The Girl Factory: Marianne Faithfull, Brazier’s Park, the Bodily Education of Young Girls


A brief alternate history of rock ‘n’ roll star Marianne Faithfull illustrates the implicate order of popular culture, intelligence operations, and politics. An important member of the English Braziers Park community (whose close relationship to the Fabian Society and Tavistock I recently mapped) was Glynn Faithfull, who met Glaister through the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. Faithfull worked for MI6 during World War II and interrogated Heinrich Himmler after Himmler surrendered to the US government. Faithfull’s daughter, born the following year, was the singer and actress Marianne Faithfull. Faithfull moved to Braziers Park the year it began, in 1950, when she was four, and lived there until she was seven. In her first memoir (Marianne: An Autobiography), she describes recurring nightmares of “frightening entities” who were “just like my father,” strange men with moustaches who would tickle her and pour hot tea over her. “Every year” she writes, “we took deprived children on an annual camping holiday to the New Forest”—there to participate in “quasi-mystical” rituals.

Faithfull reminisces in Memories, Dreams, Reflections: “Things were madder, wilder, more eccentric, more randy, in the early years—some of the things that went on there were quite peculiar. . . . They appeared to be studying Dante and the Destiny of Man, but what they were also doing was fucking like rabbits—with what were technically the wrong people. . . . There was sex going on everywhere at Braziers. [My father] was a philosopher of the group mind, almost a technician of group dynamics—how to deal with ego within the group.”

In a chapter titled “The Girl Factory,” Faithfull describes how Roberto Calasso compared her time at Braziers to a story by the playwright Frank Wedekind, called Mine-Haha: the Bodily Education of Young Girls, about a vast girls’ school located inside a castle where unwanted females are raised from infancy to the age of sixteen, “a sort of geisha finishing school where they are brought up to please others.” At the age of sixteen, these girls are either placed into show business or prostitution. Faithfull writes “nobody forced me to go to London and become a pop singer. Tempted me, definitely, seduced me into it, but I wasn’t actually compelled to become a pop singer, whereas the girls in the castle are made to become performers with whips and torture.” Calasso notes how Faithfull “grew up in a similarly cloistered place . . . and at the age of seventeen . . . burst out into the world, trained, in a strange way, for all sorts of things—group politics, sex, books, dance, acting, singing—that were useful to you in your career.” Faithfull agrees that the “group mind concept my father taught at Braziers must have helped me a lot in fitting in. Probably why I fitted in so easily with the Stones.”

Faithfull winds up the chapter by mentioning an Italian dance troupe (Gruppo Polline) who created a performance piece based on Mine-Haha, the themes of which were, “The persistence of memory, isolation, the hesitation about the future, alternating static and frenetic, and the negation of the body as a result of an education based on theories and exploitation of the young” (emphasis added). She then adds that she wrote the song “In the Factory” with Polly Harvey, inspired by one of Calasso’s essays. She had wanted to call it “The Girl Factory,” she says, but Harvey talked her out of it. Faithfull regretted the change, adding by way of explanation that Polly was “quite intimidating.”

For the full piece go here.

Jasun Horsley

Jasun Horsley

Existential detective. Liminalist author. Movie autist in chronic confessional mode. You only think you don't know who I am.
Jasun Horsley

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