Summer Solstice 2017: Reflections on Free Festivals and the Pagan Year 33 Years After the Last Stonehenge Festival

An aerial view of the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1984, liberated from the police during the subsequent trial.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

My books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield are still in print, and please also feel free to check out the music of my band The Four Fathers.

Back in 1983, as a 20-year old student, I had a life-changing experience when a friend of mine initiated a visit to the Stonehenge Free Festival, an anarchic experiment in leaderless living that occupied the fields opposite Stonehenge for the whole of June every year. The festival had grown from a small occupation in 1974, and by 1984 (when I visited again) became a monster — one with a darkness that reflected the darkness that gripped the whole of the UK that year, as Margaret Thatcher crushed the miners and, metaphorically, razed the country to the ground like a medieval conqueror.

I remember the 1983 festival with a great fondness — the elven people selling magic mushrooms from a barrel for next to nothing, the wailing of acid rock bands, the festivals’ thoroughfares, like ancient tracks of baked earth, where the cries of “acid, speed, hot knives” rang though the sultry air. Off the beaten track, travellers set up impromptu cafes beside their colourfully-painted trucks and coaches, unaware that, just two years later, on June 1, 1985, some of those same vehicles would be violently decommissioned at the Battle of the Beanfield, when Thatcher, following her destruction of Britain’s mining industry, set about destroying Britain’s traveller community, which, during her tenure as Prime Minister, had grown as unemployment mushroomed, and life on the road seemed to provide an appealing alternative.

A festival circuit, running from May to October, had grown up with this new movement, with Stonehenge at its centre. Michael Eavis’s Glastonbury Festival was also connected to it, as were numerous smaller festivals, as well as other events focused on environmental protest, especially against nuclear weapons and nuclear power. The travellers’ most prominent manifestation, the Peace Convoy, had visited Greenham Common, site of the famous women’s peace camp opposed to the establishment of US-owned and -controlled cruise missiles, in 1982, and in the summer of 1984 established a second peace camp at Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, the intended second cruise missile base after Greenham Common. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: The Protest Against Theresa May Outside Downing Street, June 17, 2017

'Safe housing is a right not a privilege': a placard at the 'Protest Against Theresa May' outside Downing Street on June 17, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

See my photos on Flickr here!

Please also, if you can, consider supporting my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

The text below is adapted from the accompanying text for my photos on Flickr.

Yesterday, I cycled into central London to join a ‘Protest Against Theresa May’ that had been called by the journalist Owen Jones and the writer Sara Hanna-Black, and that was attended by thousands of people.

I hope you have time to check out my photos, as there was no shortage of witty and angry placards aimed at Theresa May, especially after her disastrously poor response to the terrible fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London on Wednesday. For my response to the Grenfell disaster, see Deaths Foretold at Grenfell Tower: Let This Be The Moment We The People Say “No More” to the Greed That Killed Residents.

What a difference two months can make in politics. When Theresa May called a snap election at the start of April, she was 20 points ahead of Labour in the polls, and presumed that she would win a landslide victory. Then, on the campaign trail, she was wooden, aloof and unsympathetic, and her manifesto was a disaster, containing a provision for care funding for older people that was instantly dubbed the “dementia tax”, and was vilified by many of her own supporters, and even by the media that generally supported her unconditionally. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Quarterly Fundraiser Day 3: Still Seeking $2000 (£1600) to Support My Reader-Funded Writing and Activism

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo near the White House on January 11, 2013 (Photo: Palina Prasasouk).Please support my work and my efforts to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

I’m posting a second request for donations for my quarterly fundraising appeal after my first post on Monday. I’m trying to raise $2500 (£2000) in total  — not a huge amount, I hope, for the 50+ articles I write every quarter — and so far, via ten supporters and some of my monthly sustainers, I’ve received around $500 (£400). I’m hugely grateful for those donations, but, as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not possible to live for 13 weeks on $500. That amount will, instead, only cover the hosting fee for my website for a year, and maintenance costs — I recently had to hire someone to satisfy Google that my site hadn’t been hacked.

If are able to help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). 

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Please Help Me Raise $2500 (£2000) to Support My Guantánamo Work Ten Years After I Began

Andy Worthington singing 'Song for Shaker Aamer' in Washington, D.C. in January 2016 (Photo: Justin Norman).Please support my work! I’m trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s that time of year when I ask you, if you can, to support my work on Guantánamo and related issues. No mainstream media outlet pays me a salary for what I do, and no educational institution or funding organization either, so I am largely dependent on your generosity to enable me to continue my work as a freelance investigative journalist, campaigner and commentator. Please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated.

