The 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love

The corner of Haight & Ashbury, photographed by Jim Marshall in 1967.

The corner of Haight & Ashbury, photographed by Jim Marshall in 1967.

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This week Inside Culture is in San Francisco to revisit the Summer of Love of 1967.

Through a mix of interviews and archive material the programme looks at the hippie movement as it began to emerge and the effect it had on the city as well as on the wider world.

Fifty years ago, thousands of young adults crowded into San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. They were responding to a movement which had sprung up in the Bay Area and which had grown out of the Beatnik movement of a generation before.

Coffee and jazz was replaced by acid, marijuana and a new sound - psychedelic rock. A new identity - that of the hippie - was also created and its message of peace, love and happiness was one that spread quickly and drew huge numbers of young people who were desperate to escape the overriding conservatism of the times.

San Francisco writer and activist Rebecca Solnit describes the era as one of tension between an established world order which accepted the threat of nuclear obliteration, the use of noxious chemicals and sexual and racial inequality and the next generation who rejected these values.

Fionn Davenport hears how the movement began - how the Beatnik area of the city, North Beach, became too expensive and the Haight-Ashbury district with its cheap rents grew in popularity. We hear from Arthur Round who was living in Haight during the mid-sixties.

Fionn meets with the Music Critic from The San Francisco Chronicle, Joel Selvin, who has written many books about the period. Joel explains how the identity of the hippie was slow to emerge but it soon galvanised around the music of local bands such as Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and Jefferson Airplane. They fused into what became known over time as The San Francisco Sound and the bands began to appear at local venues such as The Filmore and in outdoor spaces in parks and fields. These began to grow in size until one infamous gathering, The Human Be In, attracted tens of thousands of people at the Golden Gate park on January 14th 1967. Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, High Priest of LSD Timothy Leary (whose famous mantra Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out was uttered that day) and many of the bands led the crowd.