Gatherings a brief history

There is a long tradition in England of groups holding summer camps or gatherings.

In 1980 it was decided to hold a "Summer Gathering" of the Ecology Party in addition to the conventional round of Conference and business meetings to manage the organisation.

This was envisaged as a less formal opportunity for members and friends from across the UK to gather at a camp for four days with some invited speakers and entertainment. Glastonbury music festival was not running that year and Michael Eavis agreed to let the organisers use his Worthy Farm fields to hold the gathering from 7th-10th August.

It was primarily an EP members event but the Saturday night concert was open to the public. 

The following year a gathering was again held under an Ecology Party banner at Worthy Farm. The Glastonbury Music festival was held a month before and was strongly linked with CND.

The gathering was extended to 6 days and billed as "The ecology movement as a whole is coming together" and was explicitly open to all, not just EP members.

In 1982 the gathering was titled "The Greens Are Gathering" and was again held at Worthy Farm at the end of July.  Each of the six days was given a different theme.

The Gathering aimed to "bring together those involved in radical, alternative and green activities - ecologists, anti-nuclear campaigners, feminists, libertarians and many others working for a freer, safer and more just society".

The organisation was now known as "the Green Collective and was separate from the Ecology Party.

In January 1983 the Local Government Act introduced licensing requirements for all "public entertainments". This caused some problems for the Glastonbury Music festival as the local council imposed many conditions, but the Green Gathering was not an entertainments based ‘festival’ and the Collective argued that the law did not apply to it.

It was however one of the reasons Michael Eavis then asked the Collective not to hold any further gatherings in Pilton village, as this village ‘isn’t big enough for the two of us’. He instead offered the Collective the opportunity to hold a gathering inside Glastonbury Festival. This later become known as the Green Fields.

Following a small is beautiful’ philosophy the Collective ten began encouraging and supporting local gatherings and events that would maximise attendance and minimise travel time. A gathering was held at Glastonbury but moved to Lamberts Hill Farm. There were also gatherings planned in Torness, Upper Heyford, Kettering, Cambridge, Bradford, Barnstaple, Norwich, Cumbria, London, Sharpness, Greenham Common, Penwith, Gravesend, Glamorgan, Otmoor and Cheltenham.

It is unclear how many of these actually took place (and there may have been others - please let us know) but here is a selection of flyers for ones that did happen:

 

 

 

The Glastonbury Gathering was the largest and featured a Green Women Gathering within it. It also produced a "Green Declaration" which was much debated by the many groups in attendance. It aimed to clarify and extend the political underpinnings of the green movement. 

In 1984 the main Gathering moved to the Molesworth RAF based, the proposed second cruise missile base in the UK. After the gathering many at the gathering remained on site establishing a Green Village. Joined by others this later became known as the Rainbow Fields Village. [see separate article on Molesworth]

The Molesworth Rainbow Village was finally evicted by the military in a massive operation early in 1985. Occupants were forced onto the road and formed a "Peace Convoy" which was hounded around the country until a final confrontation with police as they headed for a midsummer free festival at Stonehenge. Known as "the battle of the beanfield" this was an attack by police on the convoy - Wiltshire police were subsequently convicted of assault, criminal damage and wrongful arrest.

In 1986 with the government under Thatcher determined to stamp down on "alternative" lifestyles it became almost impossible to hold large gatherings. Regrouping, the Green Collective continued to organise the Green Fields area at the Glastonbury music festival, and a small Green Network Gathering held in Glastonbury Assembly Rooms provided the impetus for a "Green Roadshow" organisation to facilitate smaller local green gatherings.

These Green Roadshow gatherings continue to this day - Andy Hope can still be found promoting Green Roadshow events at the Green Fields in Glastonbury Festival 35 years later.

In 1993 the Big Green Gathering Company was formed to restart the larger events. More detail on the Green Gatherings, the Green Collective and related matters can be found on this site in the Gatherings section and linked from the Green Gathering History Exhibition article. See also this article on the current Green Gathering website for more detail on the post 1993 Gatherings. The Green Gathering remains the primary interchange point for the broad green movement beyond the purely political Green Party.

Roger CO 7/7/2017