The Archive . updated July 2021
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Stonehenge Free Festival chronology.
Stonehenge Free Festival
August 15th-27th June
The stage 1979 © Paul Seaton
Eat Alley vegieburger stall © Timetortoise
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
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...
Big Steve, the stage manager of the later festivals once again has detailed recollections of this years event
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 wasnt 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 hadnt been nicked at all, just that someone who shall remain anonymous was too stupid or stoned to remember what hed 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!
© 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 oclock 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
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.
Im 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 Smiths 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 Jaynes 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 were 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 didnt 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 60s 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 Normals 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.
( our professional Henge consultant , Android Hoop comments "the wrappers you enquire about were wrapped around the famous Mrs Normals Hash Cakes - on sale at stonehenge and all good free festivals from circa 1980 till 1983 ?.The eponymous mrs N (who i think was called Vega) was the partner of Bill Normal - a fiftysomething playwright and anarchist who was a frequent resident of stonehenge festivals in the G O D (good old days). he was a great guy who once chased a sunday mirror reporter off site at s/henge with an axe - the poor guy shat himself !!." )
He also ran a gentlemans club in the back of his converted ambulance - where, for a few quid , one could become a member and be assured of a welcome, cup of tea, slippers, daily paper and a fat joint upon signing in.
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 Skynyrds Freebird "whats that song yall 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.
Ive 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 oclock in the morning) watching the 1930s version of King Kong being projected onto the tent wall.
Left : One of Mrs Normals bags for putting cookies in, courtesy Andy Barton ....
© 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 had 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).
Poster courtesy John Atkinson
"Word on the street" was that you had to intravenously inject it which is apparently nonsense; its 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
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 chapattis (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.
Ive 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 who 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.
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
© David Stooke
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 !!!
© David Stooke
Hey, thanks for the site - seems like a 1,000 years ago now, not 31. Couple of details to add: remember that during the week I was there, it was pretty hot for the UK in late June and everyone was being treated for sunburn. Also playing: The Mob, which the DJ went on and on about, but who were crap when they finally came on. The DJ redeemed himself later by ordering everyone to get up and see off some police officers who thought taking down people's number plates in the car park might lead to the next Operation Julie sting. Can't remember Gong playing, but I do remember Here and Now. I do have some pictures somewhere. Keep looking for my tent in amongst your shots, but alas!
is my ''Stonedhenge stashbag...I bought it from some stoners who had
just come back from India, and had these mirrored bags lying on the
parched grass...It was a great thing to be able to keep all one's drugs,
rizlas, lighter ''near at hand'' apart from going out to Amesbury, when
they had to be left behind, with a trusted friend..the risk of 'busts'
was always near the gates, where the coppers hung out.
I had been given a lift to the festival by my parents..a fact that was
colossally embarrassing, as I had not lived at home for a while, but
they offered to take me 'to avoid hitching' which was kind.
with a heavy canvas tent, I was very glad to have had a lift. The tent
was a veteran of Isle of Man TT races, and was very 'oldskool' with
toggles to do it up, and no zips anywhere.
I plonked my tent down on an almost empty site, near some friendly looking blokes, and that was how the site evolved, lots of circles formed around campfires..the fires moved a few inches throughout the course of the week, with the direction of the wind.
The 'drug stupourmarket' was amazing..I couldn't believe how the police just stayed away, and the myriad little signs appeared 'Leb' 'Black' 'morphine'...and later that night, while on a search for milk for coffee I saw a long queue, and asked what it was for 'Opium' was the reply..I joined the back of the queue, and indeed, the sellers had Indian opium in a Gale's honey Jar, and were scooping it out with a knife, and put it on some cellophane..£6 a gram.
I had no idea what to do with it, and was going to put it in a joint...but back at the tent, there was a very 'posh' very straight looking private schoolboy who had travelled a lot with his parents, and he said ''I thought you hippies knew everything! you never put Opium in a joint, it burns it...you have to Vaporise it'..and he pulled a biro apart, and found some tinfoil, and said ''this is how they do it in Hong Kong'' 'chasing the dragon'......He showed us how to do it, and the effect was quite wonderfully soothing..a sense of supreme lightness, and when one's eyes were closed, it was like watching a cinema screen..clear images played out across the back of one's closed eyelids..never had I felt so comfortable..there would have been about six of us in the two- man tent, but we just lay in silence, no one talking, just wrapped up in the warmth of the experience.
the straight guy said he wanted to get some proper sleep, so I went
to my tent next door, and lay there in the dark, marvelling at the
gentleness of the experience.
was in love with the horse drawn vehicles on the site, and tried riding
one of the horses by flinging a blanket over his back, and riding
like a Native American...big mistake...the horse began to trot, and
the blanket started to slip, and I slid off , hitting my hip on a
rock as I landed. Tonto did not ride again that week..
loos, dug by the Army were bloody dangerous, like deep wells, how no one fell
into them was a miracle...they were perilously deep, and I never had the courage
to use them. One
night, the Army did a 'flyover' using helicopters, flares &c, which was
terrifying...it was like war had broken out....does anyone else remember this?
I do remember Squaddies wandering about...they must have hated us, all undisciplined,
while they had to toe the line, and do their duty to Queen and Country
The St John's did a great job, with their first aid tent...there was a girl I remember who had fallen asleep in the sun, and had been cruelly sunburned...she was crying and sobbing as the staff gently placed lint and cold water over her scarlet limbs...
My big regret is not taking more care of my Stonehenge photos....they were small square 'Kodak Instamatic' shots, of dope, of tents, campfires and sunsets over stoned hippies...such ephemera tends to get lost and discarded over the decades.....Somewhere I do have a 'Smokey Bears' stencilled flag from 1980, Hyde Park.
All the best, Cathy
my name is Harry from Poole,my main memories from that year was getting kicked in the arse after swimming naked in the river at Avebury while I was doing what comes naturally after meeting a beautiful young girl while bathing. After a few days the cops tried to enter the site in one of their vans and were bodily picked up by about 30 young lads and carried off site. This crowd that had grown to a few hundred wandered down to the fence by the road opposite the Henge. The main local cop a chief most definitely was on the road trying to explain to all present that wasn't it time to go home now. I very impulsively,probably cos I was pissed and tripping jumped the fence,pulled down my pull string pants and nakedly declared," do you wanna look up my ass for drugs like you've been doing up in the woods to people" , I then climbed back over said fence to the cheers of blissed mob and carried on having a good one.
Later after injuring myself trying to knock dead wood out of a tree in the woods, I was accosted by a news crew at 6am in the morning who were curious why I was singing and wandering around with a crutch and two pints of milk. I found out when I got back to Poole that they were the BBC Nationwide after the news camera crew, they inquired why I was there and I said that anyone who wants a bit of peace should come to Stonehenge, the interviewer asked why people were so peaceful at Stonehenge and I said it was because everyone was tripping off their heads, which I thought was particularly funny.If you remember seeing that particular segment I was the limpy guy with the milk and crutch,don't fall out of a tree tripping it can get you on TV. Ahh! Those were the days, I live in Oz now. Like alot of people I left after I saw what the cops did at Windsor 74' and every time I came back I could never reconcile myself to the septic isle again for very long. Great times tho, if your still breathing and were there,
bless yiz'all,....Harry de Bastarde
Henge History :1972-1984