Taken from the FWS report 1980


Stonehenge Free Festival © Bodge

Stonehenge Free Festival, Midsummer Solstice, 1980
June 14
Over the first weekend, the Stonehenge festival was more like a survival course for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, due to the bad weather.

The field occupied by the festival was opposite Stonehenge, and had recently been cut. When I arrived on Saturday morning, about 500 people were already camping there, in a variety of tents, home-made structures, and tipis. Release and St John Ambulance had set up their bases at the top end of field. In the car park for the monument, were two sets of portacabin toilets which the festival people could use and Release organised people to clean them . Release had also brought black plastic sacks for the collection rubbish, until arrangements could be made for the festival to purchase some from the local authority. Many of the plastic sacks were used as temporary raincoats in the storms! The weather was very rough over the first weekend, with torrential rain and high winds, which blew down some of the tents. There was one case of exposure, combined with a Mandrax overdose.

Over the weekend the crowd reached about 1000, dropping again slightly the beginning of the following week. Wood for campfires was purchased by the festival from a neighbouring farmer, and wood runs were organised to collect it. There was a wide variety of food and drink tents and stalls site, as well as a free food kitchen.The Police were active on the approach roads to the festival, doing many stop and searches, and had a mobile unit in the monument car park. When left on Monday evening , there had only been accoustic music around the site, with some amplified music when small generators were working, but stage hadn't materialised. There had been three site newssheets printed site information, and a site meeting had been held, mainly to discuss rip offs on site, which were causing great concern.

Stonehenge Free Festival 2nd Visit June 22nd

I hardly recognised the site when I went back on the second weekend as festival had more than doubled in size. The site had filled up and spread into two neighbouring fields and had accommodated approximately 17,500 people on the solstice. The trackway round the main field had just about been kept clear, but the entrance gate was very muddy, and some cars lost control going down the slope on the way in.

The site was clearing during Sunday and Monday, but people were obviously staying on for a few more days. The St John first aid post left on Tuesday and Release on Wednesday. By Thursday the site was apparently clear and been left in quite a clean state, with rubbish in heaps for the Local authority to collect.

The local environmental health department had made arrangements during the week for the festival people to purchase rubbish sacks and to collect the rubbish when it was piled in heaps. The porta-cabin toilets in the monument car park had been used heavily, especially at the solstice, when many visitors had been to watch the ceremony in the stones. They had suffered some damage although volunteers from the festival site had been clearing them. Bore hole latrines had also been dug on the site but unfortunately they were too wide (24" diameter instead of 12") and could have been dangerous, especially for children. The rest of the site didn't appear to be fouled much. Some damage was done to fences. Further arrangements had been made for firewood to be purchased by the festival people, so the neighbouring woodland was not damaged.

On site were a wide variety of food vendors, selling food at reasonable prices and there were also free food kitchens operating. Some food stands operated throughout the night. A group of people had brought a large marquee to the festival, for bands and Theatre groups to perform in, and this was used as a crash marquee at night. There was a main pyramid stage on site, plus many smaller stages.
Total sound volume was very low, as the audience were spread between the
various performing areas.

Release and St John Ambulance were on site throughout the week and were joined by the Samaritans over the second weekend. St John had a large team and dealt with many first aid problems. They had also organised an on-site doctors surgery each evening. Several casualties had to be taken to hospital for treatment. Release dealt with a variety of drug and legal problems, and provided much site information. They helped to organise the toilet-cleaning volunteers, wood runs and site cleaning. The Samaritans provided a counselling service and looked after lost children.

Communication between Festival Welfare Services, the police, the Department of the Environment, the farmer and the festival-goers was very good. Release, however received many complaints from festival-goers about being stopped and searched unnecessarily on their way to the festival. On the whole the atmosphere of the festival was very pleasant, although there were one or two moments of friction between the various sub-groups attending the festival. There were many new festival-goers who enjoyed the festival, despite the weather and many young bands were able to perform.

The festival was very popular this year and it may be anticipated that a large number of people could want to attend next year, especially over the solstice period. We would recommend that meetings be arranged for all parties concerned with the festival as early next year as possible. Discussions will be epecially relevant on areas of health, sanitation and site layout.

Penny Mellor, Field Worker - June 1980 .