The Changes and ‘The Synchronic City’

For many, the lockdowns unintentionally afforded the time to watch films and tv programmes that they’d long been interested in seeing but never got round to. I’m no exception; I spent the first couple of months of 2021 watching The Changes, a series first broadcast in 1975 on BBC1. Aimed at children but with a narrative equally pitched at adults, I found it compelling viewing. What I’d not expected, however, was that this disparate sci-fi tale would contain themes strangely similar to the ongoing UK lockdown measures.

In the story, Britain has been experiencing strange weather that affects the population’s behaviour, causing them to turn against technology, suddenly smashing up machines whenever the conditions occur. The society soon grinds to a silent standstill reminiscent of pre-industrial times. The mindset of most of the population has also altered, reverting back to a quasi-‘Dark Ages’ mentality, with its attendant bible-based, ‘olde worlde’ superstitions. Technology is viewed as being evil.

This is bad news for the main protagonist Nicky Gore, who, in the search for her parents whom she’s lost in the melee, is found sleeping in a barn in a village where farm machinery (deemed as “wickedness” by the locals) has been locked firmly away. She is tried and sentenced to death by stoning by Davy Gordon, a witchfinder general-type who runs the village, but is spirited away by a pair of siblings, Margaret and Jonathan, who, unlike most of the villagers, haven’t fallen under the sway of the superstitions.

The siblings’ father is a different story, however, as he has also succumbed to the witch-hunt mentality. A revealing piece of dialogue takes place when Nicky asks Margaret if the villagers really believe she’s a witch. Margaret’s response is telling: “Well, most of them (do) – because Davy Gordon has persuaded them. Men more than women. You see, since the ‘changes’, they believe doing things like this is God’s will; and our dad is really a kind man but he’s not all that bright. His life has never been very exciting. Well, now he’s right under Davy Gordon’s thumb. He’s got this kind of ‘mission’ in life, rooting out evil. Our mum knows it’s a load of nonsense but even she can’t get through to him”

I was instantly reminded of something I’d heard said repeatedly by Irish author Thomas Sheridan in his Epic Voyage series of Youtube vlogs chronicling the lockdown: “The normies are absolutely loving this, and do you know why? It’s because at last they now have a sense of purpose.” Initially I didn’t get this, until I started to notice people whom I would normally see coming and going to work, now zealously out in the streets in their purple volunteer uniforms, on housing estates, at the entrance of supermarkets, all over shopping centres handing out masks and sanitiser, going from door to door offering testing kits like JW’s flogging the Watchtower. They probably see themselves as activists of some kind, saving the world from a modern-day plague. I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice the glee of shop assistants now charged to tell customers to wait in queues before being allowed in, seemingly reveling in the opportunity to wield a bit of ‘power’.

The similarities of the measures to Abrahamic religious ritual and forced indoctrination have been covered by both alternative and mainstream writers. (By the way, this isn’t an attack upon anyone’s personal belief, it’s merely a comparison of the way in which religious institutions, in tandem with governments, have historically suppressed the worldview of others with a distinct perspective on life.) As for the modern-day “witches”, they are of course any of the individuals who challenge or debunk the efficacy of the measures, or refuse to go along with the programme. Anyone not walking around looking like an extra from a 50s sci-fi B movie is viewed with suspicion, as though they aren’t wearing the required religious garb.

“Men more than women”. When looking at social media, it has not escaped my attention that women appear to be far more outspoken against this than most men, and far less compliant with the government’s ‘health’ mandates. Of course, many women have been more than willing to follow Hancock and Johnson’s latest sermons, yet where has been the resistance from men? It is as though the roles of the sexes have reversed.

Throughout The Changes narrative, only a relative handful of people remain unaffected, which takes on significance. Firstly, there’s the Sikh community whom Nicky meets and briefly travels with. We’re told that it is the Sikhs’ way of life, so different from the populace around them, that safeguards them against the prevailing madness. The same is true of a married couple encountered later in the story, who live in a rural, “off the grid” lifestyle, having gotten away from the hustle-bustle of London. The implication being made in the case of both this couple, and the Sikhs, is that it is their independence from the norms which has created a kind of ‘immunity’ for them. This is comparable and analogous to the independence of spirit that characterises those who haven’t capitulated to the fear and hysteria present amongst most in the present lockdowns.

I’m glad to have had the chance to see The Changes. By its reference to witch hunts, I would surmise that the author Peter Dickinson may have based this upon the actual social dynamics of medieval times, and the powerful hold that these ideas exerted over people. It’s also clear that Dark Ages thinking manages to persist into the present-day reality.


