About this Archive
Variously described as “doyen of the counterculture” and “the fastest man in London”, John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins was born in Slough in August 1937.
At boarding school he formed a boogiewoogie society and got into trouble with authority. At Cambridge he took a degree in Natural Sciences. Around this time, he met the poet Michael Horowitz who ran a literary salon at his home in Oxford. It was here that Hoppy first encountered the Beat poets and picked up the flavour of an Alternative lifestyle.
Hoppy took a job as a nuclear physicist at Harwell Nuclear Facility. At the end of the 1950s, Hoppy and several friends decided to drive to Moscow in a renovated hearse for a holiday. After several adventures, Hoppy returned and found himself seriously de-briefed by MI5. Once it had been established that he was not a spy, it was made clear to Hoppy that he would be welcome to report in this capacity should he choose to visit Russia again. Hoppy’s response was to resign his job at Harwell and join the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
On January 1st 1960 Hoppy arrived in London with a black and white camera with the intention of teaching himself photography and earning a living as a freelance photographer. Thereby began a career photographing CND rallies for "Peace News", jazz and pop musicians for "Melody Maker", social and political themes for "The Guardian" and the Sunday newspapers and whatever else happened to take his fancy. Hoppy worked all the time and it became clear that he had a very unique talent with a camera. He described it simply as “clicking the shutter at the right time” but Hoppy had an unerring knack for doing this.
It was while doing a job for Melody Maker that Hoppy met Joe Boyd handling press for a visiting American blues and jazz package. They became friends and Boyd invited Hoppy to America to photograph the Newport Jazz Festival. Whilst there, Hoppy was impressed by the burgeoning American Underground Press. This sowed the seed for what would become International Times. Back home, Hoppy involved himself in the Notting Hill Free School, instrumental in reviving the Notting Hill Carnival. As a spinoff from this, Hoppy promoted small events at the All Saints Hall – a church hall in Notting Hill - featuring the nascent Pink Floyd, complete with the first light show seen in the UK. Somehow, Hoppy found time to teach himself offset litho printing and, with Jim Haynes and Miles, began publishing International Times - Britain’s first "Underground" newspaper, its birth being celebrated at a party at London’s Roundhouse in October 1966. Hoppy and Boyd then started the UFO Club in order to showcase the new music and film makers and artists who had begun to spring up at that most fertile time. Hoppy made the decision to give up freelance photography in order to concentrate on the paper and the club, organising such events as the “24 Hour Technicolour Dream” at Alexandra Palace in April 1967.
Tragically, Hoppy was jailed in June 1967 for nine months. Ostensibly for allowing his home to be used for smoking marijuana, the real reason being that Hoppy had been correctly identified as the hub and heart of the Underground and the Establishment wanted it stopped. Hoppy emerged from Wormwood Scrubs in 1968 and helped set up the first Alternative centre for legal advice: the prototype for Release. At the end of the 60s he began working in video - a medium he saw as the future and in which he worked for the rest of his life. With his partner Sue Hall, Hoppy set up Fantasy Factory, the first video editing facility of its kind in the world.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease shortly before his 70th birthday, Hoppy continued to work as best he could in his chosen fields right up to his death in January 2015.
Hoppy was profoundly opposed to tyranny. Throughout his career, he was primarily interested in the democratisation of access to information. His influence remains profoundly felt if not always acknowledged, and his photographs remain his most enduring legacy.
Written by Adam Blake for the Bishopsgate Institute Website © Adam Blake 2021
Scope and Content
Papers, prints and negatives of John 'Hoppy' Hopkins, including: personal papers; personal photographs; material belonging to Hoppy's mother, Evelyn Hopkins; papers relating to exhibitions and events featuring Hoppy's work; diaries, notebooks and scrapbooks; papers relating to Hoppy's work in video and television; papers relating to Hoppy's photography; papers relating to music and audio recordings; papers relating to counterculture; press cuttings; papers relating to travel; papers relating to science, plants, drugs and psychedelia; and negatives and prints of Hoppy's images relating to themes such as, arts and culture, travel, music, friends and family, politics, built environment, working life, portraits, leisure and counterculture [1900-2015]
Please note, the prints and negatives from this collection are currently in the process of being catalogued and digitised. To view online galleries of photography by Hoppy Hopkins, please visit: Hoppy X – Remembering Photographer and Activist, John 'Hoppy' Hopkins , and for further information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Approx. 40 boxes, 7 oversized items, 7 oversized folders