A novel set in the 1990s, with the background of the campaign to have Stonehenge open at the Summer Solstice
165 A4 pages (including appendices with historical source material).
Published as photocopied ring-bound manuscript 2001
Stonehenge Pilgrimage is a novel set in the last decade of the 20th century, with the background of the campaign to have Stonehenge open at the Summer Solstices following the ‘Battle of the Beanfield’ in 1985 and the subsequent closing of the monument at midsummer to everyone including the Druids.
Based on actual experience and events, the book presents the story of the ‘return to Stonehenge’ in fictional form, and in a way that should prove inspiring to the new generation of people now gathering at the Stones each summer. It gives a sense of both history and mythology to the current situation, the various authorities having finally acknowledged that large numbers of people will continue to come to Stonehenge wishing to celebrate the Summer Solstice there.
The main characters in the book come from Glastonbury and are travelling to Stonehenge on foot. As such they also appear as a cross-section of ‘alternative’ culture, and the book is a statement about life as seen from that point of view.
The story culminates with all the various groups arriving at the Stones overnight in time for dawn on the morning of the solstice, with the interaction between them, the police, and the Stones themselves creating the final outcome.
The book also contains appendices including historical source material relating to Wally Hope, the early Stonehenge festivals, the Beanfield, and the campaign to Free the Stones in the 1980s and ’90s.
Friday June 16th
It was a few years ago now, back in the old millennium. The first of the walkers set off for the Stones on Saturday, but really the story starts the night before. Four of them – it was Pat, Pix, Jet and Ned of course – decided to have a send-off party, and invited all their friends. Pat, in her thirties, was like a cheerful mum to her three go-for-it males, all of whom may have been her lovers from time to time. Pix, Jet and Ned were bright, young and scruffy, colourful characters in the making, and she dearly loved them all and they all loved her. Their emotional interactions, so thoroughly lubricated with dope, lager and occasional stronger drugs, never had the chance to solidify into anything too complicated.
They liked the idea of a warehouse gig and decided to squat Morlands, the disused factory on the outskirts of Glastonbury. Pix and Jet, anarchic young types with a penchant for acid, bright coloured lights and loud noise, had been to such a gig up in Bristol, a Stonehenge benefit squat party performance, and they’d come home inspired to do the same thing in Glastonbury. They invited two ex-convoy bands from over Frome way who were up for guerrilla party-going, and organised a hundred tabs of acid which were advertised on the fliers as the ‘Split Black Lentils’. Morlands is the obvious place to go for, though it’s politically very high profile. It’s totally derelict and disused, and has been for years, but it’s defended like a fortress: spiky iron barriers blocking off the car parks, mounds of hardcore in the lay-bys and pull-ins, all so travellers can’t get into the place. There’d been one or two attempts at taking it before, but this one the week before Solstice was the most serious ever.
Along with some friends they’d checked out their venue, and about 6 o’clock on the Friday evening a dozen of them got in through one of the hundreds of broken windows and then opened up the big sliding doors beside the loading bay, where the bands could unload their equipment. The generator was hired and they’d go back to fetch that later. Before they’d arrived, Pix had handed Jet the packet of ‘Split Black Lentils’ to look after. Jet, for reasons he never could remember afterwards, had agreed.
Inside the factory was a massive space, so far with very few people in it. They wandered around – three huge floors completely empty and unused, broken glass from the windows, all neglected and wasted for maybe twenty years. The factory was once a big local employer, but it went broke and got bought up by a multinational company who apparently preferred to see it empty and derelict. There was room here for three enormous parties all at once.
A security man soon called by and told them all to leave, which they didn’t. Later he was back, parked outside, looking round nervously, waiting. Another car came; two big men, one in blue uniform putting on his hat. There was a dog in the back. The young intruders were watching them from upstairs, then came down to meet them face to face.
The security had gone round the back of the building and hammered and crashed on the door for a bit, because Pix had slipped a piece of timber through the door handles on the inside; but that fell out and they entered, saw their prey watching from the other end of the big hollowy hall, and stomped towards them shouting.
“Out! Right now, the lot of you … Out you get, come on … We’ve dealt with your sort before, now get out … This is private property, and we’ve got a dog in the car, and the police are on their way …”
They were bullies. They muscled up, and jostled and hustled, clearly wanting to get this finished urgently. At that moment, as Jet said later, he had no doubt at all that he was leaving, but he wasn’t going to go without making them work for their money. He turned round and came back at them with a lot of verbal about “Who are you? Who do you work for? How do we know this is your property? Have you got any I.D.?” and so on.
The one in uniform had an I.D. card which did not say the name of the company which owned the building, only his name and that of the local security firm. The second heavy-weight, without uniform, refused to reveal his name or who he was or anything. He nearly knocked Jet over trying to push him backwards out of the place. The third one was the boss. He looked like a criminal and he looked like his job was on the line. He wouldn’t give them his name, but said he was an agent for ‘G.R. Holdings’.
