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…
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.”
Anne “I 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
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.
Brian “We 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”
Anne “Barry 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 Gardner “It 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)
Anne “We 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.”
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
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. Brian “I 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
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 Dixey “I 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 .
Brian “We 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
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.
Anne “Actually It was a good gig but the guy from the audience was a punk drummer and played too fast .”
Brian “In 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 Gardner “I 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 .
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.