In advance of this year’s summer solstice, the overseers of Stonehenge instituted an alcohol ban and £15 parking fee. Now the attendance estimates for 2016 are in, and half as many people came as in 2015. Hmm—coincidence?
The Telegraph reports that something like 12,000 people showed to watch the solstice sunrise this year, compared to 24,000 last year. They also note that this drop follows hard on the heels of the controversial new rules. Prominent druid King Arthur Pendragon lambasted the changes, calling the parking fee a “pay to pray” policy and alleging that:
“For a couple of hours, three times a year and one night, it’s a working temple and we, ‘the people’ get a chance to celebrate before we get thrown out and they open up for business as usual. Now they want to sanitise that, telling us how we can and how we cannot celebrate.”
But English Heritage, the group that manages the site, said the gathering had grown increasingly popular over the years and there’d been an uptick in too-wild revelry and “drunken and disrespectful behaviour” (on the grounds of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, no less), necessitating the new rules. Said Stonehenge general manager Kate Davies: “We are pleased with how the celebrations have gone. This year we introduced some changes and people embraced them, both respecting and understanding the reason for these changes.”
According to English Heritage, “the drop in attendees was likely to be down to a mix of poor weather, the fact that the solstice fell on a weekday, and a clash with the England versus Wales Euro 2016 match.”