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The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. 26th - 30th August 1970. 


 

Dr Robin Farquharson.

  

The late Dr was ( according to him ) a member of the White Panthers and was one of those who wished to declare the festival free. Guy Legge knew Robin and wrote this memoir for the site .We would like to gather more information on Robin and any other members of the White Panthers who were involved at the Isle of White , so if you have any more biographical information please contact us

     The trouble with life is that it is like any other game; one can face defeat. It depends of course what one has been up against and losing a match in the premiere league can still mean a team is playing at a higher level than a team that wins in the third division. But what of losing? You can either face the issue honestly or start playing foul.

For political reasons we have invented a myth called mental illness. People who are dysfunctional in terms of performing as useful members of society be they criminals, the unemployed, or those who are hard to understand are classed as a bloody nuisance and ways have been evolved of dealing with them. Mental illness is a medical explanation of madness. It’s bullshit but lets not concern ourselves with that. What then is madness? It’s a political concept. It means, "I don’t have to listen to you". This is what we mean when we diagnose someone as "mentally ill". It’s true throughout life that if we don’t want to listen to people we denigrate them and refers to them as niggers, blacks, poufs, women, nutters, and communists or mad.

This does not exonerate the oppressed however. Life may be stacked against you, it might have dealt you some bad cards but that does not mean that ones reaction to these issues is legitimate. Such is the plight of the mental patient. Such people desperately try to articulate their woes through metaphors like hearing voices or being god, and a society that loses patience retaliates by saying such things as they have biological malfunctions of the brain called schizophrenia for example.

Thus I knew Robin. He was on a reception ward at Horton Hospital, Epsom in the early seventies. I was classed as a schizophrenic and he was a manic-depressive two famous labels of oppression. He was twenty years older than me but had fallen foul of the psychiatric authorities at about the same time in the mid sixties. I was only fifteen when I was first fobbed off as a schizophrenic. I was intelligent enough to fight being drugged but at this time, the very early seventies, I had been sectioned for 28 days for refusing treatment.

My earliest memory of Robin was of him showing a group of us his book, Drop Out. I was impressed that it had the cover illustrated by Alan Aldridge who had produced amongst other things the Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. I didn’t actually get around to reading it until about a year ago. It has to be said that Robin’s description of "dropping out" is a bit shallow and consists of crashing out with his London friends. It’s not so much a description of dropping out, (a concept that did not commonly have any significance until the eighties and such things as peace convoys), but a description of the nature of mania. I shall explain.
Robin was classed as a manic-depressive, a term he used himself. Such people become chronically manipulative and elated and do things like going on shopping sprees and booking into hotels, neither of which they can afford. It’s just a strategy to avoid unwelcome reality, usually chronic depression, just an absurd personality trait that has got out of hand. Thus the modern term is bi-polar disorder, a swing from depression to elation. Robin describes these highs perfectly in the book along with an interesting comparison with the use of LSD. Robin’s highs included in the book include indecent exposure and conning Shepperton Studios that he was a film producer.

This role of film producer was another of my introductions to Robin. He approached me one morning on the ward and asked if I would appear in his movie. I asked what it was called and he said "Ivan the Woodcutter". I asked where the cameras and equipment were and he said we were only going to have a dress rehearsal. I asked about costumes and he said I could wear his clothes. I declined his invitation. He refused to leave me and I eventually swung a fist at him and I had the experience of this crazed South African with a handle-bar moustache squaring up to me. The staff cooled things down.
Another memory is of him trying to phone his mother in South Africa in the small hours on the ward phone. He was trying to reverse the charges.

On another occasion he had a copy of the International Times with him (the famous hippy rag with the picture of Mary Pickford on the Logo) in which he had advertised his latest venture, The Open University. Anyone interested was asked to contact Robin at ward 5, Horton Hospital, Epsom. I asked him what I could study if I signed up and he said "everything from physics to plastics design".

Other times he was very pleasant company. He once started categorically that there was nothing wrong with me. I have often wondered how much he had thought this remark through. There was much indeed the matter with me, most of which had been caused by psychiatric care.

I really can’t remember the precise sequence of events now but at one point Robin was returned to us from Longrove, a particularly nasty bin across the road from us (Epsom had five bins in all, much to the annoyance of the local inhabitants). Longrove was at one point in the fifties, home for one Ronnie Kray. Robin was in a wretched state and had acquired a broken arm. This fracture he told us was the result of being so drugged up that he had fallen down some stairs.

I have recently discovered that Robin was a patient of R.D.Laing’s at Kingsley Hall. Laing has been quoted (in Mad to be Normal by Bob Mullan) as describing Robin as being 16 stone and not liking walls thus going on the rampage smashing things. This was not the Robin I knew. A more familiar description is of him declaring that what was really needed was not Kingsley Hall but some six hundred acres of land outside Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Laing describes Robin as "a strange guy, very intelligent and totally out of his fucking mind". Mention is made of his compulsive use of the telephone and his attempts to reverse charges, even with the Ethiopian government.

He was well connected, his amazing academic background putting him in contact with very influential people. The description of him in Brian Hinton’s book on the Isle of Wight festivals trying to reverse the charges on a call to Rupert Murdoch rings true.

Amazing stories surround Robin. He is even claimed to have had occult powers. He latterly inhabited a bohemian, anti-establishment world and apparently got himself into trouble with the authorities at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival by claiming to be a spokesman for the "White Panthers"and trying to take over.

However, Robin is now dead. I have been told he died in a house fire. I always shy clear of any attempt to glamorise madness. It is too destructive to the individual and their environment. On the other hand I denounce with great vigour any attempt to drug dysfunctional people as "mentally ill "and in need of "medication". The somewhat childlike nature of "disturbed" individuals that was so observable in Robin gives a clue to what is really going on. This adult play power that would be acceptable in a child but is intolerable in an adult serves the same purpose as play does to a child. I have a vague memory of the Oz magazine editor, Richard Neville, referring to "play power" in relation to sixties culture and I’m sure it is a description that Robin would have approved of. This reversion to a childlike state is just the same for a so-called "schizophrenic" as it is for an infant. It’s just the tracking down of values by play. Such was Robin in his public disrobing and his conning of Shepperton Studio’s. A beautiful mind gone wild and no longer with us.

Guy Legge

Dr F was actually ejected from the festival early on due to him "scaring people " and his whereabouts were not known for the rest of the weekend .


Contents
1970 festival menu


The Underground press- NB: opinions expressed in these articles do not represent our opinions of the organisers or any other people involved in the running of the festival, it is possible that they may be innaccurate in some details or facts.

 

International Times.

Reports from the "Straight "press

External links

The White Panthers



Other IOW festivals.
  • 1968 Isle of Wight festival
  • 1969 Isle of Wight festival
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