1973 marked a turning point for the future trajectory of Dial House and those who made a home there. It all began when Phillip Russell arrived. Even by crazy freewheeling hippie standards, he was an eccentric. Russell went by a number of aliases, his most famous being Wally Hope. According to Nigel Ayers the use of the name ‘Wally’ by hippies “had come from an early seventies festival in-joke, when the call `Wally!' and `Where's Wally?' would go round at nightfall. It may have been the name of a lost sound engineer at the first Glastonbury festival, or a lost dog at the 1969 Isle of Wight festival. There have been other suggestions for its origins, but it was a regular shout at almost any festival event.”[i]
From what I’ve read of the man it seems that one thing Phillip Russell had was a heart full of hope, for the earth and its people. It thus seems fitting he called himself Wally Hope. Just as his heart was filled and brimming, so his head was full of ideas.
One of his ideas was to take back the Stonehenge monument for the people of Britain, and he planned to do it by staging a Free Festival there. Wally thought Dial House would be the perfect HQ for his nascent operation. By that time Penny Rimbaud and Wally had become fast friends and Rimbaud was quickly recruited for the project, leading him to become a co-founder of the fest. Despite significant backlash from the authorities, whom the hippies and proto punks thumbed their noses at, Wally’s inspiration and dedication led to the first Stonehenge Free Festival in 1974.
In The Last of the Hippies, Rimbaud’s book about Russell and the events surrounding the first few years of the festival he writes of his motivation in helping Russell see his vision come to be. “We shared Phil’s disgust with ‘straight’ society, a society that puts more value on property than people, that respects wealth more than it does wisdom. We supported his vision of a world where people took back from the state what the state had stolen from the people. Squatting as a political statement has its roots in that way of thought. Why should we have to pay for what is rightfully ours? Whose world is this? Maybe squatting Stonehenge wasn’t such a bad idea.”
That first year the gathering was small, and the gathered multi-subcultural tribe lived in an improvised fort around the ancient monument. It was essentially a megalithic squat. Expecting to be turned out by the System, the squatters had all previously agreed that when the authorities tried to remove them they would only answer to the name Wally. The Department of the Environment who were the keepers of Stonehenge issued the ‘wallies’ what amounted to an eviction notice: they were told to clear off and keep off. When the London High Courts tried to bring the people who had squatted at Stonehenge to trial they were faced with the absurdity of the names on the summons papers: Willy Wally, Sid Wally, Phil Wally and more. The newspapers had a heyday with the trials, and in a mercurial manner helped to spread word of what had happened, priming the pump and setting things into motion for another, bigger, Stonehenge Free Festival the next year. The Wallies lost the court trial against them but as Wally Hope said, they had really “won” the day.
An article from the August 13, 1974 Times has it thus, “A strange hippie cult calling themselves 'Wallies' claim God told them to camp at Stonehenge. The Wallies of Wiltshire turned up in force at the High Court today. There was Kris Wally, Alan Wally, Fritz Wally, Sir Walter Wally, Wally Egypt and a few other wandering Wallys. The sober calm of the High Court was shattered as the Wallies of Stonehenge sought justice. A lady Wally called Egypt with bare feet and bells on her ankles blew soap bubbles in the rarefied legal air and knelt to meditate. Sir Walter Wally wore a theatrical Elizabethan doublet with blue jeans and spoke of peace and equality and hot dogs. Kevin Wally chain-smoked through a grotesque mask and gave the victory sign to embarrassed pin-striped lawyers. And tartan-blanketed Kris Wally – ‘My mates built Stonehenge’ - climbed a lamp-post in the Strand outside the Law Courts and stopped bemused tourists in their tracks.
The Wallies (motto `Everyone's a Wally: Everyday's a Sun Day') - made the pilgrimage to the High Court to defend what was their squatter right to camp on Stonehenge. . . the Department of the Environment is bringing an action in the High Court to evict the Wallies from the meadow, a quarter of a mile from the sarsen circle of standing stones, which is held by the National Trust on behalf of the nation. The document, delivered by the Department to the camp is a masterpiece of po-faced humour, addressed to ‘one known as Arthur Wally, another known as Philip Wally, another known as Ron Wally and four others each known as Wally’.
For instance, paragraph seven begins resoundingly: ‘There were four male adults in the tent and I asked each one in turn his name. Each replied `I'm Wally’'. There are a soft core of about two dozen, peace-loving, sun worshipping Wallies - including Wally Woof the mongrel dog. Hitch-hikers thumbing their way through Wiltshire from Israel, North America, France, Germany and Scotland have swollen their numbers. Egypt Wally wouldn't say exactly where she was from - only that she was born 12,870 years ago in the cosmic sun and had a certain affinity with white negative. Last night they were squatting on the grass and meditating on the news.”
