In 1918 Stonehenge was given "to the Nation" by Cecil Chubb, a Druid, and it was administered by the Ministry of Works. Nowadays it is under the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport, but the management is given away to the English Heritage Commission, who are appointed by the Minister, who then denies responsibility for what they do.

It is clear however that English Heritage are not the Nation. The Nation consists of people who are born within the boundaries, "the natives". What unity there is within the nation is an interesting question. The patriotism of the Jubilee, and of England's bid for the football World Cup, moved many people to frenzy, but left others uninterested. Jews may see themselves as a nation, as do Rastafarians, and Islam is called a nation. The British state can honour those groups of Natives, in theory at least, as "faith communities" who may be consulted, and their voluntary organisation encouraged. Pagans might join this bandwaggon as I have suggested.

But there are groups of Natives who are neither ethnic minorities nor faith communities, those countercultural groups who feel most alienated from Britain, who are most threatened, who lack recognition for their identity, their status, their security. It might not be surprising if they felt like that they might cling to The Stones as if it offered them sanctuary, historically and by deed of gift. This is what one can see is happening.

Thus the dispossessed climb onto The Stones, although it is forbidden, and they cling to The Stones like limpets, even as the tide of yellow jackets advances towards them after time has been called. What I saw taking place was not so much a confrontation, but a kind of pageant, the outcome of which was inevitable, almost a kind of re-enactment of the fact of the alienation, the perceived non-recognition.

Nevertheless the two points here, of interest to the authorities, the climbing on The Stones, and the keeping of the agreed time limits, must be seen as not just details of the plan, requiring better management to be resolved, but fundamental difficulties on which there is principled resistance by some.

Of course Anarchists will by definition resist every attempt at assimilation, declaring themselves to be a "faith community" for instance is a step too far. Better human rights for everybody maybe trickles down, and there are solicitors apllying the Human Rights Act to travellers issues. The government's plan to further declassify cannabis and to declassify ecstasy are helpful.

What I think is needed in the future is -many more- sites of celebration in the middle of the Summer. Glastonbury Festival has outgrown its site and 100,000 are allowed where 200,000 want to come. The Stonehenge Access is growing linearly, with 7,000 in 2000 and 14,000 in 2001 and over 22,000 this year, we must be prepared for about 30,000 next year which is a challenge. Avebury's infrastructure (the whole village!) was overwhelmed by the demand as reports indicate.

What is required is not One but Many alternative events and I hope that instead of moaning about a mythical Golden Age of festies, or nitpicking with English Heritage about whether people are allowed sleeping bags, people will seriously address how to manage legal, permitted events in 2003. Brian Viziondanz put it well when he said we can -force- the authorities to allow a gathering, by showing them we are prepared to do everything the laws and regulations require to be done.

The answer to the "Lost Tribes" problem is therefore to my mind a practical one, of opening up the space, the land available. There should be other celebrations at the same time as, Stonehenge and Glastonbury, and in competition with them. An "open market" of venues to enjoy life.

To look forward to a Nation where a million people can go trekking off at the Summer Solstice and it is considered a normal part of national life.

Happy Solstice Everyone!
George Firsoff 23rd June 2002

(Secretary of RGG, PADRAS, SPP & TRC)


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