Exactly 30 years ago, on June 1, 1985, a convoy of vehicles trying to get to Stonehenge to establish what would have been the 12th annual free festival in the fields opposite Britain’s most famous ancient monument, was set upon with violence on a scale that has not otherwise been witnessed in peacetime in modern times in the UK.
Around 1,400 police from six counties and the Ministry of Defence were in Wiltshire to “decommission” the convoy, which consisted of around 500 new age travellers, free festival goers and environmental activists. The police were thwarted in their efforts to arrest the majority of the convoy via a roadblock, and the travellers then occupied a pasture field and an adjacent bean field, establishing a stand-off that was only broken late in the afternoon, when, under instructions from on high, the police invaded the fields en masse, and violently assaulted and arrested the travellers — men, women and children — smashing up their vehicles to try and make sure this new nomadic movement would never be able to function again.
Successive waves of legislation — the Public Order Act of 1986 and the Criminal Justice Act of 1994 — largely destroyed Britain’s traveller community, although there were fascinating eruptions of dissent along the way — in particular via the rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s, and the road protest movement that was a direct descendant of the free festival movement. Unable to travel freely, protestors rooted themselves to a fixed spot, occupying land regarded as sacred and, in many noteworthy cases, living in trees in an effort to prevent road-building projects from taking place.
At Stonehenge, after the Battle of the Beanfield, an exclusion zone was declared every June, to prevent the festival from ever taking place again, but eventually, in a memorable ruling in 1999, this was ruled illegal by the Law Lords, and since then what remains of Britain’s counter-cultural tribes — largely supplemented with the hedonistic youth of Wiltshire and the surrounding counties — have been free to celebrate summer solstice in the stones for a 12-hour period overnight, a bizarre and ironic recreation of the festival, which, for the most part, cheerfully occupied the land across the road from the stone circle with only a few thousand festival-goers deigning to make the journey to the stones for spiritual reasons.
The festival, from small beginnings, had become gigantic by 1984, a town that occupied the fields opposite Stonehenge for the whole of June. That last year was dark, as was so much in Thatcher’s Britain at the time, as she was also engaged in violently “decommissioning” her other, bigger “enemy within”, the miners. This was a key part of her malignant mission to destroy Britain’s manufacturing base, through a deeply-engrained hatred of unions and working people, and, through dangerously irresponsible deregulation, making bankers the drivers of the economy instead — with all the divisiveness, misery and almost unbelievable greed and impunity that sector of society has demonstrated ever since, leading to the global crash of 2008 and the subsequent — and largely unremarked — public bailout of the greatest criminals of our lifetimes, none of whom have been jailed for their actions.
Back in 1985, the authorities demonised the festival, using it as an excuse to justify their appalling treatment of the men, women and children of the convoy at the Battle of the Beanfield, but, in large part, what they wanted to destroy was: 1) an ever-growing movement of people taking to the road in response to the tsunami of unemployment in Thatcher’s Britain; 2) a free festival movement that ran from May to September and that functioned as an alternative economy; and 3) perhaps, most crucially, the environmental protestors who, along with the women of Greenham Common, were engaged in frontline direct action that was both environmental and anti-military. The Greenham women’s permanent peace camp, in Berkshire, was opposed to US cruise missiles being based on British soil, and travellers also set up a second camp at Molesworth, in Cambridgeshire, which was earmarked as the second cruise missile base.
Most people don’t know, or don’t remember, but that camp was violently broken up by the largest peacetime mobilisation of troops in modern British history, on February 6, 1985. Symbolically led by Michael Heseltine, 1,500 Royal engineers, 1,000 police and 600 MoD police evicted the 150 members of the “Rainbow Village,” and spent the next four months hounding them as they took to the road, culminating, on June 1, with the assault that came to be known as the Battle of the Beanfield.
It doesn’t take too much thought to realise that, although the authorities couldn’t be seen to truncheon, en masse, the women of Greenham Common, they could violently assault the environmental campaigners of the convoy, and get away with it, by portraying them as dangerous, dirty anarchists threatening Britain’s heritage at Stonehenge with their festival.
That was indeed what happened, even though myself and the majority of the tens of thousands of people who visited — or were part of — the Stonehenge Free Festival in the late 70s and early 80s were only dangerous because we were exploring different ways of living than what was being dictated to us by an intolerant, authoritarian state that, it transpires with hindsight, wanted us to be nothing more than obedient corporate slaves.
It’s exactly ten years since my book The Battle of the Beanfield was published, which features interviews with a variety of people involved in the events of June 1, 1985 (police and observers, as well as travellers), as well as the police log and essays putting the events of June 1, 1985 in a wider context.
The Battle of the Beanfield is still available to buy, as is my previous book Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion, a social history of Stonehenge that also functions as an account of British counter-cultural history.