[i] See: WHERE'S WALLY? a personal account of a multiple-use-name entanglement
by Nigel Ayers https://www.earthlydelights.co.uk/netnews/wally.html Nigel Ayers was a regular attendee at the Stonehenge Free Festival. He later went on to found the influential, multiple-genre band, Nocturnal Emissions. Nigel’s explorations of Britain’s sacred and mythic landscape, and megalithic sites, can see and heard throughout his body of work.
If the druid hippie punks were the winners in the eyes of the public, the forces and people at play within the State were sore from the egg thrown on their face by the media. Someone had to be taught a lesson.
In 1975 preparations for the next iteration of the Festival began and the counterculture rallied around the cause. Word of mouth spread it around the underground and handbills and flyers had been printed up in the Dial House studio for further dissemination. Things were shaping up for it to be a success. In May before the second festival was to be launched Russel went off on a jaunt to Cornwall to rest for a spell in his tepee before it began. He left in good spirits and high health. These activities weren’t going unnoticed by the State and the people involved in them unwatched.
Only a few days later he had gotten arrested, sectioned and incarcerated in the psyche ward for possession of three tabs of LSD. It just so happened that the police mounted a raid on a squat he had been staying in for the night. The cops claimed they were looking for an army deserter. Wally somewhat fit the description of “the deserter” because he had taken to wearing an eclectic mixture of middle-eastern military uniforms and Scottish tartans. When they searched his coat they found the contraband substance and nabbed him. Of course no one had really been trailing him, no one knew who it really was: the guy who’d made the British courts look like fools when prosecuting the hippies who had staged the Stonehenge coup. Upon his arrest Wally was refused bail, kept in prison, given no access to phone or the ability to write letters to his friends. His father was dead and his sister and mother had cut ties with him.
Held against his will in a psychiatric hospital, no one in Dial House saw him until a month later when they finally learned of his predicament. When they did manage to visit him he was a changed man. He had lost weight, was nervous and hesitant in his speech, and was always on the lookout for authorities. After their first visit they attempted to secure his release looking first to do so in a way that was legal. When they hit the blockades set in place by the System they hatched an escape plan but the psychiatric drugs Wally was being fed and injected with had taken a toll on all aspects of his health. To execute their plan would have caused him more damage. Rimbaud and the other plotters weren’t sure if he could physically and psychologically cope with an escape that would place him under further strain and demands. So they had to let it go, and leave he was, even though their hearts were tortured by this decision.
Meanwhile the second Stonehenge festival went on whilst the visionary who had instigated it was suffering the side effects of modecate injections. This time thousands of people had turned up for it, whereas the first year estimates were in the realm of a few hundred to five hundred attendees. This time the authorities were powerless to stop the gathering.
Eventually Wally Hope was let go, but the prescription drug treatment the authorities had forced him to take while on the inside had taken their toll. He was in a bad way, incapacitated, zombie zonked on government sanctioned psych meds. Three weeks later he was dead. The official verdict was suicide from sleeping pills, but Rimbaud disputed this, and delved into his own investigation of the matter over the next year. Later he wrote about his friend and the case and concluded that Russel had been assassinated by the state.[i]
Other’s aren’t quite so sure and see his death as existing more in the grey area of the acid casualty. Certainly the System pumping him full of drugs had done him no good. It is hard to know how his own previous and pre-prison profligate experimentation with psychedelics precipitated his decline.
Nigel Ayers who attended the festival in the years ’74, ‘75, ’76 witnessed the buildup of the legend surrounding Wally Hope. He writes of him, “I last saw Russell, seeming rather subdued, in 1975, at the Watchfield Free Festival.[ii] A few weeks later I saw a report in the local paper that he had died in mysterious circumstances. The next year at the Stonehenge festival, a whisper went round that someone had turned up with the ashes from Wally's cremation. At midday, within the sarsen circle, Sid Rawle said a few mystical words over a small wooden box and a bunch of us scattered Wally's mortal remains over the stones. I took a handful of ashes out to sprinkle on the Heel stone, and as I did so, a breeze blew up and I got a bit of Wally in my eye.”
[i] Footnote: All of this is detailed in Rimbaud’s book The Last of the Hippies: an Hysterical Romance. It was first published in 1982 in conjunction with the Crass record Christ: The Album.
[ii] This would have been shortly after his release from psychiatric confinement.
Justin Patrick Moore
Husband. Father/Grandfather. Writer. Green wizard. Ham radio operator (KE8COY). Electronic musician. Library cataloger.