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Stonehenge Free festival chronology.

 

1977

 
 

Warp 111 performing on one of the stages at Stonehenge Free Festival 1977 . Photo © Roger Hutchinson

   The 4th Festival in 1977 was held well to the west of the Stones with numbers approaching 6000. The weather was indifferent, overcast days, a bit of rain and a few sunny and warm days. The organisation was good with site meetings and again there was no trouble and the police remained at a distance. A number of good bands played, most notable was the set by Hawkwind who played a blinding set aided by a giant generator, the Atomhenge stage set and Liquid Lem’s light show. It was also memorable because the show drained the generator and while diesel was drained from vehicles on site, the band continued acoustically illuminated by the light of dozens of torches and car headlights.

Right - the Atomhenge stage under construction.

Roger Hutchinson 17-1-02 ©

   It was a pretty warm day and the usual frolicking fest heads were taking their morning mud bath, much to do about blending with the earth in harmonious magic.

  Word was out that the Hells Angels were due in camp that afternoon, which brought much trepidation amongst the peace loving mob, questioning security on site and how to deal with it should things get out of hand. Many discussed where the Hells Angels should camp, talking as if they were a crowd of diseased ridden lepers that were coming to stay, after all it was a Peoples Free Festival and no one could stop them from joining in.

  Considering the stories of outrageous gang wars, many there decided that the festival was doomed for disaster as soon as they were to arrive.
The Hells Angels had been judged before they had even got there and an execution in place, this talk managed to spread fast causing much of the initial tension.

   It was mid morning and the rumble of engines could be heard on the outskirts of the site, the tension amongst the people could be felt as whispers passed from tent to tent of their impending arrival. Suddenly the police became every ones best friend, no more did the revelers make fun of service that they provided to the community. Flashes of cameras lined the road as the bikes roared into the site ground, ironically as if they were been given a hero's welcome.

   One bike in front and two behind with a truck of booze following, the gang just followed the lead as they rode into the crowd. Be it accidental or on purpose they rode straight into the lesbian camping area and set up, making it known that it was their space for the time being.
I thought it was as funny as all hell, probably because my family were bikers of one kind or another and my sister was dating an Angel when I was a nipper. Whispers grew of their past reputation, so the very sight of this metal mania, brought unease the festivals intentions and created a negative attitude amongst the crowd.

   Peter and i had brought three children and camped a little way back from the stages for peace sake, one of our boys Troyboy 7 years old, had gone to join the stage crew as soon as we arrived. Our other son Kingsley went a wandering, meeting other campers, enthralling them with his angel like presence.

   My baby Ryananda was 7 months old and it was her first festival, our tent was adorned with bells and Krisna gifts to welcome her to this new age.

   It was mid morning and i had baby Ryeananda in arms, it was the day after the arrival of the Hells Angels. They had spent a peaceful night of internal revelry, the occasional stray would wander from the Angels camp and mix with the crowds, bringing acceptance between their alternate relations.

  

Ryeananda at the Henge © Kay

     Ryeananda in arms I strolled toward the Angels Camp to cross to the other side to the Ladies in waiting, i felt a little uneasy but no great shakes. Tension on the festival site had eased over night and there was less chatter about the damnation of the event, although not every one was convinced that peace would continue, the police especially.

   As I approached the Hells Angel camping area the decision to walk around the long way crossed my mind when I saw a bunch of leather clad hairy beasts at the entrance munching on a breakfast of water melon. The biggest hairiest one of all looked directly at me, he began walking toward us with a determined look on his face, knife in hand.

   My imagination began to run wild as I froze on the spot with a pretend smile stuck on my face hoping to scare him away. I didn't know weather to say "Peace" or not to greet him, he just kept on looking straight at us in an ever increasing pace.

   Face to face he looked at my baby and grinned a wide grin, he then took his knife and sliced into the water melon which he had brought with him. Holding the edge of the melon with one hand he pulled it from the piece and handed it to Ryananda, "Nice cold melon will keep her cool" was all he said, then he turned and walked back to his mates.

   There was no more decision to be made about which direction we would be taking to get to the other side, the way was straight through the Hells Angels camp . "Thank you so very much" was all I could say as the boys stood aside for us to pass, with a wide beaming smile we continued our journey through their camp, meeting and greeting along the way.

As the Hells Angels say... "When we do right no body remembers, when we do wrong no body forgets".................... "Well i remember"

Kay


a great site...thanks.
i was at the festivals at stonehenge from 75-77. In '77 i was collecting dead wood for the fire and was 'Busted' in the woods. As i was being taken away by the police, the whole encampment came to my aid, but all was sorted peacefully in the end. These were very special festivals that have informed the rest of my life in one way or another. The generosity and friendliness will always be remembered.
Lou


The Music

June 25th

    Richie Havens arrived at the Festival unannounced and approached the stage where 200 souls were watching Here and Now and Bombay Bus jam . He plonked a 100 watt amp on the stage and asked if he could play . Can he play ? Do bears live in the woods ? .Over two hours he ran through most of his greatest hits ( including Freedom ) and then split for his next paying gig.