The Battle of the Beanfield features transcripts of some of the interviews conducted for the 1991 documentary ‘Operation Solstice’, made while a number of those assaulted on June 1, 1985 were suing the police. To mark the anniversary, I’m posting ‘Operation Solstice’ below, via YouTube. The documentary, directed by Gareth Morris and Neil Goodwin, was screened by Channel 4 back in 1991, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. This version was digitised from the last remaining sub-master tape by Gareth Morris to mark the 30th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield.
I’d also like to mention another event taking place this year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Battle of the Beanfield.
‘The Beanfield’ is “a multimedia show about national heritage, state violence and civic freedom,” by performance makers Breach and Guardian award-winning filmmaker Dorothy Allen-Pickard. Mixing Dorothy’s films with live direction by Billy Barrett, winner of the Sunday Times Harold Hobson Drama Critic Award 2014, it is being performed on the following dates:
– Warwick Arts Centre Studio, University of Warwick, CV4 7AL, Tuesday June 23, 1.45pm (contact the venue here)
– Theatre503, The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW, Saturday July 25, 9pm and Sunday July 26, 7pm (contact the venue here)
– Edinburgh Fringe: theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39), The Radisson, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH, August 7-8, 10-15, 17-22, 10 am (book tickets here)
I hope, if the Beanfield interests you, that you can make it to one of these shows. Dorothy and Billy invited me to Wiltshire on a memorable day back in March, to be a consultant as they filmed recreations of the events of June 1, 1985 for the show. The political engagement of everyone involved — mostly students at Warwick University — was refreshing, and it was great to discover that they had all been studying my book in preparation for the filming, which took place at the Beanfield itself.
It was my first visit to this iconic site, although I had passed it many times on the A303, and as we arrived at what we knew to be the approximate location, it became apparent that the change in the road layout since 1985 — with the replacement of a section of the A303 with a dual carriageway — made it difficult to work out exactly where the Beanfield — and the pasture field — were. After driving into the car park of the hotel by the Parkhouse roundabout, we were accosted by an angry local who wanted us to know that, although 30 years had passed, people were still very sensitive about the events of the day.
However, after he was talked down, he pointed us in the right direction, and, while police sirens passed us by, we spent a few hours filming, and reflecting on the events of the day, with — ironically, given the convoy’s environmental leanings — a small solar farm in the background, where, 30 years ago, there would only have been broken and burning vehicles, and bleeding travellers.
See below for the trailer for ‘The Beanfield’, via Vimeo, prepared for its first performances in Warwick last month:
For more on the Beanfield, see my articles, In the Guardian: Remembering the Battle of the Beanfield, which provides excerpts from The Battle of the Beanfield (and see the Guardian article here), The Battle of the Beanfield 25th Anniversary: An Interview with Phil Shakesby, aka Phil the Beer, a prominent traveller who died five years ago, Remember the Battle of the Beanfield: It’s the 27th Anniversary Today of Thatcher’s Brutal Suppression of Traveller Society, Radio: On Eve of Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, Andy Worthington Discusses the Battle of the Beanfield and Dissent in the UK, It’s 28 Years Since Margaret Thatcher Crushed Travellers at the Battle of the Beanfield, Back in Print: The Battle of the Beanfield, Marking Margaret Thatcher’s Destruction of Britain’s Travellers and It’s 29 Years Since the Battle of the Beanfield, and the World Has Changed Immeasurably.
For reflections on Stonehenge and the summer solstice, see Stonehenge and the summer solstice: past and present, It’s 25 Years Since The Last Stonehenge Free Festival, Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2010: Remembering the Battle of the Beanfield, RIP Sid Rawle, Land Reformer, Free Festival Pioneer, Stonehenge Stalwart, Happy Summer Solstice to the Revellers at Stonehenge — Is it Really 27 Years Since the Last Free Festival?, Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice: On the 28th Anniversary of the Last Free Festival, Check Out “Festivals Britannia”, Memories of Youth and the Need for Dissent on the 29th Anniversary of the last Stonehenge Free Festival and 30 Years On from the Last Stonehenge Free Festival, Where is the Spirit of Dissent?
Also see my article on Margaret Thatcher’s death, “Kindness is Better than Greed”: Photos, and a Response to Margaret Thatcher on the Day of Her Funeral.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers). He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Remembering the Battle of the Beanfield, on its 30th anniversary, when Margaret Thatcher used the police to crush the travellers’ movement en route to Stonehenge to establish what would have been the 12th Stonehenge Free Festival. Never forget the violence, and how Thatcher was crushing those with different views, including environmental and anti-military campaigners. My book, still in print, was published ten years ago today!
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:
This certainly is a restrictive and repressive society and much of it is so subtle that if you didn’t know to look for it or feel it – you might miss its suffocating nuances!
