When the first Ecology Party Gathering was mooted by David Taylor in early 1980, the party spring conference failed to back the idea of holding an outdoor gathering instead of a conventional conference that summer. A group of members who had proposed the idea decided to do it anyway and organise it themselves calling it the Ecology Party Summer Gathering. Under the party’s rules at the time there was nothing to stop members organising events, or setting up groups, using the party name. It didn’t need to be sanctioned by the national executive.
Thus the Collective was born - initially to organise the Gathering. Although at first working as part of the Ecology Party from the outset the group included non party members. It only became known as The Green Gathering Collective later during 1982.
After the first gathering the group decided it was worth doing it again the next year and the Collective started to take on a life of its own.
As the initial gatherings proved successful they evolved away from being aimed exclusively at party members in 1980, to a more inclusive approach in 1981 advertised as "the ecology movement as a whole is coming together” and finally to ditching the "Ecology" name and switching to "Green" in 1982. This was a move to promote a broader philosophical and social base than one described by the word ‘ecology’.
The goal was to open the invitation to a whole movement and not just to members of the Ecology Party. The Collective itself was still comprised mostly of Ecology Party members but they were more concerned with building a political movement than a political party.
Green Gatherings were organised by the Collective in 1982 and 1983 in the Glastonbury area. For more detail about the first gatherings see the article "Gatherings a brief history" and material linked from there.
By late 1983 the Collective was reappraising itself and seeking a new broader identity within which diverse but related individual projects could flourish. As well as the main Gathering in 1983 the idea of a Green Roadshow had evolved to support people wanting to put on smaller local gatherings. A more detailed article on the Green Roadshows is in preparation.
A draft constitution was prepared as "the work of a poet" in suitably anarchic terms - it was accepted but never formally adopted. The concluding rule stated "Members of the Green Collective have the right to delete, prune, alter, add to: or edit, any part or parts of their own copy of the Constitution, on payment of the subscription fee."
In late '83 the decision was taken to start the bi-monthly ‘Mailing’, a newsletter sent to interested people - initially all those who had been involved in running the gatherings and the Green Roadshow - as a way of distributing information and communication between a wide network of activists who would become subscribers.
The Green Collective Mailing produced 21 issues between April 1984 and January 1988 - the full archive is available for download on this site. As the editorial by Bruce Garrard on the front of the first issue put it - "The Collective, in reappraising itself, is not seeking to become a group of 'leaders' buoyed up by 'supporters'; nor does it want a defined (and therefore to some degree exclusive) system of 'membership'. Which is how we arrived at the idea of being 'subscribers' - who subscribe to the Collective as a whole, and receive the mailing as part of that. "
In part the diversification of the Green Collective's focus was forced upon them by the difficulty of staging festivals (or gatherings) in the face of an increasing clamp down by the state on "alternative" activities and lifestyles. The 1983 Gathering had been plagued by heavy police activity and the Glastonbury Festival was under attack from Mendip District Council (the licensing authority) - it looked like there would be no main Green Gathering in 1984.
In late '83 the it was agreed to change the name from 'The Green Gathering Collective' to 'The Green Collective'. As well as the Green Roadshow other projects already underway included Sunflowers Merchandise, an embryonic Land Trust (with the aim of buying land for a permanent gathering site), the promotion and support of local green gatherings & fairs, and the Green Field at Glastonbury Festival.
The Green Field started in 1984 after an offer from Michael Eavis who had hosted the 1980, '81 and '82 Gatherings at Worthy Farm. He was concerned not to put his music and performing arts based festival at risk by a repeat of the problems around the 1983 Green Gathering at nearby Lamberts Hill Farm, but at the same time he did not want to leave the Greens homeless. See here for more articles on the Green Fields
The Green Field fairly quickly became the Green Fields as it expanded and proved a highly popular and successful element of the festival - it remains so to this day. Some of the early Green Collective members remained involved in Green Fields for many years. One of the lasting legacies of the work of the Collective.
The first issue of the Green Collective mailing included information on all of these as well as a draft constitution for the Collective which was agreed consensually but in true anarchist fashion never formally adopted. The constitution text is reproduced here. It was “the work of a poet”, and includes the ‘rule’ that anyone can alter their own copy. Some people called it the “Daft Constitution’. There was also an article by David Taylor on the history and ethos of the Green Gatherings which can be found on p.8 of the first newsletter.
Over time the Collective evolved as new projects took off. For 1984 a Gathering was organised to take place at the Molesworth USAF base in Cambridgeshire which had been announced as the proposed second base in the UK for US Cruise nuclear missiles. From this evolved the Green/Rainbow Village at Molesworth that was eventually evicted in February 1985 - see video in the panel on the right and the substantive article on Molesworth in preparation. Also the book ‘Rainbow Fields is Home’ by Bruce Garrard is available from Unique Publications.
From the eviction came the Rainbow Village on the Road (predictably dubbed a Peace Convoy by the media) which was hounded around the country by the police responding to media hysteria. This culminated in the infamous events at Stonehenge in midsummer 1985.
Partly in response to this and concern for the welfare of "new age" travellers the Green Roadshow and the Collective developed the Travellers Skool and its Bus to help support the children living with the convoy(s). This initiative also outlived the main Collective as did the gathering itself which was re-established as the Big Green Gathering some years later and continues to this day. See articles in the Gatherings category for more information.
A continuing concern for the Collective was the desire to hold another Green Gathering - problems centred around finding a suitable site and despite repeated efforts 1985, 1986 and 1987 came and went with no central Gathering. By mid 1987 the Collective was beginning to wind down - the likely end was announced in Mailing Issue 20, and a final Collective meeting in November 1987 did a good job of tying up the loose ends leaving subscribers free to move on to pastures new.
Two items from the final Mailing Issue 21 are reproduced here - a valedictory article from David Taylor who had been with the Collective from the very start in February 1980, and a poem titled 'A Good Collective' by Poppy Green which nicely sums up the ethos.