Monday, January 05, 2009

'Wild Beatnik Parties', London 1964

'Beatnik Parties took over Nash House - Wild Parties Held

In the past week some 15 young people have been arrested and charged with various offences under the Vagrancy Act in connexion with 6 Carlton House Terrace, London… The handsome Nash terrace which for the past three weeks has been the scene of wild beatnik parties, overlooks the Mall near the Duke of York’s Steps. Early this century it was a private address. Then some of the houses were taken by clubs, including the Savage Club, the Union Club and Crockfords. Today many of the houses including No.6 are vacant...

Yesterday morning the door to No.6 was open and there was a strong smell of beer. Inside, among the dirt and falling wallpaper, piles of sacking had been placed on the floor and slept on. There were jagged gaps in the grimy windowpanes.

The young people in their jeans and sandals had moved off. Some of them were drowsing in a favourite corner of Trafalgar Square. They sat on a low wall, wiggling bare feet in the sun, most of them grubby and unshaven, and told me about the wild parties that had been drawing people like themselves from all over the country to the deserted house.

Art of Living Soft

The sessions began around midnight, after the public houses closed, and went on most of the night. Those who wanted to sleep used sacks. Afterwards they all moved off to the parks to sleep, then assembled in Trafalgar Square to wait for the next night.

A few of them were students. One girl with long, fair hair relatively clean, and brushed, said she was an art student from Birmingham, in London for five weeks. Another girl in a leather jacked grimaced and said she was a clerk from Newcastle, down for the weekend. Three young men were unemployed. One boasted with a Scots voice that he was an art student – he was studying the art of living without work…

The Carlton House Terrace days, they feel, are over – the place will be heavily watched by the police. ‘After all this publicity’, the Scotsman said, waving a Sunday newspaper in the air, ‘we’ll have to find another place. But it won’t be difficult. There’s plenty of empty houses’

Source: Times (London), 31 August 1964; the building is now the headquarters of the Royal Society. The Institute of Contemporary Arts is also based in Carlton House Terrace. In June 1977, the Squatters Action Council took over number 14 Carlton Terrace, but were evicted by the Police Special Patrol Group who claimed they posed a security risk as the building was on the route of the Queen's Silver Jubilee procession (source: Squatting: The Real Story).

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