In some ways, Tashi. In other ways, the wildness of our counter-culture – up against the stifling, cold, cruel establishment – refused to be crushed, and continued throughout the 80s and the 90s. For me a big change was the psychic cosh wielded by Tony Blair, the enemy who pretended to be a friend, the housing bubble he created, when greed became even more widely aspirational than under the Tories, the crushing of the anti-globalization movement (remember the murder by police of a protestor in Genoa) and the more or less simultaneous rise of the age of fear, following 9/11, which still dominates our politics today, along with greed, materialism, selfishness and a cynical and carefully cultivated hatred of the “other” (not unrelated to the “war on terror”) but also including the unemployed and the disabled as well as immigrants and Muslims.
The Beanfield was still a milestone though – when the establishment showed its teeth, and its batons, and was prepared to truncheon pregnant women and children to prove its sadistic point.
Derek Benner-McNulty wrote:
I’ve read your book , and a great account of this brutality by the police that you covered , perhaps now we may get answers
Thanks, Derek. Yes, some more records from that time would be useful, wouldn’t they, to find out more about what was going on, and how high-up decisions were made. I was reflecting, thinking about it all today, while writing the article, about the significance of Michael Heseltine being at the eviction of Molesworth four months before the Beanfield, the largest peacetime mobilisation of troops in British history, and what an indicator that was of it all being led from the very top, as he was very close to Thatcher at the time, and was the Secretary of State for Defence (from 83-86).
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, in response to 3, above:
Perhaps there is a counterculture, Andy. You would know better than I. All I can say is the predominant culture here feels repressive and restrictive. It feels as though the government on down to the institutions are stifling with their controls and restrictions and expectations. Someone once explained to me that it is likely because it is a small island with everyone fighting for their inch and fighting to protect it. That made sense to me. Someone else said that British people are all up inside their heads – often disconnected from their feelings – that seems to make sense too.
That was an interesting article about Thatcher and the Battle of the Bean field. It’s sad that some feel they need to crush others in order to rule and command.
I don’t think the counter-culture has been crushed, Tashi, but it’s severely endangered. To some extent, however, I think the same developments have been taking place throughout the Western world – not just the UK – since the major upheavals of the 60s and 70s and early 80s. As the new Conservative forces became entrenched, they made it their mission to take control once more, and to suppress all dissent, and, by extension, much of life itself. Take the US – when I was growing up, the counter-culture and the anti-Vietnam War movement were inspirations, but from the time of Reagan and Thatcher onwards the backlash began, and the US nowadays is generally a very conservative place.
I don’t dispute your analysis, as an outsider, but I do find it depressing to have it confirmed how much of the life has been crushed out of the British people – and how little they realise it. Ten years ago, I have to say, before the 2008 global crash, far too many people were unbearable because they were all bragging abut how much their houses were worth. Now it’s only the relatively rich who can afford to do that, and the overall tone of life has changed – people who were smug ten years ago are now bitter and mean and spiteful, and they don’t even realise it. We are living in very strange and unsettling times …
Liz Wakefield wrote:
I have your book and a good read it is too. I spent the last 10 years fighting for Travellers rights to education and health services.
Naomi Fountain wrote:
Great book that I lend to friends often. Stuns them 🙁
Thanks, Liz and Naomi. I’m glad to hear your comments. 30 years on, though, it’s honestly still as shocking to me now as it was then. And as for society as a whole, what a sad decline in our freedom we’ve seen since 1985 – the Public Order Act, the Criminal Justice Act, Tony Blair’s clampdowns on protest and freedom of expression, and now, of course, the damned Tories again, trying to be as repressive as possible across the board.
When my friend Jan Strain shared this, she wrote:
Police State Blues….
30 years ago, under the Thatcher regime, The Battle of the Beanfield took place in the UK… The dancing stones stopped dancing as police stopped the New Age Travellers from their annual sojourn (a 12 year tradition) to Stonehenge for the Stonehenge Free Festival.
Thanks for sharing, Jan. A depressing anniversary. Every year it causes me to reflect on how the forces of greed and conservatism and divisiveness have got us so locked down that we can no longer even imagine the kind of freedom that existed back then.
Liz Wakefield wrote, in response to 10, above:
Indeed andy I sadly agree. The local Authority I worked for made my role as Traveller Education Teacher, the first to go and I was made redundant. So I decided to stand as a councillor which I have done for 4 years here in Brighton, however with government cuts to local councils there is very little that local democratic representation can really do, so sad. So I came to politics vis Peace Camps , Animal Rights and Direct action and now I shall be back womanning the barricades!
Sorry to hear that, Liz. The Tories are working so hard to make so many people redundant. We’ve had five years of this, and yet there’s no voice speaking for us that can get elected and change things, and councils, across the board, have capitulated to the demands for cuts coming from central government, and have not fought back. What will it take to force a rethink, so we can put people first? The Tories brag about the amount of jobs they’ve created, but they’re mostly part time or zero hours contracts, and people can’t survive on those.