It’s now more than ten years since, on an almost daily basis, I began writing and publishing articles about Guantánamo — and working to try to get the prison closed — and since then I have published over 2,000 articles about Guantánamo. Without your financial support, this would not have been possible. All I’m seeking over the next there months is $200 (£150) a week, not much for the 50 or so articles I will write in this three-month period, as well as maintaining the associated social media, and undertaking personal and media appearances, most of which are also unpaid. I cannot do what I do without your support, so I hope you will be able to help. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years of Writing About Guantánamo: Please Support My Work!

Andy Worthington discussing Guantanamo at an event at Revolution Books in New York in November 2009.Please support my work! After ten years of writing about Guantánamo, I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Dear friends and supporters,

Exactly ten years ago, on May 31, 2007, I began writing full-time, here on AndyWorthington.co.uk, about Guantánamo and related issues, starting with the sad story of Abdul Rahman al-Amri, who died at the prison the day before. I had completed and delivered the manuscript for my book The Guantánamo Files just two weeks earlier, and had spent the intervening time in the bewildered fog that those who have written books may recall occurring when the birthing of a book is complete. However, when I saw the news of al-Amri’s death, I knew that I had to comment.

In researching and writing The Guantánamo Files, I had studied the publicly available information on all the prisoners— or as many as information was available for — and, as a result, was in a good position to know about al-Amri, a Saudi, and a former soldier. With hundreds of pages of notes on all the prisoners, I thought I’d contact a well-known, left-leaning newspaper to ask if they wanted an article about al-Amri, but was told that they’d take a wire from the Associated Press, and so, thwarted in my one attempt at going mainstream, I decided I would use the blog that my neighbour, Josh King-Farlow, had set up for me the year before, which, at the time, featured pages about my first two books, Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield, and, if I recall correctly, my very first blog post, published in April 2006, a review of Mark Danner’s book, Torture and Truth, about the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Two days after publishing al-Amri’s story, I posted an update, after the Pentagon had, as I predicted in my first article, slandered him in death. As I noted: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: “Zone of Non-Being: Guantánamo,” Featuring Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, Clive Stafford Smith, Michael Ratner

A screenshot from 'Zone of Non-Being: Guantanamo', a documentary film released in 2014.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Several years ago (actually, way back in December 2012), I was interviewed at my home for a documentary produced by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which was directed by the filmmaker Turab Shah. For some reason, I never heard about the film being completed (I think its initial screening was in January 2014, when I was in the US), but after Donald Trump became president of the United States, I received an email from the IHRC stating that they were screening the film, which prompted me to look it up, and to discover that it had been put online in July 2014.

The film features a fascinating array of contributors, including myself, former prisoners including Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga, Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, the late Michael Ratner, the founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the author and academic Arun Kundnani, Ramon Grosfoguel, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the journalist Victoria Brittain, the writer Amrit Wilson, and Massoud Shadjareh of the ICRC.

The ICRC described the film as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Celebrates Five Years of Photographing London for His Project, ‘The State of London’

A photo from the first day of 'The State of London' photo project, May 11, 2012, of Euromix Concrete, on Deptford Creek, Greenwich, London SE10 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and photographer.

 

Please like ‘The State of London’ on Facebook. Please also note that the photos accompanying this article are all from May 11, and were taken from 2012 to 2017. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Canary Wharf from Rotherhithe, London SE16, on a rainy May 11, 2013 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Five years ago, on May 11, 2012, I began a bike-based project to record London in photos that has ended up with me visiting all 120 of London’s postcodes (those that begin EC and WC, NW, N, E, SE, SW and W), as well as some — but not all — of the areas that make up Greater London, with a population of 8,673,713 in 2016 in the 32 boroughs (and the City of London) that make up the capital.

On these journeys, I have taken tens of thousands of photos of whatever attracts me, architecturally, historically, culturally, as well as photos of the changing seasons and the changing weather, and the changing face of the city as greed and regeneration remake whole swathes of the capital, often in what I regard implacably as an ugly and divisive manner.

