Peace Sign and The Summer of Love

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As the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” approaches in June 2107, I wanted to pay respectful recognition to an iconic logo, that symbolised so much hope for a peaceful world.

The Hippie movement in all its guises, peace, fashion, anti-war protest and decoration adopted as a core symbol a logo, designed nine years earlier by a Royal College of Art graduate and conscientious objector, Gerald Holtom, for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The symbol comprised a representation of the semaphore signal for the letters “N” and “D” that were understood to mean “nuclear” and “disarmament”.

The mid-sixties was a seminal time spawning a youth movement or counter-culture, that sought to challenge much of what the Old Guard saw as important.

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The Summer of Love saw over 100,000 people dressed in Hippie fashions converge on the San Francisco neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury – or “Hashbury” as it was renamed by Hunter S. Thompson. Why did the Haight-Ashbury district become the centre of hippie culture? In the 60s, Haight-Ashbury was a depressed area, with good-sized homes at reasonable prices. It was on the outskirts of the city but close to two of the parks that starred in the Summer of Love – the Panhandle and the Golden Gate Park.

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The crowd grew with the addition of students on Spring Break in 1967 causing logistical issues for the San Francisco authorities, although reports suggest that the Police were largely tolerant, though unhelpful, towards this largely peaceful community.

There was a groundswell of great excitement, of inspiration and illegal drug use – particularly of cannabis and LSD. Free Love also featured, courtesy of the recent wide availability of the contraceptive pill. Although, it is widely regarded that the bohemian ghetto of Haight-Ashbury was largely drug fuelled, contemporary reports suggest whilst there was widespread abuse the core motivation for many was the search for new forms of self-expression.

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Largely questioning of their government, particularly in relation to the Vietnamese War – the first war, as shown nightly on TV – they rejected consumerism, promoting sharing and community. Whilst some embraced politics others were more drawn to the expressive arts and alternative religions.

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The Hippie crowd attended music festivals including the Monterey Pop Festival, in June 1967.

In the UK, the ideals of the Hippie counter-culture were embraced by many with the positive encouragement of band’s including The Beatles who used their influence to benefit the scene with the release on June 1st 1967 of  the “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album – see here our earlier celebration of the album’s iconic cover  – Peter Blake and Jann Haworth – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. London’s King’s Road became the favoured street for those seeking hippie fashions with boutiques including, the brilliantly named, “Granny Takes A Trip” at 488 King’s Road.

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By October 1967, with many young people returning to their college studies the Summer of Love started to wain. However, many commentators agree that its lasting legacy of socio-political reassessment, questioning, tolerance and change was immense.

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