1982 had been a difficult year for Sheep Worrying with a rival rock organisation appearing in town, a rival magazine appearing in the south of the county and divisions within the theatre group. However, by the end of the year things were looking up after yet another successful show had united the actors, the rival music promoters had come a cropper facing similar problems and the magazine getting a new lease of life through the reinvolvement of some old friends with a bit of journalistic experience. On top of this Sheep Worrying now had a new office at Unity House. So would 1983 be business as usual?
Brian ;-“Sheep Worrying had proved it’s longevity. We weren’t going away and we were sticking to our ideals. And now we had some new people involved. I remember new years eve at a party at Glen Burrows. She was really excited and shouted ‘yippee 1983!’ –‘what’s so good?’ I asked ..’it’s election year!The Tories will be gone!’. Probably the worse prediction of the decade.”
On 4th January Sheep Worrying moved into room 5 on the top floor of Unity House in Bridgwater’s Dampiet street . The rent was paid for (secretly) by Glen, which was just as well as the organisation suddenly found itself with a £300 deficit. Brian explains “…due largely to a tendency to put out the magazine with insufficient advertising and hope it would catch up. It didn’t it got worse.”
Glen says “I was on the Unity House premises ctte. We were clearing out Unity House and, well,it was a shithole. I thought having Sheep Worrying there might bring the place to life.”
Meanwhile, Sheep Worrying Theatre Group were busy with their latest showcase of local authors and on 7 and 8 Jan produced “Real Fiction” by Dave Butland and “Oysters” by Brian Smedley and Eugene Byrne.
Brian;- “In fact what had happened was me and Rod had been writing a show called ‘The Group’based on the arguments the Dangerous Brothers used to have. However, we just argued over the script, so gave up. Then me and Eugene took the idea of the group and wrote our own version. I remember at the afterparty we met a guy called Nick McGerr, who was famous for having appeared on Top of the Pops pretending to be in Jilted Johns backing band, but was currently managing the brighton punk band Peter and the Test Tube Babies. So he became a useful contact-especially as he’d just moved in to Chilton Polden,”
By the end of the month Brian, Eugene and Rob were busy putting together the new look Sheep Worrying. Better articles and writing, better graphics and more professional.
On 28 Jan – Brian and Eugene talk about their plans on Radio West.
On 30 Jan – Steve Coram was still putting on gigs and this one featured African hi-life style band the Ivory Coasters plus Somerset band Static Activity .
Feb 1 –Andrew Napthine in charge of the Magazine distribution and advertising was now driving around Somerset in a hired car to distribute the thing. Alarm bells were ringing as the debt was spiralling .Andrews response was to get a £300 loan off Glen and John. Brian and Eugene were concerned, but Andrew was sure we could cope by ‘speculating to accumulate’
Feb 11– Sheep Worrying Night Out at the Art Centre featured Club Whoopee, Automatic Dlamini, Beki Barker, The Struggle, Cut the Control lines and Continuum theatre. Kim, Rob and Lynne sang several new songs ‘I Give Up’, ‘Titanic’ , amongst others .
16 Feb – Sedgemoor District Council give a further grant to Sheep Worrying of £200
18 Feb Peter and the test tube babies, Screaming dead, Intensified chaos and Saboteur play the Sheep Worrying showcase gig at the art centre . There was a hint of trouble but onstage Peter dealt with it. Richard Gardner recalls “Peter signalled to the band and they slowed it down. Then he said ‘oi ‘ave you finished’??? They stopped fighting.He said thanks, then ‘ere we go’, then ‘fucking farmers’’. And then threw a bowl of lettuce over the audience. That seemed to calm things down.”
Sheep Worrying Theatre entered Dave Butlands “Real Fiction” into the one act play contest and he won the ‘Award for Youth’ category.
Things were looking up for Sheep Worrying as issue 26 (re-labelled Vol2.1) came out to positive reviews Meanwhile Sheep Worrying stalwart Kim Newman was making great inroads into his chosen career and now was able to sell his book “Nightmare Movies” through Proteus Publishers. Kim recalls “This guy Mike , an editor from the publishers, knocks on my door and says he want to do it. I go to their offices, get an advance of £3000 quid to write the book and immediately sign off the dole.”
On 10 March Sheep Worrying attempt to do a gig at the Brean Leisure centre featuring the Impossible Dreamers and the Frank Chckens. But there’s only 30 in the audience. –
19 Mar– The Sheep Worrying debt crisis is growing . It’s now vol 3/1 and Andrew hasn’t done the advertising and the budget is short. Ever optimistic they plough on. The mag carries ever more political content. The Labour Party buys an advert saying “If you think Thatcherism is working ask someone who isn’t!’
31 March and the Tory dominated Art Centre board is starting to target Sheep Worrying again. The board bans CND and the SWP from the premises and says it is reconsidering its support for Sheep Worrying Theatre-
On 2 April Sheep Worrying Theatre perform a comedy history review written by Brian and Eugene called “The Extremely History of Wessex” . It’s the first play Kim isn’t in, but he’s written some lyrics. This doesn’t stop him giving the show a bad review in Sheep Worrying
7 April Sheep Worrying tour the production to Glastonbury Assembly Rooms
9 April –the play is performed in Stroud during the day and then in the evening back at the arts centre as part of a ‘Festival of Alternatives” which also includes the bands The Deetees, Scarlet Downs, India, Gunner B and punk poet Saboteur.
