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the mean fiddler
cash from chaos

Despite having split with fellow-profiteers Universe, the Mean Fiddler continues to rake in the money on the back of rave culture. Despite their bogus claims to be part of the 'underground' and concerned with 'Mother Earth', in 1998 they chose to hold their own festival...on land designated as a Site of Scientific Special Interest! Way to go Fiddler!

Despite massive protests from local residents, the Fiddler got their way and the festival went ahead. Steve Firth tells the story....

Twyford Down is now permanently split by the cutting that carries the M3 extension on a route chosen only for maximum convenience for the City of Winchester. The planning process itself was biased towards the interests of the developers and the voices of the small number of villagers and environmentalists were effectively silenced by a system that denies protesters the right of appeal. The same decisions were made at Newbury, and again protest was silenced by a system that gives a right of appeal only to the developer.

The scale of the protest, and the anger that each decision induced should have had an effect upon those who make planning decisions. The City of Winchester saw the fiercest protests against the unnecessary destruction of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and it may be thought that this experience would affect future decisions in the area. Sadly, at the first serious test since Twyford Down Winchester has yet again failed to respect the landscape in which it is set.


A short distance to the east of the city is the startling natural amphitheatre of Cheesefoot Head. Within sight and sound of the Twyford Down cutting and with a view over the Solent to the Isle of Wight, this site lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. If you were at Twyford Down, the site was the next hill to the north with a small grove of trees at the top of the hill. It is designated as a SSSI, and has for many years been associated with an elaborate series of crop circles. Beneath the site, and frequently visible in the heat of summer are the walls of a Roman Villa. At this place Eisenhower addressed the D-Day troops before embarkation, and since then the site has been preserved, in the words of the AONB's charter 'for the quiet enjoyment of all.'

At May Bank Holiday 1998, that dedication to providing a tranquil place for anyone to contemplate the beauty of the South Downs ended. A wall of steel was erected around the site, and within it a second wall. The view from the South Downs Way was obscured, public car parking closed. Walkers saw nothing but vertical walls where there used to be open views across the rolling countryside and the Itchen Valley. The SSSI lying between the barriers was patrolled by Security guards, protecting the wild flowers by trampling them underfoot. Surrounding villages were walled off from contact with the access to the site and an estimated 50,000 people descended to occupy this previously unspoiled arena. Most drove to the area from London, and parked on the fragile Down.


The site was occupied by Mean Fiddler as a site for the resurrection of their 'Tribal Gathering' previously held at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire. The greed of a local land owner and the naiveté of the City Council were sufficient to give Mean Fiddler carte blanche to occupy a SSSI without consideration for the damage to the site or the feelings of the local population still shocked by the damage inflicted at Twyford Down. Any faith in the licensing process was destroyed by the media blitz mounted by Mean Fiddler. A carefully constructed video showed the nice middle class teenagers who will attend, and the care that will be taken to restore the site after use, although those who noticed that the 'before' and 'after' shots were identical were not encouraged to comment on this strange similarity. The friendliness between the City Council staff and the Mean Fiddler team, all of whom were on first-name terms did not pass unnoticed either, and the decision to grant a licence seemed to be inevitable.

Mean Fiddler also represented to the media that the only protest made was by a small number of local people. Indeed it was a small number, the villages surrounding the site are tiny with populations of the order of 200-300 per village. However the opposition was unanimous, every village objected and the overwhelming majority of residents in each village objected. The total number protesting may have been under 2,000 but that represents almost the entire population of the area. Their protests did not matter, what did matter was the millions to be made by Mean Fiddler from this event, the greed of the organisation taking precedence over the needs of the few local people. In the end, there was no time to mount an appeal against the decision, while the Mean Fiddler vowed to take legal action to ensure that the festival went ahead no matter how insensitive their actions were seen to be, no matter what the damage to the site.

There is however an effective means of protest, and it hits Mean Fiddler where it hurts, where they deserve to be hurt. Simply don't come to their events, save your money, don't buy a ticket. A stay away protest sends the clearest message; no interest, no festival, no damage. It's not unlikely that the festival may be repeated in the same location next year, so boycott it next year too and let such a beatuful SSSI site remain there for 'the quiet enjoyment of all.' Visit any time for free, enjoy the scenery, and appreciate one of the few unspoiled corners of the South Downs.

Just don't visit the festival, don't line Mean Fidler's pockets, don't let big business walk over the lives of small people.

© copyright Steve Firth 1998

See also:
Rave rant: what's wrong with the mean Fiddler

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