Exhibiting Hoppy: The Decade that Shook Britain Revisited

Words Oisin Fogarty Graveson  

John Hoppy Hopkins

The 1960s spelled change for young people in the UK. The days of youth conscription were dead, and on their grave was built a post-war monument of drugs, sex and the ‘British Invasion’ of Rock’n’Roll. It was the decade of the miniskirt, LSD and Woodstock – and in the midst of it all stood counterculture journalist and photographer John “Hoppy” Hopkins, camera at the ready. Over half a century later, Britain stands on the brink of a turbulent general election, and across the channel: Amsterdam’s Gallery Vassie welcomes Hoppy’s work onto their walls for a summer-long exhibition, ‘The 60s Through the Eyes of a Revolutionary’.

John Hoppy Hopkins

The exhibition, which runs from June 10th until August 26th, will display new prints from Hoppy’s archive; vivid moments in the life of a man who worked closely with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and photographed Martin Luther King and Allen Ginsberg – the latter in the nude. “He was immersed in the ‘time’, because the ‘time’ was him,” says Addie Elliott-Vassie, owner of Gallery Vassie, “he literally embodied the world of the 60’s – the new emerging world of youth culture, the world of social change and freedom. From my initial meeting with Hoppy in the 1990s, I knew that I was in the presence of someone very special. He walked into the gallery I was running in Notting Hill with a small box of negatives, wearing the most colourful tie-dyed outfit that I’d ever seen.”

“He narrowly avoided a career as an atomic physician when he was arrested by the KGB in Moscow”

John “Hoppy” Hopkins, who died in January 2015, narrowly avoided a career as an atomic physician when he was arrested by the KGB in Moscow, following his attendance of a communist youth festival and peace mission. Having previously secured a place at the Atomic Energy Authority, he was promptly stripped of his security clearance.

“He was as unassuming and as kind as a person could be, and had no realisation of the importance that he’d played in helping to change the world to make it a far better place.” explains Addie. Hoppy ended up founding one of Britain’s first underground newspapers, International Times – funded by Paul McCartney of The Beatles. He also set up a London club – the UFO – where Jimi Hendrix would later grace the stage. Plus, he arranged the Beat Poets event at the Royal Albert Hall, was instrumental in CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), and he campaigned against racism.

John Hoppy Hopkins

In 1967, Hoppy was sentenced to nine months in jail for possession of Hashish. “Incredibly, Hoppy only photographed for around five years in the early 1960s.” Explains Addie. “He put down the camera and chose instead to shoot video when he came out of prison. But in that short space of time he managed to capture an incredible time of revolution.”

“Hoppy sadly died in 2015. I miss him, and I wish that he could be here to see this show.” Alongside the recognised images that Hoppy has become known for, Vassie will also be displaying some unknown relics, never before displayed to the public.

Gallery Vassie’s exhibition opens on 10th June, and runs through summer until August 26th – proudly showing off Hoppy’s monochrome insights into the decade that shook Britain.

John Hoppy Hopkins