Oz magazine is one of the most important records of 20th century counter-culture and revolution. During the run of 48 issues between 1967 and 1973, Oz tackled subjects ranging from gay rights to racism, the environment, feminism, sex, the pill, acid, rock music and the Vietnam War. Produced in a basement flat in London's Notting Hill Gate by three editors, Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis, the magazine was renowned for its psychedelic covers by pop artist Martin Sharp, cartoons by Robert Crumb, radical feminist thought by Germaine Greer and provocative articles that called into question established norms of the period.
The V&A's Felix Dennis Oz archive acquisition recounts the magazine's kaleidoscopic history and chronicles one of the most politically and socially revolutionary periods in world history.
Oz raised the question: should, or even, could 'The Establishment' dictate what ordinary people saw, read and thought, or would the public be left alone to make up its own mind? Through a wealth of visual material, the archive chronicles this key turning point in British culture and offers a reminder that the powerful never relinquish control without a struggle.
In the early 1970s, Oz became the subject of the longest obscenity trial in British history after it was raided by the obscene publications division of the Metropolitan Police. Dennis, Neville and Anderson were charged with conspiring to corrupt the morals of the young for Oz #28, an issue created entirely by school children, which included a sexually explicit parody of the Rupert Bear cartoon strip. In response, the Friends of Oz campaign group was formed and a publicity campaign launched in support of the editors. Posters, flyers and stickers were produced; the Elastic Oz Band was formed and released 'God Save Us' featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono; celebrities agreed to give evidence at trial and an Independence Day Carnival was staged to support the defendants and protest against the Misuse of Drugs Bill, censorship laws and the growing climate of government repression. The three editors were eventually acquitted of the conspiracy charge, but jailed for two other minor offences. However, all three eventually won their appeals and were released.
The Felix Dennis Oz Archive includes items related to the Oz Obscenity Trial, including badges, shirts, stickers and flyers distributed on the streets in 1971. It also includes a typescript of 'God Save Us' by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Other highlights include personal correspondence, diaries and cuttings belonging to Dennis from his Oz years, such as material related to the running of the magazine and a letter he received from his mother during his time in jail.
The Archive also contains a series of posters created for the magazine by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Michael English, Martin Sharp and David Hockney. Rare original artworks, layouts and photographs organised by issue form part of the acquisition, including the hugely significant Magic Theatre issue (Oz #16) produced by the Australian artist Martin Sharp and film director Philippe Mora. Sharp and Mora lived and worked in the Pheasantry, a 1960s artist colony in London's Kings Road, which also housed Germaine Greer, Eric Clapton and David Litvinoff. The Magic Theatre issue encompassed a multi-media manifestation of collage, film, happenings, light shows, theatre and photography that had never before been seen in magazine form.