In 1985 Sheep Worrying have an office at Unity House  which they staff more than the Labour Party (who have an office below them) do, they run an original theatre group doing 3 productions a year, they run a Rock Club at the Art Centre, doing an original gig a fortnight and  produce a magazine that is being pulled back out of debt by it’s editorial team having formed a band (The Sedgemorons) to keep it going.  It’s also a focus of resistance to the harsh Thatcherite policies of 1980’s Britain and it’s Establishment reps here in Bridgwater. Already they’ve run into a little trouble during the Autumn of 1984 and with the Miners Strike reaching it’s make or break conclusion it was looking like the Empire might Strike Back in 1985…

The Sedgemorons contemplate the year ahead

Jan 4 Rock Club features Opera Tor + Cruse

Fri 18 Jan During a very snowy winter the Sedgemorons gig at the Art Centre is snowed off so instead the band play a spontaneous gig in the bar

1 Feb –Rock Club gig  The Alkaloids + the Proles

Feb 5 It is announced that local director Brian Buttle will produce the Charles Mander play ‘The Kings Justice’ as a major production with a new local theatre company ‘Sedgemoor theatre Co’. The show will tour extensively. Brian is commissioned as musical director, Lianne as stage manager, Gareth has an acting role. STC pays Brian £200 for his music.

Feb 6-Chletenham gig- the Sedgemorons play at the College. Photos are taken of the day and used as inserts for the single due out later this year. Brian recalls “The gig was organised by Martin Peters but was invaded by boneheads from the rugby tea, My stylophone was certainly nicked.

AnneI remember the  boneheads said ‘ere darling could you sing Like a virgin by Madonna’ !? I also remember a silver glitter curtain behind us and it looking quite retro.”

Feb 9 –Sedgemorons play at PeeWees Real ale bar in Trowbridge.

Issue 48 of Sheep Worrying is out and we’re bracing up for a full scale war with the establishment.  -A follow up cartoon by Dave Hanna responding to Tory criticism called  ‘a cartoon by a communist’-satirises their reaction. They don’t see the joke

Sheep Worrying loses it’s Grant

Who are the ‘real’ Sedgemorons…..

Wed 13 Feb – SDC vote to stop the Sheep Worrying grant and it’s covered in all the papers with screaming statements such as “self confessed Marxist and a little town Lenin” ,”this dirty little journal” , “this rotten little lot”, “He should emigrate to Russia” and so on . In council the Tory chair Noreen-Ellis Jones (also an art centre board member)  said “It would be a sorry state of affairs if people could do what they wanted to do. They are a thoroughly bad lot” and adding “Sheep Worrying is really very frightening”.

Smedley recalls “The Bridgwater Mercury even accused Sheep Worrying of treason. Everything was ‘communists to blame’. The freebie paper, the Bridgwater Journal, at this time had ‘Communists’ as a headline for almost every edition. Odd really because at this time there were actually no less than 5 Tory councillors on the art centre board!”

Adrian Fraser, now Rock Club secretary, says “Somerset is full of Tory landowners. If  we were in a city, like Manchester say , no one would have batted an eyelid and you could say what you like with ease. I just  thought ‘this is ridiculous, get a life!”

15 Feb – Rock Club -another punk gig, and some more trouble . Cult Maniax and  Shrapnel plus ‘The Beast’ Jon Driscoll, whose ‘Dalek impression’ involve him sticking a marker pen in his fat belly button and running topless across the stage with ‘I am mental’ written on his chest. However, despite this restraining presence a door was smashed by a bonehead called Irish Gussie.

19 Feb The Mercury runs the headline “Ha Ha Black Sheep” as their unbiased response to the loss of Sheep Worrying grant.

20 Feb– Outraged by the anti sheep worrying outburst an anonymous donor (who turns out to be Glen Burrows)  sends £100 in an envelope to the Sheep Worrying office

24 Feb At the height of the controversy the Sedgemorons go into the Milborne Port studio to record a single. The band now also have Barry Thompson with them on saxaphone.

BrianWe recorded 2 songs – ‘Drop Dead Darling’ by me and Debbie and ‘I need a Girlfriend’ by Gareth and me. Barry did some excellent whistling on it and Debbie designed the cover for us. It was good”

AnneBarry was in and we were a long way from being a cabaret band raising money for the debt. In fact it  felt like we were part of a bigger movement . People doing things for themselves. Diy .Against big record companies. Putting out your own music and doing it your own way. We were played on john peel and we became aware of potential to become something. It was an exciting prospect that it was a possibility – but I was also aware that we  could lose  what it was actually  about by doing it. We could lose the  essence of what we were and why. But it was thought provoking and fun to watch.”

