Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion by Andy Worthington
‘Andy Worthington has written what is likely to remain the definitive work on the subject, simply because of the depth of coverage and range of viewpoints that it incorporates.”
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About the book
This innovative social history looks in detail at how the celebrations at Stonehenge have brought together different aspects of British counter-culture to make the monument a ‘living temple’ and an icon of alternative Britain. The history of the celebrants and counter-cultural leaders is interwoven with the viewpoints of the land-owners, custodians and archaeologists who have generally attempted to impose order on the shifting patterns of these modern-day mythologies.
The story of the Stonehenge summer solstice celebrations begins with the Druid revival of the 18th century and the earliest public gatherings of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the social upheavals of the 1960s and early ’70s, these trailblazers were superseded by the Stonehenge Free Festival, which evolved from a small gathering to an anarchic free state the size of a small city, before its brutal suppression at the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985.
In the aftermath of the Beanfield, the author examines how the political and spiritual aspirations of the free festivals evolved into both the rave scene and the road protest movement, and how the prevailing trends in the counter-culture provided a fertile breeding ground for the development of new Druid groups, the growth of paganism in general, and the adoption of other sacred sites, in particular Stonehenge’s gargantuan neighbour Avebury.
The account is brought up to date with the reopening of Stonehenge on the summer solstice in 2000, the unprecedented crowds drawn by the new access arrangements, and the latest source of conflict, centred on a bitterly-contested road improvement scheme.
‘It’s by far the best bit of modern British social history I’ve seen.’
John Hodge, SchNEWS
‘This is a fine book in every way, well written, carefully researched and with a remarkable story to tell. It is about the great change in outlook that by-passed conventional politics and directed minds towards idealism and personal transcendence. This phenomenon has rarely been approached by sociologists: their training has not equipped them for it. Worthington’s book fills the gap and provides a unique record.’
John Michell, Fortean Times
‘Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion contains an extraordinary story. Anyone who imagines Stonehenge to be nothing but an old fossil should read this and worry… [This is] the most complete, well-illustrated analysis of Stonehenge’s mysterious world of Druids, travellers, pagans and partygoers.’
Mike Pitts, History Today
‘Andy Worthington has written what is likely to remain the definitive work on the subject, simply because of the depth of coverage and range of viewpoints that it incorporates. If it is impossible to write most political history in such a way that it will achieve universal acceptance, then to write ‘contemporary’ history about controversial events involving colourful and clashing personalities requires an exceptionally high degree of courage and dedication, and Andy has provided it.’
Ronald Hutton, author of The Triumph of the Moon
‘The strange events that swirled around Stonehenge in the last couple of decades — the Festival, the Convoy, the annual summer solstice ritual of confrontation between forces of order and disorder — were so bizarre there needs to be a record of them. In his wonderful and often funny book, Andy Worthington tells this, the oddest tale ever told about the most famous ancient place of them all.’
Christopher Chippindale, author of Stonehenge Complete
‘[A]readable and well researched cultural history.’
‘Worthington has produced a history of Stonehenge that puts it into a contemporary as well as archaeological context… The story told here is a fascinating one, and seems unlikely to be over.’
John Billingsly, Northern Earth
‘This is a well-written and well-researched study of a fascinating subject and is highly recommended.’
Mike Howard, The Cauldron
‘An essential read for anyone who wants a better understanding of how we got where we are.’
Andy Anderson, White Dragon
‘An honest, fastidious and heartfelt contribution… pointing towards a freer, glorious Albion’
Paul Screeton, Folklore Frontiers
Published by Alternative Albion, an imprint of Heart of Albion Press, June 2004.
ISBN 1 872883 76 1.
245 x 175 mm, 300 pages,
147 photos and illustrations,
I didn’t put this book down after reading it. It doesn’t deal too much with the ancient history of Stonehenge, which we’re unlikely ever to figure out, but instead focuses on Stonehenge and it’s counter-cultural importance in the last 100 years – and more importantly, it’s place in the early 80s when the Thatcher government sent in police to brutally bring to an end the Stonehenge Free Festival at the Battle of the Beanfield, where women and children were assaulted by over zealous police.
It moves on to the rave scene and road protest movement, and analyses the links between all these anti-authoritarian movements all link back to Stonehenge.
Whether you have interest in social justice, anarchy or activism or are looking at Stonehenge from a Pagan perspective, I’d highly recommend this book.