The campaign to legalise LSD in Britain is gathering pace. The force behind the movement is an English countess for whom lobbying – and experimenting – has been a life’s work
If you were to close your eyes and conjure the headquarters of a 50-year campaign to legalise and license psychedelic drugs, you might well see “Brainblood Hall”. A Tudor hunting lodge, surrounded by three concentric moats and formal boxwood topiary, it appears, as you approach along its winding drive on a wintry afternoon, to be ready to whisper all kinds of curious stories. There are plenty from which to choose. The Black Prince used to hunt from a house on this site. Lewis Carroll based the chessboard landscape of Alice Through the Looking-Glass on the watery Oxfordshire moorland that extends in all directions. And Aldous Huxley set his first novel, Crome Yellow, here after visiting for tea with Lady Ottoline Morrell in 1921.
Amanda Feilding, who grew up here and returned to live in the manor after the death of her parents, is the natural heir to all of those associations. She is an eye-bright woman of 76, a spirited talker and an attentive listener, with that ingrained aristocratic habit of passing off wild and whirling eccentricity as mundane routine. For the past half century, she has led an indefatigable – and mostly frustrated – campaign to relax the prohibition on research into psychedelic compounds, particularly LSD. What long seemed a hopeless quest, a one-woman battle against the massed artillery of the “war on drugs”, has recently begun to turn in her favour. Feilding has lately been dubbed the “Queen of Consciousness” by the New Scientist. I have arranged to meet her to talk about the ways in which her half century of lobbying seems finally to be paying off.