This was a complete break with his earlier work: the fibreglass pieces were large, pop and brightly coloured.

Morland was unable to support himself from the sale of his work, and was extremely keen to find alternative sources of income. Once he’d been introduced to drug scamming by my mother's friend in 1966, he realised that one of the ways he might smuggle hash was to seal it inside his large fibreglass sculptures. Many years down the line this ploy was imitated by drug smuggling micro-celebrity Howard Marks, who substituted Morland’s modernist constructions with the speaker systems used by rock bands. To Morland smuggling was a means of subsidising his real passion, making art. In the late sixties Morland’s work appeared in group shows such as "New British Sculpture" organised by the Arnolfini Gallery at outdoor locations in Bristol and the "1st Burleighfield Sculpture Exhibition" at Burleighfield House, Loudwater, Bucks (both 1968). Morland’s one person show "Recent Sculpture" opened on 12 September 1969 at the Axiom Gallery, London W1.

Morland’s first bust occurred in October 1969, hot on the heels of his Axiom show. The art world reacted with horror, seeing taking drugs as one thing and smuggling them as quite another. Morland’s career as a professional sculptor came to an abrupt halt, and he was dropped by many of his professional friends. The charges against him took some time to wend their way to a conclusion in the courts but "The Times" dutifully covered this on 23 March 1971 under the heading ‘Diplomats In Drug Ring, Crown Says’. Morland failed to answer his bail so he wasn’t actually up before the beak. Others not present were a Mr Khaled and Fulton Dunbar, Third Secretary at the Liberian Embassy in Rome. Morland and Dunbar were said to have made statements admitting their guilt and that of others. It was claimed the gang smuggled £150,000 worth of cannabis into the UK, and had plans to ship a lot more around the world. In the dock was Robert Paul Palacios who'd used his catamaran to transport the drugs from Morocco to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, from where he drove them to London in a Rolls-Royce car. Palacios who’d been hired to do the job by Morland was fined £4000. Morland began his first jail sentence for smuggling in America. After sailing his 47 foot ketch loaded with hash from Morocco to the US in July 1971 and being caught upon entry, he was jailed for eight years and fined $15,000. Morland suffered yet more major smuggling busts in the late eighties and late nineties. Still, he is a free man today and to my mind remains one of the most under-rated London artists of the sixties. I certainly felt very privileged when I was able to include three of his original sixties sculptures in the show "Hallucination Generation" in 2006, possibly the first time his sculpture had been publicly exhibited for 35 years.

When I phoned Francis to arrange an interview with him for "Art Tripping", he suggested we rendezvous at Valerie's in Old Compton Street since he used to go there after his teaching stints at St Martin's in the early sixties. Valerie's took me back in time too, but not so much to the sixties as to 1984 when I was sharing a house in Kennington (south London) with among others a tall redheaded American girl called Eugenie Vincent who was on the books of the Models One agency and at the time was being featured on the front covers of publications such as "Vogue". Eugenie was definitely a bohemian model with a deep interest in the art world, I'd come across her through my involvement with the Neoist Network, an international collective dedicated to destroying the art establishment. However, Eugenie wasn't as critical of the institution of art as my Neoist comrades and she'd drag me up to Valerie's to meet her artist friends, and in particular John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans. I was also taken by Eugenie to the Maybury and Evans pad in Mornington Crescent, neo-Naturist events in Chelsea and dozens of other places I can now barely remember.

Eugenie thought I had lots in common with what she saw as my fellow London undergrounders, but I found them too plugged into the art establishment to do it any real damage. For me, at that time, people who knew figures like Derek Jarman, Andrew Logan and Gilbert and George weren't on my side. I'd gone through the whole London punk rock scene in the late-seventies and the younger Neoists were self-consciously post-punk in their aesthetic practices, whereas these people behaved as if punk had never happened. I considered not just Maybury and Evans, but also their wider circle, to be trapped in outmoded notions of art as a discourse through which they might find a means of 'authentic' expression. To paraphrase Raoul Vaneigem, those people who talk about cultural revolution without explicitly attacking the institution of art, without understanding what was subversive in the link up between the anti-Bolshevik communist-left and the Berlin dadaists, and what was positive in the avant-garde's doomed attempts to bridge the gap between art and life, such people have a corpse in their mouth. I was interested in those whose practice engaged with the contradictions of art as a specialised form of human activity separated from everyday life; I only wanted to work alongside those who treated all claims about 'authenticity' as a sick joke. As far as I was concerned, the circle of artists Eugenie introduced to me simply didn't cut it as post-modern rebels. I found live artists such as Andre Stitt and Nigel Ayers more to my taste.

