Monday, April 06, 2009

Drugs Raid at the Peace Cafe 1962

Stewart Home continues his exploration of the undocumented corners of the 1960s London beatnik scene with a post on West London face, Phil Green. Stewart mentions an interesting sounding place in Chelsea:

'On 12 March 1962 The Times carried the headline ‘Drug Charges After Raid On Café’ above an article that mentioned Green among others, then on 26 March 1962 the same paper followed this up with ‘C.N.D. Supporters Given Drugs’, concluding on 26 April with a news story entirely devoted to Phil Green entitled ‘Youth’s Beard A Part Of Façade’. Philip John Green then aged twenty was one of ten men and women arrested for their involvement with a ‘drug ring’ centred on The Peace Café in Fulham Road, Chelsea. At the time Green worked at this establishment as a chef. He pleaded guilty to possession of Indian hemp and twenty grains of opium, as well as ‘hubble bubble pipes’ used for opium smoking'.

The Peace Cafe was described in court as a supposed 'local headquarters of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament' that was actually a place where drugs were 'administered to young people who were supporters of that campaign and congregated there' (Times 26.3.1962). The Magistrate referred to it as 'an absolute den of iniquity and debauchery' when sentencing the manager, Kenneth Browning to 2 month's imprisonment 'for permitting the cafe to be used for smoking opium'. Browning told the court that he had been a supporter of the Committee of 100, the direct action wing of the peace movement (Times, 4 April 1962).

I haven't found out anything more about this place, except that a Peace Cafe was opened in the 1960s in Fulham by Rachel Pinney, a member of the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War. I assume this was the same cafe, one of those places where currents from the beatnik, drugs and radical political scenes intersected several years before the 'counter culture' became a media phenomenon.

If you know any more about the Peace Cafe, or any other interesting clubs, bars and coffee houses from that time please leave a comment.

(see also The Gyre and Gimble)


Mister Trippy said...

I'd like to know more about the Peace Cafe too. I trawled through the papers for my mum's friends names and got various early sixties beatnik drug busts (my mum's friends busts go on right through the seventies, and then we get into some of the kids being busted big time too after that)... I've also encountered these busts as oral history/stories but the tellers are often rather vague on dates and details. Hence the need to trawl the papers for them, and many were big news stories. My mum moved to Notting Hill at the end of 61, but a lot of the beatnik drug action up to that time and even a little after seems to have been more Chelsea way, at least as far as busts and my mum's circle goes. BTW: You've mistyped the date on the newspaper report you've looked up for yourself, should be 1962, not 1966. I always find typos like this slipping into my stuff too, so its useful to have someone point it out so I can correct, trust you feel the same way too!

Transpontine said...

Thanks, I have now corrected that typo. The more I learn about the 1950s/early 60s the more I question the convetional notion of everything being dead in England before the emergence of the hippy/head scene later in the 60s. There was very little going on in 67/68 that wasn't happening in Soho jazz clubs ten years before, it was just less spectacular.

Mister Trippy said...

And actually more interesting for being less spectacular, you didn't have the media butting in and assholes trying to become celebrities out of it. The parts of London that swung were already swinging back then, it just took the media a long time to catch on but it would have been better if the press hadn't twigged. And if you check the press reports what are now called hippies were still being called beatniks right through to the late sixties.... there is a book or two or probably a load more in this! Small non-media saturated scene = better scene; coz among other things people know each other and know who they can trust!

Harry said...

I lived in one of the rooms at the Peace cafe and it was a good scene.
The raid mentioned was a police fit-up, the "drugs" that were seized and used in evidence were really fishing hemp bought from a local our innocence we thought that the
Police tests would show that. Silly us!
The "drugs" we're to be sold to foolish tourists to fund activity in what at the time seemed to be an important cause.
Yes there was opium there but it was for internal (group) use and was never for sale to public.
I remember seeing a pan potatoes boiling next to a pan of needles but this was not harming anyone other than the owner of the needles.
These were good and idealistic times , how different from today's celeb. culture .
Does anyone know what those premises are used for now? Is it a better use?

Anthony Bond said...

I worked there in 1961. I shared a bed with a friend Mark who was on day shifty while I was on nights I turfed him out when my shift was over. The opium was nice but was very much for the crew. A bit of amphetamine found its way into the night shift tea it helped keep people drinking and eating, naughty but we thought in a good cause.

We were called on occasionally to turn up at central police station and offer our bodies in exchange for release of Russell or Redgrave.