Free The Weed 45 by John Sinclair

John Sinclair at 12 Bar Club, London, Sunday 11th May 2014

Highest greetings from New Orleans, where I’m completing the last leg of my fall visit to the United States with a whirlwind of activity involving 9 performances in 7 days, most of them with the Carlo Ditta Trio & friends and the last one with pianist Tom Worrell. That’s why they call me the Hardest Working Poet In Show Business.

I’ll get a good break in the action when I get back to Amsterdam for the Cannabis Cup, a full week of good clean fun in a temporary environment created by 2000 or so young American potheads who will have descended upon the city to sample as much good weed as they can get their lips around.

But whoops, I‘m back in Amsterdam now, and the first news I heard was that the Cannabis Cup had been closed down by the local authorities and the exposition center shuttered as soon as it had opened. This seems to be in line with the recent policy shifts by both the national and Amsterdam governments to defy pubic support for the cannabis culture and to shut down cannabis businesses from coffeeshops to vendors of growing products. I’m just back today and I’m pretty well jet-lagged so I’ll have to find out more for next month’s column.

I wanted to thank Ben Horner and the great people at the Golden Leaf Social Club in Flint for a fantastic evening of music and merriment on November 13, where I had the opportunity to perform with the great new band called Audio Insurgence put together by Cori Douglas, Matt “Chops” Douglas and Corey Planck of the late lamented Glowb plus Natasha Thomas-Jackson on lead vocals. I also got to do a couple of numbers at the Golden Leaf with another one of my favorite bands, the Macpodz. I’ve played a lot with both Glowb and the Macpodz and being with both of them inside the cozy confines of the Golden Leaf Club was really a special treat before I left Michigan for New Orleans the next day.

My biggest thrill in Michigan this time, however, was joining my friends and colleagues from half a century ago to celebrate the founding of the Detroit Artists Workshop at a pair of events at the Scarab Club of Detroit and a spirited session at M.L. Liebler’s class at Wayne State University. There were also exhibits of Workshop art, books and materials at the College for Creative Studies, the Scarab Club, the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and the Mike Kelley Mobile Homestead, plus major exhibits of the work of Workshop members Leni Sinclair (photographs at the Suzanne Hilberry Gallery) and Gary Grimshaw (posters and other art at the Detroit Historical Museum).

I’d like to formally close this celebration with the text that began the whole thing:

A MANIFESTO of The Artists Workshop Society dated November 1, 1964 that went something like this:

Why a community of artists? One of the most important things to young, formative artists is having a group of one’s peers that one can be a part of, can talk to, work with, work out ideas, etc and can give crucial support.

Modern society has succeeded to a frightening degree in alienating artists from one another (and of course from people in general; or at least vice versa) and atomizing what could be a vital, active community into a group of lone, defensive, hung-up people who are afraid to talk to and/or work with anyone but themselves and (maybe) three or four friends.

A community of artists means that a group of highly conscious people can help each other in very real ways. Artists working alone are cutting themselves off from sources of inspiration and influence that can help them immeasurably in their work.

The lone artists have no one to listen to their work, no one to offer criticism and ideas that would bring their work into sharper focus with itself. Hard to get as excited, as completely involved in one’s work by oneself; when you can talk about it with/to others who are trying to do the same thing as yourself and communicate it to others, you can achieve and maintain the state of consciousness Henry James called “perception at the pitch of passion.” And who better to communicate to than those few people who are operating at the same level of awareness and involvement as oneself?

We are now in a period of expanded consciousness in all the arts. NOW is the time to find out what’s wrong with your work, NOW, at least get an inkling of what other real people will think of it and how it communicates.

So: what we want is a place for artists—musicians, painters, poets, writers, film-makers—who are committed to their art and to the concept of community involvement to meet and work with one another in an open, warm, loving, supportive environment—a place for people to come together as equals in a community venture whose success depends solely upon those involved with it.

To this end we have acquired a “studio” workshop which will be maintained (rent, electricity, heat) by the artists themselves, through individual subscriptions of $5.00 each (i.e. initial investment—the pledge will be adjusted, on a monthly basis, and probably downward, as the Workshop program is totally implemented and we have a concrete figure for maintenance costs.)

This method of supporting the Artists Workshop is necessary, we feel, because:

[1] Each member of the Workshop is to assume an equal responsibility in the project’s success;

[2] Members have to go into their already near-empty pockets, thus the project cannot be treated lightly;

[3] We feel that any commercial means of support, at least (& especially) in the beginning, would tend to create an artificial community hung together on money, rather than a genuine community built on mutual need and mutual support and interest;

[4] No “outside” pressures, hangups, interferences;

[5] The Workshop ideal can be maintained, i.e. there will be no pressure on artists to produce work that would result in commercial success, rather than integrity and aesthetic honesty, as its ultimate purpose.

We do believe, however, that commercial ventures will come into being as logical and desirable outgrowths of the Workshop as it has been conceived and as it is now operating. For example, we can see in the future a coffeeshop where musicians would present their work; a gallery for painters and other graphic artists to exhibit their work; a small printing and/or publishing concern through which poets & writers could introduce their work; an operating film society that would enable local film-makers to produce and possibly market cinematic ideas.

Other individual projects that are being planned as part of the workshop’s total program:

[1] Lectures on modern music, painting, poetry and film, by the artists themselves, that would serve to introduce & enlighten an often-puzzled public to the artists’ aims, purposes, & finished work;

[2] Free jazz concerts and workshops, featuring in particular the work of Detroit’s musical ‘avant-garde,’ with commentary on their work by the musicians themselves and by enlightened critics & students of the music

[3] Interpretive poetry readings, with background and explanatory commentary by the poets

[4] Screenings of films by Detroit experimenters and by independent film-makers from New York and San Francisco who are involved in what has been called the “New American Cinema,” and whose work is not readily available, via commercial theaters, to its eager audience.

[5] All these will be “free,” non-commercial affairs that are planned, programmed, and produced by the artists themselves.

We sincerely believe that our Artists Workshop Society can and will succeed: The time is over-ripe, the people are ready to convert their ideals into real action, and there is no real reason why we can’t make it.
We need all the support we can get, especially your spiritual support and blessing; we are trying to establish ties with the isolated groups of artists that exist in this country and throughout the universe, and we sincerely wish to cooperate with anyone who will let us. Please help.


John Sinclair, Robin Eichele, Charles Moore, George Tysh, Larry Weiner, Danny Spencer, James Semark, Richard Tobias, Gayle Pearl, Allister McKenzie, Ellen Phelan, Paul Sedan, Bill Reid, David Homicz, Joe Mulkey, Bob Marsh

—New Orleans> Amsterdam
November 22-24, 2014

© 2014 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.