Jan Strain wrote, in response to 12, above:
I completely empathize…From LA to Ferguson to NYC; Occupy to anti-war…wherever people connect and congregate, we can expect the oppression to follow…Even spontaneous peaceful festivities can draw that oppression
Yes, we need numbers, Jan. As we found in Lewisham, where I live in south east London, when we got 25,000 people out on the streets for a march to save the hospital, the government was intimidated.
I haven’t been able to summon up the enthusiasm to see We Are Many yet, which looks at the unparalleled protests before the Iraq War, because, although I understand it changed, to some extent, how our leaders negotiate waging war (on Syria, for example), when I was with two million people in London on February 2013, we could have had a velvet revolution if we’d all stayed – but we all went home!
Jan Strain wrote:
Sad, isn’t it? Fear, disinterest, feeling of hopelessness. I’m not sure why it is. I see the same thing here.
It isn’t lost on me that so many are needing to work harder and longer to survive – become more self centered when food and a roof become threatened.
But maybe we just aren’t hurting quite enough to go to the streets – that “them” vs “me” thing…
I am with you my brother in revolution…shouting from the rooftops
It’s a bit of both, I think, Jan. Certainly, life is hard for so many people. just to survive, but also our culture no longer, for the most part, has a belief in the need to protest, to work to change the world. Perhaps that will change in the US, with Black Lives Matter, but here in the UK I think too many people have become depoliticized over the last 15 years or so, and I’m not sure what it will take to get them to realise that WE hugely outnumber THEM. That message, to me, was Occupy’s great legacy.
As Michael Moore put it years ago in Stupid White Men, the rich are living in gated communities and they can’t believe we’re not coming after them!
I wanted to share a message posted by Jeff Herbidacious Herbertson, which is very powerful:
30 years ago yesterday I was on special alert, I was armed and armoured and shown a tactical ordnance map.
I was stationed at Arborfield reading, in the REME.
We were put on yellow alpha alert (riot support duty) although we never left the garrison, 48 hours later after watching on TV, all the things that happened in that time, turned my stomach, turned my head, turned my eye turned my mind against where I was! I was asked unknowingly (and thankfully never had to actually do) to possibly be a part of all that I had seen on TV in that time.
All of us at the time in barracks sat silently watching a police force lose all personal control and revert to primal pack creatures,all with no particular means of action other than wanton violence, and no safe means of surrender for the victims of the brutality other than to accept further injury and further attacks.
The tactical ordnance map I was shown that day was
“The Beanfield ”
Since that day I have actively pushed my envelope, often and HARD in support of a free will to choose the path of your own existence and who you share it with!
I still judder at the thought…….
Peter Ritchie wrote:
Remember 2 thirds of the population voted against the tories! That Says in a true democratic society that the public do NOT want a Tory government. But we do not live in a democratic country we live in a dictatorship that disguises it’self as democratic!
Francis Stoner wrote:
I find it very depressing that the result was quite literally as thin as a rizla, and could so easily have been different. I am not blaming those who didn’t vote, just saying that their views are counter-productive.
“General Election results: Did just 900 voters hand the Tories a majority government?” Daily Mirror, May 12, 2015:
Peter Ritchie wrote:
It still wouldn’t have been right! What we need is a new system but nobody really has the balls for it. Wake me from my grave if and when it ever happenz but while the majority is driven by greed it never will 🙁
Thanks, Peter and Francis. Yes, and just 24.4% of those eligible to vote actually voted for the Tories, so democracy’s not working. Politicians used to talk about how these sort of figures worried them; and tended to undermine the credibility of the democratic process; now they don’t even bother. As less people can be bothered to vote, they get more disdainful. I do think that article about the 900 voters who could’ve swung the result is interesting, and another blow to the disgraceful first past the post system, but the biggest group in the election was still those who didn’t vote at all. Disengagement on one side, unfettered greed on the other – it doesn’t look good.
Trasi Travella wrote:
My copy of your book sits on the shelf in my trailer alongside Medieval Brigands and A Time To Travel. I have read it twice, I was at school when this atrocity happened. Every summer there would be groups of travellers passing through my hometown of Bracknell on route to Stonehenge and I met and chatted to some of them. Little did I know that in 1990 I’d be doing the same journey with them.
Good to hear from you, Trasi. These anniversaries always shake me up. As I think back over the last 30 years, it’s apparent that huge numbers of us continued to fight for our freedom throughout the rest of Thatcher’s miserable reign and throughout the John Major years, but that Tony Blair marked the start of the new, intolerant Britain of the rich. To me, Blair’s hidden motto was, “Shut the f*ck up and go to bed early unless you’re rich, in which case you can do whatever you want”, a view that perfectly chimes with how Cameron and his butchers see the world as well. It’s time to rise up, but I don’t see it happening.
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, in response to 7, above:
I don’t want to portray a totally negative light on Britain. I’ve met absolute gems here. Few and very far between, mind you, but they exist. It’s interesting to me, especially in times of great polarisation, like we are seeing now – how the gems swiftly rise to the surface.
