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Over thirty thousand revellers are expected to descend upon Carnac’s Alignments de Kermario for this year’s Summer Solstice. Sunrise will occur at about 4.45am on June 21, which is the longest day of the year and The Commission Régionale du Patrimoine et des Sites is opening the stones to the public from 7pm on Monday, June 20, to 8am the following day. Car parks will open from 7pm on Monday, June 20, with last admission at 6am on Tuesday, June 21.

Alignments de Kermario, Carnac – 30.000 people expected!
Image credit and © Tim Clark, Heritage Action 

Grégory Chopelain, spokesperson for the Conservateur Régional des Monuments Historiques (the Regional Conservator of Historical Monuments) confirmed that access to the stones and car park will be free of charge but appealed for people to use public transport where possible. He also asked that people act respectfully, but warned:

“Let us be realistic. We are well aware that such requests will fall on deaf ears in the case of many people who will climb on the stones in defiance of all pleas not to. On any other day we would charge for entry and keep numbers sufficiently low that control could be maintained, but at solstice we allow unlimited free access to both genuine people and chiffons d’orteil (toe rags) in such uncontrollable numbers that the toe rags are able to do what they like – and claim it is their right established during La Revolution.

Of course, all of us at the Commission Régionale know the event is inadvisable and contravenes the strict rules we impose for the other 364 days of the year. We are also aware it goes against our national duty of care and our country’s World Heritage obligations to UNESCO and that as archaeologists and carers we shouldn’t be allowing such a vast uncontrollable event. But somehow we’ve let our attention focus on that small minority of people wielding the “religion card” or the “freedom to party card” rather than the tens of millions who don’t turn up and don’t claim inviolable “access rights” but who look to us to take proper care of the stones. Since those who ask us the impossible – to “manage the numbers” rather than to “reduce attendance to manageable numbers” –  are clearly putting their own aspirations ahead of the protection and dignity of Carnac we should never have listened to them for a moment. No, we should have told them straight out, thirty thousand is a ridiculous number. I told my colleagues “Courage, mes braves. Duty before lobbyists!” but they didn’t listen and now that we have given the impression that bowing to the wishes of two minority groups is what matters it is difficult for us to change track since it would be an admission we’ve…

Oh, sorry! It’s Stonehenge that is being thrown open to 30,000 revellers, not Carnac. Please disregard the above. (And abject apologies to the French for suggesting they don’t know how to look after their World Heritage Sites!).




June 2011

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