Stonehenge Free Festival campsite 1977

© Roger Hutchinson

    The Bombay Bus Company played everyday at the festival, and along with Here and Now provided the musical backbone of the event. In general there were fewer rock acts than in 76, which probably helped lessen the aural pollution from one stage to the other. Still, it was enough of a problem for the BIT newsletter to complain about the fact that the acoustic players could not be heard due to the loud electrified acts .
    The major rock performance was by Hawkwind , who set up the Atomhenge stage , lighting rig and a generator. They did not allow Tim Blake to use the lights, probably not wanting to blow their special effects on an earlier act. As it was the generator went on the blink during their set, which then ran way overtime and as a result no other bands got to play in the dawn . They took their PA with them when they left as it was needed for their next gig , but they did leave the genny for use of the festival crew. They played on the 21st and the set was : High Rise; Robot; Spirit Of The Age; Sonic Attack; Damnation Alley; Uncle Sam's On Mars; Iron Dream; Quark Strangeness And Charm; Master Of The Universe; Welcome To The Future.
    Tim Blake played before the Hawks and the highlight of his set was held to be Lighthouse . Unlike Hawkwind, no tapes appear to exist of this set. So we can’t be sure of what numbers he played during the rest of the show . Here and Now played many sets during the festival ,which varied in intesity and success . Sound problems dogged their Wednesday afternoon show, which by all accounts was a bit shambolic. Having to use their own home built PA probably did not help things. However, the Friday night show was a corker , with the band appearing far more confident, and knocking out the audience with their new song Near and How . This incarnation of H and N were minus Arthur Brown, who had sat in with them at the 1975 festival- but Twink ( no not the Pink Fairies Twink ) this one played synth , Kif Kif ( drums ) Keith ‘da Missile’ (bass ) - and Stephen Sharpstrings ( guitar ) were a really potent unit on occasions , who earned considerable artistic kudos from some of their Henge performances - although this never translated to any kind of financial success .

Dawn at the Henge after the Hawkwind show

© Roger Hutchinson

 

Mick Sinclair adds

   In queue of cars waiting to turn into the festival site in 1977, police were going to each driver in turn and saying: " I advise you not to go there sir, it's an illegal pop festival." Needless to say, the advice was ignored by all.
I was at the 1977 festival mainly because a friend and I used to roadie (in our case, a grand term for humping speaker cabinets, being paid a few quid and enjoying a bit of a lark) for a band called Six who were playing there. Six never rose beyond obscurity but did include Phil Hodge who for a time played with the Steve Hillage Band. I remember carrying their gear onto the stage and only then discovering that the stage had a panoramic view of the stone circle (something to experience rather than try to describe in words!).

    Another memory is of someone walking around the site dispensing large helpings of (presumably) home grown grass from a sack which was well-received and enjoyed, even though it led to some rows among my party (we were from Hemel Hempstead, which might explain it) later. I also remember someone in a tent making and selling slices of bread coated with marmite and cucumber.

The price was so extortionate that I bought several on the assumption that the bread must be impregnated with some interesting psychedelic substance. As it turned out, it was just expensive bread.


The band onstage in the photo at the top of the page is Warp 111, based in Guildford (not the later US band of the same name).
Grant Dickeson bass, Arnold Lane drums & b. vox, Jeremy Rider guitar & lead vox.
The band had played at previous festivals too. In fact I think we opened the festival one year followed by Joe Strummer's band The 101ers.

Arnold Lane


Local lad Steve has this recollection

My memories of Stonehenge Free Festival are probably different to most people's as I was a local…no Convoy for me, all I had to do was walk 2 miles up the A303 from Amesbury. My first year was 1977, I was also there in 1978 and 1979, but for reasons I can’t remember now, I missed the 1980 and 1981 festivals. 1982 was my last Stonehenge festival….

1977
    I was in the middle of doing my O-levels at school, being not yet 17. I wanted to see Hawkwind but couldn’t be there on the Solstice….so I phoned up their press office who told me they would playing for 3 nights; I went to the festival site on 22nd June. Hawkwind weren’t playing that night, I can’t remember what bands were on. I remember seeing a couple of real old hands, original 60’s hippies who by then might have been approaching 40…they seemed so old to me, and in my experience at the time, all "old" people were completely “straight”, so this was an very odd sight indeed. I suppose I gawped ignorantly at them like any tourist.

   At sunset, some festivalgoers had made a little hot-air balloon, about 3 feet across, and they lit it….it sailed up into the sky fairly slowly. About 20 minutes later I had walked over to another part of the site and the balloon was still visible aloft, but had caught fire. A hippie girl exclaimed "look, a UFO!" and there was a brief piece about it in the Salisbury Journal the following week: how these credulous people were ready to believe they were being visited by flying saucers, etc. etc..