25 Feb– The T&GWU (Transport Union) make up Sheep Worrying’s grant with an extra £100 donation. Leader Tom Searle says “I may not agree with what they say but I believe 100% they have the right to say it.”

26 Feb – Unmoved the local newspapers continue their ‘unbiased’ coverage with headlines like “A Thoroughly Bad Lot”

March -Eugene and Kim are busy ploughing ahead with a professional writing career and launch the ‘Peace and Love Corporation’ as an umbrella for their works.

March 1 –Rock Club  gig with the  East river blues and  Exercise yard

2 March the Sedgemorons play at Tauntons wood street inn

3 March-The Coal Strike is over as the Miners vote to go back to works . On the same day Brian and Lianne are involved in a car crash on the Taunton road roundabout but are not seriously hurt.

6 March Minor ructions are emerging in the Sedgemorons scene as the band looks set to step up a gear. Gareth and Stuart hilariously push through a vote to make Ronnie Biggs and honorary members and to ‘disregard anything said by a woman’. It is a protest against being ‘over-organised’ (apparently)

9 March  Sheep Worrying theatre perform Stuart Croskell’s play “Harry” at Wincanton .

14 March Sedgemorons play a gig at the Milborne Port Tapps club

Mar 15 -Rock Club  sees the Verukas , Paradox, Waste, Jon Driscoll and Saboteur. The gig is marred by the appearance of NF skinheads from Yeovil who cause trouble .

Richard GardnerIt was skins v punks. The skins kicked the punks and I had to separate them. The skins included a guy called  Purchess, who was  a serving soldier in Northern Ireland and who led the violence. We also found glue bags in toilet. It was an extremely unpleasant event  but in fact it was just a  small group of 5 skinheads from Yeovil. A dreadful night in fact. I sat down in the office with the Police and interviewed. I had to walk up and down outside pointing to the bastards.”

Steve Coram says “They were worried that someone would get seriously hurt and it could be end of road. I could see their point. Anyway these people weren’t really punks, they were  just latching on to a fading musical genre”

Mar 16  It is the excuse the art centre board needs and they decide to stop ‘Punk gigs’

Mar 18 – Things get worse. As a result of the bad publicity the CVS decides to stop printing Sheep Worrying.

Mar 19 Things get better . Cherry Red  Records express an interest in the Sedgemorons

Anne says “I  remember thinking wow maybe we are onto something. We started as a cabaret band to make money  but had evolved into something more performance based, with  interesting lyrics and more layers than when we started and even expected. And now a progressive record label thought we were worth attention and weren’t  just a small town band supported by punks. We were politically aware and active and this also made me think how politics played out at community level. I saw the potential around us and thought you never know what you can do till you try. It’s what being young’s all about. It made you think and of all the new possibilities you hadn’t considered before.”

Mar 20 –The members of the rock club held an emergency meeting to consider the situation and people came down heavily against any more punk gigs. Only Brian, Adrian and 2 others vote to keep it.

27 Mar-Sheep Worrying meetings begin to get farcical. Brian tries to remove the Ronnie Biggs ruling but Gareth instead nominates Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie.

28 March The March edition of Venue Magazine carries an article headlined –“THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN SOMERSET” . It’s about Brian and meant to be ironic but the phrase was used seriously by Margaret Rees.

Meanwhile down in Yeovil  a second band was about to have it’s ‘big break’. Simon Barer’s band THE CHESTERFIELDS had been the focus of interest by Bristol label ‘Subway’ run by Martin Whitehead. Simon remembers “He got us on the bill at a gig in Templecombeand we played with Automatic Dlamini and everyone loved us. Phil Jupitus was there, Janice Long loved it and things just took off. We had a Number 2 album in the Melody Maker indie charts and would have been number 1 if it hadn’t been for Sonic Youth.”

Elsewhere there are a few more successes . On March 30 Kim Newman’s book ‘Nightmare Movies”  is out, and Stuart Croskell has won the county youth award for his play ‘Harry’.

Apr  Mon 8 –The distraction is having an affect and Brian is involved in his second car crash in a month as he drives his car parks van into a wall after being hit by some pensioners in an out of control vehicle .

April 12 + 13 The Sedgemorons take to the stage with their ‘yoof musical ‘Rock n Roll is Pretty Exciting‘, which features the band acting, singing and dancing .

SW issue 49. Leads with a demo outside the Council offices  ‘Restore the sheep worrying grant’

April 17 The Sheep Worrying meeting becomes fractious in the face of the recent controversies and imminent elevation of the Sedgemorons to rock stardom .The group appears to be dividing into 2 factions with Brian and Lianne against Anne and Gareth and Stuart in the middle.

April 18 The Sedgemorons play the art centre along with Automatic Dlamini and the Psycho Jellies

April 25 The Sedgemorons single is out and a mini tour has been organised to promote it.

