I vaguely remember visiting Stonehenge with my parents when I was young. At that time we would have been able to walk right up to the stones but they were roped off in 1977, apparently due to erosion. From 1974 to 1984 Stonehenge was the site of the Stonehenge Free Festival which culminated on the Summer Solstice. In 1984 the event attracted some 65,000 people but it was banned in 1985 and those that attempted to show up in defiance of the ruling were violently attacked by police in what came to be known as the Battle of the Beanfield. ITN reporter Kim Sabedo was there and described seeing “some of the most brutal police treatment of people that I’ve witnessed in my entire career as a journalist”. Eventually English Heritage did start allowing “managed open access” to the stones for Summer Solstice and this year, with good weather predicted, I made plans to attend.
On Friday June 20th three of us set of in my friend’s camper van and arrived soon after 7pm, which was when the car park opened. A few vehicles were being pulled over by police but we got in without any trouble and parked up. I had brought with me a birthday present that I had kept in the fridge since February – three tabs of LSD. I believe they were purchased from Silk Road and that each contained approximately 120 micrograms of active ingredient (typical doses range from 40 to 500 micrograms). We dropped the acid shortly before sunset and set off to walk to the stones. I also had about a gram of cannabis with me in a film canister. I knew we might be searched so I put half of it in my wallet but (unwisely) left the rest in the canister and put it in my bag along with camera, water bottle, pipe etc. I wasn’t patted down or asked to empty my pockets but security (not police) did ask to look in my bag. I thought I was in trouble when the guy picked out the film canister and weighed it in his hand but for some reason he didn’t open it and just put it back before allowing me through – thanks dude!
Once safely passed security I could relax while waiting for the acid to take effect. There were already a lot of people amongst the stones but it was easy to get close enough to touch them – they were still warm from the sun and much whiter than I expected. I could hear drumming coming from the centre of the circle but didn’t attempt to reach it through the crowd, preferring to stay outside most of the time. One of the things security had been looking for was sound systems, however small. Amplification was not permitted (a good thing in my opinion) but lots of people had brought drums and other instruments so there was plenty of music for people to dance to, not just within the stones but all around. A little way from the stones was an acoustic stage which (as I understand it) was new this year and for which permission had been negotiated in order to give the travelling community a forum. I spent some of my time there listening to music and poetry. What seemed like a couple of hours before sunrise I heard the Hare Krishna mantra and turned to see a large yellow shrine on wheels being towed by devotees and followed by a crowd. I tagged along until they stopped near the stones, continuing their chanting and drumming. By now a lot of people had fallen asleep and it was increasingly difficult to walk around for fear of treading on someone, but I was still feeling the effects of the acid and had no inclination to join them in their slumbers.
Eventually the sky to the East started to lighten and people roused themselves to witness the sunrise. You could feel the energy building and the first glimpse of the glowing red disc was greeted by much whooping from the crowd of (as I later learned) some 36,000 revellers. Once the sun was fully above the horizon people started drifting off. I queued for a while to get an espresso from one of the catering stalls before heading back to the van – a walk which seemed much further than the night before. We didn’t have to vacate the car park till noon and stayed as long as we could to allow the driver to rest. The other guy was taking the train back to London so we drove him to Salisbury, picking up four other people on the way. After dropping them at the station we drove to Wales to see a DJ friend of mine play at a venue called Ffwrn in Fishguard. I didn’t get to sleep till about 4am, at which point I had been awake for over 42 hours. I didn’t know I could still do that! I am not sure if I would do it again but I am certainly glad that I went this year and will remember it as one of the highlights of 2014.