But the legend of Greenham – an alternative world created by and for women activists – was something I absorbed during my feminist becoming. Beeban Kidron and Amanda Richardson’s documentary Carry Greenham Home (1983) was my first encounter with the rich, diffuse archive of Greenham stories. Here were women singing “Which Side Are You On?” into police officers’ faces at the gates of the base; women organising life in benders and tents, from staking tarpaulins to giving birth; hauling ladders, debating money, learning skills and ideas from each other, living life openly, unrepentantly.
From the first arrivals, Welsh anti-nuclear feminist group Women for Life on Earth, in 1981, to the 30,000 women who formed a human chain in 1983 from the American nuclear base at Greenham to Aldermaston, the Greenham Common Peace Camp is a shining example of non-violent feminist action, changing both lives and laws.
Over half a decade, hundreds of thousands of campaigners travelled to the site to protest the storage of cruise missiles on UK soil, and to campaign for multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation. Having decided collectively to create an all-female camp after incidents of rape early on, Greenham Common became a high-profile, long-lasting experiment in feminist co-operative living.
“The women of Greenham Common taught a generation how to protest,” noted Beeban Kidron. 30 years later, as both Trident and the bombing of Syria are causing divisions among the left, we felt a strong need to revisit the powerful example of Greenham Common, which is under-represented in mainstream histories, and join hands between different generations of feminist activists practising non-violence as a strategy.
I felt a clear yearning for a utopian moment (in the sense of hopeful, rather than perfect) that took place before I could be involved in it.
So I agreed with alacrity when Selina Robertson and Sarah Wood, co-founders of queer feminist film curators Club des Femmes (of which I am a team member), suggested that we programme a weekend of Greenham-related films and talks on 23-24 January as part of The Time is Now, a nationwide schedule of feminist screenings. We called it: Bringing Greenham Home.
Both Selina and Sarah had direct memories of Greenham. As Sarah narrates in her short film ‘Three Minute Warning,’ her secondary school teachers (who included the great-niece of Emily Wilding Davison) led a trip to the base, during which one of the teachers was arrested and Sarah discovered her inner resistance. Selina grew up near the base, and – while she never visited – she had a direct sense of another world being possible, almost on her doorstep.
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