Cancelled Culture, OR: ‘Stand up for your rights’, said Fred

If someone had told me on January 1st 2020 that Right Said Fred of Deeply Dippy fame would be one of the few high-profile voices in Britain to speak out against government tyranny, I’d probably have given them a number to ring, and a wide berth. Yet this is exactly what happened during a surreal year in which the music industry, like many others, came to a virtual standstill.


As we entered 2020, like many I’d been feeling for some time that the popular music industry wasn’t in great shape. Everything sounded so samey and predictable. At live shows, audiences were no longer watching the artists; in many cases they’d be at concerts either stood still pointing a mobile device to the stage, or filming themselves gurning into their Smartphones while the band played on in the background. It seemed a far cry from the glorious chaos of the mosh pit I’d experienced, and the pioneering maverick spirit of the past. It felt like the music was going through the motions.


Of course, I’m generalising here, but when viewed in hindsight and in context of how the year has panned out, from a symbolic perspective it could be said that the creative stagnation audible in the music was heralding the decay of the industry itself. For some, this might seem an outrageous suggestion but it’s difficult not to see this allegorically.


I’m not in the least bit jingoistic but the passing of Dame Vera Lynn seems so poignant in terms of 2020. Just over a month before her death she was interviewed and spoke about the power of music to comfort during hard times, urging people to “keep smiling and keep singing”. How ironic it is that we have had bureaucrats warning people of the dangers of singing as a possible means of spreading the virus. How anal (and cowardly) can they get?


The same month that Dame Vera Lynn gave that interview, Little Richard died. Again, this was of such importance. Here was someone who changed the world with his creativity, and without being in the least politically-driven, his music effected powerful change in the social climate of the USA, and beyond. Without Little Richard, in the UK there would have been no Beatles, no Stones, and nothing of the powerful music scene that gave so much joy to generations of people, at the kind of venues that are now in danger of closing.


It’s been more than refreshing to see, along with a series of protests opposing the measures in the UK and across the globe, a body of research challenging the measures, independent of government and corporate media, calling into question the need for the lockdowns, their effectiveness and legality. Surprisingly, this has not come only from the alternative media; some opposing voices have also come from the heart of the mainstream. Again, who would have thought that such mainstream figures as Kirstie Allsopp and Richard Madeley would number amongst the rank of dissenters? By contrast, there’s been precious little in the way of dissent from other sectors (educational, health, sport, religious groups etc).

What’s been most noticeable to me has been the response to the developments from the infrastructure of the music industry, as well as most popular artists themselves, and not only in the UK. As I write this, there’s been practically no challenge to the government narrative; Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Ian Brown, Sir Van Morrison, Zuby, Noel Gallagher, Joe Jackson, and most unexpectedly Right Said Fred have been exceptions to this. On the whole, many artists – including those that have made their name and fame through ‘anti-establishment’ content, artists that had hitherto never shied away from outspoken social comment on the most provocative of topics – have been largely silent. The few that have spoken out against the measures have been rounded upon by mainstream media and even some of their fans as ‘conspiracy theorists’ and other predictable replies. At the same time, legions of their audience have been fully supportive.

In a youtube video discussion in October 2020 with Vincent Dunmall of Save Our Rights UK, author/alternative music researcher Mark Devlin (whose work focuses upon how popular music has been used as a form of social engineering) surmised whether the controllers of the industry had pulled the plug on it, so successful as it has been in its objectives. It’s a fair suggestion; after all, there has been precious little in the way of resistance from any corner of the industry.

One would think that in a scenario where careers are being threatened, there would be more of an outcry. Such a protest would be welcomed, I’m sure. The object here isn’t to judge nor attack anyone. It’s a commentary on the state of popular music in our society in general, in particular from that area which had always been regarded as the ‘counterculture’.

‘Cancellation’ took on another meaning in 2020. We have the ‘slow cancellation of the future’ articulated by Mark Fisher in his Youtube talk of the same name. Then there’s the literal cancelling of gigs. Finally, we have ‘cancel culture’, wherein anyone can be effectively banned from public life if they’re deemed guilty of ‘WrongThink’. It’s tempting to consider whether it’s the combination of all three that has rendered musicians largely mute.

Stagnation and atrophy in any life situation usually is a sign of the ending of something, and the need for something new. While most of us would have neither expected nor be supportive of the kind of change that is occurring, it is a strange coincidence. In many ways, we’re seeing the death of the old, out of which we’ll hopefully see the birth of something new, and better.