May 2 –Sedgemorons play the Lock and Weir’ at Hannam

May 3 rock club  features the Alkaloids and the Yakometies

May 6 Sedgemorons play a pivotal gig at the Moles Club Bath . Dave Massey reviews it favourably in Sounds . At the same time the single gets a rave review from Seething Wells (as Susan Wells)

AnneWe had a very good PA system and were  well received. Usually we had no mixing desk and finally we could hear what we were singing!”

And then another hit as an anonymous publication was pushed through the doors of various ‘establishments figures around the town’ calling itself the ‘Sheep Worrying Summer Special’

Brian says “It turns out it was put together by some people on the periphery of the local music scene who hated Sheep Worrying and wanted to get us into trouble. I didn’t see it until the next morning when I went to the police station and they were holding one up with tweezers in a polythene bag. It was basically obscene and talking about ‘fucking chickens’ and so on. They’d sent it to Maggie Rees, Ellis Jones, the Vicar. You couldn’t make it up. I can still not be sure who did it but I heard Fiona Dunbar threw the photocopier in the river the next day”

Anne  – “We needed to offiicially say it wasn’t us before there was any more damage or it come back to haunt us . I just  thought it was quite sad and small town politics and  it was getting me down. I just thought I’d rather be around more open minded people.”

Lianne Bruce in the Sedgemorons

May 9-Sedgemorons play Bristol Thekla gig. A group of Dentists who are forming a band  become  groupies.

May 10-Rock Club sees Legend and  the Protectors

13 May To make things worse Adrian Fraser is in court  for riding bike without lights and Maggie Rees is the magistrate. He’s fined £20. “…A Lot of money in them days!”

May 16-Sedgemorons play Peewees in Trowbridg

May 17 May Sedgemorons play the Beer Engine at Newton St Cyres

Mon 20 May-The Sedgemerens record is played on John Peel

Fri 24 May – Sedgemorons play Exeter art centre and a large audience turns up having heard the peel show

26 May At the height of the Sedgemorons rise the Kings Justice tour starts and time is being divided between the two projects awkwardly. The 1st Kings Justice performance is  in Dunster Castle

Brian and Lianne in ‘The Kings Justice’

29 May Brian and Lianne are pictured in the paper at the ‘Bridgwater Show’ promoting the play

Anne says “It was bad timing cos things were really taking off  and Brian and Lianne just weren’t around.

1 June-Kings Justice is on at Weston Zoyland. The same night the rock club features the  East River blues band & Panama

4 june Kings Justice is at the Taunton Brewhouse

8 June-Kings Justice is performed at the jubilee gardens in London

12 Jun –Kings Justice is performed in Wells

Things now took another shock turn as on Thursday 13th June Brian received a letter from his real mother turning his life even further upside down. BrianI was adopted as a baby and never knew who my real parents were. Now my adopted parents put us back in touch. I don’t really know why but a neighbour -Mrs Smith – told me they’d become horrified by the bad publicity I’d had during the course of the past few months . I’m not sure I believe that – but I’ll never know .” 

20-23 June Sheep Worrying members were employed at Glastonbury festival on traffic control

14 Jun-Rock Club the gig featuring  Victory boogie woogie and inside out is a record low with only 11 people there

15 Jun Kings justice at Lyme Regis

Matthew Adams , star of ‘The Kings Justice’

19 jun Kings Justiceat   Chard forde abbey

22 jun Kings Justice in Bristol

25 june Kings Justice in  Glastonbury

28 jun rock club features  Exercise yard and  Exit 22

29 jun Kings Justice at  Frome st johns church

3 Jul Guru Sam play the Boat and Anchor

2-5 July Kings Justice does  4 nights at the Art Centre

Tues 9 July– Brians mum Sylvia and sister Jane  turn up to Bridgwater and they all finally meet

12 Jul Rock Club gig with  Mournblade  – only 22 people

Sat 13 jul ‘Sedgemorons gig with Bodran as support , raises £50 for the Art Centre

30 Jul Brian walks out of his job  as a Car park Attendant while up in London Kim gets a literary agent and  starts the  first drafts for his next novel ‘Jago’ which will feature numerous Somerset references.

26 Aug Bridgwater stages it’s own LIVE AID gig at  Welworthys field  with Norma Lewis, Blubbery hellbellies N icky B, Black roots, Little white lie, Racey, Steve Joliffe, Adrian leg ,Steve payne, Cliff angier, Asah papa and graffiti jazz, East river blues, Mike silver. It wasn;t a great success.

Anne DixeyI helped with publicity but it was very small scale. A legit local gig but overambitious. Not as many as they’d hoped for. A bit too ambitious

Steve Coram “I cycled past and nobody was in the field”

21 Aug –Kim makes his debut on Radio 4’s ‘Kaleidoscope’ reviewing ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ launching a new phase in his career .

