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Copies of Reg Hartt’s THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED ROCHDALE COLLEGE are available at The Cineforum for a donation of$20 (Signed $50).

I first went to Rochdale College in September 1968 shortly after it had opened.

At the time I was running my first venue in Toronto, THE PUBLIC ENEMY.

I had named it THE PUBLIC ENEMY because queers were viewed as public enemies. It was my way of saying, “I am public enemy number one.”

I had not yet read Jean Cocteau’s statement, “Whatever the world condemns you for make it your own. It is yourself.”

Nor had I read Henry Miller’s AN OPEN LETTER TO SURREALISTS EVERYWHERE in which Miller writes, “Whenever an English artist of any value arises he is always seen as public enemy number one.”

Intuitively I knew from the get go the course to chart.

A couple of people who came to The Public Enemy said they were from Rochdale College. They spoke of a woman there named Judith Merril.

I knew nothing about Rochdale.

I knew Judith Merril from her anthologies of THE YEAR’S BEST SF.

I went over to Rochdale to meet Judy. I was pre-punk punk, rail thin and dressed head to foot in black. After we talked Judy said, “You belong here.” Here was Rochdale.

Thirty years later in Sneaky Dee’s Restaurant up the street where Judy asked me to meet her after she got out of hospital from having suffered a heart attack she said, “The first time I saw you you scared the shit out of me. I have decided to limit my friendships only to the people who matter to me. You are one of them.”

Judy was not one easily scared nor was she let one to let fear blind her. Nor was her friendship easily won.

Conventionally Rochdale College was an 18 floor student residence.

Unconventionally it was the boldest experiment in alternate education ever undertaken before or since.

The Rochdale idea was that each Rochdalian was to be their own teacher. There were no teachers at Rochdale. What there were were resource people. These were people with expertise in a field who had been invited to live in Rochdale rent free all costs covered on condition they make themselves available to anyone who wanted to speak with them. They were not there to teach.

As it happened I had that same summer discovered the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of THE I CHING. It teaches that learning and doing must be bound as one adding that if they are separate the results are dead.

Because Rochdale tied in with what I knew to be true I became part of it briefly that year . Though Judy wanted me on board quite a number of conventional Rochdalians were determined I not be.

The other thing about Rochdale was that the authorities agreed to allow within its walls the use of hashish, LSD, marijuana, mescaline and peyote. Rochdale was 18 floors. The higher up we went the higher we got.

Still, the importance of Rochdale at that moment was not clear to me.

At the invitation of my uncle Douglas Hartt who was then Director General of Public Works Canada I moved to Ottawa for the balance of1968 and most of 1969. I returned to Toronto and Rochdale just before Christmas 1969 There a friend Brian Vaughn (Spock) invited me out to Hollywood.

In Hollywood I was stopped by two police officers who when they learned I was from Toronto and had shown films at Rochdale College said, “Do you mean Canada’s Communist Training Centre.”

In that moment I realize that if the police in the single most out of touch place on the planet knew about Rochdale then Rochdale had to be the hippest place on the planet. I decided at once to return to Rochdale where then President Peter Turner appointed me Director Of Cinema Studies.

Most went to Rochdale for the drugs and to party.

I went to Rochdale for the idea of being our own teacher, of learning while doing..

Rochdale closed in 1975.

The Rochdale idea of being our own teacher I keep alive at my Cineforum.

That idea is the best thing to come out of Rochdale.

John “Lone Wolf” Sullivan has a blog in which he states Rochdale was a failure and its people hypocrites.

Lone Wolf is one of Rochdale’s few failures.

I consider my work done there the most important of my life.

Rochdale lives in The Cineforum/The Pubic Enemy at 463 Bathurst in Toronto.

The epitome of yellow journalism, THE TORONTO SUN,  fired up hysteria against Rochdale to sell papers. It’s important to remember that the media for the most part is gossip. Gossip is always gossip.

John Taylor Gatto teaches we must become our own teachers. The Rochdale idea is the only one that works.

Reg Hartt in Rochdale College every bit public enemy number one

We have not lived until we have experienced a police raid and seen an officer aiming his gun between the middle of our eyes. At that moment my life flashed before me,

It’s always a mistake to blame the police. They are just doing their job. The people to blame are the ones that hide behind them.

–Reg Hartt 2019–05–30.



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