At least, that was the idea of the moment at 11 am on the 5th September 1970 when a group of 5 friends opened the co-operatively run ‘head shop’/”freak store” that was and still is On the Eighth Day. The shop/ arts and crafts gallery/alternative hangout centre was located in the now demolished New Brown Street in Manchester’s city centre. It became THE place to tune in, turn on and drop out. Young people gravitated there in droves and it is probably true to say that no-one who went into the place ever forgot it.
The 8th Day was the brain child, or should I say the love child, of drop outs Mike Slaughter and I, together with solicitor Brian Livingstone and businessmen Phil Aaronson and Ray Kay. I can say with certainty, it would not have happened without the contribution of any one of us, such was the powerful chemistry of this bizarre mix of talents. I remember a heated conversation with Ray along the lines that it “wasn’t all about the money”. He challenged us by saying that if the money didn’t matter we should throw Saturday’s takings on the fire. Needless to say, the money didn’t burn.
Our ethos was to create an alternative way of living based on community collaboration and creativity and to develop a self sufficiency of lifestyle that was ‘outside the system’. To this end, we needed to leave the city and search for an affordable rural idyll. We found it in Hebden Bridge.
Marion (veteran of the Haight Ashbury Summer of love) and Reg (sculptor and artist), the archetypal original hippies, were already living at Nabby Nook in Eastwood. They were earning a scant but sufficient- for-their needs living by making embroidered kaftans which they brought to the 8th Day on the train with their kids in tow. Their creative designs were hot sellers for the city’s would be hippies (then strangely called ‘heads’). Mike and I visited Marion and Reg for a ‘food for free’ meal of wild sorrel and fern tops and we were immediately sold on the potential of the rugged landscape within such easy reach of Manchester.
By coincidence, , Mike Slaughter had previously worked with Mick Piggott and John Pickering (Asbestosis Action Group) at Thompsons Solicitors in Manchester on Industrial Injury Claims and Mick and John both lived in Hebden. Mick had been part of the South Manchester Commune which had moved to Latham Farm on the hillside above Old Town in 1970. Sadly, but maybe predictably, issues arose within the commune that resulted in Mick and Jean becoming the item they are today. Well, that was the free love generation for you! Mike and I were beneficiaries of the fact that the commune was disbanded and they sold us the farm for the price they had paid for it £1750. Mick and Jean had registered Latham with Communes magazine as a crash pad which resulted in a constant stream of interesting newcomers and various waifs and strays descending on us adding to the rich mix of alternative culture.
Significantly, Latham became the rural retreat of choice for all the city dwellers who worked, volunteered or visited 8th Day. In return for a mattress and macrobiotic meal of rice and veg, these creative free spirits helped fix the roof, concrete the floors, install the central heating and seed the lawn. But they also carved the Yorkshire stone into Buddhas, sewed velvet into long dresses and swirling capes and leather into bags and belts. They sold their hand made wares in 8th Day and that is how they lived.
Before long, the visitors and guests found their own cheap house or squats and the stream of immigrants to Hebden Bridge increased exponentially. Another mini community was set up at Chiserley Fieldside with Paul Styles,Sally, Rick and Liz Allen, Bernie, Lynda and Janet who together with Paul Goldman, American Dan and his partner Paul formed the core of pioneers who developed the whole food and restaurant side of 8th Day which by now had moved to the Oxford Road student area. They commuted daily from Hebden to Manchester in the works old van returning with yet more city dwellers to the many crash pads becoming available in Hebden Bridge.
The barn at Latham farm became a workshop for home designed hippy dresses, capes and kaftans. Madeleine (fresh from fashion school) and Ian were co-opted to the team. Cutting machines were purchased, a cutting table erected and eventually after an ad in the Hebden Bridge Times, a little army of local homeworkers were recruited for sewing. There was still a skill base In the community from trouser days and as the demand for their funky fashion spread out from Manchester and expanded into other towns, the hippies brought some much needed work back to the indigenous community. The whole outfit eventually outgrew the barn and with the help of more expertise from Andy and Bebe, by now resident in Cragg Vale, it was established in Bridge Mill renting the top floor from David Fletcher.
Mike drove around the country in our VW camper van to sell our wares and it is on the proceeds of this enterprise and with a little help from our friends that we managed to rebuild the farm from is derelict state. Children followed with accompanying goats, chickens, geese and an organic vegetable garden. Such was the extent of the building upheaval that following the birth of my first child I had to exit and enter the house via a ladder from a first floor window.
The kids remember a pretty idyllic childhood being outdoors come sun, wind, rain or snow and Molly says that the hippy kids were different from their local counterparts because “they were dirtier, scruffier and feral”. As a result, come school time, they were pretty much ostracised by local parents as ‘offcumdens’ – a term of mild abuse to describe their difference. Meanwhile, our barn became the focus of band practices for several incarnations of bands and there was a steady stream of musicians, including the Edgar Broughton band, frequently to be found crashed out on any bit of available floor space. The kids thought it was great fun even though they frequently had to go to bed with cotton wool in their ears due to my anxiety about eardrum damage.
After a long trip to India to seek nirvana, Brian Livingstone returned to England with hepatitis as well as spiritual awareness and soon after he bought Weatherhouse Farm on the same hillside close to Latham.There followed another big building project and massive tree planting exercise attracting a further wave of exiles from the big city. Brian was the most amazing host being universally acclaimed for his hospitality and generosity. In the 80s, Weatherhouse Farm became the venue for Brian’s infamous parties, by which time we had all settled down and got proper jobs but I like to think the spirit of the times and the idealism we nurtured lives on in Hebden Bridge today.