Praise From The Lord!
Over the last eight years, the Exodus Collective of Luton have held around 13 free raves on land belonging to the Marquess of Tavistock, owner of Woburn Abbey, two international golf courses and 135,000 acres of Bedfordshire land. Then Lord Andrew Howland, the Marquess's son and estate manager, decided to enter into negotiations with Exodus. Tim Malyon talks to an aristocrat whose found that it's better to talk.
Squall Download 4, May-June 2000, pg. 16.
AH: We're gonna try and find a site that we can all agree on - I would say that's where we are. I don't know what sites they're looking at. When I do we can have a look at it.
TM: Are you in principle wanting to offer Exodus a site or find a site that would be suitable for them?
AH: They have their raves - that seems to be a given. In an ideal world I'd rather that they probably didn't do them at Woburn. I wouldn't have any problem saying that to Glenn Jenkins. But if they are gonna do them, which I think is established, and they are going to do them on or around Woburn, I'd rather find an agreed site rather than have sort of contretemps with some of the tenant farmers and potentially disrupt the golf course. So we'll try and find an agreed site that they can enjoy the use of, I think they're talking three or four times a year. But it's really provided they get planning permission. I'd like to support their planning application on an agreed site if we can find a site we can all agree between us.
TM: So you'd be the licensee?
AH: No, they would, it'd all be them. They would be the licensee and they'd have to be licensed by the local authority.
TM: But you'd help them in trying to obtain that license as the landowner?
AH: Ya, if we can find an agreeable site, which is agreeable to all sides, which hopefully we can.
TM: When you went to last year's Free the Spirit Festival organised by Exodus, what were your feelings about that?
AH: I would say very peaceful, relaxed, happy, all the children running around and the parents happy, content, confident that they were safe. It was great to see. On the down side, the thing that would concern me would be the mess. But no problem with it. Fun and interesting to go and see. Something I hadn't seen before. And then the other day I went to look at their housing project and that was very impressive, what they'd achieved there.
TM: In what way?
AH: In the way that they had got together, seemed to work well together and created some very nice places to live in, very sensibly, for very small amounts of money, using be it rent money that they get from the government, or their social security money or whatever, they pooled it and created some very nice places to live, wonderfully warm, and seemed to work very well.
TM: So the kind of reputation that's been ascribed to them, of being sort of lazy layabouts, that didn't fit with what you saw?
AH: I think they've achieved a lot there. Certainly the impression I had of raves, which I haven't been to, - I've been to a festival, I haven't been to a rave - but raves and what goes on at raves, I would say, even though I haven't seen one, but talking to them I would say I had a very different impression of it before than I do now having hopefully seen a bit and learned a bit.
TM: For your land you'd be thinking of that in terms of the festival or in terms of raves?
AH: I think they want a site for , I think, they're talking about arranging raves during the decent weather, hot, hopefully summer months. They'd probably be talking about a number of sites, of which maybe one would be somewhere at Woburn, and which they might use two or three times in the summer, from what I understand.
TM: So that would be just for raves, not for the festival that you saw?
TM: Do you think this is something that other landowners should follow your example on?
AH: I think if they have a problem with raves, it's more sensible to try and get together and solve the problem rather than take it on confrontationally. I don't know whether Exodus are different from other people who have raves. I suspect they are, because of the culture of free festivals and free raves, I would imagine that's pretty different. I don't know, maybe in your research you found out that there are lots of people like that, different groups of people, but I would think the free element of it is quite rare.
TM: In my experience Exodus are pretty unique.
AH: Certainly if someone said to me, do you have a problem dealing with Exodus, I would say we had problems when we didn't talk, and okay, we're not in rave season at the moment, but they are very easy to talk to, they talk perfectly good sense and I would recommend someone talking to them rather than doing it on a confrontational basis.
TM: And you've never felt intimidated by them or anything like that?
AH: Not in the slightest, no.
TM: Do you see this as something that could potentially be for the public good?
AH: I think anything that gets rid of confrontation and creates more understanding and people looking at things that are different, I don't know about the public good, but I'd say for the people concerned if you take the confrontation out of the system, that's for the positive good of people involved in it.
TM: What about their views on marijuana and marijuana smoking?
AH: I mean you've got plenty of scientists that say that it should be legalised, you've got MP's I believe who say it should be legalised, I know that my mother's got a great friend who's got Multiple Sclerosis, and the doctors talk about it, but it's illegal. I think in terms if they want to smoke marijuana, I'm not a doctor, I can't argue the rights and wrongs - I smoke cigarettes- of marijuana versus nicotine versus alcohol. I think the thing that everyone's frightened of is that marijuana leads to very dangerous things. But again, I've always thought that raves involved the selling and dealing of hard drugs. They have told me that is not the case, yes they condone the use of marijuana but if people are seen taking anything stronger, harder than that then that is not condoned. And if they are seen dealing in anything then they are asked to leave. I'd think there are enough people around that could ask them to leave and they would leave. Going to the festival, the way they have things like the price police and things like that, that was enlightened.
