Penny Rimbaud interview 2014 (R.Jevons)

THE STONEHENGE FREE FESTIVAL | THE FIGHT FOR ALTERNATIVE CULTURE

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With the summer solstice approaching, Champion Up North’s Rich Jevons talks to poet, novelist, musician and philosopher Penny Rimbaud.

Penny co-founded the Stonehenge Free Festival with the late Wally Hope who was ‘murdered’ by the State in 1975, and here comments on this and the tragic events of the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985, a police attack on travellers on their way to commemorate the summer solstice at Stonehenge.

Could you tell us about Wally Hope and the Stonehenge Free Festival?

I got to know Wally in 1971 because [Dial House] is an open house which attracted quite a lot of the local kids, and he was friends of them so he followed them into the house. We got to know each other, and he went away to Cyprus for the winter and came back with the idea of squatting Stonehenge to hold a free festival (which seemed like a crazy idea at the time).

Initially, I was not particularly supportive; I thought it was a hairbrained idea. But eventually I bought into it and said ‘How can we help?’ Some of his thinking was not particularly practical, so I think I was able to help in a practical way, organising printing, who to send stuff to, etc. Largely my side of it was logistical.

Loads of invites went out to all sorts of people, from Prince Philip to the Dalai Lama – they didn’t turn up! A hundred or so hippies turned up and that was the first festival; it was a low key event.

It took place on the Solstice?

Yes, it was on the Solstice, at the Stones—a little way back from them on Ministry of Defence land, which was probably their mistake.

Was there any notion that you could have been prosecuted for trespass?

Strictly, no. If they had been closer to the Stones they might not have had the trouble they got for being on MoD land. Porton Down is there (the big chemical warfare depot) and they probably weren’t too keen of having a load of hippies sitting around close to them.

It was really quite innocent, and I don’t think anyone expected anyone to do anything about it because the Stones weren’t what they’ve become now. They were just there and people stopped off and had a look at them

A case was brought against them to get them off [the site]. It was big news because it was in high summer when there is no real news, so the story of Wally and the Wallys became regular news, particularly in London.

So they were evicted?

Yes, there was a long hearing in the High Court about it but after they’d been asked to bugger off they all just went back and organised their next move as winter was coming in.

My only actual physical involvement then was doing a bread run from here [Dial House]; baking up bread and running up food and taking it down every two or three days. So all I can describe is a few dozen hippies sitting around waiting for the bread to turn up. The bands who turned up couldn’t do anything because there wasn’t a PA. It was a very nice event, a bit of fun really.

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Could you tell us a bit about the subsequent festivals?

Wally was arrested before the second one on a trumped-up possession charge. There were all sorts of questions about how and why he came to be arrested. He’d been making a huge amount of noise in London about the second festival; he’d been handing out leaflets and making quite a scene of himself.

He got quite a bad relationship with the authorities after the trials because he just made a mock of it really. He was travelling to Devon to rest before the festival when he was arrested. From then on—it’s a fairly often told story—but for one reason or another he was incarcerated in a mental institution and diagnosed as being schizophrenic and it eventually led to his death.

He came to stay with you didn’t he?

He was released—apparently now healed and cured from his schizophrenia—the day the last hippy left the second festival which rather indicates something. It took him about two days to get back here [Dial House] and he was absolutely ruined. We found out he had chronic dyskenesia—basically, brain damage caused by the drugs he’d been treated with to ‘cure’ his schizophrenia.

He could barely walk; he couldn’t sit outside for long because if he sat in the sun he would just explode as a side-effect of the [prescribed] drugs. His brain was scrambled, he was in severe depression, although it was more of a numbness. He’d been made into a cabbage basically. He could still articulate, and we spent about a month or so trying to get him back to some sort of health.

Then the government, for some bizarre reason, offered a site in Watchfield to run a festival on. I think they were trying to contain the festival movement. Wally insisted on going. We really tried our best to stop him but, short of putting him in manacles, we wouldn’t have managed. Three days later he was dead.

