Appropriate props to engineerbender for the title - wanted two posts with that word in
A short (english) history lesson. Some of this is a bit gloomy. I'm making a point. Please bear with me. Or not. Whatever.
Back in the UK in the 70's a load of hippies started setting up and going to large, mostly free, festivals in the UK (the land of starchy suits, teacups and bowler hats, remember)
This developed over the years, and other sections of the "hippy community" started to get involved. By 1980, however, the festivals had (in the "mainstream") dwindled to two: Stonehenge and Glastonbury. They represented two sides of essentially the same coin. But, crucially, one side was free. The free side, Stonehenge, started to attract a different kind of devotee; the same kind of person that makes up a large part of the Burner community - people who, for most of the year, live their lives in the same way that they lived, for a month of the year (for the hardcore) at Stonehenge. They had no "down-time"; they lived their lives, mainly on the road, in groups of travelling n'er do wells called affectionately "crusties" by the population at large. They had no money, and made their money by selling whatver they could make or cook. A few of them made music and sold it. A few had jobs. For a few years in the 80's and early 90's I was one of these "band of medieval brigands" as Margaret Thatcher called us. We were hated by most of the UK because we represented something that for the large part has been erased from the British "spirit" if a nation can have a spirit. we were free. Simple as that. People were scared of what that represented. They still are in the UK.
Glastonbury, on the other hand, attracted the kind of people who could afford to pay a lot of money (£160 now I think) to camp in a field for a weekend and listen to Van Morrison. I went to Glasto (as it has been unfortunately re-branded by the British Bullshit Corporation) once, in 1982, to see the aforementioned Van Morrison. He was shit. Glastonbury was shit. It rained. I was grumpy.
Stonehenge got Hawkwind and The Enid (find The Enid; he needs to be at BM!)
Over the years, Stonehenge grew and grew. (the crowd, not the place
) By 1984 there were 25000 people there for a month
It was, as the burn is to a lot of people now, the highpoint of their whole year. It had it's own economy (drugs
) it had it's own police (the Hells Angels, who, for all the bad press, kept heroin off the site for years) and it WORKED. Weekend hippies, as we called them, would trek down to the stones for a week or so, to laugh at the hippies, buy cheap drugs (don't do drugs, kids) and listen to bad music. Much like the yahoos do at BM now. (especially the bad music bit - last year not so bad but please stop with the dubstep - it's not cool anymore...didn't you get the memo?) It had no shops, nothing on sale bar that that had been made by people.
Anyway, in the UK, we couldn't have BM. It just wouldn't be allowed to go on. In 1984, Stonehenge had been going on for twelve years in the same place. There's some arcane medieval by-law in the UK (surely not) that says that any festival that has taken place on the same ground for thirteen years is to be granted a Royal Charter, and therefore to be allowed to continue in that same place ad infinitum. Well, we couldn't have that, could we. So, in 1985 a major police operation began to clear out the hippies. It had started at smaller free festivals in the N of England a few months earlier. The Old Bill, as we britishers like to call our feds (not bobbies anymore, sadly) basically went round smashing shit up. Big time. Homes (which were all mobile dont forget) vehicles, people and anything they could lay their hands on basically.
This culminated, in June 1985 in a massive "corral" of about 1500 people and vehicles on their way to, and not far from, Stonehenge, that were railroaded up a small country lane into a field and basically beaten to a bloody pulp. Along with their vehicles and homes. In front of their screaming kids. And the british press, who were as dumbfounded as everyone else. Helicopters hovered at 30 feet and goaded on the rampaging pigs with megaphones. They all had no police badge numbers on and boiler suits. It was carnage. Google it. It is a shameful episode in the british police's history. It's our (very small) Wounded Knee, if you like.
That one act, called The Battle Of the Beanfield went down in legend in english traveller lore. I was there. I didn't even get into the field, thank god..I was stuck in the lane and arrested, along with about 800 other peaceful hippie dopeheads, in the largest civil arrest in UK history. Ever. Just for going to a festival. A lot of my mates were in that field, and had their kids "stolen" soon after by social services because of their parents way of life (and the fact that their homes had been smashed up by the old bill). They stopped going to festivals after that. They started living in nasty yards in small trailers, taking heroin and stealing shit. That one act can be traced as the start of the demise of "proper" festivals in the UK. There was a brief kick at the end of the 80's with the Acid House scene but that was stopped with the Criminal Justice Bill which actually made it illegal to gather in groups of more than about twelve people and listen to "repetetive beats" Can you imagine?!! Sure, there are still loads of festies, but they're like Coachella. 100000 people in a field for a weekend at best. Big, sponsored corporate troughs. And they aren't very good IMO, even if you can ignore the rampant commercialism.
You have something very, very special here (you already know that) Stop beating up on the tix situation. Stop beating up on the BORG. From where I'm standing they've done an amazing job getting so many years out of it. Allow them this one (semi-serious) fuckup, but my second point:
You can't keep a good thing down - Stonehenge took about three years to go from about 5000 to 25000 people. It had NO advertising bar some weird photocopied posters that went on about The Illuminati (!) that got handed around..The genie is out...the horse is long gone...Not the BORGs fault. Not the BLM's fault. Not your fault.
My last point: How the fuck
do you get away with having BM? me and my englandish mates stand there, having been through what we have, and are dumbfounded that, in the same country as Gitmo, Dealy Plaza and Charlton Heston's Cold Dead Hands, you can have BM. What gives? America is known for it's beauty; it's proud (slightly deranged?) spirit; it's pioneering attitude for life, but not its parties! That's what I thought when I first stood on the Playa. Jesus, I thought; Imagine Stonehenge festival HERE. With THESE people. I'm home. - Oh yeah, that's what that bloke said to me as he rolled my arse in the dust and made me swing that rebar and ring that bell...I got it, right then.
Cherish the fuck out of BM while it lasts. Don't pine for what went before. Make it better next time. Everything changes; nothing stays the same. If it did, it would be boring. Move on.