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Several thousand at least

I was at Stonehenge for the solstice morning sunrise again this year.

You may know that I co-wrote a book a couple of years ago with the mad biker druid, King Arthur Pendragon, about the campaign to free Stonehenge for public access.

Viewers may have seen Arthur on BBC2 on Saturday evening in a Culture Show special presented by Alistair Sooke. Arthur was the one wearing chain mail.

He was also featured in an article by Will Self in the Guardian, in which he is described as follows: “It might be easy to dismiss Arthur Pendragon as an endearing eccentric had he not been quite so successful.”

I can attest to this, having spent a lot of time in his company over the years. He’s surprisingly down to earth and very astute politically. We can lay the blame for the current regime directly at Arthur’s feet, who ran a 14 year long campaign for free and open access culminating in taking the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights in 1998.

After that the government backed down and people have been meeting in the Stones for the solstices and the equinoxes ever since.

The summer solstice night is the maddest of them all. This year an estimated 37,000 people turned up, and all of them trying to get into the centre of the stones.

It’s surprising how many people can fit in there. It feels like several thousand at least.

The Druids try to squeeze themselves in amongst this vast crowd and do their best to hold a ceremony, but are generally drowned out with the sounds of whooping, cheering, drumming and chanting.

This goes on all night. The closer it gets to sunrise the more excited people get, until, as the first rays break over the horizon, the crowd goes wild.

I find this remarkable. Most of the people are in their teens or their twenties. They’ve been brought up on a diet of Hollywood movies and video games, and yet, here they are, in a field in the middle of nowhere, getting all excited at the prospect of a sunrise.

Somehow that gives me great hope for the future.

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