When I was researching Journeys of the Soul, the biography of my Druid teacher Ross Nichols, I discovered that he was influenced by an idealistic Youth Movement that flourished briefly in the 1920s and early 30s, that was called the Kibbo Kift. He maintained a friendship with its founder, John Hargrave, and they both shared a keen interest in the Social Credit movement, which was trying to create a fairer, more sustainable society. The Order’s Pendragon, Vera Chapman, was a key member of the Kibbo Kift.
Last year, Annebella Pollen curated an exhibition entitled Intellectual Barbarians, of Kibbo Kift photographs, artwork and artefacts which is on display now at the Whitechapel Gallery in London until 13th March. Dr Pollen is Senior Lecturer in the History of Art and Design and Director of Historical and Critical Studies for the Faculty of Arts at The University of Brighton, and in addition to mounting the exhibition she has written a superb book The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, which is reviewed here by The Guardian.
The final chapter of The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift describes some of the surprising ways in which the KKK influenced or inspired others, including Chris Judge Smith, of Van der Graaf Generator, who turned the strange story of the movement into an album and a musical: The Kibbo Kift: A Rock Show.
There’s a one day event at the Whitechapel, taking place on Feb 6th and Annebella has asked me and others to contribute: Art, Politics and Magic: The Kibbo Kift Kindred – a day-long symposium bringing together artists, academics, Kibbo Kift descendants and members of related groups. Through presentations and conversations, the event examines the contexts and legacies of the radical, utopian movement. Exploring all aspects of the Kibbo Kift, from their politics and economics, to their craft and magic, the event also looks at the continued relevance of the group’s style, ethos and ambition. You can find information or buy tickets here.
And Annebella will be giving talks about the movement on these dates:
26 January 2016 – Britain’s Strangest Youth Movement? The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift. Public talk at the Wanstead Tap pub, Forest Gate, London, E7. £5. Starts 8pm. Further info: www.wansteadtap.com
27 January 2016 – The Strangers Come Amongst Us: Investigating the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift. Talk at University of Bradford. 6pm. Free. Further info: M.Goodall@bradford.ac.uk]
25 February 2016 – An openly-revealed secret: Operative Magic in the Kibbo Kift Kindred. Talk at Treadwell’s Bookshop, London, on the occult aspects of the group. Details.
10 March 2016 – Inspired by Kibbo Kift: Annebella Pollen in conversation with musician Judge Smith and artist Steve Claydon, Whitechapel Gallery evening event. Details.
17 March 2016 – The Kibbo Kift Kindred. Talk as part of Children and Socialism lecture series. Marx Memorial Library, London. 7pm. Free. Further details.