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Alternative Albion
is an imprint of
Heart of Albion Press

 

 

 

Heart of Albion's new imprint Alternative Albion was launched in June 2004. The aim is to provide a series of studies of aspects of British 'counter culture'. Some of these will be essentially historical accounts and others will discuss and develop current alternative ideas.

Why 'Alternative Albion'?


 

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JOHN MICHELL
From Atlantis to Avalon

Paul Screeton

John Michell wrote about subjects as diverse as flying saucers, ley-lines, corn circles, traditional measures, British eccentrics, Shakespeare's authorship and sacred geometry. His books, together with many personal contacts among the 'upper crusties' and pop stars of the 60s and 70s, quickly made him the herald of the Age of Aquarius – appropriately, as John was born under the sign of Aquarius.

Without John Michell Glastonbury might still be just another Somerset town, many aspects of alternative archaeology might never have arisen, and the New Age would lack many of its key ideals and ideas.

John wrote about Atlantis and Avalon and to many he seemed to be a reincarnation of Merlin – or even a Time Lord. Erudite yet excellent company, his evasive and sometimes contradictory opinions – for example, he referred to himself as a 'radical traditionalist' – gave the impression of a Mercurial trickster. Or was he instead a shaman with a wily fox as a spirit double, as friends' unexpected sightings of unusual foxes around the time of his death seem to aver?

This book is not a biography, but a celebration of John's insights and far-reaching influence, revealing his pivotal role in alternative culture over the last five decades.

Paul Screeton first met John Michell in 1970 and they remained friends until John's death in 2009. Paul re-founded The Ley Hunter magazine in 1969 and published Quicksilver Heritage, a pioneering overview of 'earth mysteries', in 1974. Since 1985 he has edited Folklore Frontiers magazine. This book is his tenth publication.

'Good intro to a charming and much missed fortean. 8/10' Richard Alexander Fortean Times

'Whether you want to know more about such a seminal figure, are interested in the topics he wrote about, or just want an enjoyable book to read, you are likely to come away satisfied.[...] Highly recommended.' D J Tyrer The Monomyth Supplement

'Paul's book has reminded me of what a remarkable man John was.' Dewi Bowen Northern Earth

'I knew John for as long or longer than Paul, yet I learned a great deal from the book, and it's a cracking good read.' John Neal Folklore Frontiers

'[This is] an important, warm and friendly book about an important, warm, friendly man. A visionary man who changed how tens of thousands of us viewed reality and the world we live in. [...] Essential – really!'' Andy Roberts Folklore Frontiers

'If you like books that you can lose yourself in, that make you smile but also make you think, then this is the book for you. Yet another classic from the pen of Paul Screeton.'' David Taylor Anomaly

' ... Paul provides us with an unbiased, highly in-depth, and near-unique study of Michell, focusing upon the intricacies of his character, upbringing, life, and undeniably-major influence upon British culture, folklore, mythology, and the domain of the unexplained.' Read all Nicholas Redfern's review

ISBN 978-1-905646-16-6. May 2010
245 x 175 mm, 126 + viii pages, 23 b&w photos, 2 line drawings, paperback.

£12.95


 

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FLYING SAUCERERS
A social history of UFOlogy

David Clarke and Andy Roberts

Since August 1945 the Western world has been fascinated with the notion of 'flying saucers', subsequently termed 'Unidentified Flying Objects' or 'UFOs'. Numerous 'experts' have offered explanations, often involving extraterrestrial entities. These early experts promoted their beliefs enthusiastically. Some were undoubtedly sincere – although somewhat maverick – while a few might have been intentional 'psychological con men'.

The various opinions of these 'experts' generated extensive tabloid and media attention in the 1950s and 60s with the result that reported sightings became wrapped up in any number of beliefs and legends. David Clarke and Andy Roberts carefully unpick the origin of these beliefs, looking carefully at the key individuals involved. This reveals how the paranoia of the Cold War era generated its own myths and also shows that many aspects of the subsequent 'New Age' ideology had their origins in the UFO cults.

Flying Saucerers is not written for people who believe in UFOs. Readers are not expected to believe in their 'nuts and bolts' existence, still less the prospects of a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. Instead it is both a social history and a history of ideas, revealing how the notions of a few inspired 'experts' evolved into one of its most pervasive modern day myths.