It’s their chance to shine and bring the darkness into sharp contrast by the light of their beaming souls.
Shine on, Andy. Shine on.
🙂 Tashi. I’ll keep trying. I can’t conform. I’m of an age when I’m supposed to be smug and safe, but I’ve always run away from the stifling security of what we used to call ‘the nuclear family’, the self-contained unit that looks after itself. There was always something creepy about it, to me. And for the life of me, I cant figure out how to not care about injustice, so that indignation won’t be going away anytime soon!
Brian Wilkes wrote:
I’ve seen the footage of the battle of the beanfield a number of times over the years and I am still shocked and saddened by the levels of brutality used against these people and their homes on that terrible day. We are lucky that guys like you take the time to share with us these films and articles so we don’t forget sleepwalk into the world the establishment wants for us. Thanks for the kick up the arse and the huge raspberry in the face of truth hiders.
Good to hear from you, Brian.
Aubrey Wilberforce Poncenby wrote:
The stubborn non voters talk about it being a ‘Waste of time’ well it took about 30 seconds to pop in the polling station and do it on the way back from the shops. They still have plenty of time to talk about how much of a waste of time it is.
Claire Moon wrote:
And most of them will pay to vote on Britain’s Got Talent, but won’t step outside to vote for a decent govt.. this country is fucked up!
Trasi Travella wrote:
Hard to register to vote without an address,believe me I tried. Not having a postal address made it impossible. Not having family or close friends where I’m living meant I couldn’t use a blag address either.
I even had a form to fill in for people who are NFA. The first question asked for an address where I spend most of my time, the woods where I live and spend my time don’t have an address, it’s woodland, no postcode obviously!
Thanks, Aubrey, Claire and Trasi for keeping this conversation going – and sorry to hear, Trasi, that the nomadic life still means you have no fundamental rights. For those who can vote, however, I do think that there are huge problems with the system that do nothing to encourage people to vote – first past the post delivered 50.9% of the seats to the Tories via just 36.9% of the votes cast, and just 24.4% of the electorate. In Lewisham, where I live, which is staunchly Labour, the discussion of my friends and I revolved around whether to vote Labour or Green, all the while knowing that Labour would win. Similar choices face most voters. You can not vote, and whoever won last time will win again, or you can, in a gesture of defiance, vote for a party that hasn’t got a chance of winning, just to prove a point – essentially to yourself. It’s an absurd mockery of a genuinely representational system.
But above all I think what we need in England is organised opposition to the status quo, which is what has been happening in Scotland, where there’s a vibrant national discussion going on, and where people openly talk about socialism. This hasn’t really been happening in England, where the Parliamentary Labour Party is in a permanent identity crisis (even though there are some very good constituency MPs) and our “alternative” is supposed to be UKIP, the personality cult of a “man of the people” who’s actually a former banker and a dangerous bigot.
Kevin Simpson wrote:
Lets hope that it goes down in history as the first conflict of the British Revolution. Even if it does take the rest of Britain 30-40 years to catch up!
“The first conflict of the British Revolution”, Kevin. Wouldn’t that be amazing!
….It is the counterculture …that will save the world….we are liveing in planet of the apes fucked up,upside down greed crazed times, ….and belive me its very very easy to become despondant and negative letting the sorrow overtake you…you know its a daily battle I,m unemployed ,have no money ect ect …and nearly 50 …and employers don’t want poeple my age regardless of expierience …..they want the young flesh…and I’m being hounded by a paticularly vile work roach and it sometimes make me wanna scream and kick off and become depressed………but you can’t…….you can’t let them crush you…its wot they want….don’t give them that power …its gonna get a lot tuffer it realy is there going in for the kill….but we have got to stay strong and healthy in our minds and bodys ….stay focust….stay mentaly open ..expand don’t contract…..the counter culture may be ..splintered but its not crushed and its the only thing gonna save us…I just read a great book called …hippies…from the beatnics to the ravers and the last paragraph sums it up ….the hippies opened the door to a new world ,a new way of liveing of being ,the authoritys have tried the hardest to slam the door shut ….and they nearly succeded but they didnt shut it all the way there’s still a chink of light…..and you know wot a door can allwayz be opened again…….dxx
Don’t go looking for your answers ,Taylor…..you might not like what you find…..isn’t that a prophetic line,…….planet of the apes 1967
I can’t find that book by Googling, Damo – Hippies: from the beatniks to the ravers, is that the title?
