Clapham Ganja Festival '99

The Clapham Ganja Free Festival occured on May 1st. down Clapham Common, following a march that had occured earlier on the day. Cycling to Victoria station from the library I work at Saturdays, I got off at Battersea Park and pedalled to the 'Common (the place where former British cabinet minister Ron Davies brought shame and disgrace upon himself for playing "hunt the sausage" and as a result, being caught with his pants down). Having chained up my bike nearby, I set off to enjoy the festivities. On my way, I came across an individual who'd either smoked/drank/taken too much of whatever made him happy, and was sprawled out on the grass in front of me. I felt a bit of a rubbernecker for taking the pic below, but it's not my fault some people out there like to party too hard for their own good, is it?


I got this next one while walking around soaking up the vibes and all-round lovely atmosphere. These were the first of many drummers I came across, whipping up a mini-frenzy with the sounds they were producing, judging from the people dancing in the pic. I saw an even larger group of drummers nearby, but as there was an even larger group of people dancing, I couldn't get close enough in to get a pic of them.


 This next pic was taken while walking around with a bloke that works at the library as an attendant called John who I bumped into. He lives not too far from the 'Common, occasionally playing chess with the local club situated nearby. I also came across a bloke who helps sort out my p.c. for me who it goes all funny called Rory. He was there with his son and his son's mum who was with a mutual friend, and we chatted for a while (mostly about the perilous state of London libraries and tacky Ray Harryhausen special efffects in creaky mythical films like 'Jason & The Argonauts', amongst other things) before going our separate ways. I noticed the girl below twirling ribbons in all directions (similar, I think, to what rhythmic gymnasts use) and got a snap despite the busy bustle of people rushing past. As it turned out, the pic below was better than I'd expected, as I'd taken it hurriedly. John and I then went to a tent providing drinks and live performance poetry too (one person on the tiny makeshift stage performed an angst-ridden piece entitled, 'My Life's So Brilliant, It Depresses Me', which raised much laughter in the tent. Cruel or ironic? You decide) before he had to head off home for a bite, and I went to unchain my bike from where I'd placed it.


This next two pics were taken as the festival "officially" drew to a close. I'd bumped into a bloke from Mosley, Birmingham called Adam I'd met a couple of years previously at a place in Brixton called the 'Eco-Trip' (it used to be a dole office, believe it or not). He was there with an Italian friend of his named Alice, who very kindly gave me some fruit salad she'd made. We walked to where the main group of people were standing/sitting still, and I found myself having a chat with a bloke called Dino, while Adam played his harmonica in a bluesy manner. He was originally from St. Paul's, Bristol, but had lived for the last ten years in the U.S. (his accent was a curious mix of West Country burr and West Coast drawl). While talking to him on various subjects        (during which one person came up to me and gave me to hold a dreadlock of his that he'd cut off a while back - he'd kept it "for sentimental reasons" - hmm!) like where he'd been in the world, and the U.S. underground music scene (he liked Green Day & The Offspring, amongst others), the dark of the 'Common was unexpectedly and unnaturally lifted by the full-beamed headlamps of advancing police vans with riot gauzes on their windscreens. The crowd cheered a defiant cheer as officers in pale lime jackets with fluorescent strips milled out of the vans and stood in line in an intimidating manner.


 Someone came up to me and said, "Make sure you get a pic or two if the truncheons start to fly". Given the PR disasters of recent months, i think the last thing the police (or "radics", as my classmates at Tottenham College were fond of calling them) wanted to start was a riot (besides, if one were to start, I certainly had no plans to be truncheon fodder, I can tell you!). I did, however, get this one snap though.


 They stayed there, silent, impassive, and very visible, while the revellers, in complete contrast, drummed, whistled, danced, smoked (a lot, it has to be said!) and made noise aplenty any way they chose to. Eventually the police withdrew (to huge cheers). I myself stayed for a while, but it was getting cold and I was hungry, so I said my goodbyes to whoever I found myself talking to before leaving the 'Common and cycling home.

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