Needham, Andrea

Andrea Needham
1 June 2022Comment

No 3 in our series about tackling SeaChange, a destructive quango in East Sussex

‘You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.’

These are the words Tony Blair – not known for self-flagellation – uses in his memoir, A Journey, to describe his decision in 2005 to finally allow the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to come into force.

When Blair was leader of the opposition, he pledged that if Labour came to power, he would…

1 April 2022Comment

How to hold a destructive quango to account – part two in a series

In 2015, I went with Peace News’ Emily Johns to the Hastings home of John Shaw, director of SeaChange, the ‘not for profit economic development company’ for East Sussex.

SeaChange – a private company – has been given millions of pounds of public money to ‘regenerate’ Hastings.

This ‘regeneration’ has included building the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road in the teeth of fierce local opposition (see PN 2658).

Emily and I had come from the site of SeaChange’s latest…

1 February 2022Feature

Some other acquitted activists respond to the historic Colston Four verdict

To mark the Colston Four acquittal, we asked some other campaigners who’d been found ‘not guilty’ in protest cases for their reactions. We’ve put them in chronological order of their earliest not-on-technical-grounds acquittal (some of them have multiple court victories).

Chris Cole:

I was delighted to see the acquittal of the Colston Four for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it kept an evidently lovely bunch of people out of jail.

Secondly, it led to a whole raft of MPs…

1 February 2022Comment

Starting a new series: how a brilliant activist has held a secretive quango to account.  

Nine years ago, I was part of a big campaign to stop the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road, a monstrosity of a road that threatened fragile habitats in the service of ‘opening up’ land for development. We were also promised, of course, that it would reduce congestion on the coast road between the two towns – a promise that would be greeted with a hollow laugh by anyone with the slightest knowledge of road-building and ‘induced demand’ (more roads create more traffic).

It was a hard-fought…

20 July 2021Review

MIT Press, 2020; 296pp; £15.99

As a nurse working in a care home where many residents have died of COVID-19, I’ve been increasingly frustrated about anti-vaxxers.

These include two members of my immediate family, one my disabled 87-year-old father, who insists that he’ll be better off ‘in the long run’ without a COVID-19 vaccine. Nothing I say can persuade him otherwise.

I had high hopes, then, for this book, with its enticing subtitle. Published last year – but too late for COVID-19 to make an appearance,…

1 April 2018Review

Imperial War Museum, London, to 28 May. £15/£10.50 (£7.50 under-16s).

Dolls at Dungeness September 11th 2001 © Grayson Perry / Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Photo Stephen Brayne 2001 Glazed ceramic

I wonder whether people who have been directly affected by the aftermath of 9/11 – in a way that most of those viewing this exhibition haven’t – would find parts of it baffling or even insulting

For example, if you had lived in Baghdad during the 2003 war against Iraq, what would you make of the ‘twin towers’…

1 December 2017Feature

‘Not guilty’ verdicts for Ploughshares activists Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse

Dan Woodhouse and Sam Walton (centre) with supporters outside Burnley magistrates court after the verdict on 26 October. Photo: Andrea Needham

On 26 October, Burnley magistrates court acquitted Ploughshares activists Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse of criminal damage after they admitted breaking into a BAE Systems plant to use household hammers on military jets.

Poor old British Aerospace. Not only were the first group of people to break in to their Warton site in…

29 October 2017Blog

Andrea Needham reports on the recent trial of Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse in Burnley


Poor old British Aerospace. Not only were the first group of people to break in to their Warton site in Lancashire to disarm a warplane acquitted, now the second lot have also been found not guilty. It's curious how difficult it appears to be to convict people for acting peacefully to prevent war crimes.

The first such disarmament action took place in January 1996, when a group of women (myself included) broke in and disarmed a Hawk warplane being sold to Indonesia for use in…

1 August 2017Review

PM Press, 2016; 96pp; £10.99

As a non-motorist by choice, I found much to like in this slim book, once I’d got past its very dull title. It’s written by a Swedish group whose name – – translates roughly as ‘fare dodge now’. To my mind this would have been a very much snappier title.

According to Wikipedia, ‘Planka Nu is a network of organisations promoting tax-financed zero-fare public transport...The campaign has received much attention because [it] encourages people to fare-dodge, aiding its…

23 November 2016Feature

A direct action PN booktour around Britain

Andrea Needham

On 30 July, 20 years to the day after the Seeds of Hope acquittal, I found myself once again in the back of a police van with Jo, one of my co-conspirators. We’d been at Peace News Summer Camp at Crabapple community in Shropshire, and had been out for a walk with Emily and Lyn, two of the other women in the group. As we were strolling along a public footpath, three police dogs rushed round a corner and surrounded us, barking madly. One of them had bitten me – hence a…

1 April 2016Feature

An excerpt from a brilliant new direct action memoir

Andrea Needham, Jo Blackman, Angie Zelter, Lotta Kronlid during action planning, 1995. Photo: Seeds of Hope

Nobody in my early life – myself included – would have suspected that I had a future as a troublemaker ahead of me. Growing up in rural Suffolk in the 1970s, the youngest of four siblings, there didn’t seem to be much wrong with the world. I don’t recall my family discussing politics, and although my father listened to the news every day, I never paid it much attention.

1 April 2016Feature

An environmental campaigner reflects

On my computer at home, I have dozens of photos of Hollington Valley on the edge of Hastings in East Sussex. Taken through the seasons, they show a small, tucked-away site, a green lung bounded by roads and warehouses. A stream runs down the middle of the valley; tall oaks stand at the eastern edge; a copse of younger trees surround a large holm oak on the west. There are meadows and willow beds, bramble scrub much loved by dormice, a spring rising at the top of the site. One photo is taken…

1 December 2015Feature

An excerpt from Andrea Needham’s amazing new book, The Hammer Blow – how 10 women disarmed a warplane, to be published by Peace News in January

On 29 January 1996, Jo Blackman, Lotta Kronlid and Andrea Needham broke into a British Aerospace factory in Lancashire and used household hammers to disarm a Hawk warplane bound for Indonesia. They were arrested, charged with £2.4m of criminal damage, and sent to prison to await trial. A week later, Angie Zelter joined them, accused of conspiracy. After six months in prison, all four were acquitted by a Liverpool jury in a court case that effectively put Britain’s arms trade on trial.…

1 August 2015Feature

How a combination of legal and direct action stopped the tree-fellers

Preventing fellers from working on the legally protected oak. Photo: Andrea Needham

On 7 July, the Hastings anti-roads group Combe Haven Defenders received an urgent message on our Facebook page: a big tree was being chopped down in Hollington Valley. I immediately jumped in a taxi, headed to the site, and sat under the tree.

The tree-fellers had to stop work, the police were called, and thus began a five-hour standoff.

The planned fate of this particular tree…

25 November 2014Review

1–13 December; £23; Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 7JR; or 020 7328 1000; and then around the country from February 2015 – see

When Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) discovered that one of their staff members, Martin Hogbin, had been spying on them for years on behalf of British Aerospace (BAE), British comedian/activist Mark Thomas flatly refused to believe it. Martin, CAAT’s campaigns co-ordinator, had worked closely with Mark and become a close friend. This was a man, Mark says, who had pied Dick Evans, the former chair of BAE. How could he possibly be a spy?

This show tells the story of that…