David Clarke is a British university lecturer. He obtained his PhD in 'Folklore and Cultural Tradition' in 1999, and now teaches Journalism Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. He also lectures on the subjects of supernatural belief and urban legends at the National Centre for English Cultural Tradition (part of the University of Sheffield).

Andy Roberts is a veteran fortean writer, researcher and broadcaster. He has written eight books on the subjects of UFOs and folklore and has contributed to many journals including The Guardian and Fortean Times.

'The best book on the flying saucer phenomenon for 20 years, by the two most sane commentators on the subject.' Paul Screeton Folklore Frontiers

'... there is no doubt in my mind that Flying Saucerers is one of the most important ufological contributions of the last few years; and it is vital reading for anyone and everyone that has an interest in belief systems, how beliefs, ideas and theories originate, grow, mutate, become accepted, and are then perceived as hard fact... ' Nick Redfern See Nick Redfern's online review

'Invaluable insight into a key period of ufology 9/10.' Peter Brookesmith Fortean Times

'... within a couple of pages I was hooked! [...] Very good.' D.J. Tyrer Monomyth Supplement

ISBN 978-1-905646-00-5. 2007
245 x 175 mm, 231 + xii pages, 99 b&w photos, 11 line drawings, paperback.

£14.95


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THE MYTHS OF REALITY

Simon Danser

Simon Danser asks us to think of myths as like the lenses in spectacles – we see the world through them, but rarely see them in their own right. He then systematically focuses on the myths at the core of the belief systems which create every aspect of what we take to be reality: religion, politics, commerce, science, knowledge, consciousness, self-identity, and much else that we take as 'given'.

This book reveals how reality is culturally constructed in an ever- continuing process from mythic fragments transmitted by the mass media and adapted through face-to-face and Internet conversations.

'There is much here to ponder on, to chew over, to debate and to reconsider. It's a way to understanding ourselves, our beliefs and our desires, the ways in which we create our own realities – and, therefore, how we shape our own future.'
Francis Cameron Pentacle
 
"And now, in 2005, there is a powerful new voice from outside American culture to motivate the old symbol and myth chasing posse. This time it comes from England and author Simon Danser in his short but brilliant book Myths of Reality.
John Fraim Jung Pages

'Overall, a very thought-provoking book that, by showing the way that contemporary myths work, effectively deconstructs the world-view that leads to fanaticism.'
Nigel Pennick Silver Wheel
 
 
''This liberal author's knowledge of contemporary society is amazingly broad. He exposits the mythic depths (and appearances) of everything from 'the myth of science' to superhero attitudes of contemporary American nationalism.
 
''Along the way he challenges many superficial trivialities about myths functioning in culture. He regards the mythic as a primary, highly effective agent of social ideology, and is never hesitant about demanding that the garments of our truly mythological capitalism are ill-fitting and socially harmful.
 
''This is the best book I know in terms of disclosing the pragmatic functioning of myth in society.''
 
William Doty
Professor Emeritus, The University of Alabama and author of
Mythography: The study of myths and rituals
 
 
'... an interesting and informative book.'
D.J. Tyrer Monomyth Supplement

 
 
'Erudite and broad-ranging look at a tricky nexus.'
Fortean Times

 
 
Published by Alternative Albion, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 809. 2005.
215 x 138 mm, 205 + xiv pages, paperback

£12.95


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STONEHENGE
CELEBRATION AND SUBVERSION

Andy Worthington

"This is a fine book in every way, well written, carefully researched and with a remarkable story to tell."
John Michell Fortean Times

"... the classic history of the [Stonehenge] festival..."
Professor Ronald Hutton Blood and Mistletoe

This innovative social history looks in detail at how the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge have brought together different aspects of British counter-culture to make the monument a 'living temple' and an icon of alternative Britain. The history of the celebrants and counter-cultural leaders is interwoven with the viewpoints of the land-owners, custodians and archaeologists who have generally attempted to impose order on the shifting patterns of these modern-day mythologies.

The story of the Stonehenge summer solstice celebrations begins with the Druid revival of the 18th century and the earliest public gatherings of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the social upheavals of the 1960s and early 70s, these trailblazers were superseded by the Stonehenge Free Festival. This evolved from a small gathering to an anarchic free state the size of a small city, before its brutal suppression at the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985.