But we should wind back a little here. In the latter part of the sixties the London cultural enterprises that really interested my mother were the Robert Fraser Gallery and The Arts Lab. Fraser's activities crossed over with both the world of rock and roll (and in particularly the Rolling Stones) and that of hard drug use. Much the same could be said about the Arts Lab, where my mother is very visible in film footage of an event hosted by her close friend Alex Trocchi, who was notorious for his drug use and like Morland taught at St Martin's School of Art in the mid-sixties. I started going to galleries on my own at the age of twelve. The first gallery exhibition I went to without adult supervision was a show of original art work from various Marvel Comics at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1974. That said, on the whole I found the strikes and political strife of the mid-seventies more interesting than its culture. Indeed, when I discovered punk rock in 1976 I realised that I'd found things a tad dull between the waning of glam and the emergence of punk. One of the more enduring London legends of the late-seventies are Throbbing Gristle (TG). Musically I was never very impressed with TG, who I saw as providing a watered down take on the work of composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, but culturally I still consider them very significant. TG emerged from the performance art ensemble COUM Transmissions; and the key event in this evolution was the exhibition "Prostitution" at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (19-26 October 1976). "Prostitution" received an enormous amount of press coverage and caused questions to be raised in Parliament about arts funding because it featured props from old COUM performances exploring human sexuality (including used tampons) and documentation of how one of the group - Cosey Fanni Tutti - supported herself by working as a pornographic model. TG played at the party on the opening night of "Prostitution", as did the punk band Chelsea. The individual members of TG had been through the hippie scene, but they simultaneously introduced ideas from the world of anti-art onto the fringes of the punk scene. Front man Genesis P-Orridge had a real gift for picking up on interesting ideas and no matter how crassly he used them, he inspired young kids to take them up too. Blaster Al Ackerman who went on to help found the Neoist Network in the late-seventies had acted as a mentor to P-Orridge, and even provided the lyrics for the TG track "Hamburger Lady". By the mid-eighties many of those I was connected to culturally had emerged from the industrial scene instigated by TG; among others there was Rock Wilson producing the collage magazine "Apocalypse A-Go-Go" in south London, Mick Gaffney who issued "Discipline Magazine" from Notting Hill and John Smith doing "Interchange Magazine" in Newcastle.

The mythology of TG is very closely bound up with the London Borough of Hackney, but before we head east (on a 55 bus), let's take a wander around Soho. Emerging from Oxford Circus tube station, head down Argyll Street and turn left onto Marlborough Street, then take the first right to the top of Carnaby Street. The Jam on the B-side of a 1977 single "All Around The World" complained that Carnaby Street was no longer what it used to be in its sixties heyday. In the late seventies the coloured paving put into Carnaby Street during the sixties was still intact and there was an indoor market where I scored bootleg records. Personally, I considered Carnaby Street pretty cool at that time. Carnaby Street remains the most publicly accessible of those places in London associated with ongoing cross-overs between art and pop culture. Ignore how Carnaby Street looks today and imagine it as it was; if you need a visual aid try the BFI's DVD reissue of Horace Ove's 1975 film "Pressure" which is mainly set around Notting Hill but features a few wonderful shots of the mod mecca looking funky but gloriously chic in the mid-seventies. Go all the way down Carnaby Street and turn left into Beak Street; Murray's Cabaret Club, where both my mother and Christine Keeler worked as hostesses in the early sixties, was located here. Try to visualise Beak Street as it would have looked in 1961, and think of it as the place that through Keeler's central role in the political sex scandal known as the Profumo Affair, was where London first started to swing in the sixties. Keep going down Beak Street until you come to Lexington Street where we'll hang left. At the top of Lexington swing right into Broadwick Street, then a quick left onto Poland Street. On your right off Poland Street is D'Arblay Street. This was where Gallery One moved in 1955 and it stayed there until 1963. Many unknown artists who subsequently became famous were first shown here; including Op painter Bridget Riley. That said, the Gallery One event that most fascinates me is the "Festival of Misfits" (23 October to 8 November 1962), which was co-hosted with the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The participants were a mix of auto-destructive, fluxus and nouveau realiste artists: Arthur Koepcke, Gustav Metzger (whose auto-destructive art inspired Pete Townsend of rock band The Who to smash guitars onstage), Robin Page, Ben Patterson, Daniel Spoerri, Emmett Williams and Ben Vautier (who lived in the gallery window for much of the festival). One of the highlights was Robin Page dressed in a silver crash helmet (and I hope at least a pair of trousers) kicking a guitar through several central London streets at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Gallery One was on a corner, and we need to walk down D'Arblay Street and turn right into Berwick Street. Ida Kar would dart out of Gallery One to buy vegetables in the market at the bottom of Berkwick Street; by way of contrast, for the past thirty years I've found it difficult to visit Berwick Street without buying a record or three. After as much time as you require in the independent music stores, walk through the market and along the paved courtyard at the bottom and on into Brewer Street, where we turn left. From there its right onto Wardour Street and left onto Old Compton Street. On our left as we walk down Old Compton is Valerie's, where we'll stop for a coffee. If you need another drink then the French House and The Coach & Horses are both nearby. These are the pubs favoured by fifties bohemians (Francis Bacon, John Deakin, David Archer etc) but I've never liked them so I won't say exactly where they are. In the eighties I patronised the Three Greyhounds which is actually on Old Compton Street, but I don't care for that pub these days. The private drinking dens that played such a key role in fifties Soho bohemia were mainly down Dean Street which runs between Old Compton and Oxford Streets; but again I've never liked any of these places, so go to them if you must but I won't take you there. If you want to visit the site of the pre-D'Arblay Street Gallery One, then from Old Compton cut down Moor Street to Cambridge Circus; we need to get across to the other side of Charing Cross Road, where just to the south of Shaftsbury Avenue is Litchfield Street.

