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Stonehenge Festival 1982 -press articles.


Sing and Shout For Joy !

By Jeremy Sandford .

   This might well be the first year that you can spend the whole summer at one festival or another. Previously festival addicts who didn't want to go home had to hole up for odd weeks here and there in corners of the countryside, but now at last they stretch right through; three packed months of Pop Festivals, Free Festivals, and Fayre's.
   A few hundred people actually do follow the season right through, travelling from festival to festival with their tents or with tepees, or in a series of beautifully decorated converted buses and vans. As often as not, they take with them some service for the festivals; the musician Nik Turner, formerly with Hawkwind, travels with his "Pyramidic collapsible stage that has been a feature of so many free festivals. The exotically named Tibetan Mountain Troupe take with them a number of buses, generators, and a marquee in which they stage theatrical and rock events; there are Steve and Perry' Blackman with their swing boats, and any number of people who set up al fresco cafes and restaurants amid the tang of wood smoke.

Photo© Jambo

Sid Rawles

Others who follow through the festival season have saved up through the winter in order to have an open and and convivial summer, or earn their keep from organisers by cleaning up the vast pile,of plastic rubbish that a modern festival leaves behind it. Corrina, singer with the all woman rock band Androids of Mu who were playing at Stonehenge, told me " The real importance of the festival, scene is that it provides for city people an introduction to earth living- it's a breath of freedom."
' 'it 's not too late to have a happy childhood," said a huge notice beside the muddy access route. For those like myself who have always felt a tinge of envy for the Duke in ‘As You Like It’ setting up his court in the Forest of Arden there is an unending fascination in these instant tent cities, rising up overnight in the midst of the countryside. I like to fancy that we can see the everyday world created here in a better land, dedicated to good health,peace, cooperation,- conviviality, and music.

    One evening at Glastonbury l noted that I could at the same time be studying Indian dances or African drumming , Tai Chi, face painting, cooperative games, jigging, busking, visiting a tepee or alternative theatre or film in the tented Pilton Palals, playing football, frisbee, or bouncing on giant inflatables, 'munching food from the cuisine of much of the world, buying leather hats jewellery or otherwise renewing my wardrobe , socialising or listening to the vastly amplified and stunning Chieftains.
      Existing society quickly recreates itself, with some making huge profits by selling commodities at an inflated price, while others provide services free, and yet others cast themselves as rubbish collectors. Musicians, jesters, organisers, or consumers. And inevitably, sometimes, there are those who push the thing too far, like the Hell's Angels zooming in for their Saturday night punch up, the indiscreet and flagrant dealers.
   On the wet weekend of midsummer there were 20,000 people at Stonehenge and another 25 000 at Glastonbury. Where did it start, this interesting postwar phenomenon ? I think it was Edward Montague who began in 1958 a two day event at Beaulieu. Four thousand people came, many of whom camped in special tents provided, and there was a fabulous amplification , system installed by the Antone firm. Since then, the number of festivals each year has been growing till now there are something like forty or fifty.
About the time that Montague ceased his festivals, Harold Pendleton of the Marquee Club in Soho carried on. His annual festival, held for most of its history at Reading, has been running for 21 years. FestIvals took a more spiritual turn with a group of people centering round Michael Eavis, described by a friend as " a Somerset farmer with crowd gathering tendencies." Asked by enthusiasts whether his land could used for festivals, Eavis again and again said yes when most people in his position would say no. The now legendary 1971 Glastonbury festival was held at his Worthy Farm, as have many since. culminating in the one this year which attracted 25,000 and showed a profit not far short of £50,000 which is to be passed on to CND.

The Fayre's,which tend to be medieval in style and often use acoustic and more folky music, have been developed over the last decade. So have the free festivals, for which there is no entrance fee and which are usually not legal in that they take place on common land where they infringe some by-law or other, or on some " holy " and for which permission was not forthcoming. Sid Rawle who lives in the winter with a hundred or so other people in the tipi village at Tally in South West Wales, has played an important part in the development of these. The fact that the thousands who gather suffer relatively little harassment must to quite a large degree be due to his skilful diplomacy. This year officialdom actually cut the wire round Stonehenge on solstice day so that a procession of hundreds of people could cross the road and enter the shrine, where three weddings and several " namings of babies took place. People related to the divinity which many still feel resides in that place in various ways that they felt appropriate.

Sid Rawle 2006 © Andy Roberts

   There was a daily rubbish Collection by the local authority, the toilets were kept clean round the clock, running WAter was provided, and medical services were in the hands of the St John Ambulance Brigade. Such public servicing costs a lot less than that for a Royal Garden Party or an agricultural show, but is none the less not bad for something that is ultimately illegal, and is perhaps a good demonstration of our old friend ,the British genius for compromise.

   Michael Clarke , who teaches Sociology at the University of Birmingham, recently published ' The Politics of Pop Festivals' (Junction Books). " How is it," he asks, " that a somewhat motley collection of young and not so young people managed to impose their taste for festivals on the English countryside in summer, in spite of the rooted opposition of many of the residents '' Part of the answer, he believes, " is the assumption in the British legal system to a right of assembly without prior State permission"
It is precisely this element of permission which was sought in Clause S5 of the County of Lancashire Bill, now going through Parliament, which would have demanded from organisers up to £1,500 deposit and imposed requirements on sanitation, water supply, and " public order " (ie, extra police.) Second thoughts have prevailed, however, and this clause has just been dropped.

The over-reaction of the police at the Windsor Free Festival In 1974 probably had an important effect on the way later festivals were treated. A Release eyewitness describes how " I saw several people Iying down. suddenly shocked by the arrival of the police who proceeded to charge straight over them. The front line of police (at least six) had truncheons drawn and were swinging them viciously at anyone who got in their way. Plainclothes policemen in the crowd,,previously planted there, I. presume, and identifiable by their chequered. armbands, were deliberately pushing people into the uniformed police, provoking assault by the uniformed police on the individual victims." The public outcry which followed this treatment of a hitherto peaceful festival seems to have resulted in police thinking twice before using such tactics again.

 The last word should go to Sid Rawle who four years ago penned the following masterful letter to The Times:

" What has happened at Stonehenge over the last five years is that for the week of midsummer thousands of pilgrims from many religious persuasions have come here The evidence is indisputable that Stonehenge and the surrounding area is one of the most powerful spiritual centres in Europe. It is right that we should meekly stand in the presence of God. but it is proper that we should sing and dance and shout for joy for the love and mercy that He shows us.... We should not put a road through Stonehenge and given our way it would soon be removed. We know that we will soon he called upon to see this nation through some dreadful and difficult times and when that happens you will not find us lacking and we ask now that ourselves and our children be Ieft together in peace to find the necessary strength."

   Henge 1982 home

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