Operation Solstice – The Battle of the Beanfield (Director’s Cut extended version)

This is the original and 47 min extended version of the documentary about the Battle of the Beanfield – digitised from the last remaining sub-master tape to mark the 30th anniversary on 1st June 2015.

This films documents events that happened on 1st June 1985 when people tried to make their way to Stonehenge to set up what would have been the 11th People’s Free Festival.

National government and local authorities had decided to put an end to both the Festival and the travelling lifestyle that growing numbers of people were adopting during the dark years of the Thatcher era.

It was the time of the Miners strike and anti-nuclear protests at Greenham Common. Anyone who did not agree with government policy was considered to be the ‘Enemy Within’ and was investigated, infiltrated, suppressed and marginalised.

The police stopped a convoy of 600 largely peaceful men, women and children as they made their way to Stonehenge. People drove into a field to avoid the police but were surrounded and given no chance of escape.

The Police operation had been planned for several months. New paramilitary equipment and tactics developed during the miners’ strike were implemented; later in the day the people in the Beanfield were violently attacked by massed ranks of 1300 riot police. Large numbers of vehicles were destroyed and 536 people were eventually arrested – the largest mass arrest of civilians in English legal history.

It wasn’t a Battle, it was an ambush where defenceless people were beaten and those that tried to defend themselves were beaten some more. Few, if any, charges were ever upheld against the people and in 1991 some of the Travellers successfully sued the police for damages. Although the judge over-ruled the intentions of the jury and all of their compensation was taken away in costs.

Why is this important when tens of thousands are massacred around the world annually? Because it’s about freedom and hypocrisy – this is England, where we pretend to hold the moral high ground and we justify invading other people’s countries to uphold human rights. But if our own house is not in order then who are we to judge?

This film was self-funded during the summer/winter of 1990/91 and Channel 4 provided some completion money for a 23 min version that was broadcast in October 1991 despite attempts by the Police to take out high court injunctions to prevent it.

Upwards and onwards

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