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Stonehenge Free Festival - Photo Galleries.

1981 Photogallery

The Al Stokes Galleries.

Stonehenge Free Festival 1981.

The Stage .

    Al Stokes belonged to that rare species , a hip press photographer, as such he was able to blend in well at events such as Stonehenge. In this excerpt from his new ebook "Strange Tales From The New Age" Al narrates how he was hassled at Glastonbury by the plod , despite having all the correct credentials AND tickets, but was accepted readily at the Henge by both plod and bikers...

The verdent green flelds of Glastobollox

Official busy protecting the innocent from hordes of maurauding journalists

at Glastobollox .

"Saturday June 20th I was sent off to photograph the Glastonbury CND Festival for the Daily Mirror. Or not as it turned out. Tony Caruana came along as my driver and by the time we hit the Somerset county line we noticed a distinct official chilliness in the air. Civilian stewards, with no apparent authority whatsoever, were flagging down motorists on the Queen’s highway demanding to know their destinations.

We of the press pass persuasion refrained from telling them and instead asked to see the vigilantes’ warrant cards. That seemed to shut them up as we proceeded about our lawful occupations. Petit-fogging jumped up robber barons defending some misbegotten music festival from people who didn’t even want to be there in the first place, out on the public highway. How is that allowed to happen? What benighted police state had we wandered into?

Things grew darker and more perverse at the festival site. It was if we had stumbled uninvited onto a private meeting of the KKK or a neo-nazi rally for all the waves of bad attitude we were getting from the civilian festival staff. The vigilantes would not allow Tony to park on the public road while I got out and took hippie festival photos, so we did it on the hoof with the intention of going back later to photograph inside the festival site for which we had tickets.

We never got that far.

A motorcycle cop flagged us down and despite producing our 8-quid tickets and press passes he told us we were not allowed to photograph on the roads around the festival site, that he was going to escort us to the county line and if we came back into Somerset we would be arrested and locked up for the night. Wow! Whatever the heck the coppers were protecting it must have been huge. It turned out to be John Cooper Clark, Aswad and Hawkwind.

I could not help noticing Tony was driving very slowly.

"Is there something wrong with the car?’ I asked.

‘No. But its very difficult to ride a motorbike at two miles per hour.’

We went on like that until the motorcycle cop drew up alongside and reminded us,Don’t come back or you will be nicked and put up in front of the magistrate tomorrow.”

There was no point in arguing with the man although I was intrigued to find out what the charge would have been. Anything he damn well pleased. All I could manage was a cheery,"Yes, I shall definitely remember to tell my editor the press are not welcome in Somerset and Avon.’

‘You ain’t no fucking press photographer, now fuck off before I nick you for theft of that press pass.’

 

 And with his joyful words ringing in our ears I contemplated what I was going to tell the Mirror picture editor about my distinct lack of festival photos when what appeared to be a scarecrow fell into the road ahead of us. Tony slammed on the brakes and, barely missing the bundle of rags, watched in horror as the thing picked itself up from the road and approached the car.‘Give us a lift to Stonehenge,’ demanded the apparition.We drove on.

Seemingly, according to our new best friend and hitch-hiker, we had gone to the wrong festival which was run by a money grabbing diary farmer. The festival we should have gone to, the one our new best friend and hitch-hiker was directing us to, was the Stonehenge Peoples’ Free Festival. And all lifes’ plenty was there. Open drug dealing, naked dancers, free bands with every youth cult imaginable co-existing peacefully together across the road from the huge Stonehenge monument. The usual suspects of leftie press were there too including Tim Malyon who I had last seen at an LCC demo in Hyde Park. Mindful of what had happened at Glastonbury I asked the only copper I could find, the only copper who seemed to be policing the event " Do you mind if I take photographs?’
‘Do what you want,’ he said, ‘everyone else does.’
So I did. It was like being let loose in the biggest candy store in the world. And the rest of the straight-going press didn’t know about hat place or, if they did, they ignored it. A bunch of blardy ‘ippes !

The photographic choice was so large Tony and I stayed on-site overnight to capture the full range of festival activity. To show my utter ignorance of festival etiquette I almost blundered catastrophically with a big greasy biker. I was sus enough to know not to show out with a big press camera and, lest it be stomped into the ground by the disaffected who frowned upon us running nose lackies of the capitalist press, left the great thing hung round my neck and concealed under a zipped up hoody. However, it was not zipped up enough because the big greasy biker saw a smidge of lens poking out of the neck area of the hoody.

"Les ‘ava look at yer camera then?’ said the big greasy biker. Ah! This was not good. The camera was the tool of my trade. I was very attached to it. Literally with the strap around my neck. I made excuses, the big greasy biker persisted. I unzipped the hoody and handed over the camera which was still strapped around my neck, he clicked off a few pictures with us tied together like Siamese twins.

‘This is no good,’ said the big greasy biker. ‘Take it off your neck.’ Oh well, it was a nice camera while it lasted. But as I handed over the camera he took off his reeking, grease encrusted jacket and gave it to me to hold. It hardly seemed a fair exchange. The big greasy biker took a few more shots and handed back the camera. I handed the stinking jacket back to the big greasy biker.
‘You come to a place like this, man, you’ve got to learn to trust people. Know what I mean?’ the big greasy biker explained. ‘I was Don Sharp’s assistant.’

As we went our separate ways the name faintly rang a bell. It was not until I got back to the newsroom I discovered what had truly happened with the big greasy biker. We saddled up to hit the 4pm picture deadline at the Mirror. It had been my plan to drop off the film and slob off home to my pit but the newsroom was agog for festival tales,
‘He actually said he’d arrest you for taking pictures?’
‘They were all naked?’
‘Escorted to the county line? Really escorted?’
‘Openly selling class-A drugs?’

And it takes time for seven rolls of film to go through the processing lab. The average tally of photos on any news story was half a roll, about fifteen shots. I came back to Holborn with seven rolls. Seven rolls! Good gawd. I used the time to write up the captions and scribble the boring paperwork to make sure I got paid. As I was leaving the picture editor took me aside,
‘He really gave you his jacket to hold in exchange for your camera?’
‘Yes.’
‘Then you got the better part of the deal. I’m surprised he let you hold his Colours. They’re like his soul to him. He was letting you hold his soul in exchange for your camera. He must have really trusted you.’
Which made sense of the, "you come to a place like this man you’ve got to learn to trust people", comment. The big greasy biker had given me an object lesson in trust at my first Stonehenge People’s Free Festival. I salute him for it.


The Mirror story broke with my photo of a woman smoking an enormous hash pipe at the Stonehenge Festival under the not very inspiringheadline of, HIGH NOON FOR HIPPIES AT THE FESTIVAL OF HASH – STONED HENGE. The provenance of some of the interviews were a tad suspect unless the Mirror sent a reporter to the Festival after I took the photos. My princely fee? 50-quid for the druggie shebang photo and 20-quid from the Evening Standard for a shot of the Druids which they did not use."

Love & Peas - Al Stokes

Read more about the traveller - free festival scene in Al' s ebook A Brief History of Argyle Street"

All images © Al Stokes

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

All images © Al Stokes

1981-Stage 1981-Crowd 1981-Crowd 2 1981-Drugs 1981-Site 1 1981-Site 2


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