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Stonehenge Free Festival – Britain’s biggest free festival was held at Stonehenge in England from 1974 to 1984

Neil Patrick

By the ’80s, the festival had grown to be a major event, attracting approximately 65,000 in 1984, but it was covered by only brief reports in the mainstream press.

The festival was perceived as being closely allied to Glastonbury. The 1981 festival, with perfect weather and a fantastic lineup of bands, was listed as the best free festival worldwide of that year. Some of the attending bands (Thompson Twins, Killerhertz, Hawkwind and the Lightning Raiders) took a break from touring to perform at Stonehenge for no fee.

The 1981 band lineup included Red Ice, Selecter, Theatre of Hate, Sugar Minott, Doll by Doll, Thompson Twins, Night Doctor, Merger, Androids of Mu, Deaf Aids, Killerhertz, The Raincoats, Thandoy, Foxes and Rats, ICU Lightning Raiders, Psycho Hampster.

Misty in Roots, Andy Allens Future, Inner Visions, Red Beat, Man to Man Triumphant, Stolen Pets, Seeds of Creation, Coxone Sound System, Black Widow, Here and Now, Hawkwind, Steel and Skin, The Lines, Waiting for Arnold, Play Dead, Cauldron, Lighting by Shoe, Flux of Pink Indians, The Mob, Treatment, Popular History of Signs, The Wystic Mankers, Elsie Steer and Cosmic Dave.

Dancing inside the stones, 1984 free festival.Source
Dancing inside the stones, 1984 free festival.Source


The festival attendees were viewed as “hippies” by the wider British public (some were, in fact, self-described hippies). This, along with the open use and sale of drugs, contributed to the increase in restrictions on access to Stonehenge, and fences were erected around the stones in 1977.

The same year, police resurrected a moribund law against driving over grassland in order to levy fines against festival goers in motorized transport. However, as late as 1984 the police-festival relations were relaxed: just a nominal presence (two police constables) in the car park.

On solstice morning people sat on the stones and offered their spliffs to the police below, who politely declined. The right of the Stonehenge festival to occur had been historically contested, and that trend was dramatically resumed in 1985 when English courts banned the Free Festival from being held at Stonehenge.

The ruling came so late that some Free Festivallers did not know about it, and several hundred attempted to show up in defiance of the ruling.

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News