It’s comforting to know that while we flap about pre-General Election and gas on about things like house prices and the economy, down in deepest Cornwall there is a group of people dedicating their lives to publishing tomes centred around the relatively niche topic of psychedelia. Psychedelic Press UK is an independent publisher that “deals with the science, history and literature of psychoactive substances, and altered states of consciousness.” Their books and regular journal are a platform for fiction and non-fiction outpourings that seek to explore the enormous but rarely spoken about world of psychedelic experiences and belief. We caught up with Robert Dickins from the press about how it works, the backlash they face and why they’re doing it in the first place.
Does anyone ever frown on you for publishing the kind of content you do, and if so what is your general response?
People often frown when they hear the word “psychedelic” – imagining some groaning old hippie, but more often than not they are interested to hear what the journal and our publications are about. A patient explanation that the word psychedelic originally referred to a medical, therapeutic method usually corrects any frowns – especially when they hear the range of mental illnesses that psychedelics potentially offer a cure for.
There is prejudice to get over – years and years of misinformation from the mass-media frenzy – however, I find on the whole that people will always take the time to hear what we’ve got to say, and generally this is enough to make people realise we’re doing something important for society. At the end of the day, no-one would deny the need to explore and utilise medicines correctly.
"People interested in subscribing to the journal are those who understand the balance between fiction and non-fiction; those people who understand that explanations and explorations can take many forms and that any fixed notions are to be treated with suspicion."Robert Dickins
What do you know about your audience?
Our audience is a really interesting and mixed bunch. On the one hand, there’s a great deal of psychedelic party people who fill the fields and the festivals and psy-trance dance floors. On the other hand, there are the academic and independent researchers who are unpicking the many ways and uses of psychedelic medicines. What they all have in common, however, is an interest in the great mystery that is the psychedelic experience.
What does the journal seek to do?
The journal itself has a two-fold goal. In the first instance it is about producing a community publication that gives voice to both established writers and researchers alongside up-and-coming ones. So often journals pander to the established, but psychedelia is such a vibrant culture that we feel it’s important to reflect this.
Secondly, misinformation has been an unfortunate by-product of psychedelic discussion over the last 50 years – especially when it comes to the mainstream media. PsypressUK aims at providing accurate and interesting information, and disseminating it as widely as possible. In this day and age, there is no excuse for shoddy information, and PsypressUK is a publication, we hope, that people can reference and utilise with confidence when discussing psychedelic medicines.
"In this day and age, there is no excuse for shoddy information, and PsypressUK is a publication, we hope, that people can reference and utilise with confidence when discussing psychedelic medicines."Robert Dickins
Tell us about the contributors and the artwork you commission
We are very blessed to have had such a brilliant array of written and artistic contributions. In terms of researchers, we’ve had some of the really big psychedelic names get involved, such as the co-founder of Transpersonal Psychology Dr. Stanislav Grof and DMT researcher and author Dr. Rick Strassman.
There is something of a psychedelic renaissance going on worldwide, and particularly in Britain as well. Researchers, Drs. Ben Sessa and David Luke, have both contributed. And, over the past few editions we’ve been lucky enough to exclusively include narrative accounts from participants in the first UK trials with LSD for 40 years.
Since our first journal in 2012 we’ve placed a lot of emphasis on having great eye-catching front covers that we quite often commission specifically for the journal. Being based down in Cornwall we’ve worked with a lot of quality local artists such as Lucy Brown, Edmond Griffith-Jones, Jeremy Beswick and Reuben Quatermass, as well as leading visionary artists in Britain like Stuart Griggs. They all have very distinct styles, but together they’ve provided a very particular aesthetic for the journal, which when taken together show a very interesting movement in psychedelic art taking place at the moment.
What’s been your favourite article or piece of content in the journal so far?
That’s a very difficult question as there’s been such a wonderful array of contributions. Personally speaking, however, as I’ve a huge love of the literary, it would be the piece Fireworks by Psychedelic Frontier, which explored the nature of the psychedelic experience against the backdrop of the 4 July celebrations in the US. It’s a very insightful and beautifully illustrative piece of writing. It’ll be included in our “Best Of” collection, which is coming out in July.
"Our audience is a really interesting and mixed bunch. On the one hand, there’s a great deal of psychedelic party people who fill the fields and the festivals and psy-trance dance floors. On the other hand, there are the academic and independent researchers who are unpicking the many ways and uses of psychedelic medicines."Robert Dickins
Who do you think definitely needs to subscribe to the journal?
People interested in subscribing to the journal are those who understand the balance between fiction and non-fiction; those people who understand that explanations and explorations can take many forms and that any fixed notions are to be treated with suspicion. We are an open-minded publisher and our readers are the ultimate source of that position. From mental health to artistic wealth, if you enjoy gateways into new thinking then the PsypressUK journal is for you.