He went to the festival and then was in the care of a local doctor, a surrogate father, and it was there that he died in very suspicious circumstances. This set me off on two years investigating it and I proved in the book Homage to Catatonia that he’d been needled to death. At the first inquest there was a needle mark noted on his back thigh which quickly disappeared in subsequent reports. There was no way he would ever have used a needle so that led me off into all sorts of directions.

This led to me having death threats. I felt that they hadn’t managed to shut him up with the psychotropic drugs he was being given in the mental hospital, so they did the job well and proper and did him in. I was becoming very dark and completely obsessed with this story and getting too many veiled threats from too many different directions.

So I one day just went out and burnt the whole lot except stuff that was other people’s. I’d got a whole study full of documents, all the police papers, everything in files. Shibboleth was written from the remains of what I had left, stuff I hadn’t got round to sending back, and memory.

Can you tell us about the subsequent festivals?

I attended the next one in 1976 with Wally’s ashes. I took them down and they were eventually scattered on the Stones [and Penny told me by email that he still lights a candle for Wally on the summer solstice].

Crass went down there intending to play in 1980 but it turned into a bloodbath. The Hell’s Angels decided they didn’t like the look of the punks so it just turned into a stupid night of violence. We just spent all night trying to save people and get them off the site. It was just bloody really unpleasant.

Were the Hell’s Angels self-appointed security?

Yes, as they were at Altamont. They’ve toned down now but in those days if they decided they were going to be security, they were security.

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The last Stonehenge Free Festival was in 1984, and 1985 has become known as the Battle of the Beanfield. Do you have any connection with that at all? I ask because a lot of people you supported in the squats in London then joined the Peace Convoy.

At that stage we were very much in touch with what was happening. The Beanfield was part of Thatcher’s exclusion zone [four miles around the Stones] and basically they [the Peace Convoy] were set up. Thatcher had done her job on the miners and the next step was the alternative society. That was her big fuck off to the travelling people, the whole punk movement and everything.

In fact a lot of people all gathered after that [the Battle of the Beanfield] down in Oxfordshire and we went down to play but there was no PA. Some of those people I’m still in touch with. It was a real breaking point; after that, a lot of the Convoy headed off to Spain and places.

There are all sorts of reports about the Battle but it does seem to have been pre-planned.

There is absolutely no question of that. Also, at the time, Thatcher had upped the detention centre levels. The State was really concerned that things could go really haywire in terms of revolutionary spirit. Huge centres were prepared for that possibility in putting out of action any real opposition. The first opposition were the unions and working class; the second opposition was people outside of both: anarchist liberation freedom-seeking alternative societies.

There was a prosecution against the police with the Convoy suing the Wiltshire police for wrongful arrest, assault and criminal damage.

It was unbelievable violence the likes of which we hadn’t seen in this country for a very long time. If you had to put it in the context of the city riots, they were half-carnival, half-riot. We were beginning to show our colours in terms of resisting. The State was fighting back and they fight back with horrific violence, as they did in Orgreave [during the miners’ strike]—that was a set up too.

Read Penny’s essay, The Last of the Hippies – A Hysterical Romance.

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Penny also put CUN in touch with Dean Phillips of the Wally Hope Appreciation Society. Dean is custodian of Wally Hope’s ashes and describes the English Heritage management of the site as being in a state of paranoia, over the possibility of a return to the idyllic days of the first festival. When he told them of Penny Rimbaud’s intention to perform a spoken word piece with cello through a PA, they replied ‘An amplified cello constitutes a festival’, and refused permission.

He describes being herded into the area with a checkpoint where all bags and pockets are searched, a mile and a half floodlit walk to be confronted by further security and police including sniffer dogs, until eventually reaching the stones to be greeted by burger bars and portaloos – hardly conducive to any kind of religious celebration, be it Druidic, pagan or whatever faith.

