In the 1980s ‘hippie convoys’ of ramshackle buses and lorries were demonized as a threat to public order when they drove onto farmers’ land. For many people, this was their first encounter with the term ‘hippie’, which had become an almost universally derogatory term associated with workshy, unkempt, soft-drug users. Gradually however, they generated the sympathy of a public which was re-evaluating the hippie movement of the 1960s.
   The original hippies were young and preached ‘flower power’, the lifestyle of San Francisco and non-violent protest. Some sought anarchy, embraced the environment and rejected western materialism. They formed an anti-war, artistically prolific counterculture and used psychedelic drugs like LSD and marijuana. Their dreamy vision influenced fabric design, graphic art and music. They followed such bands as Love, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Pink Floyd; their gurus were Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. The movement was not just about lifestyle, but had a political dimension. On 17 March 1968, 25,000 demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square and marched to the American embassy protesting against the war in Vietnam. Speakers, including Vanessa Redgrave and Tariq Ali, denounced the complicity of Britain’s Labour government. In the melée, 117 policemen and 45 demonstrators needed medical attention, and 246 people were arrested. Hippies were denigrated by agencies whose outlooks they were arguably reflecting. For example, their message of non-violence, peace and love should have been welcomed by the Christian churches, but was not. Newspapers were scathing of their activities when both they and hippies were fighting against excessive state control over information. Journalists ridiculed hippies’ lifestyles; ten years later they themselves were more casually dressed and were letting their hair grow. Hippies’ ‘civil disobedience’ should have appealed to the radical university intellectuals who led the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but again did not.
   The movement has left a number of legacies. Very often, the children of people who dropped out and went to live in the West Country or Brighton rather than London could not get back to the urban centres fast enough. Some children complained about their parents’ laxity and became themselves utterly strict. Others felt inadequate because their parents were not hippies. Nostalgia is rehabilitating the movement. For example, the writers Arthur Matthews and Graham Linehan are working on a situation comedy for the BBC inspired by the Bruce Robinson cult film Withnail and I. Set in 1968, A Bunch of Hippies revolves around a radical underground paper loosely based on Oz magazine.
   See also: crusties; mods; rockers
   Further reading
    Labin, S. (1972) Hippies, Drugs and Promiscuity, New York: Arlington House.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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