Dedicated to Bill Butler and the Unicorn Bookshop
"One of the good guys who died too young."
The Unicorn Bookshop was a cultural hub in Brighton during the 1960's and an important part of its hippie counterculture scene. Also home to Unicorn Press, the enterprise was run by infamous Bill Butler, a larger than life homesexual American, who was easily recognised due to his large stature and loud shirts, Bill loved nothing more than philosophical debate, pushing the status quo and supporting creativity.
The bookshop gained notoriety when it became embroiled in an obscenity law suit brought against Bill for publishing J G Ballard's Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan in 1968. The bookshop was fined a hefty sum and as much as Bill tried to appeal the decision he eventually lost the fight and found himself in huge amounts of debt. Poets, friends and artists rallied to his aid, trying to help him, but the costs were too great. In the end the shop closed down and the printing press moved with Bill and some friends to a commune in Wales.
Sadly, in October 1977, Bill Butler died of a drug overdose. Possibly it was suicide.
Originally the mural outside the shop was painted by John Upton, hailed to be the UK's first street artist. He painted several other murals around the city, including one outside the Brighton Combination, a new media and theatre collective which used to be housed in a premises off of West Street, and another at the University of Sussex.
Sponsored by Brighton and Hove Council, the new mural has been reimagined by Brighton's current John Upton - street artist Sinna One. Also responsible for the Prince Albert Pub's dead rock star mural and the various BT connection boxes around town, Sinna One has added a modern twist to the design with Adventure Time characters, whilst still keeping the essence of the original image.
This mural is part of an ongoing project by Kriya Arts to uncover and celebrate the stories of ordinary people and forgotten heros. It will feature as part of the HIP Trip of Brighton: A Psychedelic Wander - a part theatrical experience, part walking tour, part pub crawl - that runs throughout the Brighton Fringe Festival this May.