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 🙂
31 August 2014