So for Dean this is a political protest and Wally Hope a ‘victim of ignorance’ as it says on the box of ashes that he will take again this year for another visit to what he calls ‘the most sacred part of the country’. The conundrum is such that Dean could not tell us which of this year’s folk and traditional music artists would be performing on the horse-drawn stage (without PA, of course!) in fear they may be ‘pulled’ even at this point in time.

Dean and other Wallys  commemorated this year’s summer solstice as the 40th anniversary of the first Stonehenge Free Festival, the 30th anniversary of the last Stonehenge Free Festival and the 39th anniversary of the death of Wally Hope, to stand up for human rights and to oppose state interference, in all its institutionalised forms, into our essential right to celebrate the Solstice.

 

Sir Walter Wally remembers Wally Hope

Festival Eye ’90
Wally Hope

Festival Eye 1990

To the people who go to Stonehenge for the spring and autumn Equinox’s and the winter Solstice, Wally Hope is a legendary figure. It was he who inspired the gatherings at Stonehenge that became the Stonehenge People’s Free Festival, which itself became the nurturing ground for a new travelling culture. Tim Abbott, who knew him, remembers…

More often than not, centuries pass before myths and ledgends come to take their full significance. In modern British folklore there are few characters who have evoked as much significance in as short a time as had Philip Russell, better known as Wally Hope.
I first met him at the Windsor Free Festival in ’73 where he was disillusioned by what was already happening to the “Peoples Free Festival”, notably the sight of someone going haywire on the gate demanding money from traders for the “free” festival.
As well as being a psychedelic anarchist he had a strong traditionalist streak, and was upset that the Queen’s back garden should be littered and fouled. He had a vision that it could be done in a purer way.
Later that autumn he arrived at my father’s vicarage in Wiltshire with a vision of a massive tribal gathering at Stonehenge the following summer. The Beatles and Bob Dylan were to be invited and so were coach loads of air stewardesses to join in the fun.
He left to spend the winter in Cyprus to meditate, dance in the sun and will it to fruition. He had been orphaned as a child and was due to inherit land and property in Hertfordshire when he reached the age of 30. He had a small income from a trust fund which gave him freedom to travel.
In the spring of ’74 he returned in a multi-coloured Ford Cortina with a tipi on the roof and spent the next couple of months travelling and writing to all major world leaders – Nixon, Mao, ‘Wilson’ – and stewardesses from every major airline, as well as Jefferson Airplane and friends.
In the event, a few hundred people turned up and were entertained by Zorch, a rather noisy generator, and occasional visits from the local constabulary. Rhonan O’Rhailly of Radio Caroline sat in his limousine suffering badly from hayfever and muttering about private television coverage of the proceedings being broadcast to Europe from an aircraft above the North Sea. Those who were not queuing at the free food kitchen were sold over-priced strawberries by Diane Cilento, a recent wife of Sean Connery.
At the end of July, the Department of the Environment took action to have those in residence removed by issuing a summons against Phillip Wally, Kevin Wally, Sir Walter Wally, numerous others (all with the surname Wally!) and Wally Woof the dog.
The case was heard in the majestic surroundings of the High Court in early August and the press featured the story during the “silly season”. On execution of the eviction order the encampment simply crossed over the fence fence and stayed till Christmas Eve.
During the winter a small squat had developed in some houses on the London Road in Amesbury, and it was during May of ’75 whilst visiting the squat that Wally was arrested for possession of half a tab of acid.
Being his usual exuberant self he promised the arresting officer a “cosmic kick in the balls” when it came to court. Instead he was detained under the Mental Health Act in the old Manor Hospital in Salisbury throughout the period of the ’75 festival. Almost all his visitors were refused access, including his guardian.
It is from these circumstances that the conspiracy theories develop and you can make of them what you will. It is unlikely that anything will ever be proved either way.
Wally was released once the festival was over in early July. He went to the government-sposored People’s Free Festival at Watchfield in August – and was dead by early September.
The coroner returned a verdict of suicide although he did not have access to Wally’s hospital notes which had apparently “gone missing”.
It is from the curious circumstances which surrounded hid last few months that the myths and ledgends are created. His vision had a surreal clarity but his grasp of the necessities and realities of life was too fragile for him to challenge the establishment head-on and survive intact.
We shall remember him.

