Poetry on the Beach

The article I linked to yesterday, about Brighton's Unicorn Bookshop, included some interesting comments, one of which quoted from a September 2nd 1968 Guardian article:

"David Field, another helper in the shop, was arrested while giving his weekly officially-permitted poetry reading on the beach. About 200 people heard him read a Ginsberg poem, and the policeman said some people in the crowd looked upset. The chairman of the magistrates on that occasion was … Mr John Cuttress. Mr Cuttress said there was no evidence of annoyance to the public by the use of a word which was part of a published work by a recognised poet. He dismissed the case."

The poem in question was apparently Allen Ginsberg's America (available online here). For me, the most amazing thing about this article is that 200 people used to attend weekly poetry readings on Brighton beach. The current poetry scene is thriving, but a regular poetry event of that scale sounds incredible.

I'm also surprised that I've not read about these poetry readings, or the Unicorn bookshop, in any of the reading I've done about Brighton. Someone should write a counter-cultural history of the town. There's so much material: beatniks sleeping under the piers, SchNEWS, Mods and Rockers, bands, The Squatters Estate Agency, fortune tellers and black magic. Or maybe the book already exists and I've just not seen it?

One thought on “Poetry on the Beach”

  1. James,
    I’m pretty sure that the Unicorn bookshop used to be on Duke Street, on the North side just west of where Middle Street joins on the south side of the street.
    It was full of tapes of whalesong and books on the paranormal and all that gubbins. A bit like Glastonbury High Street, but in a single shop.
    To my naive eyes, it was all stuff and nonsense, but it many ways it was the Yin to the the Hungry Years’ Yang.
    I know/knew someone who used to work there, assuming it’s the same place you talk about.
    This suggests it isn’t, and my memory is toast: http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__5395.aspx

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