In April 1966, Barry Miles and John Hopkins, launched International Times preceding the launch of Oz Magazine in 1967, a year that became known as “the Summer of Love”. These pioneering newspapers paved the way for a whole host of underground papers and a movement that would go on to form the backbone of British counterculture. 50 years on and Barry Miles, alongside curator and friend James Birch, is set to release The British Underground Press of the Sixties – a catalogue displaying every cover of every British underground paper from that decade, out 5 October. As well as covers, the book also includes the comic books that grew out of the papers, and various examples of the graphics, ads, posters and flyers produced by each publication. The British Underground Press of the Sixties will be accompanied by an exhibition at A22 Gallery and is a project the pair having been planning for a long time, after meeting 30 years ago.
Both International Times and Oz Magazine ran against the Fleet Street mainstream media which was, at the time, heavily conservative. Obscenity laws were much stricter at the time meaning the underground papers became the main source for the transmission of ideas. While International Times heavily influenced the editorial stance of newspapers, it was Oz Magazine that brought psychedelic art to the forefront, employing artists and designers who used vibrant colours to create posters, clothes and art installations. These papers were distributed and sold at music festivals and on street corners so they “maintained a community of readers through that very visceral circumstance, which poses an interesting contrast to today’s subversive places for dialogue, which arguably are often social media based,” says James Birch.
The focus of the exhibition will be to highlight the influence and impact of the underground press which is all too often neglected or undervalued. As the exhibition proves, without the underground press there may well have been no British counterculture. The British Underground Press of the Sixties will open at A22 Gallery on the 28 September and run until 4 November 2017 and features covers and graphics from International Times, Oz, Friends/Frendz, Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf and Ink.
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