By 1990 Sheep Worrying had pretty much served it’s purpose and to carry on would mean more hardship, tension and falling out. So we decided to carry on .

The Spanners in 1990

On 18 Jan  several members of Sheep Worrying Theatre -Glen Burrows, Glenn Cane, Alexia Vernon, decided to form a rival theatre group – Hardlines Theatre as they wanted to not just do original material

Alexia says   “it wasn’t about dissing sheep worrying , we just wanted to do something harder  and more challenging. Something different. We mainly wanted to just do readings”

Steve Coram admits “Sheep Worrying wasn’t that good really and as for Hardlines, well it’s alright doing Dostojevsky but  you could have been exposed badly.”

Feb 3-The Spanners supported Pete Browns Blues band at the Art Centre and recorded the gig bringing it out as “I Like a Glass of Beer Now and Then” cassette album . The set includes several Smedley-Vernon classics like ‘When Teddy’s Gone’ .

10 Feb In a studio in Bristol the Spanners mix down their album and add in overdubs. A mix of live and studio

The world is going crazy . Communism is collapsing in the Soviet Union and now on Feb 11 Nelson Mandela has been released then on Feb 13 there’s an agreement on German reunification.

14 Feb At the Labour AGM the left and right are still battling for everything. Brian wins Branch nomination for Conference, only to be overturned at GMC by Ken Richards. At the same meeting a proposal to affiliate to the Somerset Community Defence Campaign is defeated with Julian Taylor calling it a ‘Militant front’ . Glen and Dave are not present. In a joint letter Glen resigns from both the Labour Party and from Sheep Worrying.

Brian and Elaine on anti Poll tax demo

On 3 March there is a  Taunton anti poll tax march -100s turn up

9 March– in Brixton there are anti-poll tax riots

14 March the Labour party branch donates £15 to the newly formed Anti Poll Tax Union. Passed 12.1. Brian, as secretary, has written to Glen to try to get her to reconsider her resignation. She replies  “I won’t be rejoining the Labour party as it appeared to be abandoning socialism” –At the same meeting Labour county councillor Roger Lavers reports on sizeable protest meetings as Poll Tax set approaches . At one meeting Labour councillor Tony Sergeant advocates non payment

15 March there is a APTU  meeting at the White Hart

24 March-the Spanners play a gig at st Francis  Hall with  Skaville Train. It is Matts  20th birthday.

27 Mar the poll tax bills start to arrive. Brian says “I got a  £358 Poll Tax demand. I immediately gave it to my boss and asked for a rise. I didn’t get one.”

29 Mar Labour selected Peter James as their candidate  for the next General Election

The London Poll Tax Riot

March 31 Many coaches from Bridgwater head to the  London Anti Poll Tax Demonstration It starts at Kennington park at 1.30. Police admit later that 2million people are present ..Violence flares at about 4pm..471 injured 341 arrested.”

Brian says “I was with the Sheep Worrying gang – Kim, Eugene and Alex but we got separated when the trouble started in Whitehall. When the Police horses moved in to protect Downing street I was with Elaine and we were pushed up against the Statue of Spencer Compton near Scotland yard. We got away through a back street only to appear on Northumberland avenue between the Police lines and the frontline of the protest – suddenly I recall a single figure running from the Police as they charged. Incredibly it was Gareth Beasley. Sheep Worriers were everywhere. After the Police had cleared Northumberland and the South Africa Embassy went up, we crossed the river and met up with the others. Later that evening trying to wend our way back across Soho there were gangs of looters just smashing things. It looked pretty much like the revolution to me.”

Back in Bridgwater the campaign against the Poll Tax was the main thing that preoccupied everyone. On 3 April the APTU met at the Blake arms to discuss the London riots and plan direct action loclly.

bill burning
Burning the Poll Tax Bills in Bridgwater

On 7 April there was a mass burning of Poll Tax bills on the Brewery Field

Ap 11 The rehabilitated ‘Trad Lab’ people are back in the party. Elaine raises the issue of Poll Tax magistrates as many Labour councillors are also magistrates. Mick Briscombe says It’s important to have Labour magistrates” Brian argues that it’s important for them to stand down . No Labour magistrate takes on Poll Tax cases in Bridgwater.

