The London Musicians’ Collective (LMC) was founded in the mid-1970s by a small group of experimental and improvising musicians who wanted to create improved working conditions for themselves. The first LMC newsletter was printed in the late summer of 1976. At that time the organisation had no premises out of which to operate and no resources other than the energy and motivation of its members. Once premises had been established as office headquarters and concert venue in Gloucester Avenue, Camden Town, the policy of open membership and collective organisation attracted a very broad cross-section of musicians, live arts practitioners, instrument inventors, sound poets and sonic artists, many of them searching for radical new directions in performance practice and a means of bypassing the commercial criteria of the music business.
Without the LMC, British audiences would not have had the opportunity to hear live work by many leading international musicians, and audio culture in the UK would not be so firmly established. Resonance FM, for example, grew out of the LMC in 2002 as an initiative guided by Ed Baxter and has since developed a reputation as one of the most adventurous art and community radio stations in the world.
However, since the termination of Arts Council England support in March 2008, LMC activities have been curtailed and archive materials have been moved to the safekeeping of CRISAP at London College of Communication. Whatever may happen to the LMC in the future, an era has completed its cycle. In a positive sense, this opens up an opportunity to examine these LMC archives, both in terms of what they may reveal about the history of the LMC and audio culture in the UK, and as dynamic materials to inform and stimulate the creative practice of contemporary sonic artists.
LMC history is particularly richly textured, not only because it contains important evidence (audible, visual and textual) of early improvised music and sonic arts activity in the UK, but also because it intersects with other initiatives of self-determination, collective politics and critical art practice in the 1970s, such as radical publishing, feminism, structural film, dance, performance art, and sonic ecology, along with organisations like Music for Socialism and the post-punk explosion of independent record companies and promoters.
Initiated by Cathy Lane and Angus Carlyle, this exhibition reflects my own experience of the LMC as a founder member who resigned in the early 1980s. Inevitably, this is weighted towards the period between 1976 and 1981 and draws from my personal archive as well as the CRISAP holdings.