A photo from Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich, London SE10 looking west towards Deptford and Rotherhithe, with, in the distance, the Shard and the City of London. Photo taken on May 11, 2014 (Photo: Andy Worthington).The project arose as a response to a difficult time in my life. Contracting a rare blood disease in 2011 led to me giving up smoking and piling on the pounds in response. A year after my illness, it was clear that the way I’d been living for five years prior to my illness — and that had largely continued in the year since (although, crucially, with the consumption of sweet and salty fatty things replacing the cigarettes) — was not a healthy way to proceed. My life was too much on a laptop, and largely sedentary, and something had to change.

As a result, I thoroughly reacquainted myself with what was possibly my oldest hobby — cycling, which I began as a child, and which I had always done, although not as regularly as I should have after I began researching and writing (about Guantánamo) on a full-time basis in 2006. I had started cycling regularly around south east London in the early months of 2012, often with my son Tyler, who was 12 at the time, and on May 11, 2012, I decided to start taking photos of my meanderings by bike, and to consciously wander further afield. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Riot’, New Online Single Tackling Austerity and Inequality

Listen to ‘Riot’ here!The photo is by Eric Hossinger (hozinja) on Flickr, and is reproduced via a Creative Commons agreement. It was taken on December 4, 2010 during a UK Uncut protest outside Topshop in Oxford Street about tax avoidance by the company's boss, Sir Philip Green.

Today my band The Four Fathers are releasing ‘Riot’, our third online single from our forthcoming album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ following the release of ‘Close Guantánamo’ (2017 mix)’ in February, and ‘Dreamers’ last month.

I initially wrote ‘Riot’ in 1986, while living in Brixton, as a punky reggae song that dealt with how parents and society mess up kids’ minds and emotions — themes of youthful alienation that didn’t survive when I revived the song for The Four Fathers at the end of 2015. We’ve been playing it live since then, and we recorded it last summer in the first session for our new album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ which we hope to release on CD in September.

Musically, our version of my old tune is the closest we’ve come to date to echoing the minor key tunes and armagideon themes of classic late 70s roots reggae, which remains my favourite music, nearly 35 years after it first blew my mind at university in Oxford. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Dreamers’, New Online Single Written for a Friend’s 50th Birthday

A quilt made by Jen Owen, the subject of The Four Fathers' song 'Dreamers', made when she was a student in Sheffield in the 1980s.

Listen to ‘Dreamers’ here on Bandcamp!

A year ago, I wrote ‘Dreamers’, a song for the 50th birthday of a very good friend, Jen Owen, who I first met 20 years before. I played it for the first time at her birthday party in Stroud, in Gloucestershire, and then recorded it last September with my band The Four Fathers, and we’ve just released it online as the second single from our forthcoming second album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’

‘Dreamers’ reflects on our wilder, younger years, and then progresses to look at how we came to be parents and how “we overcame some demons / And gained some wisdom somehow,” and it’s one of a number of songs I’ve written in which I attempt to grapple with getting older and what that means — something that, I find, very little popular music does, being generally fixated as it is with youth, even when those responsible for its creation have long passed their youthful days.

That said, one of the most poignant musical moments for me over the last few years was when David Bowie returned from long years of musical silence with his 2013 album, ‘The Next Day’, and the absolutely extraordinary ‘Where Are We Now?’ with its palpable sense of mortality, and its refrain about “walking the dead.” And then, in 2016, almost on the eve of Bowie’s death, came ‘Blackstar’, a song that felt like a requiem — as well as being one of the most profound pieces of popular music ever recorded. Read the rest of this entry »

Listen to Andy Worthington Discuss “Demonising ‘The Other’: Tackling the Rise of Racism and Xenophobia” at Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change

Andy Worthington at the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change in November 2016 with moderator Oliver Lewis and novelist Gabriel Gbadamosi.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Back in November, I was delighted to take part in a fascinating day-long event in Brockley, the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change, featuring 16 speakers from the local area discussing pressing issues of our time from a left-of-centre perspective. The day was divided into four sessions, and I’m pleased to note that recordings of the event are now online on the Brockley Society website as follows:

Session 1: Participation and Democracy
Session 2: A Fairer World
Session 3: An Inclusive Society
Session 4: Building a New Economy

I took part in the third session, An Inclusive Society, and the recording of my talk, “Demonising ‘The Other’: Tackling the Rise of Racism and Xenophobia”, begins 14 minute into the recording, after the novelist Gabriel Gbadamosi, discussing “The Creative Community as a Condition of Multicultural Society.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

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.
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

Love and War by The Four Fathers

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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