Monday, June 13, 2011

Transcendental Cauldron 1969 (Umbrella Fringe Arts Fest)

The Transcendental Cauldron was an underground fringe arts festival or 'happening', to take place during Halloween, which it's organisers hoped would bring the Umbrella more in line with what was happening at places like The Arts Lab in Drury Lane.

The Programme sheet (posted here) announced -
"During the weekend 31st October - 2nd November 1969, the Umbrella Club is to promote a Fringe Arts Festival. Events planned include Films, Music, Drama, Poetry, Light Shows and an exhibition of posters."

The Transcendental Cauldron took place over the weekend 31st October to November 2nd 1969.

The initiative came from the Umbrella Film Group who initially proposed an Underground film festival but Drama organiser Jo Petter saw this as the nucleu
s of a more ambitious event.

"A catalyst for a great mixed media event, experiment and party."

The organisers were Jo Petter (Drama / Lights, Posters), Mike Taunton (Poetry / Music) Doug Deakin (Folk)  Darell Viner (Lights)- links to his history, Martin Lee (Music).

The Theme

The Programme
"The Cauldron will be a festival or happening to take place during Halloween. The theme is the new underground art forms as exemplified by the work of Arts Lab in Dury Lane.

We hope several types of participants - Umbrella members who attend parties, local teachers and other intelligent and serious students of the current scene, hippies, New Left, 50 visitors from Birmingham, London etc expected."

The Transcendental Cauldron included films, music, lights, drama, music, psychedelia and poetry.

Films (which can be seen on the programme, were Scorpio Rising  - Directed by Kenneth Anger; Relativity and Sins of the Fleshapoids.

Trev Teasdel's memories
" The Transcendental Cauldron was my entry into the Umbrella Club. It was quite exciting and the beginning of a new era for me. I was 18, an apprentice Electrician and had to attend day release at Coventry Technical College. It was there that I saw the poster and knew I had to go to it. I was writing song lyrics and listening to John Peel at the time but didn't really have much connection to the Coventry music and arts scene but I wanted to get to know people who were interested in similar things and this seemed like a portal to the local underground scene - and it was!

Al Docker joined DF Gibbs (where I worked) in the meantime, and we began sharing music in our lunch breaks - some of the new underground albums. Al had been to the Umbrella and was to start organise the bands there soon.

On the Friday night, I met up with Al and he took me around the pubs where musos, students and hippies hung out - The Dive Bar (Lady Godiva) in particular. I met the newly formed Wandering John in there with Al and discovered I already knew one of them - John Alderson - (our mothers were friends and I'd played with him when I was a kid).  John's acoustic blues outfit Last Fair Deal were going to be on later, so I looked forward to seeing John's band.

The Umbrella events didn't start until pub closing time and we made our to Queen Victoria Road. The building was just a town house that could have doubled as a Solicitor's office. As you went through the door, there was a small reception desk into a  narrow hall. Stairs on the left and a Tolkien like mural on the wall, a function room - dining room size on the right and into the Coffee bar - a very tiny kitchen where you could by coffee, tea and hot dogs - but no alcohol.

Small as it was, the coffee bar was the scene of some amazing late night and heated discussions between hippies, 'straights', beadred folkies. Just sitting in the coffee bar listening was an education and cultural experience that you'd not get anywhere else except perhaps the University and even then...Out the back was a small wooden hut - the Theatre! It held 50 people and some of the bands played there or rehearsed. The room on the right as you went in was used for various events and meetings, poetry, music or lectures. The main function room was upstairs - a long room like someones front room. Here the main events were held and there was a piano too. The rest of the rooms upstairs and on the next floor were administration rooms.

The Transcendental Cauldron was the  first mixed media event and obviously made an impression on me. In 1997 I created a Teesside and North Yorkshire wide arts festival called Merlin's Cauldron.This was a three week festival with workshops performances, exhibitions and street theatre.

I don't think we saw the films or the other events - more interested in the music at that stage."

Friday 31st October Lounge 8pm - 11pm and Midnight - 3pm -
Last Fair Deal - Asgard

Saturday 1st November Lounge 8pm - 11pm and Midnight to 3am - Ra Ho Tep / Chris Jones Aggression.

Sunday 2nd November Lounge 8pm - 11 pm Dando Shaft.

Folk: There will be no meeting this weekend but regulars are invited to the Cauldron where the music room has been reserved for Folk activity.

