From 1967, Gregory Sams was pioneering natural foods in the UK, in partnership with his brother Craig. He opened Seed macrobiotic restaurant in Paddington at the age of 19, Ceres grain store in the Portobello Road soon after, then Harmony Foods (now Whole Earth Foods) in 1970, as well as being closely involved with Harmony Magazine and Seed, the Journal of Organic Living. He conceived and launched the original VegeBurger in 1982, built it up for six years, then moved out of food and into fractals, founding Strange Attractions - the world's only shop dedicated to chaos theory (London 1990). Since then he has gone on to produce and license fractal images worldwide on everything from posters to clothing fabrics. He has had rich experience of the counter-culture becoming mainstream and is well placed to present this refreshingly acerbic, humorous and optimistic study of the current state we are in.
Born in Los Angeles 1948, Gregory was brought up by parents with a keen interest in healthy eating. Mother Margaret cooked all the family's meals and baked wholemeal bread (you couldn't buy it then). Father Ken got into 'strange' things like yoga and Zen, often exhorting young Gregory to "keep off the beaten track." When he was three, the family moved to London, where he has lived most of the time since, with a few years interspersed in Germany, France, Nebraska and India.
Gregory won various high school honours, and was voted by fellow students to be the schools' most intelligent guy. In the run-up to the famous Summer of Love, he went to college at U.C. Berkeley, the definitive hotbed radical campus of the Sixties. At the time, Timothy Leary was exhorting the youth of America to "turn on, tune in, and drop out." Gregory covered the first two bases in the last three months of 1966 and then, at a party celebrating New Year's Eve, he dropped out of the tree he was dancing in, and broke his back (no, he was not turned on at the time). He returned to the UK for rehabilitation.
Soon after his release, in a wheelchair, from Stoke Mandeville hospital Gregory came to play a leading role in the introduction of natural foods to Britain. Having earlier been introduced to the macrobiotic diet by his brother Craig, Gregory now found himself picking up the reigns from him, midway through plans to re-open a short-lived illegal restaurant in a new legal venue. An unexpected crisis prevented Craig from reaching completion, and Gregory ditched his return to university to get the restaurant opened, and spread the word about how food can change our lives. It had to be done.
He christened the restaurant Seed and called the menu Tomorrow's You. It soon became the favourite culinary watering hole for the cream and the whey of 1960's hippie culture, from John and Yoko to those taking up the offer of a free meal. It also became the seed of the British market for natural and organic foods. That seed sprouted in 1969, when Gregory opened Ceres, the UK's first natural food shop, in All Saint's Road. It sold strange stuff like organic brown rice, miso, sunflower seeds, chick peas, tahini and even seaweeds. Customers of Seed could now cook these new natural foods in their own homes.
There was nothing easy-to-digest out there about eating naturally or organically and in balance with the planet. This prompted Gregory to introduce Harmony magazine in 1968, publishing, distributing and partly penning three editions whilst running the restaurant. Restaurant regular John Lennon liked it so much he dedicated an 8-frame cartoon to its support (John Lennon cartoon). One issue included an article entitled Diet of the Viet Cong, explaining how combat rations of yang roasted rice would inevitably lead the Viet Cong to victory against the junk food-eating Americans. Another explained The Art of Life, followed by detailed instructions for cutting carrots nituke style.
Craig returned to the scene in 1970 and, after moving Ceres to the Portobello Road, the brothers started up Harmony Foods in very small premises, soon swelled by their first five-ton import of organic brown rice. Two years and two premises later Harmony was wholesaling these new natural foods, in bulk and in packets, to shops and distributors throughout the UK and in several European countries. Their peanut butter was the best that Britain had ever tasted.
Together, the brothers catered the first Glastonbury Festival, the Isle of Wight and other legendary events celebrating hippie culture. Their food was affordable, it tasted good and people felt the extra energy. More happy customers. Craig was now setting up Ceres Bakery, the first dedicated 100% wholemeal, and sugar-free, bakery in the nation. He sure had problems getting pastrycooks to work without white flour, sugar or butter. But customers came from all over for the best bread in Britain.
Between 1971 and 1978, Gregory and Craig were involved as their father Kenneth published pioneering magazine Seed, the Journal of Organic Living. Just retired, Ken had published a radical magazine in Vietnam for GI's, called Grunt Free Press- whilst working at a high level for the US Air Force (and telling his son about the diet of the Viet Cong). And now he was to publish Britain's first regular magazine dedicated to promoting a holistic attitude and the joys of natural living. Seed also pointed out the perils in the national diet. What's wrong with refined starches, fast foods, food additives, milk and dairy? Seed was telling us thirty years ago. It changed a lot of lives.
Gregory ran Harmony Foods for the next 12 years, expanding at such a rate that by 1982 it was in its sixth premises, shifting hundreds of tons a week, and experiencing growing pains - serious ones. It was not good, and complicated. Grounded at home for a few months with hepatitis, Gregory came up with a product idea designed to re-vitalize the company - creating and christening the original VegeBurger and registering the trade mark.