I think I need to get you a copy of my first book, ‘Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion’, which is all about the British counter-culture. Remembering the Battle of the Beanfield the other day, on its 30th anniversary, was an opportunity to look back, from where we are now, and to try and understand what happened. Yesterday, in Sainsbury’s in New Cross, I bumped into two old friends I haven’t seen for a while, Dom and Noel, and, surreally, we met at the checkout and then had a cup of tea in the sterile environment of the in-house cafe, where we had a great freewheeling discussion that partly touched on the decline of the counter-culture, via my belief that it was Tony Blair, his materialism and his authoritarianism, and the great shock and cynical manipulation of 9/11 for the purposes of fear, that has changed Britain so that today it is in so many ways unrecognisable.
Noel was talking about the Poll Tax Riot as the only time he thought the system was on the point of breaking, and said that he thought that for a few years around that time, he felt it was possible that the whole thing could collapse, and I agree: with hindsight, the time from the start of the rave scene to the passage of the CJA was massively important in terms of dissent, and I think it really is possible that the system was on the verge of collapse after the economy crashed in 1990 and after the Poll Tax Riot, which was on March 30, 1990. Along with a wave of house repossessions and the horrors of negative equity, unemployment rose from 1,600,000 to nearly 3,000,000 between April 1990 and February 1993, similar to to the rise from 1,500,000 to 3,200,000 that had taken place between 1979 and 1983, under Thatcher.
Unfortunately, this time round, the government and banks seem to have successfully shielded the criminals responsible for the 2008 crash from the unquenchable ire of the population (according to a long historical view, for example, it would have been entirely reasonable to suppose that we would have sacked Canary Wharf and the City in response, where ‘sacked’ is what the Northern barbarians did in the so-called Dark Ages), as well as maintaining a housing bubble, and even managing to massage unemployment figures. People need to wake up and not think that they’re safe if they’re obedient, or that the government or corporations actually give a f*ck about them.
Frankie Boyle had a good column in the Guardian yesterday, ‘What if David Cameron is an evil genius?’: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/01/david-cameron-moriarty-downing-street-radical-thatcher
Cameron has managed to set England against Scotland, Scotland against Labour. He has given his enemies the referendums they asked for, and won. He has left Nick Clegg looking like one of those terrified mouse faces that you find in an owl pellet. He has successfully pursued an agenda more radical than Thatcher’s with less popular support than John Major.
Most impressively, Cameron has managed all this without anybody being terribly worried by him. Immediately after his re-election he announced: “For too long we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens so long as you obey the law we will leave you alone.” A statement so far to the right that it conceded the political centre ground to Judge Dredd.
The killer line: “He is a sort of bored viceroy engaged in the handover of power from government to corporations.”
Yes, and when we didn’t even know what a gun-loving idiot Charlton Heston was!
Hippies by Barry miles ..from the beatnics to the ravers is inside its a great book ,charton Heston was a pro gun fool,but the original planet of the apes is an incredible film …let’s radicalise so every thing dosent pan out like that,as we all know how the system of greed is playing out right now …..its un sustainable and futureless ….if people weren’t so blinded and so brainwashed….they would rise up and litteraly wipeaway the corperates,the blaires,the Tories…the greed and coruption …it would be ended.
get your hands of me…..you dirty stinking …Tories,lol
Ah, I’d forgotten that was the subtitle, Damo. Yes, ‘Hippie’ by Barry Miles is a great book. I have a small counter-culture library, from the time I spent researching and writing about Stonehenge, and it’s part of that.
We do need to rise up in significant numbers. Otherwise, I fear that unrest may be met with a seriously tooled-up response. Having said that, however, at least the Tories, who are so obsessed with making as many people as possible unemployed, are denigrating the police and cutting their budget, even though Thatcher would have told them that rule number one was to keep the police sweet!
Yes, thank you for reminding us about police brutality and misuse of authority. We need people to be ever vigilant and to stand up for our civil liberties.
Thanks, Robert. Very good to hear from you.
Just watching the news ,on the litteraly thousands of migrants fleeing Africa,the middle …poor sods ,what is going on Andy in this world right now
We’re in a new dark age, Damo. For years the Sun went on and on about how we shouldn’t be spending any money on foreign aid, and now, with the UKIP-isation of the UK, we find that it’s become perfectly acceptable to have scum like Katie Hopkins writing about refugees and yes, even economic migrants, as cockroaches who deserve to die. Another vile job done, Mr. Murdoch, and thanks, politicians, for not standing up to bigotry, racism and xenophobia. Remember when Gordon Brown called that woman a bit of a bigot and was slaughtered for it? Well guess what? She was a bit of a bigot. It was a perfect description.
I’ve been watching Russell brand’s the trews and one episode ….Katie Hopkins gets her dead migrants…happy now ……well I guess she is …what a monster
The link is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=884RCxG61K4
Although decent people recognise what a nasty piece of work she is, far too many other people find her persuasive, and unfortunately she’s not the only monster who has a platform from which to spread hatred – I’m thinking of Jeremy Clarkson. I presume you’ve seen Stewart Lee destroying Clarkson and Richard “The Hamster” Hammond: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7CnMQ4L9Pc
Alternative version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWsoIwhaL5E
Jeremy clarkson seems like the kind of guy with a very small cock,lol
Urgh, horrible thought. Imagine being close enough to have to find out … Yuk!
