The annual Avon Free Festival which had been occurring in the area around the May bank holiday for several years, albeit in different locations. [Inglestone, Sodbury Commons etc]. However, 1992 was the year Avon and Somerset Police intended to put a full stop to it. As a result the thousands of people travelling to the area for the expected Festival were shunted into neighbouring counties by Avon and Somerset’s Operation Nomad police manoeuvres.
The end result was the impromptu Castlemorton Common Festival, another pivotal event in the recent history of festival culture. In the event, a staggering 30,000 travellers, ravers and festival goers gathered almost overnight on Castlemorton Common to hold a free festival that flew in the face of the Public Order Act 1986. It was a massive celebration and the biggest of its kind since the bountiful days of the Stonehenge Free Festival. West Mercia Police claimed that due to the speed with which it coalesced, they were powerless to stop it.
The right-wing press published acres of crazed and damning coverage of the event, including the classic front page Daily Telegraph headline: “Hippies fire flares at Police”. The following mornings Daily Telegraph editorial read: “New Age, New Laws” and within two months, government confirmed that new laws against travellers were imminent “in reaction to the increasing level of public dismay and alarm about the behaviour of some of these groups.”
Indeed, the outcry following Castlemorton provided the basis for the most draconian law yet levelled against alternative British culture. Just as the Public Order Act 1986 followed the events at Stonehenge in 1985, so the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill began its journey in 1992, pumped with the manufactured outrage following Castlemorton.