Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2001

History & Opinion

published: Fri 22nd Jun 2001

Thursday 21st June 2001
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE, England MAP
FREE
last updated: Mon 13th Jan 2003

Stonehenge

Yesterday morning at 4.57 am I sat amidst the giant stones of stonehenge with 15,000 others watching the sun rise on solstice morning. Wow!

For the last fifteen years this is something that I never dreamed could or would happen. The police had stopped the Stonehenge Festival in the tumultous year 1985 when they had a pitched battle with New Travellers. The New Travellers had been holding a festival in the field next to Stonehenge for eleven years and 1985 was the to be the 12th Stonehenge Festival. The New Travellers had grown out of the free festivals and attending the free spirited Stonehenge Festival provided a focal point for the New Traveller culture. In its 12th year the police decided to stop the festival at any cost. They herded a convoy of New Traveller vehicles into a field and attacked them despite the presence of many children. The Travellers tried to escape initially, but were held down in this field - a beanfield - when the police charged, smashing up the vehicles that provided homes for the numerous people inhabiting them. Mass arrests were made but the police could not charge those arrested bar a few who ultimately won their cases in court. So the Battle of the Beanfield went down in history as one of the most gruesome police actions seen in Britain.

Since 1985 Stonehenge has been closed to the public on solstice morning. Many people have been fighting for the right to stand and watch the sun rise in this exceptional historic monument. The police have persisted with exclusion zones however, until last year when they opened things up successfully. This year (with no Glastonbury Festival running this week) many people travelled to the stones to celebrate midsummers day. There were approximately 15,000 people there; singing, dancing, drumming, chanting, juggling and swinging lit poi. It was fabulous. The stones were completely open.

The police were there of course, hassling most New Traveller vehicles that turned up, but they generally kept a low profile. They had organised parking a few fields away. Welfare was provided and other organisations were there such as the RSPCA and St Johns Ambulance. Even toilets were provided and fresh drinking water. There was the odd food and drinks stand too, all well away from the stones themselves. A private security firm had been employed by English Heritage to police the site too. It was all very low key though as everyone tromped down the road to reach the stones.

sunrise

Now, was it necessary to have all of this organisation? Of course not. People can easily sort themselves out to watch the sun rise at a historic monument. You don't need loos or food, just a little time and freedom. A sensation of overkill was felt when we saw van loads of coppers sitting around wasting their time. This is very frustrating - the State is maintaining control of New Travellers by providing them with limited access to Stonehenge on this day. The Travellers aren't allowed to stop or stay at all and soon enough they'll be suffering police action via eviction elsewhere in the country. But at least we were all there for this special moment. At least the numerous New Travellers who arrived were allowed on this sacred site. It doesn't mean the fight is over, but from this position we can move on, we can fight for more freedom to be, to travel and to roam, to celebrate according to our wishes, rather than those of the State. We can visit Stonehenge on solstice morning which is fantastic, but we musn't forget the past or allow the State to con us into thinking they are not still controlling this freedom.

Zoë James, Friday 22nd June 2001
Zoë James is a lecturer at the University of Plymouth and carries out research into the policing of New Travellers.


review by: ZoŽ

Thursday 21st June 2001
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE, England MAP
FREE
last updated: Mon 13th Jan 2003


latest on this festival

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
festival home page
last updated: Tue 26th Nov 2013
Stonehenge 2013
festival listing
last updated: Tue 4th Jun 2013

more on this festival



not logged in? Sign in here | not registered? Register here

search future festivals only   advanced search

 
most viewed pages in the last 24 hours
The Secret Garden Party 2014 festival listing
updated: Mon 23rd Jun 2014
The Secret Garden Party 2014 line-up and rumours who's playing
last updated: Wed 28th May 2014
BoomTown Fair 2014 festival listing
updated: Tue 17th Jun 2014
Carfest North 2014 festival listing
updated: Thu 17th Jul 2014
Glastonbury Festival 2015 festival listing
updated: Wed 2nd Jul 2014
Glastonbury Festival 2015 line-up and rumours who's playing
last updated: Tue 15th Jul 2014
most popular festivals (all pages) in the last week
The Secret Garden Party 2014 Thu 24th to Sun 27th Jul 2014
Mill Hill Field, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
last updated: Mon 23rd Jun 2014
Glastonbury Festival 2014 Wed 25th to Sun 29th Jun 2014
Worthy Farm, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
last updated: Wed 11th Jun 2014
Tom Jones & Little Mix at Osborne House 2014 Sat 26th to Sun 27th Jul 2014
Osborne House, East Cowes, Isle of Wight
last updated: Thu 17th Jul 2014
Glastonbury Festival 2015 Wed 24th to Sun 28th Jun 2015
Worthy Farm, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
last updated: Wed 2nd Jul 2014
WOMAD 2014 Thu 24th to Sun 27th Jul 2014
Charlton Park , Malmesbury, Wiltshire
last updated: Thu 10th Jul 2014
V Festival (Chelmsford) 2014 Sat 16th to Sun 17th Aug 2014
Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex
last updated: Today, 09:57am
BoomTown Fair 2014 Thu 7th to Sun 10th Aug 2014
Matterley Estate, Nr. Winchester, Hampshire
last updated: Tue 17th Jun 2014
Walthamstow Festival 2014 Sat 26th to Sun 27th Jul 2014
Lloyd Park, Walthamstow, London
last updated: Thu 17th Jul 2014
Carfest North 2014 Fri 1st to Sun 3rd Aug 2014
Oulton Park Race Circuit, Little Budworth, Cheshire
last updated: Thu 17th Jul 2014
V Festival (Staffordshire) 2014 Sat 16th to Sun 17th Aug 2014
Weston Park, Weston-under-Lizard, Staffordshire
last updated: Today, 10:05am


Festivals
Shop
About