Light Show - Lounge 7pm. This is under the direction of Alan Worral.
The Bands
Last Fair Deal - were an acoustic blues trio culled from mainly from the electric blues and R & B band Wandering John. It consisted of John Alderson - Dobro, John Gravenor - Vocals (both from Wandering John) and John Westacott (bassist with progressive Jazz Rock outfit Whistler (Kevin Harrison's early band) but here playing blues harp and fiddle. The covered country blues songs like The Louisiana Blues, There's a Man Going Round Talkin' Names.

Here is Youtube Footage of both the mother group Wandering John and Last Fair Deal from their Reunion Concert in 2010
The reunion concert was filmed for DVD at the Sphinx Club in Coventry September 4th 2010 by Gordon Smith (AKA Nomad) and his wife Mary Ball of Lyme Regis Internet TV. The concert was a tribute to wandering John's former manager Dave Sullivan who died of cancer and the very well attended reunion concert raised a lot of money for the Macmillan Cancer Trust. The band, who hadn't played together since 1971, were in excellent form.

Credits - 
John Gravenor - Vocals / Tamborine, John Alderson - Lead / Rhythm guitar and Dobro (with Last Fair Deal)
Ade Taylor - Bass Guitar and Backing Vocals.
Paul Hayes - Drums (Paul Hayes was courtesy of Third Alert - an excellent drummer but not an original member) - The original drummers were Al Warder (who couldn't be present) and Jim Pryal who was in the audience dancing!).
Guest Musicians who joined them on stage - Neol Davies (Guitar / Vocals) (of the Selecter), Tim James (Harmonica and vocals) Ex Ra Ho Tep. Trev Teasdel - introduced the show with some rapping poetry and Tim Healey - Mixing desk.

Here's the full Wandering John / Last Fair Deal Concert in parts - 
Part 1

Part Two

Part Three - Last Fair Deal Set

Part 4

 Part Five


Asgard were the next band on. They were based at the Umbrella and after this event I'd sit in on their rehearsals in the Theatre. Neol Davies (later of Selecter) used to play sometimes with Asgard, adding in acoustic or sitar. Asgard were a kind of Pink Floyd outfit and indeed were being courted by John Peel who put them on at Mothers in Birmingham after Pink Floyd recorded Ummagumma there. The band split unfortunately before Peel could fully work his magic. 
To give you a glimpse - Asgard recorded a demo - the recording quality is not great but it's the only record we have of the band. One track is on You Tube there are others on Reverbnation

Ra Ho Tep were next on. Tim James's avant garde jazz outfit.I have no audio but here's a photo.

Next up were The Chris Jones Aggression. Chris's blues band were regulars at the Umbrella - songs like Catfish Blues with Chris's scat singing. Chris is still going strong today with his new band after touring the continent with Khayyam, playing the Speakeasy and Ronnie Scotts and more. His website is and you can find tracks by his new band on Reverbnation and Soundcloud
On the Sunday was Dando Shaft - Coventry's brilliant Acid folk band who recorded for Youngblood and RCA Neon.Martin Jenkins went on to play with Mathew's Sourthern Comfort, Bert Jansch, Whippersnapper and many more. The band are Cov legends. 

Theatre -
Friday 8pm & 12pm
Saturday 8pm & 12pm
Sunday 8pm.

Underground Films - Scorpio Rising
Director Kenneth Anger - (Colour, Sound 31 minutes 1964.)
"Occultists believe that 1962 was the end of  2000 years of Christian domination, and the beginning of a period of pagan domination coinciding with the Age of Aquarius in Astrology. Anger, seeing pop music, drug abuse and American Nazi style Motorcycle cultists as evidence of demonic forces at work, made Scorpio Rising to illustrate to the death throes of the 'Old Age' and beginning of the 'new age'.

A film extract is on Youtube

Director: Ed Emshwiller (Colour, Sound, 38 minutes 1966)
This is an experimental feature made with the aid of a grant from the Ford Foundation. This metaphorical work about man's place in the universe uses ultra-high speed photography, pin point lighting in black limbo together with careful framing and superimposition to achieve complete visual control of time flow..

NB both these films have been refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Censors.
(Can't find this film on youtube or anywhere else)

Sins of the Fleshapoids - Director Mike Kuchar - Colour, sound, 50 minutes 1964
From the age of twelve the Kuchar brothers have specialised in producing parodies of Hollywood Movies. Early film included A Tub Named Desire, I was a Teenage Rumpot, Pussy on a Hot Tin Roof. The choice of film titles showing their humourous technique of talking Hollywood style to extreme. Mike Kuchar's Sins of the Fleshapoids features a cast of robots and overdeveloped women intent on taking over the world.
This is a trailer but the full film in several parts is on Youtube. This is the first part - the other parts follow on on youtube.


10 minute supporting short directed by Richard Bartlett

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