The Post Bag: Letters To Squall
Wally Hope: Man Or Martyr?
Letters to Squall following the publication of Neil Goodwin's article 'Wally Hope: A Victim Of Ignorance' in issue 11, Autumn 1995.
Squall 13, Summer 1996, pg. 66.
Neil Goodwin’s article “Wally Hope - A Victim of Ignorance” in Squall 11 contains a number of factual errors.
The bands Hawkwind and Gong were not spawned by the Stonehenge rock Festival, they were going strong years before it got going. Hawkwind’s one and only hit single “Silver Machine” was in the charts years beforehand.
I knew Phil Russell aka Wally Hope and was present at many of the events described in the article. The drugs that destroyed his brain were as likely the acid and speed supplied by his “friends” in the “movement” as anything prescribed by the psychiatric system.
He was a classic rich kid acid casualty who would ramble on for hours about Jesus being re-incarnated in Cyprus in 1960, to anyone who would listen. The people who made a hero of him once he was dead couldn’t stand him when he was alive. What was interesting and very ironic is that the name “Wally” was intended to be a name that could be used by anyone, to destroy the cult of personality. Now that name is being used to create a martyr for that very cult. This is very sad!
Reverence for the dead is one of the hallmarks of an authoritarian patriarchy. Let the dead bury the dead. No more sacrifice!
All the beast,
Penny Rimbaud replies:
For me, Phil Russell, aka Wally Hope, was neither a hero nor a martyr, but a personal friend, yes, tiresome at times, particularly when he was on his Jesus of Cyprus soap box, but he was also a poet and a visionary. Without Wally Hope, for better or worse, there would never have been a Stonehenge Festival. I regard that as a fairly important legacy. When he was alive I loved him, when he was dead I missed him.
To claim that the drugs that destroyed him were given to him by friends is as insulting as it is untrue; what’s more it stinks of Thatcherite moralism. I have never taken acid or speed and neither have I ever encouraged others to do so. Further, I am not altogether sure that those who supply drugs can truly be defined as friends, but maybe that’s my hang-up. For his part, Wally believed acid to be a holy sacrament which he used in great moderation and with enormous care, indeed he was critical of the social use of drugs, including alcohol and nicotine. To dismiss him as just another acid casualty is to play into the hands of a tabloid mentality that once surrounded acid and now surrounds ecstasy, ie state propaganda.
Whatever the actual cause of Wally’s death (natural, suicide, assassination, take your choice, they’re all equally provable), there is no question that his brain was seriously if not terminally damaged by the treatment to which he was subjected firstly in Winchester jail and then in the Old Manor Hospital, Salisbury.
The recommended dose of Largactil (chemical cosh) is 75mg per day. During his two weeks incarceration in jail, Wally was prescribed an unbelievable 2,000mg per day, plus weekly injections of Modecate (a similarly powerful brain inhibitor).
The above information was supplied by the CID shortly after Wally’s death. Equally, in an interview with the consultant responsible for Wally’s treatment in the Old Manor, I was casually informed that he had been prescribed Modecate “in doses considerably above the maximum recommended by its manufacturers”. I have reason to believe that he was prescribed further psychotropic drugs, Haloperidol and Stelazine, in what amounted to a bizarre experiment in chemical cocktails. By the time of his release from the Old Manor (two days after the last festival-goer had left the site of the second Stonehenge Free), Wally had been reduced to little more than a cabbage. A common side-effect of large doses of psychotropic drugs is a condition somewhat akin to Parkinson’s Disease called ‘dyskinesia’. Wally’s guardians, both doctors, felt that he could be suffering it in its chronic, incurable form. The affects of acid? I think not.
Following Wally’s death and the deceptive manner in which the authorities had dealt with it I spent over a year making my own investigations and writing a book based on my findings. Having suffered intimidation by the police and death threats from persons unknown, in a fit of cowardice I later destroyed most of that work. However, some of the documentation that I had compiled was not destroyed and I used it several years later when I wrote ‘The Last of the Hippies’, a short essay on Wally that was included in one of Crass’ albums. It is that essay, as CJ Stone points out in his book ‘Fierce Dancing’ , that has given rise to many of the conceits that now surround Wally’s life and death. However, for all that, I do not feel responsible for having created a myth; that is in the minds of those who need them, not mine. No, I wrote ‘The Last of The Hippies’ because I wanted people to be aware of the lengths to which the State will go to silence those who it perceives as its enemies. I wanted to be certain that I had done everything in my power to ensure that such a pointless death didn’t happen again (of course I knew that I wouldn’t succeed, but at least I tried).
To dismiss those who revere the dead with glib rhetoric about authoritarian patriarchy is (on a considerably more crucial level) to dismiss those who continue to act as witnesses to the holocaust. The dead cannot be truly buried until we acknowledge our complicity in their deaths. Of course there should be ‘no more sacrifice’ but rather than reeling out tired, ‘alternative’ abstractions or confirmations of status-quo cynicism, let us act to ensure that there are none.
Penny Rimbaud June ’96
ASSEMBLIES OF CELEBRATION, ASSEMBLIES OF DISSENT - an overview of recent decades of festivals, raves, travellers and protesters - 1998