Although Torquay’s beatnik scene of the early and middle sixties went into terminal decline with the arrival of drugs and the rise of the new hippy culture (see Torquay’s Other History, January 23 and 30, 2011), creative work, especially among the folk club underground, had not been completely abandoned. Folk musicians from Torbay, like Max Eastley and Pat Keene, along with the poet Mike Williams, produced some interesting work and, in the case of Williams’ poetry, work with a strong local emphasis.
Beatnik poetry may be defined as having as its main concern the representation of the lifestyle, hopes, dreams, disappointments and tragedies of working and lower middle class youth in the late fifties and early to mid sixties.
In 1969 Summerstar Press of Bournemouth published Williams’s paean to the vanished Torquay beatnik scene, The Golden Horseman. This work (long out of print), consisting of five long poems, describes the joy, and laments the loss, of beatnik life in Torquay.
While not actually written in The Melville Inn or The Rising Sun Inn (see Torquay’s Other History, April 10, 2011) these pubs were the bedrock of inspiration for the poems. The accompanying video shows scenes from the public bar of the Rising Sun along with poets and folk musicians of the time as well as poetry readings at the now vanished Palk Arms in St Marychurch.
Perhaps the best, and certainly the poem with the most local references, is Waiting for You in Timeless Lane, which says far more about Torquay in the sixties than any articles are able to do. The setting for the poem is Museum Road, very different today from its remote romanticism of the mid-sixties. ‘The garden by the church’ is the graveyard of St. Saviour’s (just off Lucius Street).
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