1985 had been Sheep Worrying’s high point. The music scene it had been an integral part of had reached it’s peak and something had to break through. It seemed for a while it would be the Sedgemorons from Bridgwater but in the end it was a series of Yeovil area bands. Back in Bridgwater the scene had been rocked by a full frontal assault by the conservative forces of reaction with Sheep Worrying firmly in their sights.
On 7 jan Sheep Worrying Theatre group cancelled it’s first production ever. There’s a general malaise in the air amongst the members looking for a direction in the face of the recent upheavals.
On 11 Jan the Sedgemorons held one final meeting in the Rose and Crown and decided to split up Brian recalls “The events of 1985 had hardened some of our politics and I personally thought that was the way forward. If you couldn’t make a stand at the height of a potential revolution then people probably never would. We’d come out of the apolitical closet in 85 and we weren’t going back in it. People were starting to become successful in their chosen careers and I was under a lot of pressure to leave Bridgwater and move on. I chose not to.”
Anne says “Brian was a hard core socialist and his work was not yet done in Bridgwater. This was politics from roots up so he had to stay where he is. It was never part of Brians game plan to be successful on a wider scale. He’d stay a big fish in small pond.”
But everyone else was moving on . Stuart was considering going to College to study drama, Lianne had an offer to study stage management at RADA , Gareth would go to Drama College and Anne had got her qualifications and so her next step was to be a higher salaried reporter. And somewhere else.
13 Jan– Brian is suddenly inspired to write a series of socialist history plays and immediately starts researching the ‘Bridgwater Brickyard strike of 1896’. Brian “The idea now is to inspire people with their own history by digging out little known incidents from Bridgwater’s past and writing them up in an agit prop style. One reason for this was the kings justice. It was the same idea but had pulled it’s punches with the politics. I wasn’t going to do that. These were to be written clearly from one side. I first put the idea to the Youth theatre director Anne Copsey and she said ‘yes, well I’d like to look at it more from the scabs point of view’ and I said ‘fuck that’ and wrote it from the strikers point of view.”
18 Jan –Rock Club featured Exercise yard + Plenty joy
22 Jan Brian’s family hunting takes another turn and he discovers his fathers family in Northern Ireland. On this day he has a phone conversation from the art centre office with his sister Wendy.
23 Jan –Brian, Lianne and Barry decide to form an easy listening money making band and decide to be called Travellin’ Light
25 Jan –A Sheep Worrying anti apartheid gig at the lime kiln raises £81
Feb 5-The print workers go on strike against the Murdoch empire in Wapping and the Class war is back on. Sheep Worrying members join Labour Party and Trades Unionists on regular minibus trips up to London to join in the direct actions each weekend
Feb 8– Another step forward for socialism in Bridgwater as Sheep Worrying members Dave Hanna and Glen Burrows open a socialist bookshop in Unity House ‘Unity Books’. Sheep Worrying magazine takes a backseat during this year as Brian helps Dave Chapple produce a new socialist magazine called The Somerset Clarion. Brian will shortly become editor.
Feb 18-The BBC ‘art for all’ documentary is aired featuring sheep worrying and new art centre director Pat Gubbins
Feb 22-Meanwhile, Adrian Fraser is doing a sterling job keeping the rock club going. This gig features heavy band Wolfen
Mar 5-After several years Sheep Worrying finally gets the disco ban reversed by the art centre board
14 – 17 March Brian visits Prague in communist Czechoslovakia for the first time with his newly found mother.
Brian says “This was a crazy time for me. I was forced to re-assess everything. People were leaving and I was staying. But even I had second thoughts. I considered teaching and in fact went off to Bognor for a teaching interview, but while I was on the train I just spent the time writing the Brickyard Strike play “
23 March-Brian moved into 7c West Quay which also became the headquarters of Sheep Worrying for the next few years and scene of many ‘Party’s at Brians’ .
Brian “After going to Prague with my mum I then went over to get the other side of the story from my Ulster family. Lianne came with me, although by now we were splitting up. Suddenly I was Irish.”
April 19 Rock club gig with Skaville Train + Royal assasins
Ap 21 With the Brickyard Strike play written we set about casting it. Lianne would direct, Stuart and Gareth would be in it and a lot of newcomers.