The VegeBurger was designed to be fully out-sourced and overhead-free, to avoid straining Harmony's stretched resources. Neither bank nor investors thought much of this odd idea, as most new products fail. Gregory thought so much that he jumped the (storm-tossed) corporate ship to develop it himself as a solo product, passing Harmony/Whole Earth Foods fully into brother Craig's capable hands. Greg's new company was called Realeat.
Run as a virtual business from a spare bedroom, VegeBurger became a nationwide success overnight, and a regular in the news. Mixing and packing and storing and shifting was all done elsewhere, with Gregory's time spent on marketing and promotion. He commissioned an annual Gallup Survey on Briton's attitudes to meat-eating, which provided the only data on vegetarian numbers and growth - identifying young women as the hotspot. Many became vegetarians or greatly reduced the amount of meat they ate after realized that it was ok - that lots of other people felt the same way about eating flesh
Soon reaching sales of 250,000 burgers per week, VegeBurger identified and established a vegetarian grocery market, paving the way for its future growth and development. After six years of happy growth at Realeat, it was time to move on - before it all got too complicated. Gregory sold VegeBurger and retired from the food industry, aged 39.
Craig developed the successful Whole Earth organic brand out of the ailing Harmony Foods, and later went on to chair the Soil Association and famously develop Green & Blacks organic chocolates with wife Jo Fairley.
After two years' instalment on his retirement, Gregory's unbridled fun came to an end, and a new beginning, after Kiwi artist Howie Cooke introduced him to new science chaos theory. In these new theories of chaos and complexity he saw an important message that had little to do with science - one that easily might be overlooked. It became his mission to nudge the knowledge of chaos theory beyond the halls of academe, into the consciousness of the general public.
A shop was called for, and in late 1990 Gregory opened Strange Attractions - the world's only shop ever dedicated to chaos theory. At the time nobody was making any products that displayed or utilized the beautiful images to be found with fractal structures. So he spent days, weeks at a time, travelling through fractal universes on his computer, often running it overnight to produce the gwodzillions of calculations needed for deep-dive poster resolution.
Over the next couple years, Gregory designed hundreds and published hundreds of thousands of fractally-adorned postcards, posters, t-shirts, jigsaw puzzles, mugs, etc. Then, trading as chaOs worKs, he began licensing pictures and designs to larger publishers, to photo libraries and for other uses including fashion fabrics (Space Tribe). This took his images to countless millions around the world, as they appeared in major magazines, on book covers, posters, t-shirts, jigsaw puzzles, clock faces and countless other applications.
Though no great money-spinner of an enterprise, the Strange Attractions shop quickly and unexpectedly became a focus point for many of those involved in the evolving 'alternative scene' that turned the 90's, as someone put it, into "the 60's standing on their feet." They'd seen these strange patterned images before�omewhere. Gregory was swept back into the turbulent edge of the culture - and to lots more mad and unlicensed parties, as well as dramatic and theatrical direct action events around the country. He saw these activities as inspirational examples of self-organizing chaos at work, arising from a culture in favour of experimenting with new ways of living (pro-testing).
After a few years of being an artist, successful but not satisfied, Gregory recognized that the inner message of chaos theory would be better served by words than pictures. So it was time to write a book, pursuing a lifelong love that had always been confined to letters, articles, leaflets, press releases or the sides of packets. In 1998, after four years of writing and distilling, he was ready to publish Uncommon Sense - the State is Out of Date, expressing within it the vitally important lessons that chaos theory has for how we live our lives and govern our society - inseparable concepts. Writing this book changed Gregory's life, as well as that of tens of thousands of its readers. It went online a few years later.
Gregory is well-known to many, having been involved in various areas of emergent culture from the Sixties onwards. He was immersed in the non-violent ('fluffy') direct action movements that developed in early Nineties UK, was at all but one of the outlandish Reclaim the Streets events, and visited action sites all over the country - being carried off one by four sheriffs (No M11) and arrested at another (Dead Woman's Bottom).
Gregory Sams has been to many parties and festivals, getting in up to five in one weekend when he was actively marketing Uncommon Sense. His prominence on the psy trance party dance floors of the world resulted in him being featured in a video/DVD by Omananda and Billy Rood titled Liquid Crystal Vision, which has been enjoyed by countless thousands at the worldwide events and festivals where it is screened. He is sometimes asked to speak at such events.
Since the first Sunrise of 2000, he has been working on his next book, now completed and awaiting publication. The working title has been Perhaps - stuff is smarter than we think. It promises to provoke exciting thoughts in its readers - the kind of thoughts that change us.
For information on the NEXT BOOK click here.
Family links : Craig Sams - Ken Sams - Margaret Sams
Fractal Gallery - On-line Now