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updated October 2009



"Could that many people gather together today with only minimal communal organisation and such a relatively small amount of trouble but so much pleasure? The question is irrelevant. They would never allow us."


Stonehenge Free Festival chronology.

1978.

The Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe Tent lurks behind the ubiquitous Tranny ,Stonehenge 1978.

© Martin Starnes

  The decision to evict thousands of squatters from the London boroughs at the end of the 70s was one of the reasons in the growth of the travellers movement and the eventual rise of the Peace Convoy at Stonehenge in 1982.

Bands who played at the 78 festival 1978 included Hawkwind ,Sphynx , Here And Now, Gross Catastrophe, The Mob, Seventh Angel and Bronz. At this stage the festival was still very much small scale with only a few thousand attending . The weather was pretty poxy and there are reports of the festival goers moving onto Glastonbury because they had been rained out .

 

Photo above courtesy of Luke B go visit his photo site , plenty more nice festy pix

Henge 78 photogallery ( New Jan 2004 )

Honeymoon at Stonehenge !

Spike , who went on to set up stalls at later Henge's has this to report

   My sweet lady wife and myself honeymooned at Stonehenge in 1978 3 years before we started to run the badge stall. Oh what fun we had, arrived in a blustery gale having driven in convoy across Blackdown at some ungodly time of the night and spent several hours trying to put up geodesic domes in the dark and the wind, all this to the accompaniment of the dread Cosmic Wailer(does anyone out there remember this awesome gent).

© Martin Starnes

Did you ever go to a festival and listen to the putting up the frame tent in the dark sketch ? .It goes like this-

Stroked out the henge 1978.

© Martin Starnes

1) You leave London at 2 in the morning having drunk intemperate amounts of beer in a borrowed car with the driver pissed and equipped with a 1920s road atlas of Britain
2 ) You smoke vast amounts of exceedingly fine Lebanese hash all the way down the A303
3) You arrive at the site at 3-30 in the morning-knackered-and needing to sleeeeeeep.
4) Unfortunately you have a 5 bedroom+kitchen+lounge frame tent that you have borrowed and have no idea how to erect. it......... it comes complete.with at least 2 poles & 3 connectors missing.
5) I leave the rest to your imagination ,except to say that you will be still up ,living in a 2 foot high construction ,will not miss the midsummer sunrise, will provide hours of amusement for your more sussed neighbours, and keep smug bastards like me awake all night

    

    We have photos of Nick Turner turning up with the Tantric pyramid stage which always gave rise to the other great festival sketch
1) You leave London at midnight having drunk an intemperate amount of beer , drive down the A303 whilst smoking a large quantity of Leban................... you get the idea ,even down to the map........
2) You arrive on site ..shall we say wasted.. in , or on , a fucked truck and decide to put the stage up immediately.
3 ) It's a big site where do we put the fucker for best effect?
4 ) Well lets half build it and carry it about the place until it feels right.!!!
5 ) Christ this scaffold is getting fucking heavy (by now you have about 60 volunteers roused from their snug doss bags by the racket +my wife taking photos of the fun)
6. This'll fucking do- 2 hours later.....facing the stones and in time to blow the bleedin' druids away.........

Well that's how I remember it anyway,and we do have the photos......

Steve remembers the bands at the 1978 festival in some detail

1978
    It was one of my teachers, though, who told me that the fuss being kicked up by the farmer on whose land the festival took place, was something of an exercise in hypocrisy. Apparently he had been paid by the Department of the Environment to not fence off his land….so that the hippies would go there and not into the monument itself. This information had come to him from a Wiltshire County Councillor. The festival was more-or-less tolerated in those days, although it was a no-go zone for the police. At one point a van full of them drove into the encampment to arrest somebody – the van was surrounded by about 50 hippies, who rocked it from side to side and threw policemen’s helmets up into the air. The plods beat a less than dignified retreat while everyone who saw it hooted with laughter.