TM: What, keeping prices down?
AH: Yup, okay they don't charge people to come in, but then to go round and make sure people are not being ripped off, it all seems very good. What did you think of the festival?
TM: I was really impressed. I've never seen an event of that size with the tiny amount of drug dealing that went on. There was one person who whispered something in my ear during the entire 4 days I was there. I did a radio programme about a big commercial rave a while back, and with all the security around there was bags of drugs dealing that was going on.
AH: Totally different - obviously mammoth costs both in putting it on and charging people to get in.
TM: Absolutely, and a totally different atmosphere - I would go for the Exodus one any day.
AH: It was very relaxed, wasn't it!
TM: Very relaxed!
AH: Totally different age groups there, clothes, everything else, obviously it covers a wide section of society I would say.
TM: You've had some experience with festivals before haven't you?
AH: No, we've had a couple of concerts - a Neil Diamond concert in '77 then Tina Turner and Dire Straits in either 90 and 91 or 91 and 92. Before then my grandfather I think had the world nudist convention or something at Woburn. I wasn't there then!
TM: Is there anything else that you'd like to say?
AH: People have said to me, you're being forced into doing this. In some ways yes, but I'm actually willingly going along with it now. I'd actually like to hopefully achieve something. It would be nice to achieve, it is different, and without having been to a rave, having seen and met Exodus, it's very impressive to see what they've achieved.
TM: One of the things that I've been really impressed by with Exodus is the way that they've integrated young people into the collective that are otherwise generally speaking outside of society. Do you have any knowledge of that?
AH: A couple of weeks ago I went over there (to HAZ Manor). This is not meant to be rude in any way, but so often nowadays we take things at face value. And because they might have long hair and dreadlocks and pierced noses and things like that, instantly you react away from them. When you actually sit down and talk to them they're just the same as anyone else, with very good values. And it's fascinating. They were talking about the parents who reacted against their children going to something like Exodus, complained to the police that they'd been caught up in a cult, the police saying no, it wasn't a cult, the parents coming to see their children at HAZ Manor then actually going around and spreading the word in a positive fashion. So it's very impressive. (10.56)
TM: I agree. I've been covering Exodus for quite a long time now, for BBC Radio and various magazines, just because of that, because I think It's a good news story in a generally bad news environment at the moment. So I think it's very positive.
AH: I know they don't have any leaders, they're all delegates, so I don't know how much of it is the non-leaders/ leaders if you'd like to call it that. As they say, they've had people in there who've come in with a drug habit and actually come off their drug habit. How much of that is the leaders, and how much of it would happen without the leaders? And if you replace good leaders with bad leaders, could it go badly wrong? Could it go wrong if it got too big? I don't know. Having been a child of the sixties rather than a young adult of the sixties I don't know how it compares.
TM: I think they've got some exceptional people - I know they're not leaders - but some exceptional people who are generally accepted by everybody as being in the forefront of what's going on, people like Glenn or John The Bounce or whatever, I think they are quite exceptional people. But many of the Collective have known each other since they were at school.
AH: But then when you go to the housing project, some of them have moved in there quite recently.
TM: Yes, so you've got that wide age range...
AH: There's an amazing guy there, they call him The Captain, someone who they say was Richard Branson's sort of private builder. There you go, there's someone else, totally different background, and he's their building project manager and advisor. It's different, but it certainly works and it works very positively. Looking at the money they've spent at HAZ Manor, I would think it's been extremely well spent. If you walk round units they say this one cost under £2000 to get all this stuff, and the reclamation - great expression where they 'womble' for things isn't it! They do a lot with not a lot of money.
TM: Yes, absolutely, it's amazing what they've done there I think. When I first went up and saw them, I was not exactly suspicious, but I wanted to know what was going on. And now over the years that I've been up there, I'm sure there are no secrets being hidden from me. The way that they deal with money seems to me to be very much above board - everybody knows what's coming in, everybody votes on what's going to get done, whose room they're gonna do next, I think they're quite amazing. So I think it's really good what you're doing. And I say this to anybody who puts their neck on the line.
AH: You can get shot at and be accused of being naive believing what they say. But I do. And I'd far rather do that and be proved wrong - it's not clever to be proved right. They want to give it a whirl, I want to give it a whirl, let's see if we can pull something off. So we'll keep on trying.
To see Squall's full coverage of Exodus click here