If you don't go to Litchfield Street, from Valerie's we'll make our way back to Wardour Street, turning right and heading up to Oxford Street. On our right we'll go past The Mezzo (a Conran restaurant), which is the site on which the now demolished Marquee Club stood during its most legendary phase. The Who played a series of classic mid-sixties gigs at the venue; during the late seventies I used to go there a couple of times a week to catch bands such as Wire, Adam & The Ants, Ultravox, Slaughter & The Dogs, Raped, Neon Hearts, The Drones, Chelsea, and The Vibrators, who'd play to an audience of a few hundred kids. When I go past I don't see the Conran facade; instead I imagine Fat John ushering me and my mates one at a time up to The Marquee box office, a white shirt stretched over his beer belly and hair that looked like it was never combed. Despite the two pillars pretty much in front of the stage, the place was and remains the stuff of which myths are made. There is footage of bands like The Adverts and Boomtown Rats playing at The Marquee in Wolfgang Buld's seventies documentary "Punk In London" (available on DVD). Returning to The Jam, they had a hit with the song "A-Bomb In Wardour Street" in the late-seventies. At the top of Wardour Street, cross Oxford Street and look for a 55 bus stop; there is one outside the 100 Club, another rock venue I patronised in the seventies. Wolfgang Buld includes footage of The Jam playing the 100 Club in "Punk In London". Those of you who took up my invitation to visit Litchfield Street may prefer to cut up Charing Cross Road before turning right onto New Oxford Street, where there is another 55 bus stop. On your way up Charing Cross Road check threatened rock venue The Astoria, it's to your left at the junction with Sutton Row. I saw a very strange Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers performance at The Astoria the night after the Great Storm in October 1987; it was impossible to get to the West End by public transport because of all the felled trees and debris, so I walked into Soho where Washington DC's top Go Go act played a sold out show to an empty concert hall.

We're taking the 55 bus pretty much all the way to Beck Road in Hackney - the Mare Street bus garage will do us fine. Attempt to sit upstairs on the left hand side of the bus, and pay attention because I want you to look out for the Gray's Inn Buildings on the way. We'll go down Bloomsbury Way and Theobalds Road, when we cross Gray's Inn Road the street becomes Clerkenwell Road. On our left is Gray's Inn Buildings, which edges into Rosebury Avenue. All that's left of this bohemian haunt is the façade; there is now a completely new building behind it. Back in the eighties Gray's Inn Buildings was home to rock journalists such as Nick Kent, as well as artists such as the 'group' Art In Ruins (Hannah Vowles and Glyn Banks). By the mid-eighties I was running around with the likes of Chris Saunders, whose very quiet girlfriend Tracy Emin sat and absorbed everything I said. I knew other south London art figures like Stefan Szczelkun who invited me to an independent artist organsised group exhibition "Our Wonderful Culture" at The Crypt in Bloomsbury. There I met other undergrounders including Art In Ruins. As a result of these meetings there emerged a quarrelsome bunch who decided to work on collaborative installations together. Stefan Szczelkun was the instigator but we'd meet at the Art In Ruins flat to discuss how we were going to take on the cultural establishment. Aside from artists and rock critics, Gray's Inn Buildings was filled with junkies and upon entering the complex it was easy to become embroiled in some off-street hassle; there were notices everywhere from the caretaker (who eventually hanged himself) telling the junkies who'd been shooting up wherever it happened to be that week (on the stairwell, on the roof) that he'd found their dirty needles and they were to stop this degenerate behaviour.

