Heathcote Williams  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Heathcote Williams (15 November 1941 – 1 July 2017) was an English poet, actor, political activist and dramatist. He wrote a number of book-length polemical poems including Autogeddon, Falling for a Dolphin and Whale Nation, which in 1988 became, according to Philip Hoare, "the most powerful argument for the newly instigated worldwide ban on whaling." Williams invented his idiosyncratic 'documentary/investigative poetry' style which he continues to put to good purpose bringing a diverse range of environmental and political matters to public attention. In June 2015, he published a book-length investigative poem about the 'Muslim Gandhi', Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, 'Badshah Khan'.

As well as being a playwright and screenwriter, Williams appeared in a number of well-known Independent and Hollywood films and was among the celebrity guests in the last episode of season 4 of Friends, '"The One With Ross's Wedding"'. He played Prospero in Derek Jarman's The Tempest and appeared in several 'arthouse' films, including Orlando, as well as Hollywood blockbusters such as Basic Instinct 2. Al Pacino played the part of a Williams fan in a spoof arts documentary, Every Time I Cross the Tamar I Get into Trouble. Williams also wrote lyrics, collaborating with Marianne Faithfull among others.

Williams was a keen naturalist and discovered a new species of honey-producing wasp in the Amazon jungle, an event he recorded in a book of poems called 'Forbidden Fruit' Williams was a magician and a member of the Magic Circle. He wrote a TV play called What the Dickens! about Charles Dickens’s penchant for performing magic shows. Bob Hoskins taught him fire eating. When he went to demonstrate his new found talent to then girlfriend Jean Shrimpton, he accidentally set himself alight on her doorstep.

Williams was a leading activist in the London squatting scene in the 1970s and ran a squatters 'estate agency' called the 'Ruff Tuff Cream Puff'. In 1977 he and a couple of hundred fellow squatters established the 'state' of Frestonia in Notting Hill and declared independence from Britain. Then Shadow Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, wrote to express his support and Williams was appointed UK Ambassador. Frestonia lasted almost a decade and had its own institutions and postage stamps.

Williams spray-painted graffiti on the walls of Buckingham Palace as a protest against the Queen signing Michael X's death warrant while there was no capital punishment in the UK. In the early 1970s, his agitational graffiti were a feature on the walls of the then low-rent end of London's Notting Hill district.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Heathcote Williams" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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