Aug 18-31 Brian and Lianne disappear off the face of the earth for a while and hitch hike around Europe.

Sept 6 and Sheep Worrying Theatre do “Bankrobbers “ written by Calvin Hainsworth and Barry Thomson

Mon Sept 16 –The Sedgemorons record a mix of new and old songs professionally  at Horizon studios in Weston Super Mare including 2 new Smedley/Dixey songs “Women Only ‘ and ‘Smalltown’ . Dave Newton is on hand to take some promo photos including the classic still of them on the seafront in front of a symbolically stormy sky.

28 sept Sheep Worrying finally left  Unity House . The debt had been repaid in full and there was even a closing down sale .

Wed 2 oct– More rifts appear as the Sedgemorons form 2 separate bands to play Andrew Napthines upcoming ‘Folk Aid’ gig. Brian and Lianne will be the ‘Bluegrass Smedleys’ Anne and Gareth ‘the Inflatable Ducks’. There is an argument in the back bar of the Fountain.

5 oct Rock Club features  Rootboot

18 oct- Sedgemorons play Newton St Cyres Beer engine

19 oct –Rock club gig features the Blubbery Hellbellies + the Sedgemorons

25 oct –Folk aid event at the Art Centre. This is organised by Andrew Napthine.

The Sedgemorons perform in different bands. In the end Brian, Lianne and Dave Hanna appear as Red Smed and the Hot Trot Smash the System Boogie Band.

30 oct- The Sedgemorons play an acoustic theatrical gig at the art centre supporting feminist theatre group Sensible Footwear .

BrianWe decided that we’d all each wear a single colour. “

Nov 5 Sedgemorons play Exeter Art Centre

Nov 11- The BBC film the Sedgemorons at the Bridgwater Art Centre as part of a BBC2 show ‘Art for All’. Brian and Anne are interviewed about the art centre, as is Noreen Ellis-Jones.

9 Nov– Rock club features East River blues band + Guru sam

22 Nov –Rock club features Charlie assah papa + graffiti jazz and  Automatic Dlamini

28 Nov –Another  Thekla gig with the Sedgemorons

The final Sedgemorons picture on Weston Super Mare seafront

29 nov– The Sedgemorons reprise ‘Rock n Roll is Pretty Exciting’ but this time at Wellington art centre

29 nov Rock Club features  The Radiators and Guru sam

19 Dec  The Sedgemorons play the Tropic club in Bristols St Pauls. Kevin fails to find the venue and they have to ask for a replacement drummer in the audience. The band supported the Flatmates – who were the dentists from the Thekla gig and who would later achieve a degree of success.

AnneActually It was a good gig but the guy from the audience was a punk drummer and played too fast .”

BrianIn truth we were a different band and we were not the chums we originally were. Our last number was an acapella version of ‘Silent Night’ where we all just sang those words over and over again. Usually it was hilarious, this night it just felt angry. And empty.”

21 Dec  Supporting Blackroots at a  packed art centre the Sedgemorons played their last gig.

Richard GardnerI remember a parafin stove in the bands tour van. They turned up late after the door had opened. The engine had exploded and  blown off the oil cap. I recall this rasta guy saying  ‘I can’t take the van back to my dad like this’. They needed to steam clean the engine”

Meanwhile down in Yeovil names were being made .

The Chesterfields -Simon Barber to the fore

Simon Barber says “I was doing the Electric Broom Cupboard. The  Chesterfields were meeting some brilliant bands and this was a  big boost to the  Yeovil scene and people formed bands again- PJ Harvey came out of this. The Chesterfields had a label ,  Parish + Ellis were important now and Howard Bullivant  set up the Ice House studio  When the Chesterfields got signed up we needed a producer and the only grown up one we knew was john Parish  . He came to rehearsals with a notebook and got us to work on ‘dynamics’  – dynamics is a lost art – bands didn’t think about it but John did. We became best mates and then the Chesterfields overtook Automatic Dlamini as their music became a bit unfashionable. “

Back in Bridgwater, Sheep Worrying stalwart Tim Mander started working for Sedgemoor District Council and says “At the interview I was asked to confirm that I  was no longer involved in t’hat sheep worrying organisation’ and I had to swear I wasn’t”.

1985 was in fact the zenith for the music scenes across Somerset. In Bridgwater the Sedgemorons came closer than any other original indie band to ‘making it’. But failed to and fell apart. 1985 had been a year full of theatre and music and Somerset was as ‘on the map’ as it was ever going to get, but in Bridgwater battlelines remained drawn for those that remained in the trenches. 1986 the gloves would be off.