Personifying A Protest And Remembering a Riot
For anyone born before 1950, 1968 will forever be remembered as the Year of Protest. From the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations [at the Stinsford Cenotaph in particular], through the University of Afpuddle campus riots to the women’s anti-missile peace camp at the East Creech DAF airbase, almost nowhere - however isolated - was immune, as the world vibrated to a wholly different and frankly disturbing rhythm - the insistent drumbeat of idealism, progressive politics and opportunistic criminality*. Who, witnessing such events - often in stunned disbelief - will ever forget the picket lines outside Waitaminutes new Continental Supermarket in Fairmile [following rumours that the chain was selling imported Spanish sardines canned by non-Unionised labour] or the organised strike of altar boys at Our Lady of the Ulcerated Pancreas, Fifehead Neville in the wake of the refusal by church authorities to embrace the modernity of the Good News Bible? It is often said that what 1917 is to Soviet chronology, so is 1968 to Dorset and its late 20th-century coming of age or, as Local Historian Nooksan Cranneys puts it “as the arrival of CEO Mrs Threadbone is to the corporate affairs of the Thrupiece Organisation”.
*Our Crime Correspondent Pica Poccette-Ortu writes: Take for example the Poxwell Riots of September 1968 which saw the local Radio Rentals shop liberated of three colour televisions, two black and white semi-portables, five real-leather effect transistor radios and a Goblin Teasmade. The perpetrators [all known to the local RDC and no revolutionaries] were thwarted in their attempted getaway when the back axle of their Morris Minor Traveller collapsed under the combined weight [three and a half tons] of the three colour televisions. They were arraigned before Church Knowle Magistrates and jailed for a combined 37 years, having asked for three Hotpoint twins-tubs to be taken into consideration. Their defence - that they were legitimate protesters in need of regular news updates, proper rehydration and an occasional change of clothing - was emphatically rejected by "a hanging jury". ["Crime Cycle Puts Jury In A Spin", Poxwell Evening News, 13 November 1968].
In retrospect and despite the tendency of most histories of the period to paint events in the most primary of colours, nothing in the whole business of 1968 is more subtle, nuanced or shadowy than the role played in it by a young professor of Culinary Bio-ethics - one Brian Pemberton Chorleywood Thrupiece. Often alleged to have “run with the hares whilst chasing with the hounds”, Professor Thrupiece has been variously portrayed as [a] a dangerous agent provocateur leading the protesters to ever more extreme action [see for example the spray painting of the statue of then DHRA Chair Brigadier Major Major outside Slepe Town Hall], [b] an undercover agent for the security services, gathering intelligence and passing it on to his wicked paymasters [the thwarted attempt to close the Long Bredy International Rail Hub] and [c] an innocent bystander caught up in events which rapidly spiralled out of everyone's control - even that of a young and ambitious police officer - PC Rising Crimewave.
Whatever the truth of the matter - and we may never know - a new exhibition of photographs from the time by semi-official photographer and first-hand 1960s chronicler Dierdre Eastman-Kodakowski certainly seems set to change, at the very least, the accepted image of Professor Thrupiece and the way we see a man who is, arguably, "the most recognisable face in Dorset’s long history"**. The Exhibition of Thrupiece portraits [12 in all of which 2 have never been seen publicly before] goes on show at The Threadbone Gallery, Chilfrome from today until late July. If nothing else the arresting larger-than-life-sized photographs - particularly viewed together for the first time - will seriously confound the well-established image of him as a homely, rubicund and affably smiling laboratory animal [albeit one with a quizzical eye and a pensive gaze] and replace it with something far more substantial - one is tempted to say sinister. There is a decidedly alpha male muscularity to these late 1960s portraits as well as a fierce intelligence, steadfast presence and penetrative stare which hint at the charismatic - even dangerous - horizontal jogger known only to members of his closest circle: the man who broke more than just hearts and left many an opposite-sex casualty in his considerable wake [allegedly [Ed]].
** Crestova Crimewave  Mugshots, CCTV Images and the Fight Against Crime, Threadbone Press
Time will tell whether the Exhibition sparks a radical revision of a much-loved figure who - despite more than 50 biographies and a mountain of diaries, papers and writings - we know perhaps a little less well than we think. Is it time for yet another 780 page biography to replace last year's depressingly non-revisionist effort?
BPCT 1968 goes on show today at the Threadbone Gallery, Chilfrome until July 28th. It is presented in association with the AJTCorps.