“The Stonehenge conflict, at any one time or simultaneously, has consisted, depending on one’s point of view, of law and order versus chaos, goodies versus baddies. Thatcher’s Britain versus the dispossessed in (and drop-outs from) its selfish society, police versus brigands, landowners versus travellers, scroungers versus worthy tax-paying folk, a watery Christianity versus a ludicrously romantic paganism, stuffy Establishment versus the liberating forces of Light, archaeologists versus lunatic fringe, youth versus anything. And the atmosphere has often been one of folk devils and the moral panic they may cause”
The “moral panic” experienced by the authorities was a term used by the National Council for Civil Liberties in its report on the events of 1985 and 1986: “… the background to the convoy is a ‘moral panic’ in which all travellers are identified as a unified whole … and characterized as medieval brigands, carriers of AIDS or hepatitis” (NCCL 1986). These undesirable, diseased threats to social order were “… classed as ‘hippies’, but many are too young to have been part of the San Francisco generation” (NCCL 1986). Margaret Thatcher made reference to “hippy convoys”, and the headline of the BBC’s report on the Battle of the Beanfield was “hippies clash with police” (BBC 1985).
The damage done by the festivalgoers to the archaeology of the site was minimal, particularly considering that the field in which the festival was held had been continuously deep-ploughed and even used for testing ploughs from after the second world war until the early 1970s (Fowler 1990, 147), while the “official” side dug deep trenches across access roads to the Festival site in 1985 and 1989.
The Festival was banned on the basis that was damaging the archaeology of the Stonehenge area, but the real reasons for the ban were about a Government’s desire to control the actions of a non-conformist, fringe part of society.