Remembering John & Yoko's visit
Fifty acorns tied in a sack...
15 June 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s trip to Coventry Cathedral.
If you’ve ever listened to the Beatles’ song The Ballad of John and Yoko, and wondered about the meaning behind the lyrics “fifty acorns tied in a sack”, well look no further than the city of Coventry.
The Acorn Event
In June 1968, Beatle John and his new partner, artist Yoko Ono, travelled to Coventry in his white Rolls-Royce to submit a piece of art to a sculpture exhibition at the Cathedral.
Their display included a circular white wrought-iron seat that slotted together to surround two acorns, which would then grow inside the bench. On the seat was a plaque that read: Yoko by John, John by Yoko.
Unity Garden and Coventry Cathedral
The acorns were planted in east and westerly positions to symbolise the meeting of John and Yoko.
Coventry – a city of peace and reconciliation - was the perfect place for a piece of art called Acorns for Peace. It was all about peace and reflection.
Moving the bench
However, it wasn’t long after John and Yoko’s visit that the acorns and plaque were stolen. The couple also had a disagreement with the event organisers over a decision to move the bench to another part of the Cathedral grounds.
There are stories that the acorns were replaced and guarded throughout the exhibition, but it is also thought that this never happened and that John just had the bench removed and returned to his home. You can actually see John and Yoko sat on a white circular bench in the film Imagine. Is it the same one?
Local music author Pete Chambers, researched this historic moment for his book The Beatles Sent to Coventry. He told us:
“This was the first of many Avant-Garde peace happenings by the couple, all guaranteed to produce many column inches by the tabloids.
“The couple entered the National Sculpture Exhibition last thing, but Cannon Verney was not pleased with that or the couple’s unmarried status. He was even less pleased to see their exhibit; two acorns under a round metal seat. This wasn't art as he knew it.
Yoko returns to Coventry - Photo: Hannah Tobin
“Lennon hated the negative vibes he had received in Coventry. A few days later, for no apparent reason, the acorns and bench were inextricably moved about 50-foot, over to the Cathedral Gardens. Within a week the acorns were stolen, so Lennon sent his driver to pick up the bench. The dream was over, and John & Yoko would go on to fight even bigger battles for peace.”
Completing the piece of art
On Friday, 14 October 2005 – a beautiful autumnal day, Yoko Ono returned to Coventry to complete the work of art. It also coincided with the city’s annual Peace Month festival.
The Lord Mayor at the time, Cllr Ram Lakha, the Dean of Coventry, Very Rev John Irvine and the Bishop of Warwick, the Rt Rev John Stroyan, were also there for this very special ceremony.
Yoko was joined by pupils from a local Primary School as she planted two Japanese oak trees in Coventry Cathedral’s Unity Garden.
At the time, Yoko said: “I am pleased to dedicate the planting of these beautiful trees to the spirit of peace throughout the world.
"I am proud to carry on the work John and I did together to spread this highly important message."
Yoko in Coventry - Photo: Hannah Tobin
Gift of acorns
Acorns were also sent to schools throughout Coventry to continue the message of peace.
The planting of the trees not only completed the piece of art that John and Yoko began in 1968, but also celebrated their life together and recognised Coventry as a city of peace and reconciliation.
A replica of the white bench seat was also at the ceremony – and it can still be spotted, locked away at a location close to the Cathedral in Coventry city centre.
So next time you’re walking around the grounds of Coventry Cathedral, keep a look-out for the two trees that will hopefully grow into mighty oaks - and remember the history and reasoning behind them.
last updated: 29/05/2008 at 15:57