The Archive . updated June 2023
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Al Stokes' Stonehenge Festival photographs
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The Police Viewpoint .
This surprisingly tolerant and realistic review of police operations at Stonehenge is taken from a police publication circa 1981.
DRUIDS have been going to Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice
for a long time. Their ceremonies culminate when the sun, rises over the
Hele Stone at around 5 am on the morning . For years their audience was
scarcely more than the occasional hardy American tourist with a camera.
Gradually fringe celebrations of the barbecue and booze variety grew up - and grew and grew. In the 60s the Flower People came and strummed guitars in the field next to the monument, perhaps joined by a crowd from the officers mess of the nearby Army camp. It was generally a pretty happy event, with no policing problems. Everyone had gone by 6 am.
In 1974 a man known as Wally Free arrived with his cult group, called
the Wallies. They saw Stonehenge as the centre of their cult and decided to
stay there well after the Solstice ceremonies. In fact they stayed the whole
summer. Eventually, the National Trust, who owned the land on which they were
camped, got fed up with their uninvited guests and obtained a civil injunction
for civil trespass in order to remove them. They moved to the next field.
The whole business started again and could have gone on forever with the Wallies
hopping from field to field. In the end, the Salisbury Plain winter did its
job and they moved into squats in the nearby town of Amesbury where they stayed
for a year.
Free festival cult
From that humble beginning the free festival cult was started by the 'hippy' fraternity. In 1975 this burst into a very big free festival, apparently organised by no one in particular, just lots of people camping and lots of love and peace. The festival has occurred every year since then and now lasts about 10 days to a fortnight. No one admits to organising it because if they did they would get an injunction not to hold it.
Chief Supt Frank Lockyer Division Commander 'For an injunction you have to have certain things Set venue,-we never know which field they will use, and names of persons to serve it on .Those essential requirements are not there in advance. Probably it is the case that there are no organisers as such'
force is resigned to the yearly policing commitment the festival brings -
planning starts around January and the mopping up operations finish around
September. It is generally thought that the Stonehenge free festival will
survive long after the others have disappeared. The myth and folklore of Stonehenge
helps sustain it. People come in large numbers up to a peak last year on the
Solstice day of about 10,000. Officers involved estimate that around 2,000
or so attending the festival are in their words, 'hippies' and 'dropouts'
and certainly the drug culture is a large motivator. The rest are just ordinary
youngsters ranging from the unemployed to young Yorkshire miners using it
as an annual holiday. Publicity is given to the dates around colleges and
universities, and in the underground and pop music press.
Chief Supt Lockyer: 'Many are decent youngsters , here for the fresh air, sun and music'. The police claim that the festival is consequently never particularly well organised . There are boasts in advance that there will be lots of music but as I was told it's been going a week now and no band has arrived because no one has money to buy big music .Every year it is rumoured that Bob Dylan will be there. He never is .
Continued Supt Lockyer 'The farmer who occupies the land (it is owned by the National Trust) is the only one who doesn't seem to have any rights. He doesn't give permission, they just take this land over and for reasons that have been explained it's difficult to stop it. You can't get an injunction in advance and by the time you could have gone through the procedure they've all gone.
lf you did get an injunction how do you move 10,000 people from a field on Salisbury Plain if they are unwilling to go? You would need a lot of policemen and is it worth the hassle? That is the big problem we face enforcing mass disobedience in a field on Salisbury Plain. If there was a law and we could enforce it, where do they go? The next field and you probably create a worse problem for the next farmer. It is an illegal festival, but it happens and it has to be policed. The policy is firstly to protect the monument, because it is a significant national monument. The Department of the Environment pays for a number of policemen to protect it. Other officers have to police the festival and the cost of that is down to the rate payers.
The policy there is to contain the festival, keeping it at least within tolerable bounds, and try to lessen its effects on the local inhabitants. Public order has to be maintained as well as the usual tasks of prevention and detection of crime. Drug abuse is of course prevalent and it is difficult to keep that to a tolerable level because of its extent. Theft is also a problem. The campers want wood to make fires so they go off into the woods and hack down branches, doing considerable damage. To the average festival attendee its just cutting down a branch and there are plenty left. But to the countryman cutting down something that has been growing 20 years is very serious.
Local people expect the police to enforce the laws as best they can, but if 10.000 people are going in all directions gathering wood it's difficult. The other great problem is theft from local shops which are most generally used to receiving people in such numbers. Special anti-shoplifting teams are employed on that task'.
The police patrol the site by Range Rover but officers entering on foot are accompanied by a senior officer as a precaution against provocation from abuse by people attending the festival. They enter, of course, too to deal with police problems when called upon -crime and missing persons for example. In the first week of the festival this year, seven under 15s were returned home.
In all, it's a three-part operation: (1) uniform; (2) CI D for crime, with plain clothes operations to detect wood stealing, etc; (3) specially selected and trained drugs officers
To cope with this mass influx once a year, the small rural sub division of Amesbury draws in policemen from all over Wiltshire. There is a mobile police station outside the site. Officers from Hampshire and Dorset are on standby, although fortunately they have never been called in.
For the duration of the festival. The monument itself is surrounded by barbed wire, looking hideous in the tourists snaps no doubt - and about 2,000 or 3,000 of them visit the 3 monument every day. But it is the only way to keep people out, I was told - other than having a ring of policemen round it for 14 days.
On the whole, though, the hippies in the nearby field are not very interested in the Druid ceremonies. Most nights the music plays until about 3 am, so they tend to miss the sunrise anyway.
Chief Supt Lockyer added: 'It's a knife edge situation like many public order duties'. He concluded: 'To the passer-by on his way down to Devon and Cornwall its a colourful scene of tents and people being free in the fresh air, whereas in reality it's a squalid scene There is drug abuse, there is no sanitation because there is no provision for it - it gets particularly obnoxious when it's hot. I hope my daughter never wants to go there'.
About 10 miles from Salisbury is Amesbury (pop 600), the small town nearest the festival site. The sub divisional commander is Chief Insp Alex Morrison. He has been involved with every festival since they started, indeed it occupies his time to a greater or lesser extent for nine months every year. He is a familiar figure on the site. He walks round it, in uniform every day, a lot of the time on his own. The police are determined that the festival site will not become a 'no go' area.
Growing acceptance !
He said: 'I walk round the site every day of the week. I have been dealing with the festival for seven years and am known by most of the regulars and generally regarded as the liaison link. I am accepted on site. Perhaps over the years they grow to accept you . The site survives on rumour and counter rumour. One of the arts of dealing with it is to dispel such rumours'.
Walking round the site, Alex Morrison rarely stops smiling. He greets as many people as possible and they return his greeting, sometimes shaking his hand, other times just exchanging pleasantries. On site little enterprises have sprung up, selling anything from scrumpy to jumble. There is a merry-go-round for the kids and a couple of donkeys. There are teepees, dormobiles, tents of all shapes and sizes and, contrary to what I had heard, a surprisingly good, although unknown, group had just started up.
There are smells of cooking, incense and the occasional whiff of cannabis. Police admit that their enforcement of
drug laws is but the tip of the iceberg - how many policemen would be needed to raid a site which this year covered 45 acres?
Henge History :1972-1984
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