For a while there was a real buzz around Art In Ruins, they signed to the Gimpel Fils Gallery in the West End and it looked like their brand of critical post modernism was about to storm the institution of art and give it a real shake up. Unfortunately most historical traces of their influence are currently obliterated by the less interesting work produced by what became known as Young British Art (Damien Hirst et al). At the time I collaborated with Art In Ruins I was living at the wrong end of Bethnal Green in the row of terraces on Grove Road whose demolition enabled Rachel Whiteread to realise her piece "House" (1993). Later I moved to the smart end of Bethnal Green, into a council flat near to Brick Lane. This was before the trendification of the area really got going, but by the end of the nineties the neighbourhood was changing fast. You'll see overspill from those changes as the bus comes down Old Street into Shoredtich, in the eighties this was a quiet area but now it's full of cafes, bars, galleries and fashionable shops. Likewise, in the eighties the art world was into theory, but by the mid-nineties it had switched to party mode and the party is still going on in Shoreditch and Hoxton.

I don't associate the good times I had in the mid-nineties London art world with the big names of that era, rather it was the group around artist/curator Matthew Higgs that pulled me in. I'd gone on a three year strike against art in 1990 and when it was all over Matthew somehow found me and told me (in the nicest possible way) that I should start doing art pieces again. I agreed and when Matthew asked me to participate in a show at City Racing, I exhibited a bed because I'd just come off Art Strike. I didn't show the bed I actually slept on but rather a different bed, because I didn't want to present something 'authentic'. I liked the reaction my Art Strike Bed got, and decided to keep showing the piece but substituting a different bed each time. I showed a derelict's bed in an exhibition curated by Jane Pollard and Ian Forsyth called "Yourself Is Steam", and it was placed opposite a Tracy Emin work; this was shortly before she produced her own "My Bed" which proved to be the antithesis of mine, since Emin's was all about 'trauma' and 'authenticity'. In the meantime Mathew Higgs introduced me to the artists he admired, people like Jeremey Deller, Martin Creed, Bob and Roberta Smith and Paul Noble. This is a scene I very much associate with Shoreditch; but don't bother getting off the bus as you pass through, you won't find this crowd there now, things have moved on in the past ten or so years. Deller ended up living in what had once been The Black House in Holloway Road, north London, a place that was much frequented by my mother circa 1970 when she carried messages and packages between British beat writer and smack dealer Alexander Trocchi and black power leader Michael X.

We'll alight from the 55 in Mare Street and walk up to Beck Road. A little bit of history: in 1973 key COUM Transmission members Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti had moved to London from Hull, and were living in what was supposed to be an artist's studio in the basement of 10 Martello Street. The studio wasn't really suitable as accommodation, so Tutti and P-Orridge looked around for somewhere else to live. P-Orridge discovered that a band called Rinky Dink and the Crystal Set were about to move out of a squat at 50 Beck Road (just round the corner from Martello Street) because they'd got an advance from a record company and could afford better accommodation, so he arranged for Tutti and himself to take over the squat. A few years later Helen Chadwick, Mikey Cuddihy and various other artists cracked squats in the street. The local council had decided to demolish Beck Road to enable them to build an extension to Hackney College and as they moved their tenants out, more and more artists moved in. Ultimately the council agreed to place the squatters on a legitimate footing and management of the buildings was passed over to ACME, an artist's housing association, after a successful campaign to save Beck Road from demolition. So from the mid-seventies onwards there has been a vibrant cultural scene in the street, one which continues to this day, encompassing not only visual artists but also many musicians. Helen Chadwick who died from a heart attack in 1996, aged just 42, remains the most highly regarded of Beck Road’s many legendary inhabitants. Chadwick worked with photography and installation; her favoured subject matter was the body and death.