© Martin Starnes

   I remember more about the music that year. I saw Nik Turner’s Sphynx and they were pretty good. There was also a French band from Metz, called Gross Catastrophe. They played thunderous jazz-rock improvisations and went down very well, being asked back to play a second set a couple of days after their first one. I also saw The Mob, a very rough punk band from Yeovil. The drummer did some of the singing and the frontman had a cheapo black Arbiter guitar exactly like mine…they were awful. A lot of the bands who played were not hippie-ish at all, merely uninspired straight bands who probably would never have any other opportunity to play to more than a handful of people. One of the better unknown bands that played that year (I think) were "Seventh Angel" whom I remember as Uriah Heep wannabes…

 

    There was a low-power laser as part of the stage/lights set-up, which did nothing much except project a fuzzy red dot onto the front of the stage, upon which you could not focus. Being in the open air, there was never enough smoke to show up the beam. The weather wasn't great, I recall it being pretty damp when Sphynx played…and they were the kind of band who got a sitting audience rather than a standing one: everyone ended up with a soggy arse. I lay on my back looking up at the stars, and saw something moving, like a satellite, that split into two, with the 2 halves of whatever-it-was moving off in a Y-shaped trajectory. I hadn't taken any drugs and was quite clear-headed. It reminded me of the hot air balloon of the year before. The festival just seemed to be the kind of place where you would see strange things in the sky…

© Martin Starnes

Teepees at the Henge 1978 © Janet Thompson

 

Hull contingent Henge 78 © Janet Thompson

 

Release Festival Report.

Here and Now at Stonehenge 1978


Here & Now 06/19/78
Stonehenge Free Festival, Wiltshire, England


1. Improvisation
2. What You See Is What You Are
3. Zero (Changes)
4. Allez Ali Baba
5. Stonehenge Jam
6. Dog In Hell
7. Floating Anarchy
8. New Age Transformation Try (introduced & begun as "Zero Gets Lost At Stonehenge Festival")
9. Opium For The People

This is a different performance to that which is partly released on the "What You See Is What You Are" LP, but from the same festival. That was recorded on the afternoon of the 20th June 1978.

Here & Now
1. What You See Is What You Are
2. Dog In Hell
3. Addicted
Alternative TV
4. Action Time Lemon
5. Going Round In Circles
6. Fellow Sufferer
7. Splitting In Two
Line-up / Musicians
- Keith Th' Bass / bass
- Gavin Da Blitz / keyboards
- Steffe Sharpstrings / guitar
- Kif Kif Le Batter / drums
- Suze Da Blooze, Annie Wombat / choir of angels


1979.

 

The stage 1979 © Paul Seaton

 

 

 

Eat Alley vegieburger stall © Timetortoise

 

Convoy Steve

S/henge 79 - hmm, its all a bit vague. I do remember that there were only about 5 trucks/buses there - ours, a big coach, Gypsy Daves truck and a couple of others. In those days most people came in tents , there weren't even any caravans that I can remember.I do remember that the farmer who leased the land off of the Ministry of Defence (who actually own the land around s'henge), was a really nice bloke - I think his name was Andrew, he used to visit Tipi's and tents and have tea with folks, he even used to lend people money until they cashed their social security cheques !. he died a couple of years later in a mysterious car accident . . .

Mick Sinclair has more information from a muso's perspective

© Paul Seaton

 In 1979, I was back at Stonehenge, this time playing in the Funboy Five (read about us at http://micksinclair.com/fb5/intro.html ) Since our drummer refused to play at free festivals (!), we played without him. I can't remember our exact set but since we never had many songs we probably played them all, and some we probably played several times (oh yes, we do have a studio CD for sale!). Later that year, we did a session for the John Peel Show and in 1980 released a single, "Life After Death/ Compulsive Eater" that has become something of a collectors item, partly because so few people bought it at the time. Aside from the fun of being at event itself, the best aspect of the 1979 festival for me was being onstage with a PA system that actually let us, as well as the audience, hear what we were playing, which was a rarity.

       Between the 1977 and 1979 festivals, my ex-roadie partner Phil and I had formed a band, the Anal Surgeons, who as far as I recall never played a festival but did lots of free gigs with Here & Now. By 1979, the band had split and I'd formed the Funboy Five while Phil had become Vince of Vince Pie & The Crumbs who played at Stonehenge the same evening as us , followed much later by Poison Girls and Crass.
    Another couple of years on and I was writing for the music weekly Sounds (much of my stuff from that time is archived at http://micksinclair.com. The comment about free festivals being largely ignored by the media is absolutely true: I encountered very few people at Sounds or any other paper, or in the mainstream music business generally, who had been to a free festival or had any idea what they were about.

