Freaking London’s Jesus Festival
And so it was, that in the autumn of the year, a pollution came upon the land. A moral pollution.
And some banded together to fight this pollution and were called the “Festival of Light.”
And others banded together to fight those who fought the pollution, and were called “Operation Rupert.”
And so it came to pass that in the third week of the ninth month in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seventy one, the Jesus movement in Great Britain surfaced, with a host of ideas about what exactly was wrong in the world, and the London underground surprised even itself by working together in a “political” action against what they considered a festival of hypocrisy.
* * *
“Excuse me, Sister, we’ve heard some homosexuals and radicals are going to try and disrupt our meeting here tonight. Will you pray for them?”
Westminster Central Hall, Thursday evening, September 7th. One of the Festival of Light security people asks a nun in blue robes and white cassock to help him. “We want to surround them with prayer, Sister,” he explains, “to help them see the light and find Jesus, Amen.” The nun nods serenely and smiles.
After weekly meetings that have been going on since March 19th, the Festival of Light is about to kick off its campaign to “fight pornography and moral pollution” and make a stand for “truth, purity and light.” In the past few months, close to 500,000 folders and other pieces of literature concerning the Festival have been mailed out. Lapel badges have been printed up (on sale for 20 pence, 50 cents per hundred) and T-shirts made up (at seventy pence, $1.75 each).
And how it’s paid off. Three thousand people crowd the hall. Another thousand watch the proceedings on closed circuit television in the basement. Twenty-eight-year-old Peter Hill addresses the crowd and tells them of the vision he had upon returning to England after four years as a missionary in India. “It was like a television picture,” he says. “Thousands of young people marching as witnesses in London.” The crowd applauds him heartily.
For this is only the beginning. In the next three weeks, there’s to be a national day of prayer and a national night for lighting the beacons. Beacons across the nation, blazing in the night, many of them in the very same places where fires were built to warn of invaders in the 16th century. And all of it is to climax with the actual Festival of Light itself, a day when 100,000 people will gather in Trafalgar Square to show where they stand on the issues of the day, then march in witness behind a brass band and a cross of gold to Hyde Park, to witness a concert of pop gospel music.
But even on this first night, other forces are at work. Under the code name “Operation Rupert,” London’s Gay Liberation Front have coordinated people from women’s lib, publications such as Oz, Frendz and International Times, and Freedom, a new organization formed to disseminate information that has John Lennon’s support. The “Rupert” people (Rupert being a traditional English nursery character, featured in the infamous Oz Number 28 with a huge hard-on) have managed to get a thousand phony tickets for the meeting printed. They’re all over the hall, in sixes and eights and dozens, in disguise, and as the evening wears on, it becomes obvious there’s going to be some aggravation, British-style.
The Bishop of Stepney is speaking, all the good church-going people applaud politely at every natural break in his talk, except that some people keep on clapping, even after he says, “Thank you, we, uh, haven’t got much time …”
It mounts from there. A woman is confessing the depraved life she led until she found Jesus. “Fuck you, cunt,” a voice cries out from the audience. “I was like you 11 years ago,” the woman answers, “until I got saved.” The crowd cheers.
Stink-bomb fumes waft through the hall. Banners appear. A girl blows bubbles in the balcony. Macolm Muggeridge, former editor of Punch, and one of Britain’s best known journalists, starts to speak. Someone yells a question at him and he answers, “I’m afraid I don’t like homosexuals. I just don’t like them.”
That tears it. Gay people are up all over the hall, shouting and kissing each other. Fifty white mice are let loose on stage and go scurrying under ladies’ legs and around chairs. In the midst of all the confusion, the nuns get up and begin dancing in front of the stage. The security guards wrestle with them. The crowd’s shocked, one of the nun’s robes comes off … hairy legs and big ugly boots … it’s Russ, of the Pink Fairies rock & roll band. They throw him out along with the rest of the bogus nuns and bring up the choir to sing and drown out the noise.
Pat, who works at Frendz, is minding her own business, picking up white mice one by one and putting them into her pockets so they won’t get stepped on, she’s got four safely tucked away when they grab her and she gets thrown out.
And that’s how the Festival of Light began.
* * *
The national day of prayer went off quietly. The lighting of the beacons was dampened by a sudden rainstorm an hour before kindling time.
Festival day dawned cold and gray. By 2:30 p.m., the paved area around the fountain in Trafalgar Square had filled with people. Onlookers lined the steps of the National Gallery in order to see the stage. In the Sixties, more than 100,000 people, Bertrand Russell among them, had sat down in Trafalgar Square to demand world peace through nuclear disarmament.
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