2000 - What a difference a year makes! - part I

It was with some trepidation that I returned to Stonehenge this year. The attitude and antics of a small minority had last year looked like ruining things for the many who genuinely watch the solstice sunrise in peace and, for some, reverence. But I needn't have worried. For all that it was cold, wet and the clouds where full of rain by the time I went to work I had thought to myself many time, 'what a difference a year makes'!

The first noticeable change was the portaloos, as well as a veggie food stand, by the entrance to the grounds. And as I walked towards the monument itself I could see fire jugglers and breathers illuminating the stones, and I could hear much chanting and singing. Mingling with the crowds was like joining a carnival, nothing would seem to be able to dampen the spirits of the many people here. The heart of the circle was filled to overflowing and when someone tried to climb atop the stones they were cried down by shouts of what sounded like 'shame' - though there one or two fruitier phrases used from behind me.

There was a police presence, there has to be. This time though not once did I see any antagonism shown towards them - no baiting and no cursing them. In fact everyone at the stones really did seem to be caught up in the positive feeling and celebration, not so much of the coming sunrise but of how well this extra freedom to the stones was turning out.

The high spot for me was realising that 'Arthur Pendragon' was in the centre of the circle, though how anyone could hear what he was saying over the noise of the drums and horns. I'd heard of him many years ago and wondered how he must feel after spending so much time working to this moment.

Unfortunately the Sun could not break through the thick clouds that covered the sky. The only way to tell that it had risen was a subtle change in the grey of the sky. Even still I've come away with a lifted heart to think that a year could make so much difference; and a thank you to all those who helped to make it happen.

Regards, Neil
June, 2000

Please note:
The times are still an hour behind British Summer Time as I still haven't adjusted my video clock.

Text and images, except drawing of Stonehenge, are © Neil Leacy.

Stonehenge illustration by Heywood Summer F.S.A. taken from the book 'Stonehenge, Today and Yesterday' by Frank Steven, published 1924.