To celebrate 50 years since the first UK publication of revolutionary magazine Oz, the Victoria and Albert Museum has announced that it has acquired the Felix Dennis Oz Archive. 

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Cover artwork for by Martin Sharp for Oz, the Magic Theatre issue, november 1968. (c) Martin Sharp Estate. 

Felix Dennis was co-editor of the underground magazine published between 1967 and 1973, which wanted to challenge the establishment as well as attempting to capture the spirit of 1960s and 70s counter-culture.

His archive not only recounts the magazine’s history through its 48 issues but also chronicles one of the most politically and socially revolutionary periods in world history. Now acquired by the London museum, it joins the V&A’s renowned Theatre and Performance collections alongside the archives of the Royal Court Theatre, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat and Glastonbury Festival.

This new acquisition is being catalogued and digitised by the V&A and highlights of the collection will be displayed in an upcoming display that traces the history of British censorship, opening next year.

The archive includes items related to the Oz Obscenity Trial, including badges, shirts, stickers and flyers distributed on the streets in 1971. It also includes a typescript of ‘God Save Us’ by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Other highlights include personal correspondence, diaries and cuttings belonging to Dennis from his Oz years, such as material related to the running of the magazine and a letter he received from his mother during his time in jail. The Archive also contains a series of posters created for the magazine by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Michael English, Martin Sharp and David Hockney.

Talking about the new acquisition Geoffrey Marsh, Director of the Department of Theatre and Performance, V&A, said:”Oz was one of the leading magazines of the underground press in 1960s and 70s. Fifty years on, it forms an important time-capsule of revolutionary ideas of the period. This material deserves to be preserved at the V&A because the magazine and eventual legal battle over Oz represented a much broader and fundamental shift in British society in the 1960s. It raised the question: should, or even, could ‘The Establishment’ dictate what ordinary people saw, read and thought, or would the public be left alone to make up its own mind?”

 

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