Over four decades ago, rural west Wales was at the centre of the greatest drugs bust in history. The police investigation, Operation Julie, resulted in dozens of arrests and the discovery of LSD worth £100 million.

This summer, a brand-new musical play from Theatr na nog and Aberystwyth Arts Centre explores the story from both sides of the drugs divide – the police, and the hippies who settled in mid Wales hoping to spread their ideals in a changing world.

This summer, Theatr na nog and Aberystwyth Arts Centre will present an ambitious co-production for audiences in Aberystwyth before visiting Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon between August 24-26.

Operation Julie is a musical play packed with songs, drama and comedy, telling the extraordinary story of what happened in and around mid Wales in the mid-1970s when hippies settled in the area seeking a new way of living fuelled by acid and an alternative attitude.

When a chance clue is discovered following a car accident, the local constabulary work with detectives from across Britain to uncover what turned out to be the biggest stash of acid ever found, taking out up to 60 per cent of the world’s LSD market at that time.

Among the main protagonists are Richard Kemp and Christine Bott, a couple living near Tregaron who find a way of making the purest LSD the world had ever known, and roguish dealer, Smiles, based in Llanddewi Brefi.

Of course the largest drug operation of the decade also featured properties in Carno.

Theatr na nog and Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s version of events tells the story from both sides of the law, with Geinor Styles writer and director of the show meeting and interviewing a variety of people from that time, including one of the main acid dealers, Alston ‘Smiles’ Hughes – who was a key part of the LSD chain from his modest home in Llanddewi Brefi – and Anne Parry, the wife of the late Detective Sergeant Richie Parry.

Christine was a respected doctor and breeder of goats before getting involved in the 1970s' LSD scene and er memoirs have since been published.

While the production had to be postponed due to the Covid pandemic, Geinor Styles feels that the story continues to grow in its modern-day relevance.

“I was astonished how relevant this story was to us living in a time where the effect of what we are doing and continue to do to the planet is a threat to our existence. It is as simple as that. Kemp and Bott knew this and wanted to do all that they could to save humanity.

"In light of recent films like “Don’t Look Up” and the continued denial of climate change, the message is relevant and urgent and still needs to be told and retold. This philosophy was emphasised by our protagonist Richard Kemp, a talented scientist, who moved to Tregaron in the early '70s and created the purest form of LSD.”

Theatr na nÓg and Aberystwyth Arts Centre are confident that this combination of drama, comedy and music will result in a truly memorable production when Operation Julie reaches the stage this summer. “Operation Julie will be a popular and important theatre production,” says Dafydd Rhys, Director of Aberystwyth Arts Centre,

“We’re looking forward to seeing this production of a uniquely Welsh tale that had an impact throughout the world. It also has the added bonus that the music will be fantastic! We know the audience will be in for a treat – a really good night of quality, thought provoking and popular theatre.”