TRUTH & RECONCILIATION COMMISSION FOR STONEHENGE
TRC 29 REPORT
22nd Feb 2003 George Hotel, Amesbury
Andy Pulham is in Edinburgh
George had a tape of the BBC Radio 4 broadcast about the Beanfield. The meeting agreed to listen to the first part of the tape, which they did. Paul said that Mr Grundy was backtracking from the admission by Wiltshire police in the High Court that there was no legal justification for the operation. Gilly suggested the festival had been stopped because after twelve years it would become legally established. Paul said this was a legal myth, as far as outside events are concerned. Brian suggested that if there was a legal right, it should still apply, as we were stopped by illegal force.
George reported on the Round Table meeting. After some quite passionate representations in favour of a dawn access on Sunday 22nd June, the Planning meeting that followed the Round Table was closely split on the issue, and it was left to Clews to make the final decision. It will in fact be on Saturday 21st June. The stones will be open from 2AM to Noon. The carpark will be open from Midnight until 2PM.
There was then a discussion about the problem of drivers who were tired and/or inebriated. He had asked the police what action they would take in this circumstance, and Gerry Wickham had said they would be arrested under Section 61 and the vehicle impounded. It was generally accepted that people with vehicles had a responsibility to provide a person fit to drive. It is possible that fire officers may require restrictions on overcrowding in the stones. It was not decided how this could be done in practise. However Roy Gillett had proposed that part of the circumference of the stones would be controlled for exit only. The Manager of National Trust for Avebury expected the carpark there would be full and access would be closed. If people left to go to Stonehenge they should not expect to be able to get back in. No blankets or sleeping bags will be allowed at Stonehenge. In view of this, George had especially asked that there be clear instructions for backpackers as to where they could leave their gear.
A discussion about a further suggestion that drumming might be controlled. The objection is to continuous drumming within the stones. Unofficially there might be an area where it could go on. Some concern that a new draft law about licensing of music might affect the access, nobody knew if this was the case or not.
Thomas mentioned an article by Chippendale, an archaeologist, saying most people wanted to see the actual stones and not presentations at a visitors centre, and the existing facilities should be used for any such displays. It would be good to invite him to a meeting. Nora suggested we needed both facilities. A 400 bed hotel is being built in Amesbury in anticipation of the visitors centre scheme. Paul commented English Heritage were planning to manage peoples' behaviour in order to make money.
George will not be co-ordinating the Peace Stewards, but it is hoped somebody else will volunteer. Rowena said there was a group of artists, they might call themselves the "Peace Artists" George also said he would not be going to the access on Saturday morning, but was interested in a procession in the evening around the Solstice time. Also he will be standing down from the Round Table for the duration. The TRC meetings will continue.
Is there still a role for the Peace Stewards? Brian asked if we were not becoming unpaid servants of English Heritage. George answered that the whole concept of the Peace Stewards is that they were totally independent of the organisers.
Dominic and Jerry had to leave. If people still want to put energy into an alternative gathering, Dominic said he could offer some advice, from his experience with community groups. George said he arranged for Gerry WIckham, the police chief, to meet some of the interested people last July, none of the requirements for setting up an organisation had happened. Michael claimed the law is different regarding exhibitions, he is still looking for a venue to hold an exhibition. Thomas wanted a Stonehenge Arts event. Nora mentioned that the farms near Stonehenge are large estates and no longer family farms, who are usually more amenable to negotiations.
Stewards can get an event marshall's certificate by attending a course. Peace stewarding is not the same as event marshalling. Thomas and Mary will facilitate the peace stewarding in 2003. Thomas said Jenny Blain wrote an academic study of sacred sites and pagan rites.
Brian felt the community's need for an extended gathering has not been respected. Nora pointed out the authorities are limited by safety rules, and there is a limit to working hours. Already one third of all police in Wiltshire are being deployed at Stonehenge at the Solstice. This is paid for by Wiltshire taxpayers. Nora suggested that as it is a national event, the government should help fund it.
Thomas wanted to invite the Pan-celtic league to the solstice. Michael said it's an English thing. George said he was disappointed that pagan celebrations at Stonehenge have disappeared from his life. He was also disappointed that the alternative gathering had not incorporated itself as a business. Brian said he was very disappointed that the police withdrew support, by refusing to agree to his press release saying they "encouraged" the group planning the gathering. He had lost confidence in the process. Michael suggested that half a million might arrive because of the war situation and the general disenchantment of youth. He claimed section 61 could not be used so long as they were peaceful. Brian wanted English Heritage to take more responsibility for the whole of the solstice celebration, including before and after the access.
Paul hoped that we not repeat the situation in 1988 when the Socialist Workers Party had brought their militants to the stones precipitating a riot. George also hoped that political groups would not use Stonehenge as a political football. Mary said we cannot control who turns up and what their agenda is, but these concerns should be brought to the Round Table, and there needs to be clarity who has responsibility for the alternative celebration. Brian wanted the meeting to come up with a statement about its feeling on the issues around the alternative gathering. A draft statement was proposed but not voted on.
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