[…] Every time the rich see us weep they crack open another bottle of champagne. They want us starving if we don’t have a job, and miserable and worked half to death if we do. It is not just that they want to take away the health service and the welfare state. They want to turn our streets and cities, pubs, clubs, football grounds, anything they can find into their playgrounds and price us out. This enclosure of human pleasure means that joy can no longer be free, it is just for the rich now, or at least only those who can pay. Glastonbury Festival can only survive with a fence, security guards, coppers and eye-watering ticket prices because there isn’t a better festival down the road without all those things. Margaret Thatcher made sure of that 30 years ago this week. […]
God wot a sight ,lair of the …white worm,lol
I’m not getting your reference, Damo. Something to do with the Bran Stoker novel?
…dune….theres a scene with a little white worm..jeremy clarkson….ahem…lol
Ha! Very good, Damo. Although now you have left me thinking a little too closely about Top Gear presenters in the trouser department, which is not something I ever wanted to do!
I’ve been watching john Lennon on YouTube he talks about the world being run by insane people he’s right
I wonder what he would have made of the modern world, Damo. It’s 35 years since he was murdered, and the world really has changed to an enormous extent.
Generally, though, it’s Bill Hicks that I wonder about. His routine about telling those in PR and advertising to kill themselves regularly crops up in conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qd8E6m7S4g
I think john Lennon would have marveled at the internet and new technology but unfortunately …..I think he, as a lot of us, would be absolitly horrified at the mess we’re in, he like the hippies and all the other lovers of love down through the ages have shown a way to a better world……and they have been ignored he would have thought the world as it is right now….insane….and sorry to be a downer….he’s right.
You reminded me, Damo, of what I think about the passage of time, that people don’t realise the changes that are happening, but that they probably would if a time machine, for example, took them from 1980 to 2015 in the blink of an eye. Here in the UK, for example, ten years ago far too many of my fellow citizens were insufferable, bragging endlessly about how much their damn houses were worth. But they were positive. Since then, we had the global crash of 2008, the”credit crunch”, when all their credit cards were cancelled, and the drip-feed of poison from the government and the media encouraging people to be as racist as they like about immigrants and Muslims and to regard the unemployed and the disabled as sub-human scum, and people are now bitter little twisted miserable bigots, just a step away from supporting the kind of oppression that took place in Nazi germany, and completely unable to recognise how much they have changed. The super-rich, meanwhile, are laughing their heads off at how easy they are to manipulate.
Lennon would be horrified as would ourselves from 20 years ago those selves that were going to reclaim the streets ,critical mass going to raves droppin an e and dancing the night away with a bunch of strangers from all walks of life ..and havein a blast becouse no one was bitter or vile we were all on the same wavelength ….Andy the 90s seem like nirvana compared to today…..what the fuck has gone wrong …like you said people are so bitter and angry ,vengfull and twisted…..it horrifies me…unfortunatley we are I feel entering a new dark age technology run amok …but people resorting to primatives, trogladites……I’m gonna damm them and hope we all change ..we all wake up and become better…..we have to change ….get back to the garden its now or never.
I agree, Damo. It was like a nirvana compared to now. After the horrors of Thatcher and the Poll Tax, the Major years were a breathing space, and something like an ideological civil war was being waged, with the rave scene, Reclaim the Streets, the road protest movement, Castlemorton – we were onto something! Now I tend to think that people caned it rather too much, and legalising raves and clamping down on dissent via the Criminal Justice Act massively suppressed our right to gather freely and allowed the coke-fuelled superstar DJ sh*t to replace the vibe that had been there before, but even under Blair the dissent was still there for a while. Remember J18 in the City, in June 1999, when the anti-globalization movement was really taking off? That was wild!
It was Genoa (the murder by police of a protestor, Carlo Giuliani) and the introduction of kettling and the “war on terror” that really saw the clampdown take place, and now — well, people are, in vast numbers, docile and absurdly materialistic, or, as we’ve been discussing, twisted little bigots.
A few links to J18: http://bak.spc.org/j18/site/
Carlo Giuliani’s murder by police: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/jul/21/globalisation.johnvidal
We know what the answer is ,we have been shown over and over and over again ….how this world could and should be ..a heaven on earth if you will ,free from war,poverty,hunger,hate,….why are people so unwilling to embrace this new world….death and destruction cosy a shit load of money…peace is actualy very cheep and sustaineable……
Yes, I like that, Damo: “Peace is actually very cheap and sustainable.” Great message!
I’ve been takeing my dog for a walk, there’s a little park near me its becomeing of a night full of homeless people, young homeless people, this is in west London one of the richest areas full of ….repulsive yuppies and yummy mummys …what a sad reflection of this sad country and its sad population
It’s becomeing very 1930s Germany, maybe soon they will start putting the poor, the disabled, Muslims, the unemployed and other minorities ….in to ghettos after all most of the Tories grandparents were Nazi sympathisers.