In the aftermath of the Beanfield, the author examines how the political and spiritual aspirations of the free festivals evolved into both the rave scene and the road protest movement, and how the prevailing trends in the counter-culture provided a fertile breeding ground for the development of new Druid groups, the growth of paganism in general, and the adoption of other sacred sites, in particular Stonehenge's gargantuan neighbour at Avebury.

The account is brought up to date with the reopening of Stonehenge on the summer solstice in 2000, the unprecedented crowds drawn by the new access arrangements, and the latest source of conflict, centred on a bitterly-contested road improvement scheme.

'Stonehenge Celebration and Subversion contains an extraordinary story. Anyone who imagines Stonehenge to be nothing but an old fossil should read this and worry. [This book is] ... the most complete, well-illustrated analysis of Stonehenge's mysterious world of Druids, travellers, pagans and party-goers'.
Mike Pitts History Today
 
"Andy Worthington has written what is likely to remain the definitive work on the subject, simply because of the depth of coverage and range of viewpoints that it incorporates. If it is impossible to write most political history in such a way that it will achieve universal acceptance, then to write 'contemporary' history about controversial events involving colourful and clashing personalities requires an exceptionally high degree of courage and dedication, and Andy has provided it."
Ronald Hutton Professor of History, University of Bristol
 
"The strange events that swirled around Stonehenge in the last couple of decades – the Festival, the Convoy, the annual summer solstice ritual of confrontation between forces of order and of disorder – were so bizarre there needs to be record of them. In his wonderful and often funny book, Andy Worthington tells this, the oddest tale ever told about the most famous ancient place of them all."
Christopher Chippindale, Reader in Archaeology at Cambridge University and author of Stonehenge Complete
 
'[A] readable and well-researched cultural history.'
Antiquity
 
'It's by far the best bit of modern British social history I've seen.'
John Hodge SchNEWS
 
'This is a well-written and well-researched study of a fascinating subject and is highly recommended.'
Mike Howard The Cauldron
 
'... an honest, fastidious and heartfelt contribution... pointing towards a freer, glorious Albion.'
Paul Screeton Folklore Frontiers

 
Published by Alternative Albion, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press.
ISBN 978 1872 883 762. 2004.
245 x 175 mm, 281 + xviii pages, 147 illustrations, paperback

£14.95


Why 'Alternative Albion'?

The name 'Alternative Albion' draws upon the use of Albion as an ancient poetic name for pre-Roman Britain. As early as the 1st century AD Pliny wrote: Albion ipsi nomen fuit cum Britanniae vocarentur omnes. This has long been thought to derive from the Latin albus ('white') as a reference to the colour of the chalk cliffs on the south coast. However recent research suggests there was a 'Celtic' (strictly 'British') word stem albio- which meant 'the land, the country'. This survives in the modern Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland, 'Alba'.

Albion became personified as a primaeval giant who roamed Britain. G.K. Chesteron recognised this 'elemental and emblematic giant' in the poetry of Chaucer, 'with our native hills for his bones and our native forests for his beard... a single figure outlined against the sea and a great face staring at the sky.' Albion also features in the poetry of William Blake, suggesting an English utopia. In Jerusalem he wrote 'All things begin and end in Albion's ancient, Druid rocky shore'.

In 1974 a group of London-based activists created the idea of a network of independent collectives and communities under the name Albion Free State, loosely based on the Dutch 'Orange Free State' movement founded in 1970. George McKay in Senseless Acts of Beauty (Verso 1996) considers that Albion is the alternative Britain to that of industrialism, privilege and over-mighty government; ideas that seem to be increasingly relevant in the early 21st century than they were in the 1970s.

For more Albion-related associations see the Wikipedia entry for 'Albion'.

Why 'Heart of Albion'?

The term 'Heart of Albion' was apparently first used by Paul Devereux in 1975 in the title of two articles about Leicestershire (a heart-shaped county situated just above the middle of England) written for The Ley Hunter magazine. Back in 1989 when Heart of Albion Press was founded with the intention of publishing titles about Leicestershire local history this metaphor seemed particularly appropriate, especially as Wymeswold (where Heart of Albion was founded) is situated in the 'cleft' of the heart shape. However Heart of Albion is now been based in Wiltshire!


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