wallyhopesociety@yahoo.co.uk

Wally Hope Appreciation society on facebook

Free Stonehenge Conference review by Hypatia Boudica Mystlydene

Free Stonehenge Conference

(article from Facebook by Hypatia Boudica Mystlydene)

Earlier this year I was invited along to the Free Stonehenge Conference by Robyne Maria to give a talk about Stonehenge.

I am not an expert on Stonehenge only with some other people about 3 years I was involved with starting a Facebook page named the Quest for common decency, dignity and honouring our ancient ancestors, created for the purpose of informing more people in the world that pre-history human remains had been buried by the ancestors, found and removed by archaeologists from inside of the Henge circle at Stonehenge. The cremated human remains were removed by Archaeologists with permission from English Heritage with a promise to interested parties of putting them back after running their archaeological tests, now there seems to be some doubt if this was ever the intention or will ever happen.

As members of the public, we feel that Stonehenge loses more of its authenticity when the human remains are removed and they are as integral to our ancient heritage as the stones themselves, if not more so. We also feel that the Stonehenge ancestor’s remains should be returned simply out of respect for the ancestors actual lives contributing to leaving us our fascinating heritage.  We assume this is where the ancestors left them so this is where they intended them to be for eternity.

The page also informed more about the affect the changes English Heritage are making to the visiting experience for the people who feel personally connected to Stonehenge in some way. We posted the petitions people initiated to raise issues, the issues of ordinary people of this country alive today who regularly visit Stonehenge just to spend time in the area for Spiritual purposes or simply because they enjoy doing so.

Also we posted links from people who like to go to Stonehenge on the solstices and equinoxes to celebrate the seasons in the old Pagan way. Also we posted articles by people who would like there to be again free music festivals at Stonehenge as there used to be not so long ago.

Due to my involvement with this page I have read and researched anything and everything I have found about the Stonehenge ancestors, the history, the theories and the current situation as it stands today from many different people’s perspectives.

I may not be an expert on any one thing concerning Stonehenge only I have been objectively looking at the wide range of concerns different people have to get an idea of what is happening regarding the changes English Heritage are making there today so have developed a broad idea of the relevant concerns.

The Free Stonehenge conference was for me an opportunity to meet some of the characters involved and get to know a few people better. Now I have listened to more people’s ideas and concerns I can give a slightly more informed opinion on the situation.

Stonehenge means many different things to many different people. There are a number of distinct issues that interrelate in various ways such as the return of the ancestors bones, displaying of ancestors remains in visitors centre, access to byways and turning on highways, solstices and equinoxes, music festivals, people feeling not being heard or listened to, interpersonal differences, access times and access at all times… I am sure the list could be easily added too. There are also people who feel EH should not be involved with looking after Stonehenge at all anymore.

From what I have been told by some people it appears many feel that English Heritage have their own corporate agenda that does not include really taking notice of what many ordinary people feel about the matter.

Many feel as if, the ‘round table’ idea where everybody is meant to be able to go to discuss matters concerning Stonehenge only serves as a platform for paying lip service to these concerns by EH.

Even though some agreement seems to be reached by some people about access to the stones at the solstices/equinoxes many feel EH seem to be happy to go ahead and freely do whatever they want to anyway regardless of what they may have agreed upon in the past and without properly considering the concerns of some people.

Some people are unhappy because it seems some other people have more influence with EH than others have… this allowing EH to appear as though they are respecting people’s concerns when they may be only acknowledging the concerns of a small few.