25 April and Andrew has virtually dropped out of getting the adverts so the advertising is scraped together by Brian, Eugene and Ian Vince. Issue 35 comes out with the headline ‘Who are you calling Ghandi?!’ Brian and Eugene were so confident they decided to take it to London and ask national chain WH Smiths to take it. This was flatly refused.
7 May It was the Rock against the Bomb event at Brockwell Park staring Madness, Paul Weller, the Damned and hazel o Connor. Glen organises a coach from Bridgwater to go. A newcomer on the scene is Adrian Fraser who works part time in the Avenue record shop and has started to get involved in the political groups such as YCND. He goes on the demo and meets Sheep Worrying people and thinks about getting involved. That evening Steve Corams art centre gig with Saracen flops.
10 May– Brian and Eugene go to London to see WHSmith. Eugene recalls “It was a big disappointment. The guy was very dismissive and even started by saying ‘I hope you haven’t come far today’. But actually the Mag was not good enough. “-
May 24-Sheep Worrying organise a benefit gig in Taunton as part of the Peoples March for Jobs, featuring Automatic Dlamini, Away from Skaro and Visibility Zero.
May 25-The Peoples March for Jobs reaches Bridgwater Art Centre and Club Whoopee play, Brian adds “However, there was a clash with the older Labour Party organisers. Older right wing cliquey types like Tom Searle and Joe Ayres and the band are ‘paid off’ so that their friend ‘Doreen’ could sing some of her Vera Lynne songs.”
Kim recalls “They didn’t like us and asked us to stop . They were cunts. The marchers said they wanted to hear Club Whoopee. For me this was the end of the line.”
May 26-The Art Centre board changes the rules and makes Sheep Worrying Theatre pay commercial hire charges for the shows. Sheep Worrying starts looking for other venues to supplement their gigs.
June 2– The 1st Boat and Anchor gig features The Alkaloids, The Sessions and Minehead band Spyin for Brian.
June 6 and the war is over between Sheep Worrying and Sounds Incorporated. As Steve Coram comes round the office and makes friends again
Steve says “The Art Centre was sick of the bickering between the 2 groups and said we should do it together. Then there was the mass riots at the Chaos UK gig, windows smashed, people threatened. Nobody wanted this at the art centre.”
June 9th and it’s the General Election. The Tories win. Labour candidate in Bridgwater was Andrew May. Glen recalls the hard time both May, her partner John Smith and herself had from the Labour traditionalists. “John Smith was agent. Joe Ayres said I was being paid in Russian gold and asked what I was even doing down here. It was not a pleasant campaign and there was a big left right divide. John did the work and got the stick. Andrew May wouldn’t canvass or talk to people.”
Fri June 10– Sheep Worrying put on UK subs, The Bla Boiz, the Choirboys/ and Saboteur. Again there’s a bad scene . The PA broke down and it turned into a near riot.
Richard Gardner “It got nasty and people wouldn’t leave. I got on stage and said they could see the Subs again ½ price. 2 policeman turned up said ‘Bloody hell’ and walked off. The punters wouldn’t go – they wanted the rest of the gig.”
12 June-Sheep Worrying discusses the deteriorated state of relations with the art centre who have now also set up a ‘Senior Youth Theatre’ as a rival to Sheep Worrying. Dave Butland decides to take a leading part in it.
21 June In an attempt to improve relations with ‘Feeding the Fish’ their artist Simon Barber agrees to do the next Sheep Worrying cover. Sadly, the printers get the colour scheme the wrong way round and the gesture backfires.
Jun 30 –The latest Boat & Anchor gig featuring the Alkaloids, Man upstairs and Automatic Dlamini is disrupted by a visiting party of Sailors from HMS Conquerer. John Parish remembers “We were threatened by Submariners before we went on. Luckily someone told them of a night club to go to , so they left”
On I July Sheep Worrying was taken to court for refusing to pay for the test pressings of the EP. Smedley and Parish attended Bromley courthouse in Kent . ED records v b smedley/sw ents.
Brian recalls “The plaintiffs claim was dismissed and they had to pay £20 costs. It was a heatwave and we only won because John stood up and spoke like an expert. “
8 July It’s the elections to the Art Centre board. Brian stands and loses – but Dave Butland is elected.
12 July Brian and Steve are now working together and petitioning for more rock gigs and proposing the formation of a ‘Rock Club’ involving both organisations .
Adrian remembers “It wasn’t a pretty sight. Steve was in his dungarees and looked like something out of Dexy’s Midnight Runners .”
Steve says “We stood in blazing hot sun outside Ladbrooks. We wanted volunteers but nobody would help so we did it ourselves.”
9 July The Art Centre repeats its gig with the UK subs supported by Screaming dead and No objection . This time there are no problems.
