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Times are tough. Another £2.5 billion of cuts are to be announced today. Heritage spending has already been slashed across the board yet in exactly 3 months from today another £200,000 is due to be spent to facilitate the annual, inflation-proofed knees-up at Stonehenge. Should it be examined or is it sacrosanct, in contrast to pensioners’ benefits and museums? Here are some actual figures of the costs it involves:

Security & Stewarding  £54k  (inc all security and stewarding, car park management and St John Ambulance)
Event Management  £13k  (inc risk management, health and safety and operation set up, dismantling and clear up)
Temporary Equipment  £56k   (inc lighting and technical production, tracking, fencing, toilets and event accommodation)
Land Lease Charges £10k (inc hire of land for car parking)
Signage & Printing  £2k (inc signage production and installation and conditions of entry leaflets)
Waste Management  £11k (inc litter picking, recycling and removal of all waste off site, cleaning of toilets)
General Site Maintenance £3k (inc general maintenance and operational support required before and after Solstice)
Consumables   £1k    (inc toilet rolls, waste bags and PPE)
____________
Total = £150k 
(plus other taxpayer-funded agencies including the police, another £50K perhaps?)
____________

That’s a lot if you’re a taxpayer so shouldn’t ways be sought to reduce it? Some campaigners say the high cost (a.) is a function of mismanagement and (b.) would be less if the event was extended into daytime so it would be more relaxed with less security needed.  For mismanagement read “duty of care” – so such criticism is hard to sustain. However, maybe they’re right about the daytime…

The success of the winter solstice lantern parade provides much food for thought.  It is held in daylight up until the sun sets and people don’t go inside the stones so not only is there far less need for security, less expenditure is needed on much else! It would be helpful if the actual cost of that event was published.

In addition of course, evidence is piling up almost daily that it equates with the way the ancients celebrated. It’s hard to imagine Druids or pagans arguing against authenticity else why do they go there at all? As for the non-spiritual attendees who just come for a free party, shouldn’t they simply fit in with whatever solution Druids, pagans and taxpayers deem most authentic and least expensive respectively?

The return from the Stones after sunset.  (c) Andy Rhine-Tutt

The Winter Solstice Lantern Parade: returning from the Stones after sunset. (c) Andy Rhine-Tutt   (Much enjoyment, no complaints, little cost, fewer monument protection and health & safety worries but  much authenticity and loads of scope for spirituality and ceremonial).

Update 5 April 2005:
Interestingly, at the Round Table meeting  of 4 April EH were asked a direct question by an attendee from OATS:
“We also asked that if the summer open access itself can not be extended, would they at least open the car park from late morning/middayish until the same time the following day. The response from EH and the police stated that this would cost them a vast amount of resources and money and so would not be done.”

Of course, that was effectively asking for an extension – whereas concentrating the celebrations on the sunset would involve the reverse, and by the same token that could presumably be expected to SAVE “a vast amount of resources and money”.

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