Person x thinks these bands played

definitely remember seeing "the pop group" at stonehenge 1979...a fuckin' excellent band they were...also remember "nik turner's sphinx"...were "crass" there? cos i got a vague memory that they were...anyway, other bands that i dimly recall were some band called "the lightning raiders"( or was that watchfield 75?)..no..definitely stonehenge 79...i also remember some band that i think were called " the pink radio show"?...remember seeing a few bands there but the names have long since escaped me...

© Paul Seaton

Big Steve, the stage manager of the later festivals once again has detailed recollections of this years event

1979
    The weather was somewhat better and the festival had grown noticeably in size of attendance. Fewer of the old hands around this year, but there was one strange middle-aged skinny bloke, suntanned and bald, who stripped off completely and jiggled about irrespective of who was playing, to the evident discomfiture of some of the people near him! I later saw this guy climbing in and out of his car, which was not some banged-up old hippie wreck, but a completely unremarkable vehicle that you wouldn't have noticed in Tesco's car park. It struck me that he wasn’t some incomprehensible loony but was probably just a free spirit who liked to dance naked when he could. I had forgotten all about this guy until I saw a photo of him at http://www.geocities.com/ocknroll/festis2.html (Luke B's site) - he is in front of the red bus, in the bottom left photo.
    I think it was in 1979 that I saw Gong at the festival. Not the pothead pixie version of Gong, but Pierre Moerlen's worthy-but-dull jazzy version. Patrice Lemoine was on keyboards. Not many people seemed to be into this as I had no difficulty getting up to the front of the stage. I got bored though, and wandered around to the back of the stage. Gong's tour bus was there and was a real contrast with the efficient band up on stage. It could have come straight off the cover of Camembert Electrique, being a ramshackle hippie wagon par excellence, with a psychedelic Gong logo painted on it in yellow and blue.

We were camped near a tent that flew a confederate flag. We thought someone had nicked our stove and I asked the DJ to read out a message asking for it back. There were a number of messages like this being read out all the time, and the guy reading them out was appalled at this litany of petty theft etc.. Of course, it subsequently turned out that the stove hadn’t been nicked at all, just that someone who shall remain anonymous was too stupid or stoned to remember what he’d done with it.

Another who shall remain anonymous was a friend of mine whose name was always being read out by the announcer: 'Can Ian X come to the front of the stage….Ian X to the front of the stage…' Another deal going down!

© Paul Seaton

 

© David Stooke

   Drugs were all around but it was still uncommercialised. Stonehenge 79 was the last time I saw any Red Leb being offered for sale…you would just stumble across a home-made cardboard sign by a tent - it was just an individual selling whatever he or she had. Another thing you would see occasionally was people with a few instruments jamming at low volume, and sometimes another home-made cardboard sign: ' feel free to use these instruments '. Little things like this were what made Stonehenge so totally unlike going to a commercial festival like Reading (which I also went to in 1979).


    The only other band I remember seeing for certain at Stonehenge in 1979 was either Crass or the Poison Girls. They were a cut above the usual drossy bands that played there, sounding tight, aggressive and very uncompromising . Unfortunately a friend of mine had dropped some acid and this was enough to turn his trip bad. His girlfriend and I walked him over to the Release tent, where he was 'talked down'. We had a prior agreement that my girlfriend and I (who were sleeping on a groundsheet with a blanket over us, but no tent) would come into their tent if it rained in the night. It did start to rain at about 4am, but as I started to go in the tent, my mate moaned ' You can't come in here', and the reasons why struck me immediately. He had crapped and/or puked into every available receptacle (mostly saucepans) and it was not nice in there. My girlfriend and I decided to take our chances with the rain. It was cold, we were really thirsty too, and the only thing there was to drink was warm cans of Kestrel lager. We sat on the stage, wrapped in blankets sipping this cheap horrible beer at 4 o’clock in the morning. It was one of those moments when you thought 'what the hell am I doing here when I could be warm in bed at home?' I think I did go home, as a matter of fact, unwashed and with my clothes stinking of woodsmoke, as was normal at Stonehenge.


This major report from Mark came in June 2003

STONEHENGE 1979
A friend & I hitched down from the far north, much to the surprise of people that we would travel that far for an event (then again there was absolutely nothing where we came from).

