REMEMBERING FRASER CLARK
Megatripolis was an innovative, underground London nightclub created by Encyclopaedia Psychedelica editor and founder of the Zippie movement, Fraser Clark, together with a great many others. The club combined New Age ideology with Rave culture to create a vibrant, festival-like atmosphere presenting a wide variety of cross-cultural ideas and experiences. Club nights ran regularly from 1993 until 1996, and from then intermittently until 2001, being the focus of much of the Zippie movement. The club and its related activities also helped to popularize ideas such as cyberculture and the Internet between those years.
History & Venues
The club first started at The Marquee in Charing Cross Road as a collaboration with Tribal Energy in June 1993 with Terrence McKenna's opening lecture and DJs Nik Sequenci and resident DJ and co founder Jez Turner. A disagreement between the Tribal Energy and Megatripolis crews led to the latter being thrown out of the venue eight weeks later. After a practice run at the Stanstead Tree Party in September 1993 they consolidated into a bigger crew with much bigger ideas. In October 1993, the cathedral-like arches and winding passages of the Heaven nightclub under Charing Cross Station became home to Megatripolis. Heaven was London's original gay-only nightclub, but had run non-gay (known as Pyramid) nights for many years.
The Megatripolis 'Festival in a box' on Thursday nights attracted a diverse patronage from a wide age range, many of whom would not otherwise have considered going clubbing. By early 1994 it had also taken over the adjoining Sound Shaft nightclub and turned it into an ambient space with frequent all-night sets by Mixmaster Morris on the club's fourth separate sound stage. Megatripolis also put on several large parties at Bagley's in Kings Cross and escalated its political agenda by renting an armoured car for the Criminal Justice Bill protest rally in July 1994.
The club ran until New Year 1995 when internal pressures split it apart. It continued with a diminished agenda on an underground basis until October 24th 1996. A UK tour and two shows in Athens took place in spring / summer 1996. A 3-CD album representing the club was released in July 1996 featuring mixes by DJ regulars and completely packaged on paper made entirely from hemp. All production materials owned by the club were distributed amongst it's crew members. At a court case in London in June 1998 brought by Clark remaining rights to the name "megatripolis" were given to Clark. A single Megatripolis event organised by Fraser Clark took place at Heaven in May 2000.
Culture & Events
Megatripolis proved popular, although some reporting of it suggested a dichotomy between an avowed downplay of psychedelic substances and perceptions of substance use by some club-goers. In any event, the club provided a meeting place of like-minded people and served as a platform for social awareness and activism as well as more traditional nightclub fare.
Typical evenings combined lectures and workshops with live musical performances and DJing playing mostly progressive house accompanied by video imagery and live theatre. Visits from speakers such as Allen Ginsberg, Terence McKenna, George Monbiot, Howard Marks and Ram Dass were common, as well as from guest DJs including Colin Dale, Alex Paterson, Paul Oakenfold, Andrew Weatherall and Mr C with resident DJs Marco Arnaldi, Darius, Richard Grey and Nik Sequenci. Atmospheric music combined with sound effects was often played along to films in the "chill-out rooms" set apart from the dance floors.
Further to the club's festival theme, the usual security staff were supplemented by fluorescent jacket-clad "minders"; new-age style stalls occupied the central hallway selling non-alcoholic energy drinks, body jewellery, alternative "small press" comics and magazines (such as the short-lived, but influential Head Magazine), as well as T-shirts and other clothing.
Also notable were early demonstrations of the World Wide Web at a time when most patrons were just beginning to be aware of what was then termed cyberculture, something seen as an important, if not defining, part of the Zippie future. Underground bulletin boards such as London's pHreak hosted live "cyber events" from the club. In what was seen as very progressive at the time, a live video interview with Arthur C Clarke was conducted via satellite from his home in Sri Lanka and Timothy Leary was transmitted via isdn for a video interview direct from his home in the Los Angeles hills into the club (he had been banned by the British government from entering the UK in person). A lecture by His Holiness the Dalai Lama was also broadcast at the club from the Barbican centre.
Environmental issues were an important part of the club's make-up with anti-road protests advertised on its noticeboards, hemp fashion shows, environmental debates and pedal-bike sound-systems playing on a regular basis..
An offshoot of the club was started by Fraser Clark and others, in San Francisco in late 1994. It ran for five consecutive weeks before closing.
The sixth and final night of the club was a "launch rave" hosted by Ronin Press for Timothy Leary's book Chaos And Cyber Culture. In true "illegal UK rave" tradition, patrons were given the event's location at a nearby burger joint. Leary jammed and performed jazz skat with famous Bay Area musician Maruga. He was later kidnapped by the Zippie Soundsystem and forced to release a statement condemning the UK Prime Minister John Major and the Criminal Justice Bill, which famously banned outdoor parties with music that included an "emission of a succession of repetitive beats".
Leary exerted a powerful influence over the philosophy of the club and the Zippie movement overall. An indication of this can be found in the introduction to his posthumous book The Fugitive Philosopher (Ronin Press, September 2007) written by Fraser Clark. The original title of the piece, published in Clark's online magazine the UP!, was Timothy Leary Was A Saint Who Will Be Remembered & Celebrated Long After Jesus, Mohamed and Elvis Are Forgotten Megatripolis Reunion Benefit for Fraser Clark
In 2008 Fraser Clark announced that he had inoperable liver cancer and a farewell Megatripolis was held at Heaven on 13 November. He died on 21 January 2009.
Megatripolis Reunion Benefit for Fraser Clark
In 2008 Fraser Clark announced that he had inoperable liver cancer and a farewell Megatripolis was held at Heaven on 13 November.