That’s terrible, Damo – a real sign of the divided nation we’ve become, where the rich don’t care about anyone but themselves, and far too many of those who are not rich have learned not to notice the suffering of their fellow citizens – or, in some cases, have decided to pour scorn and vitriol on those in need of help: the unemployed, the disabled, the many hardworking people who aren’t even paid enough to live on. Often these are the people whose anger is misdirected. Today they’re despising their neighbours, tomorrow it could be them, and all the while the Etonians, the fat cats, the bankers and corporate tax avoiders are laughing their heads off from behind the doors of their gated mansions.
Ha, yes, Damo. The Edward VIII stories are a reminder of how the Royal Family wasn’t originally called Windsor, eh?
I think the ghettoisation is in full swing – only it involves the unwanted being forced out of London by the government. There really should be an organised rebellion by everywhere that’s supposed to quietly accept all London’s unwanted, as though the towns and cities in question don’t already have greater social problems and unemployment than London, which will only be exacerbated by taking those pushed out by the benefit cap. The whole of the London establishment is behaving like spoiled Nimby scum – which is exactly what they are, of course. The only possible silver lining in all this – but not for London – is if talented young people move to other places from the capital in significant numbers, impoverishing London culturally as its greedy leaders deserve.
A friend sent me a picture of the tories, Osbourne and co …feasting,gorging,slobbering,belching,farting,….as they greedely gobbled down this meal of no dout the finest food…..like a pack of dogs.a meal to celerbrate there supposedly austerity victory…..thease sub humans,Osbourne and co …they are just utterly repulsive ….repulsive and revolting …feasting while people starve….its like a banana republic this country if this were easternn Europe or south America thered be a coup and the Tories and windsors …would be shot or strung up yeah let the rich have London ring fence it no one comes in goes out .no power or utilitys ect,lol see how long they would last lol
The picture sounds horrible, Damo!
I do wonder what they think they’re going to do with everyone who’s surplus to requirements. Obviously, they think the rich will continue to bring back servants – or slaves – who can be cheap foreigners, but they don’t seem to know what to do with all the Brits who are surplus to requirements, beyond lying to them to get them to either vote for them or to shut up and distract themselves with their hatred of others, or the mindless diversions provided by the corporate entertainers.
I’m sure they haven’t fully thought it through, though, because they’re not actually every clever, you see. It’s part of their problem. Not as clever as they think they are …
Bingo….you hit it right on the head …posh people are never very bright you only have to glance at buck house to see that ..the thing is its wakeing people up from there corperate induced comas ..we could start by banning the bloody iPhone …that realy is the great distractor
For my sins, Damo, as a bright northern boy whose parents had made the transition to the middle class (both university educated in the 1950s, despite being from working class backgrounds – mum at Manchester, dad at Cambridge), I spent three years in the vicinity of the elite at Oxford University from 1982-85. By that time, social mobility was so well promoted that the thick public schoolboys were no longer automatically accepted, and 50% of the students were from state schools, but it was still the public schoolboys’ finishing school. Financially comfortable (at the least), confident and primed to win and to make money, they went on to assume various leadership positions in the professional and corporate worlds. However, I wouldn’t say that they were all clever people. They could pass exams, even get firsts, but they didn’t necessarily have what I suppose I would call practical and moral intelligence. The state school students, on the other hand, tended to be boffins, excellent in their academic fields, and many went on to find rewarding work, but they lacked that arrogance that comes with being a part of the elite, and that is so much more damaging today than it was then. Back then, Thatcher was about to “liberate” the financial sector to begin its reign of thievery – with public schoolboys getting into it big time – and in the last 15 years, of course, money has generated money through rigged housing bubbles that benefit those who are already rich, as well as attracting and facilitating a certain amount of wannabes, who then prop up the Tories’ cold, selfish ideology with their own fulfilled greed.
What a disgrace. Anyway, thought you might like my reflections. What’s really lived me with all these years is the arrogance of the elite, and their cold desire to win at all costs. What chance do creative, loving people have against that? We have to remember how to resist, or they will strip us of everything they can get away with.
People would say if you can’t beat them join them,lol no thanx right now apart from a bloody revolution to get rid of them I just don’t know wot the answer is ,I see so many ,many super bright working class lads at my boxing gym they realy are struggling some of them …..there so bright they out class ..basicaly out everything the likes of etonians …but they struggle to be given the chances and that’s a bloody crime
Yes, we’re going backwards in time, Damo, to before the working class revolution of the late 50s and early 60s, to before the welfare state. Who knows where we’ll end up? Sometimes it feels lie the powdered wigs of the late 18th century – but with Twitter, sometime I think they won’t rest until we’re back in the middle ages.
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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