When P-Orridge moved down to Brighton in the late-eighties he put a couple of his fans, Simon Norris and James Mannox, in 50 Beck Road to run his Industrial Records mail order business. I was introduced to them by East End artist Mark Pawson, who I'd met via the Neoist Network. I had the odd meet with P-Orridge, but although I worked alongside various people who were close to him, Genesis and I never really hit it off. When Simon and James moved on from 50 Beck Road, pop video maker Nick Abrahams moved in with musician Barry Smith (who subsequently formed the band Add N To X). In the mid-nineties I was working closely with Nick and we even shot a short art film together in 50 Beck Road. Today there are gallerists living in the house, which is private, so you can't go inside. Beck Road is paradigmatic of the way London's cultural centre has shifted eastwards. Today Chelsea seems like a backwater and Notting Hill is filled with bankers, whereas in the sixties they were places where the bohemian action went down. Today the greatest concentration of art excitement is in the East and to complete our London art tripping we need to walk back up Beck Road and turn right into Mare Street, we'll head south until we reach Vyner Street on our left. Vyner Street is home to many of today's up and coming galleries, and if you hit it on an evening when there are openings, you'll find the place buzzing with hundreds of people. No point saying here what's hot and what's not right now, since that changes daily. Check it out for yourself....

Returning to my mother Julia, I'm sure she would be surprised by today's art scene if it was possible to bring her back from the dead and show it to her. London bohemia still exists but once the dismantling of the welfare state begun by Thatcher had been seen through by Blair, the economic conditions in which it has to sustain itself have become much harsher. My early life, like my mother's, was shaped by the welfare state; and like many other cultural figures of my age, I subsidised the early years of my 'anti-career' by signing on the dole. A huge quantity of 'free' time paid for out of unemployment benefits isn't so readily available to London kids starting out in the culture industry today, and this accounts for the marked decline in the overall standards of (counter)-cultural (anti)-production. However, due to the different ways in which each specific cultural market operates, this decline is more evident in writing and music than visual art. The financial pressure placed on emerging 'talent' today is something neither my mother nor I could have imagined when we were young. There is still plenty of strong visual work being made, but it is hard to find amidst a deluge of bad pieces which flood what is ever more obviously a market for 'cultural' commodities. But if you can find it there is plenty out there worth seeing... Happy hunting! And with a bit of effort we may replace this atomised society of ours with something more social, and simultaneously conjure up a new and immeasurably better culture.

Stewart Home, London October 2006.

More places to Art Trip:
Art dealer Robert Fraser was famously busted with the Rolling Stones in the sixties, and Richard Hamilton's well known work responding to it, "Swingeing London" is on display at The Tate Modern.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is still active in The Mall, and has a changing programme of exhibitions.

Ida Kar's archive is now housed by the National Portrait Gallery. They have pictures of Bill Hopkins up on the NPG website - and other Ida Kar material is periodically put on display in the gallery.

Filmed interviews on some aspects of London Art Tripping:

Bill Hopkins on Gallery One, Soho in the fifties etc

Francis Morland on Francis Bacon, sculpture & drug smuggling

Mikey Cuddihy on Beck Road, Helen Chadwick, Genesis P. Orridge

Barry Simth on Beck Road, Genesis P. Orridge, Add N To X

Jeremy Deller on black power, music, murder & Matthew Higgs

To Art Trip Outside London: You'll need to do a web search because the BBC has either removed or moved the page with links to everyone commissioned by them and the Arts Council to produce pieces dealing with art in different British cities.

Other things:
More about Stewart Home's collaborations with Art In Ruins & others

More about Stewart Home’s mother Julia Callan-Thompson

More about Psychedelic Art & 1960s London Drug Culture

Stewart Home portrait 2004Stewart Home portrait 2004Stewart Home portrait 2004

Julia Callan-Thompson wears big flares in 1966

Julia Callan-Thompson in 1966. Photo by Carla Hopkins.

Stewart Home gets into one of his mother's modelling poses

Stewart Home imitates one of his mother's 1966 modelling poses. Photo by Chris Dorley-Brown.

morph of Stewart Home and his mother Julia Callan-Thompson

Morph of previous two photographs. This was a series put together by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley-Brown under the collective title "Becoming (M)other" (2004).

Terry Taylor & Johnny Dolphin Allen at a cafe in Tangier in 1963

Terry Taylor & Johnny Dolphin Allen in Tangier in 1963, note the Cobra style painting on the wall behind them.

Francis Morland bird sculpture

Francis Morland "Bird" sculpture from the early sixties. Princess Margaret borrowed it from the artist but he took it back when she couldn't make up her mind about buying it.