© Paul Seaton

Stonehenge, in some respects, was an introduction to democracy in action, which has stayed with me all these years. The "co-ordinators" would call a general site meeting & several hundred people would debate what needed to be done – organising the stage, bogs, and liasing with the local police etcetera.

I’m afraid to say that it was rather spoilt by one of the Tipi people threatening to pull out “& if we go, the police will roll over the site” unless we all coughed up a (considerable) sum to finance the stage. What really hacked me off was that I later heard the allegation that some people kept 10% of donations back as a "tithe".

The weather was OK for most of the week, it did rain heavily one night though – our tent got flooded out (ever tried bailing out a tent in the pitch black & you are "stoned immaculate"?).
The Solstice itself was fine & sunny; there was a parade of Wally Smith’s ashes round the site & the ritual storming of the gates to the Stones/people shouting "WALLY!!!" (The other version was "ALBATROSS"- usually at 3:00 am & "anybodygorranyasid")

Stonehenge, in some respects, was an introduction to democracy in action, which has stayed with me all these years. The "co-ordinators" would call a general site meeting & several hundred people would debate what needed to be done – organising the stage, bogs, and liasing with the local police etcetera.

I’m afraid to say that it was rather spoilt by one of the Tipi people threatening to pull out "& if we go, the police will roll over the site" unless we all coughed up a (considerable) sum to finance the stage. What really hacked me off was that I later heard the allegation that some people kept 10% of donations back as a "tithe".

The weather was OK for most of the week, it did rain heavily one night though – our tent got flooded out (ever tried bailing out a tent in the pitch black & you are "stoned immaculate"?).
The Solstice itself was fine & sunny; there was a parade of Wally Smith’s ashes round the site & the ritual storming of the gates to the Stones/people shouting "WALLY!!!" (The other version was "ALBATROSS"- usually at 3:00 am & "anybodygorranyasid")

There was a "wedding"and a christening in the inner circle led by the (infamous at the time) "Rick the Vic". A Church of England vicar who had "dropped out" & whom (I think, was living with the Tepee people. (He later wrote an article for High Times, which differed significantly to how I remember the festival!)

As it was hot & sunny that day, a few people stripped off, much to the excitement of a few passing Italian tourists, who proceeded to photograph everything that moved.
I remember the "old" naked guy. Somebody told me that he turned up to all the festivals & stripped off regardless of the weather. Equally incongruous was an Asian family who turned up in a camper van & duly opened a shop.

© David Stooke

© David Stooke

Then there was Rufus, who lived in the basement of Jayne’s squat, he who used to wander round naked declaiming "love & peace brothers & sisters".One night, round 3:00am, there we were all huddled round the campfire, Rufus appeared out of the darkness, declaiming as usual – stark naked.Rufus was pretty well out of it mentally. Unless he got help, I hate to think whatever happened to him. He once took 30 minutes (in the rain) to roll a joint, which fell apart in a shower of sparks after several draws.
(I later heard he was busted at Stonehenge 80 – some local coppers found him in possession of a joint, whilst he was having a shit in the woods.)

© David Stooke

I suppose this is an opportune moment to mention the bogs. As I remember there where the public bogs, where one could get a wash in the morning and the "open air version"– a series of bore holes. A pretty dangerous area to be wandering around in when it got dark…

There is a deep & dark memory of wandering past some hippy, sat on a chair reading the paper… with the seat taken out & a hole dug underneath.

Bands… no real recollection bar:
Keith Christmas & band played an absolutely storming set (Keith has reminded me that halfway through somebody set off a paper hot air balloon painted with a Chinese dragon, in front of the stage. Later on, or perhaps the following year, some one had discovered that if you taped the handles of a plastic carrier bag together, held it over an open fire (so that the bag filled with hot air). The clever bit was to then set the handles on fire. Voila! The bag would rise for a 100 feet in the air (they looked pretty weird from a distance) before exploding into a meltdown of burning plastic – onto the heads of watching stoners below.)

Nik Turner (whom I didn’t recognise with short hair) stood on me as he walked by and Here & Now organised the stage/running order of the bands.