Now I have been told that there have been incidents of stopping people from parking on the byway nearby and probably pressing for legislation or something to make it impossible to park nearby. Meaning it may happen people will not be able to park up nearby as they have done so all their life to go and personally soak up the presence of a place that is truly precious or sacred to them in some way.

We know Stonehenge was gifted to the nation by Sir Cecil Chubb in 1918. Although I read now in Wikipedia that it was donated to the British government although f you read through archive material it sounds more like he thought he was giving a gift to the nation rather than to a government corporation whatever that legally means?

It seems Stonehenge is now owned by whoever holds the governmental position of the secretary of culture, media and sport only I am uncertain if that means ‘Stonehenge’ the corporate business or the actual land on which Stonehenge stands. I certainly do not think the nation benefit from the massive revenue collected from visitors that visit Stonehenge in any way.

After all the discussion it became apparent some people did not feel as though they were able to be heard at the conference. This became apparent at the event when there was a slight mix up regarding who was on the speaking list and could not be avoided because of this. It appears as if the same people feel they have had the same ‘excluded’ experience historically all the way down the line in other situations so this leads to ongoing frustrations.

Also some people feel others are historically rude and are offended by this so resist engagement. Who wants to engage with somebody that only shouts at them? Only this ‘rudeness’ I think stems from a build-up of historical frustration, highly emotive feelings around Stonehenge issues and an inability to find a place to get their concerns respectfully considered.  Once people feel listened to they tend to calm down. Much of this seems to be based on stuff that has occurred in the past being continually brought into the present.

Taking everything I have heard and seen into account the situation surrounding Stonehenge issues appears to me very complex to unravel however I don’t think it is impossible if all concerned are prepared to approach the situation differently.

Even with people living today historically there have been many disputes over SH issues. It seems many feel this, combined with so many people/groups contacting EH about their concerns gives, opportunity for EH to ignore and pay lip service and continue with their intentions anyway. It seems the understandable division between some of the people gives room for EH to get away with this virtually unhindered.

From the outside it does look as if it is EH intentions to run Stonehenge as a highly profitable tourist industry business. This is understandable as today in government everything is about profit and ‘commodification’.  Even the shamed last cultural secretary Marion Miller was famous for telling arts executives in a speech that they must “hammer home the value of culture to our economy” and  ‘’when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact’’ not so long ago, this lady was in the position that legally ‘owned’ Stonehenge.  It appears today everything that can have corporate interest will get it one way or another. So to turn SH in to a cash cow makes absolute corporate sense.

Considering this point, I get the impression that it is EH’s intention to slowly isolate the Stonehenge area and turn it into an area with as little free access as possible very much like they have done with New Grange in Ireland.  It is clear this has been slowly happening over the years. In many people’s memories it was possible to park up and go picnic sat up against the stones and now we have the situation where people are being asked to move on if parked in cars in the viewable area.

As it sinks in to people’s awareness that this is really happening, that you will need special permission to get anywhere near the Stones in a vehicle for private viewing I think people will become more irate than ever.

I am sure EH think they can pull this off as when the festival ban happened in 85 they managed to keep people from gathering there for a number of years… now that Stonehenge is more isolated by the recent changes each year it is getting easier to do. The same has been done with other places of interest like New Grange in Ireland where it is now virtually impossible to go unless you pay the industrial price.

So if that is the situation with EH where does that leave the rest of us? Well some want to campaign for the complete removal of EH from being guardians of our ancient heritage at Stonehenge.  Some would like that too only think it is not going to be possible to change this and it is easier to work with EH on these matters. I think here we need to get a clear idea who EH actually look after these places/businesses for?

EH say ‘’ Officially known as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, we are an executive Non-Departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.’’

I want to know if legally there are any rights of public access to Stonehenge or are the powers that be simply taking time to erode people’s rights whilst they organise new legislation that gets around these matters?

