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Interview with Dr Bramwell

Sarah Janes, Impresario, Woman of Bohemia and Mistress of Ceremonies at The Explorers Club interviews Dr Bramwell, who is appearing at The Kave Gallery to talk about Utopia this Saturday, 16 March. The talk is fascinating and space is limited, so make sure you get hold of a ticket fast!

SJ: Hello Dr Bramwell. You’re coming to St Leonards for The Explorers Club this Saturday, to talk about your experiences in alternative communities. Can you tell me what inspired this adventure?
Dr B:
Well in a nutshell, as is often the case, a relationship break-up was the catalyst. I took a year out to experience alternative community life. I wasn’t so interested in the kind of tie-dye, juggling, Bob Marley side of things, but I was interested to see what was out there, and I wanted to write a book about my adventures. I chose to travel around America and Europe because I know I have a strong affinity and sense of belonging with European traditions and western cultures. I had no desire to find myself in India or explore the ancient crevices of Africa.

SJ: What was the weirdest community you visited?
Dr B:
I suppose The Federation of Damanhur would be one of the weirdest. They live in the Italian Alps, in the Piedmont region and have excavated an extensive temple complex out of the mountain. It really is one of the most incredibly beautiful places I have ever visited.

SJ: Do they have their own Creation Myth?
Dr B:
Yes they do, they believe the world was created in 1978 and their creation story is published as a sort of graphic novel/children’s book. Also they have built a time machine and they have a resident time traveller, a ‘Temponaut’ called Gorilla Eucalyptus. He travels back in time to get things to sell in the future. He brought some nuts and bolts back from Atlantis.

SJ: That sounds amazing! Have you seen the time machine?
Dr B:
They’re quite secretive about it, as you can imagine, but I did see some glass bars hanging in a circle and a big throbbing magnet. Otherwise they make their money by growing organic produce for high-end retailers and restaurants and building eco houses. They aim to save the planet. There’s some sort of alien intervention too.

SJ: You said that this adventure was inspired by a break-up, were you looking for different ways of having a relationship? What kind of different sexual communities did you visit?
Dr B:
I went to a BDSM community in the Czech Republic called The Other World Kingdom. It’s located in a 16th century castle in a village called Černá, about two hours outside of Prague. Men are only allowed in with a female companion. The OWK is a matriarchy and micronation, the state’s goal is “to get as many male creatures under the unlimited rule of Superior Women on as much territory as possible”.

But to be honest, the sexual communities were often the least interesting – because once you’ve shagged everyone, there’s nothing left to do and they often collapse in on themselves. For example – I think the OWK is now a luxury spa resort.

I went to this one community outside of Berlin – where they live according to the principles of the ZEGG Forum. When a monogamous couple sign up to join the community, part of the initiation involves them having to watch their partners have sex with another member of the group – but luckily a ZEGG Forum counsellor talks them through this difficult experience, I thought it was all quite ridiculous. You’re watching your partner have sex with someone else and this humourless German therapist guy with his trousers at half-mast and a mullet is saying things like: “you’re probably feeling a bit jealous now”.

SJ: It sort of makes sense though doesn’t it? If you want to live in a sexually liberated commune, don’t you have to get over jealousy and possessiveness?
Dr B:
When you’re in a relationship, when you are in love, you really want to feel like this person is special, just for you, that you have a unique bond. I think that’s just the way we are.

SJ: You mentioned to me a while ago you visited some hot tub communities in California, what were they like?
Dr B:
There is a bit of a hippy trail of alternative communities I suppose and Esalen in Big Sur, California is one of the most famous ones. It was founded at the site of natural hot springs on the most idyllic stretch of coastline in California by Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962. Murphy and Price wanted to explore what Aldous Huxley called ‘the human potentialities’. It is also the birthplace of Gestalt Practice and really the New Age movement as a whole, and was the epicentre for the 60s counter-culture movement providing a home for some of the most notable thinkers, artists and philosophers of the time. The work at Esalen popularised many therapeutic Eastern practices such as yoga, meditation, psychedelic exploration and Taoism. The, then unknown, Hunter S. Thompson was employed there for a period as an ‘Executive Caretaker’. He took to firing a gun out of his window after he was beaten up by the participants of the gay biker orgies that often monopolized the hot tubs. Folk singer Joan Baez, her entourage and some guard dogs eventually saw the perpetrators off, on a night that is reverentially referred to at Esalen as ‘The Night of the Dobermans’.

SJ: You travelled half-way round the world, but you’ve come back to Brighton – is that Utopia for you then?
Dr B:
I really like city life, I suppose I was never planning on giving up everything and jumping into one of these communities, but also, had I found my perfect place I guess I would have. I learned a lot. Living in a self-sufficient community requires a lot of compromise, relationships require compromise. Living in a city you can feel isolated, invisible sometimes. You can relish a sense of anonymity if you want, but in a small community of people, the sense of accountability is ever-present. I didn’t move in anywhere but I know we should cherish these independent communities. We should really celebrate the fact that these people are trying something different.

SJ: Have you integrated things you’ve learned into your life in Brighton?
Dr B:
I have – I helped with the Zocalo project, which involves getting people out onto the streets and socializing with their neighbours. On Zocalo Day we invite people to come out of their house, sit outside their front door and share a cup of tea and some cake with their neighbours, incredibly simple. No council involvement, no red-tape, no funding, just a bit of good will and a chair. It started in the Hanover area and more and more streets join up to the project every year.

SJ: Are you planning to go back to any of these places soon?
Dr B:
I really want to go back to visit Damanhur again, it’s beautiful and fascinating.

SJ: Thanks Dr B.

Number 9 Bus to Utopia
The Kave, 8 Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea  TN37 6EA
Saturday 16 March, 7pm
Please get to The Kave by 7pm – the talk takes place downstairs so the doors will be locked at 7.15pm. There are only 30 spaces available so it is advisable to get there early. Call The Kave on 01424 428 223 to book.

Tickets £5 in advance only
Visit the Facebook Event page for more information

Posted 16:59 Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013 In: Performance

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