Back in February I was at the annual Reclaim Love pavement party in Piccadilly Circus when a guy gave me a flyer for a Central London 420 event. As usual I was running the Pedals soundsystem and he was keen for me to take it along, which I resolved to do. Now some of you may be asking what a 420 event is, so I will tell you. It is is a counterculture holiday where people gather to celebrate and consume cannabis, and it is observed on April 20th (4/20 in US date notation). I leave you to investigate the significance of the number 420. A Facebook event was set up and eventually a location was announced – I don’t suppose many people were surprised that it was to be in Hyde Park near Speakers’ Corner.
I got up early on the 20th and took the train to Kings Cross, cycled to Camberwell, picked up Pedals (a bike trailer mounted 12 volt soundsystem) and towed it to Hyde Park. I arrived about noon and there was no obvious gathering so I parked up under the trees to chill out with some music on at low volume (partly to check that the journey hadn’t shaken anything loose). After a while I looked up and saw a group of about fifty people sitting further into the park so I went over and offered Pedals to take over from a much smaller system. I played a couple of tracks myself then handed over to a dude in a rasta hat who had a great collection of appropriate reggae, perfect for firing up a bud bomb packed with quality weed.
The high point of the event was at 4.20 pm, by which time there were something like a thousand people present. Having made the necessary preparations everyone exhaled in unison, creating a general haze of smoke. After some more music I set up a microphone for three short speeches. One was by Levent Akbulut, representing Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK (see his own blog entry), while someone else spoke about the wider benefits of the cannabis plant as a sustainable source of food, fuel and fibre. The other speech was by Peter Reynolds, leader of the recently registered Cannabis Law Reform Party CLEAR UK which is the new incarnation of the old Legalise Cannabis Alliance. Peter praised the 420 event but made it clear that he thinks a change in the law will only come through working within the system. He is passionate about ending the prohibition of cannabis altogether but is particularly concerned with making medicinal cannabis available to UK citizens – did you know that Dutch citizens can bring their prescribed cannabis into the UK and use it here legally? He encouraged people to join CLEAR but although I support its aims I have never been a member of any political party and I currently have no intention of becoming one. I would consider voting for a CLEAR candidate in an election though, particularly if we upgrade to AV in the forthcoming referendum.
After the speeches there was more music but then things took an ugly turn. A load of people crashed the party and although many of them were enjoying a dance a significant minority were looking for trouble. I think some of them started robbing people and fighting amongst themselves. The police (who had until then been conspicuous by their absence) showed up in force and since I had to get Pedals back to Camberwell anyway I took that as my cue to leave. More police vans were arriving as I cycled out at Hyde Park Corner but none of that could take away from what had been an excellent day, with perfect weather and the highest turnout for a number of years apparently.