Live feed of summer solstice sunrise at Stonehenge ‘scrapped for safety reasons’

·3 min read

English Heritage scrapped a live feed of the Summer Solstice sunrise at Stonehenge after people disregarded advice not to travel to the site.

The organisation said safety reasons were behind the lack of an available live feed of the neolithic Wiltshire monument at sunrise at 4.52am.

Video from the scene showed around 100 people inside the stone circle and a banner reading “Standing for Stonehenge”.

Thousands of people tuned in to English Heritage’s Facebook and YouTube pages for the solstice and saw pre-recorded footage of the stones.

The live feed returned at around 5am, showing largely cloudy skies.

Apologising for the outage, host Ed Shires said: “I must say we have been disappointed that a number of people have chosen to disregard our request to not travel to the stones this morning and that is the reason why we haven’t been able to bring you the pictures that we would have liked to have done.

A woman kisses a stone during Summer Solstice
A woman kisses a stone during Summer Solstice at Stonehenge (Ben Birchall/PA)

“It is disappointing to see that happen but unfortunately in those kind of situations we have to put the safety of our staff members first and that’s why we have had some interruption this morning.

“We have been told by police that people have now been dispersed and the situation is under control.”

English Heritage did not elaborate on how the attendance of people at the site prevented it from showing a live feed of the sunrise.

Security guards watch the crowds celebrate
Security guards watch the crowds celebrate (Ben Birchall/PA)

The monument was preparing to welcome visitors in person until the Government delayed the easing of lockdown into July, with English Heritage calling on people to watch its live-streams.

Normally, up to 30,000 people would gather to watch the sun rise over the stones on the longest day of the year, but it was a virtual event for the second consecutive year.

On the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge when skies are clear, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

People inside the stone-circle
People inside the stone circle (Ben Birchall/PA)

It is believed solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years.

Mr Shires added: “I would like to apologise on behalf of myself and the English Heritage team for the difficulties that we have had this morning.

“It hasn’t gone according to plan, as you might have guessed by now. We’ve been doing our very best to bring you the kind of content we know that you wanted and we wanted to as well.”

Separately, police closed off an area near Avebury stone circle over fears that the restrictions at Stonehenge would lead people to gather there instead.

Summer Solstice 2021
Police watch crowds celebrate Summer Solstice at Stonehenge (Ben Birchall/PA)

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said the force appreciated that the closure of Stonehenge would have been “disappointing” to many.

“We appreciate the co-operation of so many of you who helped Solstice 2021 pass peacefully,” he said.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank those who heeded the advice and changed their plans accordingly – many of you opting to watch the occasion live-streamed on English Heritage’s social media channels.

“While we also had to take the difficult decision to close part of the Ridgeway near Avebury for public safety, the solstice weekend was peaceful, with only a minor incursion into the stone circle at Stonehenge in the early hours of this morning, which was handled in a positive manner.”

One woman, in her 50s, was arrested close to Avebury on suspicion of drunk and disorderly behaviour but has since been released with no further action taken, the police spokesman added.

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