   I was with a friend, and we encountered a very nice guy who was a student at Portmouth Poly. None of us had a tent, but we made a fire and sat round it all night. At 4am it’s amazingly cold considering it’s midsummer, and you realise that you can see shades of grey all around, instead of blackness…dawn. (I never saw the sunrise at Stonehenge, the skies always seemed to be cloudy.)

    Nearby was a larger fire with 7 or 8 people around it…older than us, hippies from Bristol. They told us to piss on our fire and come and join them around theirs. The lad from Portsmouth Poly took them literally. We sat and chatted with the Bristolians, who treated us with an amused tolerance, denim-clad Status Quo fans that we were. They offered us a smoke, which I declined and my friend accepted. I remember their ringleader declaiming to his circle "I came here to meet people! And who do I meet ? Schoolkids!" His last words to us before we left were "Don’t take any shit from your teachers, OK?" .

Steve's Hawkwind site

   In '77, a close friend from Uni, that I subsequently drove to India with, and myself rode down to the Henge on a Triumph Trident. I had my trusty 1.5 man picnic tent, and the usual supplies. Riding into the site was no problem and we weren't stopped. Later that day we were gathering wood when a police car pulled up. He asked us if we'd been stopped before and for some reason we said yes. He got back in the car and stared ahead while talking on the radio. Meanwhile as I watched, my friend found his stash in his leather shoulder bag and chucked it under hand behind us into the woods. The Policeman then got out of the car and said we weren't known and then proceeded to search us. A lucky escape.

   We caught up with a few friends including My Mentor who'd arrived after a difficult journey on his Triton. We stayed up all night round a fire and watched the sun rise before the others crashed in the free tent made from old parachute silk. That night we saw a great set from Tim Blake followed by Hawkwind. Lying on your back in a sleeping bag to keep warm while watching Nik Turner in his full WWII fighter pilot uniform while Hawkwind kick up a stor and Stacia did her thing.

Brilliant.

   As usual we hadn't worked out food properly, so I think I ate an awful lot of muesli and apple juice from the Release kitchen. I ventured briefly into one of the Teepees and discovered, not for the first time, that anything you take in there is communally owned. I think the ounce of Golden Virginia lasted about 3 minutes as it raced away from me round the circle.

Chillin'out at Stonehenge 1977

© Roger Hutchinson

Apart from the brief almost-bust on the first day, there was no trouble and no real police presence.

Julian Bond

In '77 I had just jacked in my career as a ship's engineer & was hanging out with mates in Liverpool. Some of them were off to a festival at Stonehenge, so I came along. An old Hillman Husky with no MOT and large amounts of "consumables" stashed around it. We were stopped by police when we had stopped at a service station with a leaky radiator. The nice men ignored the lack of MOT, even helped us put the radiator sealant we'd just nicked from the shop into the engine - we were too stoned to get it together properly.

And then they wished us a happy festy and waved us on our way. Outstanding! And then getting pulled again a bit short of Henge when we were liberating some opium poppies from a garage forecourt flower-bed. That took some creative bullshit about herbal remedies for sore throats to get away...

Memories of the festival are vague. First met John Pendragon (aka Y-Front John) then - he spent a couple of days, arms raised, following the sun round its circuit. Later got to know him well when I lived in Bristol.

I had a guitar which I loaned out to some total stranger while tripping. On realisation, I fully expected never to see it again but a few days later it was returned, along with the story that Richie Havens had borrowed it for his inpromtu gig. Never did know if this was true or not - sadly, I missed the gig! Managed to hang on to that guitar for a long time after though. It finally died on me when I was working in Afghanistan as an engineer for the Red Cross in 2004.
Music highlights were Tim Blake, Here & Now and Hawkwind.

Bad memories were the various incidents with people shit-faced on chewies, including a mate getting hit on the head with an axe - fortunately it was the side of the axe, so not too serious. Also a girl who was so out of it she went head first into a fire! Don't know how she faired.

Other memories are the impossibly long spliffs produced for the rolling competition in one of the tipis as well as the killer bongs. Going into the stones - hippies in one queue and going in for free, tourists in another and paying. ??? And once inside, a moment of cosmic bliss and hearing a Plod in full fig going Ommmmm, along with the hippies...

Gavin lights up a big one © Gavin (MacMillan)

The plods stayed off site till Bit & Release pulled out, then a brief scuffle as they came on site, but nothing too heavy.
Spent a couple of weeks of mixed mud and sun & good company before moving on to the quagmire of Glastonbury 7/7/77...

Cheers, Gavin

Henge dawn 1977 © Roger Hutchinson

Teepees under construction © Roger Hutchinson

Photos above © Steve Bayfield

© Roger Hutchinson

 

Photos of 1977 festival courtesy of Roger Hutchinson ,Steve Bayfield ,Nigel Ayers , Garry Bodenham & Jo and Spike

FWS festival report

Hansard Transcript



Henge Documents


Henge History : 1972-1984


Peace Convoy.1982-85

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