“G.R. Holdings? Who the hell are they?” Jet had recovered his feet and he wasn’t going to give up without making a stand. “Some American firm is it? I live round here you know. I see this place empty all the time. You’re an outsider pushing us around and telling us what to do …”
This seemed to flummox them all a bit; they said the place had to be cleared because it was being stripped out for the new owners the following Monday – which was a complete lie, but anyway by this time some of the steam had gone out of them and their threat of the police being on their way had brought the cool response “OK we’ll wait for the police, we’ve got squatters’ rights now and we’re sure that they’ll be more reasonable …”
Jet, totally involved in his earnest demands for justice, hadn’t noticed that everyone else had already picked up their gear and were about to leave; but during his speech they decided to stay. Very soon a police car pulled up and two local bobbies got out; they picked their way round to the back where they were greeted by Pat and Ned as old acquaintances from the streets of Glastonbury; they had a chat, then conferred at some length with the security team boss, and a fourth security man turned up, and a fifth, and three or four potential party-goers arrived but couldn’t get in, and finally the policemen went away saying the owners had every right to stop more people entering, and if the twelve of them wanted to stay they’d have to sit there under the watchful gaze of the security men ad infinitum. Two of the guards went away, including the boss. More people arrived – including one of the bands with a truckload of equipment – and after a while the three remaining guards gave up the unequal struggle of blocking all the possible entrances at once; the loading bay doors were wide open and everyone started bringing in gear to set up the gig.
A buzz of news spread around, about people already arriving on Salisbury Plain. Someone had heard by phone from the Bristol walkers that they were in Wiltshire. They were looking for the walk from London, which was said to be on Urchfont hill – where the Ministry of Defence had announced “exercises” and closed the land around to the general public.
The building was properly checked for open doors, and except for broken windows and possible dodgy routes up fire escapes there was no open entrance apart from the loading bay, which could be locked from the inside, and the small door at the back where the guards had first come in. If they could secure the building it would be theirs, at least until an eviction notice was served. The door at the back was still guarded by a sentry. Suddenly there was a grossly horrible row from over there, crashing and clobbering and a thump. The boss had come back in, and someone had slipped a padlock on the outside of the door behind him. Trying to get out again, he’d hit it so hard with his fist that he’d knocked himself right over backwards. He got up and walked back through the hall and through the people round the sliding doors of the loading bay and out of the building to drive away, and he looked like he’d spit blood.
It was all a bit too cheeky for Glastonbury, though they did get as far as setting the band’s equipment up, and getting the generator running (more or less), and folk beginning to turn out from the pubs, perhaps fifty of them and more on the way. Then a lot more policemen than they’d expected arrived, the county’s Police Support Units, which radically altered the whole situation.
It was around this time that Jet started wondering what he should do with the packet of ‘Split Black Lentils’. He examined the steel girders which formed the rafters for possible hiding places, but in the end just left them in his pocket. But for that, he might have been as confidently pushy with the police as he had been with the security men earlier.
The tall policeman with the flat hat – Pix said his name was Mr Gray – not a very intelligent man, nor blessed with an extensive imagination; but he arrived with thirty or forty ‘troops’ ready to read the riot act.
No, not the riot act, some garbled version of the Public Order Act, which he didn’t seem to understand and which doesn’t actually cover squats of buildings anyway. He called everyone together to tell them he was satisfied they had entered the property illegally, and they’d better all remove themselves or else. Or else what? Not at all clear. Unpleasant hints about “you’d better watch out for the children”. Refusal to say whether or not they’d make arrests. Was he sure whether he had enough officers present? Or would he like to just run amok and beat them? Refusal to say even what law he was invoking.
“Are you saying this as ‘the senior police officer present’?” asked Jet. Mr Gray’s eyes gleamed as if someone had actually understood him for the first time that evening. “Yes, as the senior police officer present” he nodded, parroting the words from the Public Order Act.
Not very bright; but cunning. Whilst everyone had been crowded down by the loading bay to listen to all this tripe, another dozen policemen managed to open up the back door again and they marched in to surround the band’s equipment; and the message was suddenly very clear that if it wasn’t moved quick, then the police would do it – and they wouldn’t be too careful about the way they handled it. So the bands started moving out their equipment, and that was it so far as the sheepskin factory went. It took a long time to leave of course, especially as more and more people were arriving by now, but they were out.
A lot of them went to a layby four or five miles outside Glastonbury where some travellers were parked; they set up a stage and partied there till 4 o’clock in the morning. People from miles around complained about the noise. At 5 o’clock the police arrived again; they took away the stage and impounded two vehicles whose drivers were not there. Everyone was split up and sent off in different directions, cleared off the main road and out of sight. On the way out one truck lost its caravan; the tow hitch came apart and the trailer went through a garage forecourt and nearly demolished a petrol pump. The driver was arrested and the following Thursday the local paper reported that he’d been unconditionally bailed after admitting careless driving, driving with no insurance, no driving license, a defective braking system, no mirrors, no test certificate, failing to give the police his name and date of birth, and driving with the trailer ball hitch unsecured.
Still, everyone said it had been a brilliant party. The four intrepid would-be walkers got home very late, much more unsteady than ready to leave first thing in the morning, and passed out fully clothed with daylight already sneaking into the sky.