Nicholas Saunders (activist)

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Nicholas Saunders (25 January 1938 – 3 February 1998) was a British activist in the 'alternative' movement from the 1970s until his death in a car crash near Kroonstad, South Africa.[1]

Alternative London[edit]

Saunders researched, self-published and distributed a series of editions of Alternative London, an encyclopaedic guide to living in London, particularly for young people squatting, living on low incomes, on the fringes of conventional society, and with alternative values and ambitions such as living communally and pursuing spiritual development.[2][1][3] After traveling around the country in his live-in van, Saunders published the larger Alternative England and Wales guide in the same vein. Topics included improvising plumbing, electricals, telecommunications (including phreaking), and other services, dealing with the legal and social security systems, sex, health, drug information, transport, food and spiritual religious and mystical systems.

Neals Yard[edit]

In 1976 Saunders moved into a warehouse in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden, where he opened a wholefood shop.[1] This enterprise was successful and enabled him to set up "a hub of caring capitalist businesses which became the model for the fair-trade and eco-businesses that followed two decades later."[2] His other businesses aound the Yard included Neal's Yard Dairy, Monmouth Coffee Company, the 'Apothecary' (dispensing alternative and natural remedies, now known as Neal's Yard Remedies) and therapy rooms. Something of the character of Neal's Yard at the time is conveyed by pieces by Tim Hunkin: a water clock[4] on the frontage of the shop and, inside the yard, a coin-operated animated wooden sculpture.[5]

E for Ecstasy[edit]

Personal experience with MDMA (ecstasy) led Saunders to investigate and write about this drug.[2] He wrote a series of books beginning with E for Ecstasy, and established the "" website to provide not only general information but specific guides to various batches of the drug in circulation at any given time.[1][6]

At the time of his death, he was researching the use by peoples in various parts of the world of psychoactive drugs as part of traditional social rituals.[1]


Saunders died on 3 February 1998 in a car crash near Kroonstad, South Africa.[1][7]


  • Alternative London. 1970. 50,000 copies printed.[2]
    • Alternative London. Revised edition, 1971. 52,300 copies copies printed.
    • Alternative London Survival Guide for Strangers. Abridged edition, 1972. 50,000 copies copies printed.
    • Alternative London. Revised edition, 1974. 38,000 copies copies printed.
    • Alternative London. Revised edition, 1977.
    • Alternative London. Revised edition, 1982. Edited by Georganne Downes.[8]
  • Alternative England and Wales. 1975.
  • E For Ecstasy. 1993.
  • Ecstasy and the Dance Culture. Revised and updated version of E For Ecstasy, 1995.
  • Ecstasy Reconsidered. Revised and updated version of Ecstasy and the Dance Culture, 1997.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Albery, Nicholas. "Obituary for Nicholas Saunders". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 February 1999. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Heathcote, Edwin (13 December 2010). "Book cover: Alternative London". Financial Times. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  3. ^ Stuart, Flora Maxwell (5 February 1998). "Obituary: Nicholas Saunders". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014.
  4. ^ "timhunkin/waterclockposter".
  5. ^ "tim hunkin/wooden coin operated machines 2".
  6. ^ "Useful links". The Guardian. 1 June 1999. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  7. ^ "Obituary: Nicholas Albery". The Guardian. 8 June 2001. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Archive:Alternate London (1970–1982)". The Generalist. 23 April 2011. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014.

External links[edit]