|NICHOLAS SAUNDERS is best known as the writer of E for Ecstasy
(1993) and Ecstasy and the Dance Culture (1995). He also created
a website to provide information, positive and negative, to a
public increasingly interested in Ecstasy and other recreational
He spent the last years of his life experimenting cautiously with
Ecstasy and other hallucinogenic drugs; to which he felt himself
to be indebted. He felt his first Ecstasy experience to have been
an impetus in a lifelong search for self realisation. It was typical
of Saunders that he would share his personal experience and the
information he researched.
Starting in 1970, Saunders pioneered and published AIternative,
the forerunner of such publications as Time Out. The spirit of
the Sixties excited his sensibilities and he felt it vital to
share his experience with as many people as possible. AIternative
London's many editions appealed to a whole generation of experimenters,
in much the same way that Ecstasy and the Dance Culture does today.
Alternative London was published from his home base, an extraordinary
flat in World's End, Chelsea. The house was a shrine to both his
design skills and his love of animals. A large pond ran from the
garden into the sitting room, where ducks swam and dived among
bemused visitors; upstairs a family of rabbits played on the roof
After a fire caused by one of his most bemused visitors, he relocated
his domestic zoo to Neal's Yard, Covent Garden, in 1976, when
it was an almost derelict collection of warehouses.
Neal's Yard will always be linked with Saunders's name. He lived
and worked in the Yard, renovating decayed warehouses. The buildings
he created are reminders of an eccentric nature which was forever
juggling a love of city life with a romantic attachment to the
pastoral. The facades are festooned with sweet peas, geraniums,
clematis and sunflowers in season.
Saunders had foreseen the emergence of Covent Garden as the "new
place". Feeling he sensed a trend towards a more holistic way
of life, he created a bulk buying wholefood warehouse, offering
healthy food at the lowest possible prices. Thereafter followed
a string of businesses which are testament to his entrepreneurial
His interest lay in designing the simplest and most effective
systems to get these businesses off the ground. But once they
were operational, he handed them over to friends and colleagues,
many of whom owe their success to his inspiration and help. He
recently created a self-contained guest flat in his house for
the many friends he had made on his extensive travels.
Several years ago he bought a forest in Surrey, the outcome of
having spent many Saturdays walking in woodlands within easy access
of London. It was on one such walk that he met and fell in love
with Anja Dashwood, with whom he was to live until his death.
He had been recently researching a book about hallucinogenic plants
and ritual practices among various religious sects; this work
took him and Anja on many adventurous journeys across the US,
South America and Europe.
It was on one such journey of exploration, this time to South
Africa, that he was killed in a car accident.
He leaves behind his partner, Anja, and a son from a previous