The sun breaking through the shrouding mist
Ceremony by the heal stone; new fire safety regs mean lit torches stay put
...so they can be 'safely dispossed' by fire crew on the other side of the fence
...so no procession around the stones... but is this a torch or a big spliff?
The corporate media crews were out in force all night
"Beam me up scotty!" - So too were the mobile picture phones... everywhere....
Inside the stone circle
Coaxing the sun from behind the clouds...
As the police enter the circle the sun does break through :-)
MORI exit poll
Thin yellow line - the final sweep out of the stone field
The last people are funneled out of the field - Happy Solstice!
Welcome to Stonehenge: "move along, nothing to see here...
Also because of the reduced numbers of people it made the number of security, police, and corporate press stand out more. As with previous years the powerful artificial lights were kept on way too long as the sky lightened and dawn approached - hundreds of people shouting "turn off the lights!".
The night was pretty clear and as said the rain stayed away. The transformation towards dawn was a tantalising and teasing one, as a thick mist descended onto the stones temporarily shrouding the site and gathered crowd, diffusing the early morning light. Then slowly it began to burn off and drift away as the sun struggled to shine through.
The ritual towards the end of the alloted access times played out again, as police and security steadily increased their numbers as the deadline passed, moving people on and tighening their cordon around the stones. With less people there than previous years it seemed like those left within the stones would be moved off very quickly this year, with much less of the 'stay and play' games of previous years (indeed the last few years have seen quite some push and shove) - however as the cordon of police moved into the perimeter of the stones, the sun finally broke the cloud cover, streaming down to cheers from the people, and some more time secured.
I don't know what happened at the closure of the car park as I left about midday. There were around 17 arrests reportedly for public order offences. I saw one guy arrested for climbing over a fence after being told he could not come in (presumably for being 'too drunk') - as the police approached him he dropped to his knees and was escorted away, with a brief scuffle as they wrestled him to the floor to handcuff him. I also saw a couple of other arrests - a minimum of two maybe three - a man wrestled to the ground cuffed and carried away, and woman dragged off at the same time. Asking around I was told they'd been shouting abuse at a corporate media tv crew, the police told them to stop, they didn't, et voila, knicked - that's what the witnesses said anyway. Drunken behaviour said one observer - but at stonehenge hardly an arrestable offence!.
Interstingly there were a bunch of MORI workers interviewing people and getting answers to a questionaire. There were a whole list of questions - from the mundane - how did you travel here? / how many in your party? to more intersting ones like are you here for spiritual reasons? One question stood out in particular - how long have you been coming to summer solstice at stonehenge? - choice of: 1, 2, 3 or 4 years? - thus completely ignoring the 25yr plus troubled and colourful history of celebration at Stonehnege. There was also a free answer question about what had been good / bad about this years arrangements and what could be done to improve things. We talked to several of the MORI pollsters (quite a few were archeological students recruited for the job), and it seemed almost everyone was complaining about the tight security arrangements and the stupid rucksack ban, as well as the articicial lights being on too long. The survey was commissioned by the stonehenge round table peace process and all of the parties, from the police to the council, to english heritage. We understand that the results will be made public, which should make interesting reading.
This year much harsher parking restrictions were in place both around the stonehenge area and also Avebury, where up to 1,500 people gathered to celebrate the solstice. Earlier on saturday night a free party was busted by police and prevented from happening around 30 miles from stonehenge.
This year was the 20th anniversary of the last Stonehenge Free Festival in 1984, when 70,000+ people gathered on land nearby the stones. The following year the authorities used the police to violently attack the festival community with an unprecedented display of brutality in what became known as the Battle of the Beanfield...
...if you don't know about this horrendous incident when the police went bezerk and attacked scores of people and vehicles - check out:
As many people continue to campaign for a peaceful return of the stonehenge people's free festival, next year's anniversary of the beanfield will surely be significant.
Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2004 Pictures
alan lodge [Tash]
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge + road campaign update 2004
New police powers to stop raves Might affect Stonehenge gatherings - 2004
2003 Indymedia feature
Celebrate the Solstice
Pics and report 2003
2003 (avebury) report 2
Press and Police Building for Solstice / Glastonbury Confrontation
Stonehenge and Glastonbury ambience threatened by Police and big business