Nicholas Saunders (activist)

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

Alternative London[edit]

He researched, self-published and distributed a series of editions of Alternative London,[2] 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.[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 start other businesses in the Yard including a dairy, cafe, the 'Apothecary' (dispensing alternative and natural 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. 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]

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]


  • 1970: Alternative London (50,000 copies printed)
  • 1971: Alternative London (revised edition - 52,300 copies)
  • 1972: Alternative London Survival Guide for Strangers (abridged edition - 50,000 copies)
  • 1974: Alternative London (revised edition - 38,000 copies)
  • 1977: Alternative London (revised edition)
  • 1982: Alternative London (revised edition, edited by Georganne Downes)[6]
  • 1975: Alternative England and Wales
  • 1993: E For Ecstasy
  • 1995: Ecstasy and the Dance Culture (revised and updated version of E For Ecstasy)
  • 1997: Ecstasy Reconsidered (revised and updated version of Ecstasy and the Dance Culture)


  1. ^ a b c d e Albery, Nicholas. "Obituary for Nicholas Saunders". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 February 1999.
  2. ^ Saunders, Nicholas. Alternative London (3rd ed.). ISBN 978-0950162829.
  3. ^ Stuart, Flora Maxwell (5 February 1998). "Obituary: Nicholas Saunders". The Independent. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014.
  4. ^ "timhunkin/waterclockposter".
  5. ^ "tim hunkin/wooden coin operated machines 2".
  6. ^ "Archive:Alternate London (1970–1982)". The Generalist. 23 April 2011. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014.

External links[edit]