April 21 the Anti Poll Tax march in Taunton attracts 5,000 people

April 28 The Spanners play the Boat and Anchor Combwich

May 12 It’s the Bridgwater May Day Rally and Ken Livingstone and Dawn Primarolo attend

May 13 Lab club gig  featuring the Spanners

13 June –There is to be a District Council By-Election in Victoria ward as Labour councillor Rene Bissett has been forced to stand down (before financial irregularities are uncovered) . A hard fought selection sees Brian Smedley selected by one vote over Julian Taylor . A brief but hard fought campaign is under way. Tory opponent Gill Slocombe attempts to brand Smedley a militant’

15 Jun –The Spanners play the Beer Engine at Newton Sy Cyres.

12 July Brian is elected to Sedgemoor District Council 673 votes against  Tory 294 lib 163 green 76.

BrianJust desserts I’d say. Elected on Orange Day too.!”

Jul 29– The Spanners play Kims garden party at Aller. Author Lisa Tuttle was there.

Wednesday Aug 1st Brians first council meeting is at the Priory offices.

The APTU storms the building and occupies the council chamber with banners saying “Break the Law not the Poor”.

Glen Burrows, now an Independent councillor had put a motion opposing the use of Bailliffs , Brian now seconds it. However, it is lost.

The Tories are in disarray.

Smedley and Burrows outside the Council offices

BrianThe Labour councillors were at their lowest ever. Only 4 of them. There were so many Tories they sat all around the room. And they were a particularly nasty braying bunch. The Priory was like a schoolroom with desks and they seemed to even be behind us making snide ‘haw haw’ noises all the time. They hated me. Good.”

Aug 2 and Iraq  invades Kuwait. This could be a major diversion from the anti poll tax campaign but activists still takeup the fight to oppose the war.

17 Aug– Spanners play the Beer engine this time with Taff on drums and no Mac.

APTU inside the Council meeting

Aug 30  Start of the lst council prosecutions for non payment of poll tax . The APTU members assume roles as ‘Mackensie friends’ for the victims. Brian is thrown out of court for refusing to stand for a Poll Tax Magistrate  –

6-7-8 sept –Sheep Worrying Theatre do the revue style play “Sheep Worrying at the Movies”

The show includes sketches like ’I Henry’ by Alexia where Matt play Ken Branagh playing Henry V .

Alexia recalls “The Audience were  laughing and Steve Coram said ‘i’d laugh a bit more if I were you you’re paying for this rubbish’. “

11 Sept—Second Sheep Worrying member, County Councillor Pat Morley, resigns from the Labour party citing “Unilateralism and the move to the right”

7 Oct– The Spanners play the Labour Club .

Nov 22– In a shock move Thatcher resigns. Brian says “In fact she announced that she wouldn’t be standing in the 2nd round of the leadership election her party had forced on her. I heard this news  about 9am as I was starting my driving job and I drove straight to the Poll Tax court and shouted the news into the room, whereupon Allan Challenger, who was being a Mackensie friend shouted at the Magistrate – ‘Your Leaders gone, now YOU go!”

1 Dec  The Anti Gulf war demo takes place in Bridgwater . Stuart Croskell, former Falkland war and Sheep Worrying veteran, speaks at Trinity Hall. Brian remembers “The thing that stuck in my mind was because it was controversial we opted to march in a respectful silence. Then suddenly Alan Debenham turns up with a megaphone and shouts ‘this is a silent protest against the Gulf war’. Brilliant.”

Music Hall entertainment in ‘The Bad New Days’ Sheep Worrying’s final show

On Friday 21 and Saturday 22 December Sheep Worrying Theatre performed their last show. It was a Music Hall send up called ‘The Bad New Days “

Brian says “It was a thrown together revue style affair. The highlight for me was Elaine singing a song I’d written called ‘Me and My Little Girl”, which concluded with the line ‘Don’t pay Yer poll Tax and bugger the Bourgeoisie!’ But in truth it was pretty clear things were over. The battle had moved on to a different playing field and Sheep Worrying was almost history.”

But that would happen in 1991