By Jim Rayner

More information is gleaned each year about how to take the summer solstice forward. The alcohol ban / car parking charges continued and English Heritage filmed some of the event with a static camera and placed the footage online for the first time. Security issues also meant an appearance of armed guards. The crowd of 13,000 who watched the sunrise was slightly up from the 2016 attendance due to a range of factors, such as the good weather and people travelling on to the Glastonbury Festival. Overall the event passed off fairly peacefully, apart from the usual handful of (mainly drug related) arrests.

The event however, is a continuing process of evolution. The ongoing issue about overcrowding in the centre of the circle is yet to be resolved and a gate still hasn’t appeared in the old A344 northern stock boundary fence. The whole point of closing and grassing over the A344 was to open up the Stonehenge landscape, not leave the fence in place without any immediate plan for its removal. Not being able to walk up and down the Avenue is a real detriment to the solstice experience and does little to discourage overcrowding within the centre of the circle. The Avenue needs to be reconnected with the stones in order to provide the space for a more authentic gathering. This could be achieved by placing a small gate in the fence or by simply just having a small roll-back section of fencing which would be manned by security guards for an hour or so at sunrise. This would help spread attendees out over a wider area for the benefit of all concerned.

The live stream was a success, but English Heritage (EH) need to work in conjunction with BBC Wiltshire to produce a short supporting film with interviews with attendees and provide a closer view of the sunrise itself with the use of a thermographic camera. BBC Wilts. Broadcast a radio programme from the stones each year and their live segment really needs to be combined with what EH attempted to do. This would provide a better focus for those watching at home.

Jim’s website is www.stonehengesolstice.org.uk