Skip to main content

The Beanfield: Heritage, Ritual and Re-enactment

Thirty years ago this June [2015], a brutal stand-off took place at Stonehenge between 1600 riot police and 600 New Age travellers celebrating the summer solstice. Having obtained a High Court injunction prohibiting access to the site, Wiltshire Police resorted to tactics reminiscent of those used on the striking miners, including at the previous year's battle on Orgreave - battering and injuring festival-goers, damaging vehicles and making mass arrests. The press dubbed the bloody altercation "the battle of Beanfield".

Following years of pressure from neo-druid campaigner Arthur Pendragon, English Heritage now provides "managed open access" for the night - allowing police-supervised entry to pagans, Hare Krishnas and assorted others. Billy Barrett (project lead) was struck by the sense of a powerful shared experience and the multiplicity of ways in which people attempted to connect with each other and an unknown spiritual history - contrasting with the secular, atomised culture outside of the monument.

Critical heritage studies hold that "heritage" is something that occurs or is performed in the present in order to connect with the past. This project explores this notion through two strands: ritual - an ensemble performance set on the night of the 2015 summer solstice, and re-enactment - a film documenting the same group's attempts to recreate the 1985 battle on location at Stonehenge, relying on meagre means and conflicting accounts. We will then experiment with intercutting the live and recorded elements in an interdisciplinary performance piece.

By tracing this process and entwining its documentation with the live present-day performance, Billy Barrett (project lead) hope's to call into question both the human and material limits involved in an act of historical recover and the extent to which it is actually possible to connect with a shared cultural heritage.