15 July The art centre gig features the Alkaloids, Spying for Brian and funds are donated to the Womens refuge.
21 July-The latest Boat and Anchor gig and the Feeding the Fish crowd visit and film the occaisions. Bands include Snatch, Rita Bix and Spying for Brian .
Brian recalls “It was the first time we’d got together probably with the Fish. Actually they hated Butland because of his callous way of slagging off bands but mistook Pete Williams for him.”
Round about now Brian and Debbie went off to Morocco for 3 weeks. During this time Eugene has a serious rethink about Bridgwater . “It had finally dawned on me that Bridgwater is a lost cause .”
25 Aug the Alkaloids,Scarlet downs, The Act, India play at the Boat and Anchor-
23 Sept 83 Sheep Worrying Theatre do the final Smedley/Byrne play “Nothing to lose but your Chains, Futons, Museli bowls, stripped pine, jacuzzis and bottled water” ‘The show is reviewed positively by Anne Dixey the new Bridgwater Mercury reporter . The show is directed by Stuart Croskell. Brian sends the script to the BBC.
Eugene notes “Brian was suffering from a massive attack of Trotskyism at this moment”
6 Sep-and Eugene now has a proper job with Venue magazine in Bristol and this further shapes his decision to move on.
Eugene “I was able to sign off the dole. My writing turned to full time employment and I had faith in Venue. I seriously believed that owner Dougal Templeton would be the next Richard Branson. And I was actually quite chuffed to be doing something in Bristol.”
14 Sep– Sheep Worrying on Radio Bristol Brian, Eugene, Ed, Stuart and Sally send up their hosts with readings from their play and the interview turns into a riot.
17 Sep Sheep Worrying gig at the Art Centre features Peter and test tube babies , The man upstairs and Automatic Dlamini
John Parish recalls “At this gig I got spiked in the eye by a hair glued Mohican. I’m sure it was an accident.”
21 Sep Eugene continued to help with the magazine and with the music and theatre. SWissue 39 promoted the new idea of a Rock Club between Sheep Worrying and Sounds incorporated.
Sun 25-Club Whoopee went into the recording studio at Milborne Port and laid down 3 tracks “Brazil” “Rock n Roll lizard” and “Philadephia Cheese”
On 27 Sept Eugene announced that his new job with venue meant that he wont be coming down in future
7 Oct and Adrian Fraser puts on a YCND gig at the Lime Kiln featuring Shrapnel, No obligation, Spyin for Brian. Adrian recalls “Shrapnel headlined and said they were Wales top punk band. 100 people packed the place . Although it was a benefit for YCND someone tried to steal takings. Sid ran after them and I went to help. I gave the cash box to a new guy saying ‘you look sensible look after this’. That was Gareth Beasley.”
Brian says “Round about now the Art Centre agreed to our petition to keep rock gigs and let us form a rock club. This was also the time when we started to swing even further to the left due to the political situation nationally. We helped form the local Young Socialists and brought out their mag ‘Red Parrett’ and also we went to a national convention for the Alternative Press in Brighton. But that was largely a coming together of the 2 dominating radical paper-Brighton Voice and Leeds Other Paper.”
8 Nov– The Rock club is formed. It’s basically Sheep Worrying but with Steve Coram back involved.
Adrian remembers Steves politics remained firmly on the right “Cruise Missiles arrived in Britain at the same time and I recall Steve on his balcony as me and Brian walked past singing ‘Cruise missiles are here, what are you 2 going to do now’ to the tune of the star spangled banner.”
7 Dec and Sheep Worrying gets a boost as Mercury Journo Anne Dixey joins them
9 Dec and Adrian has organised an ‘anti vivisection’ gig at Puriton village hall with the Subhumans, Organised chaos, Shrapnel, No obligation, Spyin for Brian, Exit 22 He recalls “No one got paid. Benny Mills was on the door and threatened people if they refused to pay. Went on too long really. When Organised chaos came on they were wearing bits of the xmas tree,baubles for earings etc – and they they wouldn’t come off . I had to hold up a big sign saying ’you’ve got to get off’..”
Brian “I didn’t go to the gig but at 8 .00 the next morning Adrian turned up asking for help to sort out the mess. I cycled out there with him. He didn’t do another gig there.”
On Dec 20 Sheep Worrying did a ‘French Cabaret Night’. Brian and Stuart played together with a rock band they’d thrown together called Rockin Brian and Also Rockin Stuart. Also on were Rita Bix , Spyin for Brian and the Man Upstairs. Debbie made pancakes and ratatouille and Kim, acting as doorman, hit Bob Farrow with a chair finally putting an end to his persistent attempts to get into gigs free.
23 Dec Black Roots supported by Automatic Dlamini play the art centre. It’s a sellout.
John Parish recalls “By the end of 83 a lot had happened. Our early demo went to producer Richard Mazda (wall of voodoo).He took us to a studio in London and produced a session. Then we did an RPM show. They filmed at the Bristol Bridge inn as we had a good live reputation and big support in Bristol . And now we were starting to play London gigs . This sequence of events ratcheted it up fast and we got a publishing deal and management. “
After another tumultuous year fraught with struggle and division things had come together once more. The scene was holding together and one Sheep Worrying band was on the verge of success. But next year would be the dreaded 1984…….