I know some people think they already have the answer to this question and people have rights on this matter only if Stonehenge is a corporate business using every possible angle I think these matters need further investigation.

Many ordinary people today are experiencing hardship where the privileges and freedoms they once enjoyed are being eroded. Why would it be any different at Stonehenge?

I know the corporate world is very different from the non-corporate world. They use a language differently and are trained to think using specific models of communication.

It is easy to ride-rough shod over the non-corporate concerns because it is all about clever calculation in the name of profit rather than clever calculation after listening to people.  This effect of ‘corporation’ seems to be a common trend in our country today.

In many ways I like corporate thinking as it is clever and calculated and does seem to get the desired response in certain circles. Only surely its time people with so much cleverness at their disposal can come up with ideas that incorporate everyone’s thinking on the matter. They have an advantage, they  are trained in thinking  strategy so surely it is the responsibility of the more educated to help the less educated to be heard? If not I think it is time it starts to be.

Fortunately I have found there are people who have surfaced at the conference and through other research that are capable of forming a consensus of opinion and some know the concerns very well of those who do not feel as though they are being heard so can make sure their points of view can get heard.

Meanwhile E/H appear to be able to do as they please and spending millions on their new Stonehenge visitors centre that appears, from the reports I have heard, to add nothing if not worsen the Stonehenge visitors experience.

I have much sympathy for those that would like to see e/h removed from their position at Stonehenge. Only I cannot see how this will happen I certainly have no objection if it did happen. However in the meantime I suggest to really move forward on this matter we need to generate some new policies.

  • We need to realise much frustration is being caused by past/historical upset. We must respect this and want to put that aside in order to establish some new patterns.
  • We need to establish a full list of concerns.
  • Agree clarification of each concern
  • Have a speaker/representative for each concern
  • Draw up a loose consensus
  • Create a workable alternative that includes everybody’s concerns being met as much as possible.
  • Then offer the alternative to e/h.
  • Also I think it needs to be considered that we get full understanding of the legal land rights the ordinary people of this country have to visit Stonehenge beyond the e/h visitors’ experience.  I understand there are people who think they know this only I am not so sure because things are being changed all the time. I have been researching our constitutional rights and historical analogue since the Norman Conquest. Through the years so many amendments, legal manoeuvre’s and the incorporation of corporation changes how things work. I think we need to piece this all together and really know how the common man stands on the land. Through crown, government and common ownership I think we need to know what the legal boundaries really are today and the historical analogue of how it became like this.  Again Stonehenge being a microcosm of the macrocosm to help us all gain greater understanding in common language.

 

I see absolutely no reason why e/h should not allow people to drive along the drove and park there to visit Stonehenge.

If it is really so bad that the view is altered by this then maybe on the other side of the A303 or somewhere else people could be encouraged to park with a pass under the road built for safety. They build them in the forest for horses to pass under the road so they can’t be that expensive to build.

Without going on, and with idea that it might be possible to raise money to create a Peace centre nearby my point is there must be endless alternatives that have not been discussed or thought of yet that could help get greater satisfaction for all.

I am more than happy to help achieve this if people would like me to do so 🙂

Hypatia Boudica Mystlydene

31 August 2014

https://www.facebook.com/notes/692685990819336/

Equinox gates open 6a.m. Tuesday 23rd September 2014

English Heriticage have announced that they will open their gates in their fence to our Stones on Tuesday morning:

will greenwood2 (dd2) 15-02-2014 20-17-03 555x715

  • Access to Monument Field from c06:15 (or first light) until 08:30 on 23 September 2014
    • Parking is on both sides of Byway 12 – no parking on A344
    • Access to the Byway from 19:00 on 22 September 2014 via the A344
    • Exit via A344 closes at 09:00 on 23 September 2014
    • Disabled Parking: 8 spaces available in the VTS turning circle. These are permit-only and must be booked in advance by contacting Lucy Barker at lucy.barker@english-heritage.org.uk.