Francis Morland erotic sculpture

A Francis Morland erotic sculpture of the early sixties. Work of this type was bought by people who hung around The Establishment Club.

Morland sculpture of the mid sixties

A Francis Morland sculpture of the mid-sixties. He started working in fibreglass in 1963.

Morland fibreglass sculpture mid-sixties

Another Francis Morland fibreglass sculpture of the mid-sixties.

Francis Morland Kiss 1966 fibreglass sculpture

Francis Morland, "Kiss" (1966). Perhaps the best known of his fibreglass sculptures, it was shown for the first time in 35 years at the Arnolfini in 2006 as part of the exhibition "Hallucination Generation".

Francis Morland Spring, fibreglass sculpture circa 1966

"Spring", (1965) another of Francis Morland's fibreglass sculptures re-shown in 2006 as part of "Hallucination Generation" in Bristol.

Francis Morland, different shot of Spring, fibreglass sculpture mid-sixties

An alternative shot of "Spring" by Francis Morland. This is classic mid sixties St Martin's school sculpture, but with an illusionistic twist; the way the piece sits on the ground, seemingly growing out of the earth, makes this very industrial product feel almost organic.

Francis Morland Red Sculpture, this is late sixties and made of steel

"Composition In Red " (1967) by Francis Morland. In the late sixties Morland turned to working in metal, and this steel sculpture - seen here during its re-showing at the "Hallucination Generation" exhibition at the Arnolfini - is a classic example of such work.

Francis Morland pottery circa 2000

Francis Morland pot. Morland has kept up his interest in organic forms since the sixties but today he works on a smaller scale in clay rather then fibreglass or metal.

Becoming (M)other morph by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Bown

From the series of morphs "Becoming (M)other" (2004) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown. The modelling photographs of Home's mother Julia Callan-Thompson which he has reposed were taken by Carla Hopkins in 1966.

Becoming (M)other 2004 by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown

From the series of morphs "Becoming (M)other" (2004) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown.

Becoming (M)other 2004 by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown

From the series of morphs "Becoming (M)other" (2004) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown.

Prostitution II polariod remake of Cosey Fanni Tutti work by Stewart Home

"Prostitution II" (1996) by Stewart Home; an appropriation series remaking in polaroid work by Cosey Fanni Tutti of Coum Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle.

Prostitution II (1996) by Stewart Home

"Prostitution II" (1996) by Stewart Home; an appropriation series remaking in polaroid work by Cosey Fanni Tutti of Coum Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle.

Becoming (M)other (2005) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley-Brown

From the series of morphs "Becoming (M)other" (2004) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown.

Becoming (M)other (2004) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley-Brown

From the series of morphs "Becoming (M)other" (2004) by Stewart Home & Chris Dorley Brown.

Ruins Of Glamour/Gllamour of Ruins group installation Chisenhale Studiios London 1986

"Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins" (1986) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Gabrielle Quinn, Ed Baxter and others at Chisenhale Studios, London.

Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins, group installation Chisenhale Studios, London 1986

"Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins" (1986) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Gabrielle Quinn, Ed Baxter and others at Chisenhale Studios, London.

Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins

"Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins" (1986) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Gabrielle Quinn, Ed Baxter and others at Chisenhale Studios, London.

Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins

"Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins" (1986) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Gabrielle Quinn, Ed Baxter and others at Chisenhale Studios, London.

Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins

"Ruins of Glamour/Glamour of Ruins" (1986) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Gabrielle Quinn, Ed Baxter and others at Chisenhale Studios, London.

Desire In Ruins, group installation Transmission Gallery Glasgow May 1987

"Desire In Ruins" (1987) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Ed Baxter and others at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow.

Desire In Ruins

"Desire In Ruins" (1987) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Ed Baxter and others at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow.

Art Strike Bed (1990-2006) by Stewart Home

"Art Strike Bed" by Stewart Home (1990-2006).

Desire In Ruins

"Desire In Ruins" (1987) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Ed Baxter and others at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow.

Desire In Ruins

"Desire In Ruins" (1987) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Ed Baxter and others at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow.

Desire In Ruins

"Desire In Ruins" (1987) a collaborative installation by Stefan Szczelkun, Art In Ruins, Stewart Home, Ed Baxter and others at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow.

Vermeer II (1996) by Stewart Home

"Vermeer II" (1996) by Stewart Home.

Vermeer II (1996) by Stewart Home

"Vermeer II" (1996) by Stewart Home. Installation at workfortheeyetodo gallery off Brick Lane.