Ap 25 Folk aid 2 Featured Red Smed , 3 Drunken Pagans and the Inflatable Ducks who were Anne, Gareth,Barry plus Kedge, Jon Eydmann and Martin Shobbrook
Ap 26-While Brian took part in a Art Centre Music Marathon, Anne Dixey left the scene altogether and moved to Southampton. Anne “I had a job at the Evening Echo but I still wrote songs with Gareth and we called ourselves ‘The Parishioners’. We also played Glastonbury. “
Ap 28- Following persistent nagging from Glen and the influence of his own research brian decides to finally join the Labour party (for £2.15)
May 3– Bridgwater socialists organise a May day rally – the first for generations The key speaker is Derek ‘Red Robbo’ Robinson
May 15 The times are a changing and the council votes to move the Admiral Blake statue.
17 May Sheep Worrying members on the picket line at Wapping. Graham England is arrested during the action . Brian and Lianne are in the thick of it
22 May-Liannes dad, Wally Bruce is killed in a car crash near Birmingham. He was the Chairman of the Art Centre at the time.
1 Jun-Brian becomes the editor of the Somerset Clarion
4 Jun – In he wake of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Bruce Kent, head of CND, speaks at town hall
14 June Rock Club gig features the Witchdoctors
27 Jun Rock Club features Exercise yard and Mirror image
June 28– Brian writes a small book about the Bridgwater Brickyard strike. It is produced by Sheep Worrying books and becomes a best seller in local bookshops
July 7 –BBC points west film Sheep Worrying Theatres Brick Strike show on the original brickworks along Wylds road. Sandi Marshall is the reporter
July 9,10,11,12-‘Brickyard Strike ‘by Brian Smedley, is performed at the Bridgwater arts centre. It receives good reviews including the Morning star but is slated by the local tory press
Jul 15– The new Sheep Worrying scene holds an AGM at the art centre and elects new members to posts including Dale Bruton as secretary and Dave Hanna as treasurer . The meeting votes to end the role of honorary members. This is a major affront to former members such as Kim Newman and Eugene Byrne who had put a lot of time and money into helping Sheep Worrying over the years.
Brian says “This was a mistake but the new members were coming to what they thought was a fresh slate and knew little about the past and in fact the motion came from Glen who was also an honorary member who had helped the group out financially but who was horrified at the concept of honorary membership. “
Jul 26– Brian is caught sticking ‘Don’t buy the Sun’ stickers on newspapers in WH Smiths and is given a caution for criminal damage.
Jul 28-Brian starts a new job with Multifreight
Aug 12 Gareth Beasley leaves town to go to college in Fareham
19 sep– The rock club puts on the Toy Dolls at the art centre and it’s a sell out.
10 oct-The first proper Red Smed gig at the art centre supporting Atilla the Stockbroker.
29 oct – Brian is sacked from his job for wearing a James Connolly badge while delivering to Oldbury nuclear power station.
1 Nov– Red Smed play at Broomfield Hall, Enmore. Graham England leaves the band
8 Nov rock club features Skaville Train, and Confined spaces
Nov 15-the ‘Friends of British Ulster’ (a fascist front group) march through bridgwaterto protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement in Tom Kings constituency.
Brian recalls “We organised a counter demonstration. About 100 of us. We met in Unity House and dave Chapple said ‘Right Smed, lead em out’ so I did. Only to find 400 Fascists. It was a violent clash. I’d gone around the day before removing NF stickers and chalking their route as they did in Northern Ireland parades.”.
Bridgwater College students came on the protest too. One was Matt Bartlett who had also just started acting in Sheep Worrying theatre. Matt says “I ran into Posh Frocks”
Other students weren’t so lucky as several were battered and this was caught on TV.
Steve Coram says “I went round in the morning and saw lots of them in town. I spotted NF stickers and told Brian at once . When they attacked I had to stop one of them beating Brian up! They were waving bibles and shouting ‘you will go to hell’ . Mind you it was quite spectacular with their banners and them 400 strong. I thought we’re gonna get a beating you cannot remember. Then it kicked off by Cobblestones and the Police had no idea. There was 4 Police on duty. We followed them thru the town. Outside the White Lion the local hard nuts were gonna stop em but then they went back in. I remember the knife, the hitting with the umbrellas, the skinheads. It all kicked off on the Town bridge.”
Nov 23 Rock Club featured Rodney Allen and Murder burger
16 Dec A gig at the Town hall featured Atilla the Stockbroker + the Newtown Neurotics
1986 had been a year of politicisation. The theatre group was doing overtly socialist stuff, the Red Smed band was formed openly to raise money for socialist causes and Sheep Worrying Magazine had taken a backseat to the Somerset Clarion. There had been political battles on the streets of London and of Bridgwater and Sheep Worrying members were deeply involved. A long way from the anarchodafty days of the 1970s. But maybe it was time for a change of Government? Next year was 1987 and surely the Tories wouldn’t win another election….