The late 1960s saw progressive ideas emanate from the countercultural underground and revolutionise society. Challenging oppressive, outdated norms and expectations, a small number of individuals brought about far-reaching changes as they sought to attain a better world. Their idealism and actions helped mobilise a movement which continues to inspire modern activists and shape how we live today.
Stewart Brand – Tech visionary
Stewart Brand was involved in a number of the key revolutionary events of the late 1960s: he co-founded the Trips Festival of 1966, one of the first large-scale hippy gatherings; founded and edited the Whole Earth Catalog, widely considered the pre-cursor to the internet for its user-generated content and knowledge-sharing; and he filmed the ‘Mother of All Demos’ in 1968, where Douglas Englebart presented the first word processing, computer mouse, hyperlinks and video conferencing. Since then, Brand has co-founded the world's first open virtual community, the WELL, in 1984 and the Long Now Foundation in 1996, which aims to encourage long-term thinking to prompt more responsible human action.
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Caroline Coon – Artist and activist
As a young woman, Caroline Coon rejected her upper class upbringing and moved to London where in 1967 she founded RELEASE, a support service for drug-busted individuals, while still an art student. A lifelong feminist, she has long called out double standards in society’s gender expectations, and was one of the dedicatees of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (1971). Coon was involved in the 70s punk scene as a music journalist and briefly managed the Clash, and continues to provoke the establishment today with her art.
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Joe Boyd – Record producer
In 1966, a year after supervising Bob Dylan ‘going electric’ at the Newport Folk Festival, Joe Boyd co-founded the UFO club on London’s Tottenham Court Road – a seminal countercultural haven for psychedelic, LSD-laced ‘happenings’. He has produced records for artists including Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Toots and the Maytals and REM, and overseen the scoring of films including A Clockwork Orange (1971). More recently, in his fortnightly podcast ‘Joe Boyd’s A-Z’, Boyd dips into his extensive music collection, sharing his insider knowledge and fascinating memories.
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Country Joe McDonald – Musician, Country Joe and the Fish
A child of communist parents, ‘Country’ Joe McDonald spent a lot of time around Berkeley, California in the early sixties – a hotbed of student activism later in the decade. There he played music with a number of groups before writing "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag", an anti-Vietnam song which symbolised the feelings of his peers toward the War. Performing at Woodstock Festival in 1969 he opened the song with a ‘fuck cheer’ – a moment and a word which unified the crowd in their frustration around their country’s politics.
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Craig Sams – Health food pioneer
Craig Sams moved to London from the US in 1966, inspired to share the health benefits of a macrobiotic diet. He sold macrobiotic snacks at the UFO club before opening a macrobiotic restaurant, natural food shop and publishing an organic living journal with his brother Gregory. Meanwhile, Sams also found time to import eastern clothes (such as Afghan coats) to the city’s fashion boutiques. Sams co-founded Green & Blacks in 1991 and, more recently, Carbon Gold Ltd – a company producing biochar products which impact positively on the environment.
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