Some band called Looney Q took upon themselves to disregard the set running & were promptly thrown off the stage by a Here & Now cohort. An aged relic from the 60’s took offence to this "fascist dictatorship"& grabbed the stage mike to hold forth at length about this being "the peoples festival" until hauled off – probably to have a heart attack.

© David Stooke

An enterprising couple set up "Mr & Mrs Normal’s Tea Party". Which consisted of a bell tent, entrance 25 pence for which you received a spliff & a cup of tea. It was situated next to one of the minor stages. A local band, whose name I have completely forgotten, were doing extremely bad heavy metal cover versions. The lead singer launched into a word-perfect recitation of the intro to the live version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird – "what’s that song y’all want to hear?" to shouts of "fuck & die" from assorted (very, very stoned) denizens at the tea party. Needless to say, they carried on regardless & we all headed for relative safety far, far away from the trashing Freebird was receiving.
I’ve forgotten who organised it, but there was a circus tent (?) that also held a stage & would hold "light shows" once it got dark. I have a vague memory of getting too stoned to find our tent & sitting there (at three o’clock in the morning) watching the 1930’s version of King Kong being projected onto the tent wall.

© David Stooke

Getting too stoned to move was a regular event. One awful morning I woke up around the remnants of a campfire & realised that a biker gang have moved in during the early hours… The term "Oh dear" springs to mind. Somehow I managed to slide away. I think the gang were preoccupied with waking people up & telling them to "move"– before they drove the bikes over the tents.

Acid was in short supply (at least in that I failed miserably to find any) though as above hash was everywhere & I was stoned all the time. But… somebody brought on site a big supply of Diconal – a pretty powerful painkiller (& "drug of choice" as utilised by one Dr Harold Shipman).
"Word on the street" was that you had to intravenously inject it – which is apparently nonsense; it’s an oral drug (though I suspect you X10 the effect if you inject).


It got so bad, everywhere you went were bodies of people flat out, Here & Now resorted to making regular announcements over the PA to request that users do so in a tent rather than outside. I think people with children -Sid Rawles lot brought a tribe of kids with them -had started to complain about the number of people jacking up in front of the kids.

Well, Stonehenge 79 draws to an end. By this point we were flat broke & starving. We met up with some hippies (who laughed at us urban dwellers unable to cope without a shop) and they treated us to "nettle soup".

The recipe is as follows:
Mounds of nettles
Water
Anything else you can find (including an apple core thrown into the fire but missing the target…)
Boil over an open fire; serve with hand made chapatti’s (wood smoke flavour non optional).

I hung around on the Sunday as Nik Turners Inner City Unit (version 1) played a set (they had played Glastonbury the day before). It was mainly stuff from Xintoday & a version of Brainstorm.
I’ve heard that the BBC filmed it & it was shown as part of a documentary, though I have never seen it.
I then had to hitch back north. The first lift from outside the gates, decent people had a van & offered every hitchhiker a lift, got pulled on “sus laws”, much to the bemusement of a couple of Germans who had travelled over for the festival.

Our driver seemed to think that it was because one of the passengers was an organiser of the "Alternative Miss World" contest (Miss World in drag). I later found out that the film director Derek Jarman was heavily involved. I often wondered if that passenger was Mr Jarman.

 

© David Stooke

I got another lift off some creepy character, who insisted on talking about flagellation - "tell me, (leer, leer) did they, er, beat you at school"? & who promptly dumped me in the middle of absolute nowhere (at dusk). Just to compound things, after walking for a mile or so, another bloke appeared out of the woods & started following me down the road. Thankfully the next passing car stopped & I eventually made it back home for a bath & sleep in a real bed.

To read more of Mark's festival exploits visit this page


One event I remember from the 1979 STONEHENGE FREE FESTIVAL was the unexpected arrival, on the afternoon of Sunday 17th June, of two very over-dressed couples, in an open-top Rolls-Royce Cornishe ! They looked like they were on their way to the races at Royal Ascot, or one of the Queen's garden parties at Buckingham Palace. They drove slowly around the site, several times, and amazingly everyone just smiled and waved back. It appeared that all the festival goers were respectful of the fact that these well-heeled visitors had taken the time and trouble to come and see for themselves - the great un-washed gathering - and find out what a free festival was really all about....unless they had run out of dope and had come there to score !!!

Steve Bayfield

© David Stooke

FWS Festival Report.


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