If we were ‘Talking ’bout a Revolution’ , this was to be the year. However, it was to manifest itself in the place we didn’t expect. The Communist states of Eastern Europe all came tumbling down like a pack of cards in 1989. The Berlin Wall was breached and peaceful winds of change blew across the continent. Except in Rumania where they all shot each other. For some it was the end of history. Here in Britain the class war continued , got worse and people prepared to take to the streets to bring down their Government. In Bridgwater Sheep Worrying was on those streets.
The year started with Sheep Worrying still picketing the Bridgwater Arts Centre in protest at it’s shoddy treatment and the betrayal by a handful of Management stooges. Not everyone of course saw it that way and people still went to the gigs.
Elsewhere people were getting on with crawling out of the Mire. In Yeovil the Chesterfields had now signed to EMI Publishing and were doing solid tours and nightly gigs, playing Europe every year. They were to split up later this year however, Simon Barber recalls “We reformed in 93 – actually in a Tokyo hotel room when Kurt Cobain killed himself. The Japanese label contacted us to do a 3rd album because they were already selling Chesterfields stuff. We did 3 gigs in Japan. It’s an amazing audience – ‘Big in Japan’ really does apply.”
On 11 Feb Brians dad died of chronic emphesymia originally picked up on the Arctic Convoys of World War 2 and 4 decades of smoking. Sheep Worrying continued picketing the Art Centre – including an event on Feb 15th when a bewildered David Kossof whad to cross the picket line to perform.
22 Feb Sheep Worrying picketed the Art Centre and in the evening at the Labour Party AGM Brian was elected Secretary . Dave Chapple became chair beating Mike Burgess by 1 vote .
10 Mar Sheep Worrying Theatre performed a couple of original one act plays at the Somerset Play festival in Puriton .Alexia Vernon’s play “The Panderer” starring Mac and Glenn Canes “Suburban Apeman” ‘
Alexia remembers “Mac was this very morose person. It was about a man who ran a market stall and had a breakdown. It was actually about public refusal to acknowledge psychological breakdown. Because in the play people ignore him and it built up and up. Someone stole a prop (a telephone). So he had to mime a phone. I complained and a few weeks later the phone turned up mysteriously. I wrote it, directed it and in it. It won youth award somerset fellowship of drama. But the anyone under 21 did. “
20 March Elaine announces that she is pregnant. Brian and her will have a baby. Presumably.
Friday 31 Mar The 2 one act plays ‘the suburban apeman’ by glenn cane and ‘the panderer’ by Alexia Vernon are performed at the Art Centre by Sheep Worrying Theatre.
On 1st April the Poll Tax is introduced in Scotland. The people rise up and fight back, refusing to pay, occupying courtrooms and battling with bailiffs. It is a sign of what is to come the following year when it is introduced in England.
24 April The left-right battle in the Bridgwater Labour Party continues and the right faction wins a vote to pull the Party out of the May Day Rally which was to be themed around resistance to the Poll Tax.
29 April May Day rally at Cranleigh Gardens. Bridgwater band Skaville train featuring former art centre manager Bob Ormrod bring out their 4 track 12 inch
May 4– The Somerset County elections. Labour stands 4 candidates in Bridgwater. Pat Morley, a sheep worrying member , wins her seat but Brian, in a Tory heartland seat, fails to win his.
May 5-“The ozone friendly scout jamboree “ is the title for the latest Sheep Worrying theatre sketch show. It’s a mixture of sketches written by the cast . Glen recalls “At one stage me and Mick Butland were acting as pregnant women on the floor doing breathing exercises. I don’t recall why. “
15 June Sheep Worrying are still picketting the art centre
21 June and again
It’s a long hot summer and at Stonehenge the Travellers Convoy is attacked by Police at the Battle of the Beanfield. Thatcher is resorting to heavy militaristic force to keep her in power and suppress dissent.
SW issue 52 in July 89, The Spanners are featured, more art centre turmoil, sheep worrying demos outside the art centre , the poll tax revolt and a clear ‘Don’t pay the poll tax’ statement
7 July The Spanners gig at the Boat and Anchor Combwich . The band now features Alexia, Mac, Matt, Brian and Kevin and is becoming a tight unit
12 July There is a strike at Fyne court. Glen Burrows gets involved , the strikers win the dispute and the ET scheme will be wound up. One of the key activists is Sheep Worrying actor Roger O Hare who has learning difficulties.
Steve Coram “Roger was dedicated . I remember he got lots of people involved in Sheep Worrying. He got Ian Bussell involved .Ian ran these learning difficulties classes and Roger said to him ‘ I in a play’ ‘sheep worrying’ –‘you be in it as well’…and so he did.”
15 July– Everyone comes together to organise a major Cricket match on Cranleigh Gardens for Alex Dunn.
It becomes an annual event. Virtually the whole theatre group plays, men and women alike.
1 Sept With the imminent birth of their child, Brian and Elaine move to a proper house in Bowerings Road in Hamp. That same night the Spanners play the Blake Arms.
21 Sep It’s the Art Centre AGM . Sheep Worrying stand a slate. Mike Buckland and Allan Challenger get elected, Brian and Alexia fail to.
8 Nov More ructions in the local Labour Party as Dave Chapple resigns because some Labour councillors have voted against the Saltlands Homeless Hostel saying “I no longer wish to be linked with people ‘to the right of the conservative party’ and won’t hold office”
The next day the Berlin Wall comes down in sympathy
On 16 Nov Cathy Smedley is born and a day later the Velvet Revolution breaks out in Czechoslovakia. It’s all kicking off!!
30 Nov The Spanners play at SCAT in Taunton
13 Dec– More disarray for Labour as Glen argues people shouldn’t pay the poll tax but Labour leader John Turner argues that “..it’s simply wrong to break the law “.He is supported by Ken Richards who said ‘its ok to break it yourself but don’t advise others to’ John Turner says The moral case was ‘pay and vote labour’. The room is divided, Sheep Worrying actor Sarah Darke says “As a nurse I actually can’t afford to pay!”
15 Dec 89 Sheep Worrying Theatre do their pantomime Jack and the Poll Tax. It’s been written by Brian and Mac with contibutions from Alexia, Ann Fraser and others in the cast.
Brian recalls “We had intended to do another socialist history play. I had started researching the 1381 Bridgwater Poll Tax rebellion, but then we decided to lighten it with a pantomime instead. Which was a better idea and got everyone on board. Alexia was Little Red Cinders, Ann Fraser was Bonnie Prince Wayne of Castle Cary and Mac was Bad Sir Bastard with a hilarious false black moustache over his red beard. “
Alexia remembers “Steve Coram did the compere role. And we lost mike buckland because of a throwaway line ‘who I raised from an adult backwards’ which he didn’t get. He said “Really sorry guys But you’ve gone too far. I remember Allan Challenger said ‘thanks friend!’. We had to replace 3 parts at the last minute. “
Brian “In the end we just got 3 of us to play the same role at different times -me, Kevin and Will Dodwell. It worked.”
So Sheep Worrying went out on a high note, as did the world. Revolutions had actually happened across Europe. Next year it would be Britains turn if Thatcher ever dared to even think of bringing the Poll Tax to the rest of Britain. She couldn’t be so stupid….Let’s ask 1990.