Peace News Summer Camp

IssueSeptember 2010
Feature by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

There were torrents to the right of them and torrents to the left of them, but Peace News Summer Camp 2010 was remarkably free of rainfall, despite the weather forecasts and the downpours in surrounding districts. The weather was warm and pleasant, and so were the 120 participants!

Among the 43 workshops, there were three whole-camp discussions this year: first “How has the world changed?” about what had happened in the world and in the UK since Summer Camp 2009 (most people felt the general election and the Gaza flotilla were the outstanding events).

The second whole-camp session was “Women, men and peace – gender perspectives on violence”, a session presented by women on the organising committee, with perspectives from a gay male peace activist and two men involved in anti-sexism work as well as women activists and Cynthia Cockburn, author of From where we stand: war, women’s activism and feminist analysis (Zed, 2007). Among other thought-provoking observations, Cynthia posed a challenge: why has there never been a men’s movement connecting militarism and sexism and opposing both?

The third whole-camp workshop, on the final day, was “Where do we go from here?”, where we drew on our experiences and what had happened at the camp to draw up plans for ourselves, our groups and our movements.

This reflection-and-strategy workshop, facilitated by Seeds for Change, was very highly rated on evaluation sheets. Hannah, our Seeds facilitator, said she’d never seen so much co-operation by people playing her paper game!

Here is some of the feedback:
What I liked:
“My 1st experience: lovely location and very stimulating.” “Just as good as last year.” “It’s a happy place.” “Great friendly community.” “Thank you for organising and creating a lovely village.”
“Very well organised, good workshop programme, particularly EDO Decommissioner’s tale, clown workshop and Afghanistan game workshop.” [Latter two workshops by the PN Wales editor and the PN promotions worker.]
“Readings of tribunals and police interviews.” “Sliding scale of financial contributions.” “Very democratic and well organised – public speaking, clowning, samba, 1918 Manchester.”
“The quality of most workshops was superb and I learnt a lot. It was a great holiday for me and I loved meeting new people.”
“Children free to mill around / join in / made welcome.”
“The focus on gender was good. Nice friendly atmosphere, good mix of people (excluding obvious class issues). The relative smallness meant stronger relationship building between people.” “Vital for the movement to get together and develop ideas – the PN team is awesome.”

What could be improved:
“I felt we were overloaded with topics clashing.” “Some way of getting some feedback from workshops.” “Maybe include contentious issues of the day.” “More practical skills, eg fence cutting, fence climbing, action planning.” “More musical workshops.” “Some workshops overlong, started to flag after 90 minutes.”
“More tales of intrepid direct action exploits like the EDO Decommissioners.”
“Peace News seeks to promote non-hierarchical organising and consensus decision making but I struggle to think of any examples of this in practice at the camp.”
“More input or free space for participants to have input and workshops decided at the camp.”
“Could we have showers?” “Accessible toilet not as good as last year.” “Washing arrangements need a bigger tent.” “More toilets for that number of people.” “Get rid of bar maybe.” “Food often late which made breaks feel stressed.”
“Being listened to especially when raising issues about noise overnight and the fact that the bar was open to sell alcohol until very late at night, ie 1.30am, which made some people behave very loudly so that others like myself weren’t able to sleep properly.”
“Map of the UK with stickers for us all to mark on where we have come from, maybe later we could be invited to put a number or email on the circle or accompanying sheet.”

Other comments:
“I felt there were too many cars on site. Rewards for cyclists and public transport users.”
“Well done on organising another splendid camp! Look forward to the next one!”
“Thanks to organisers for all their hard work. I really appreciated all the help I received as a visually impaired person.”
“I hope there will be a continuation of the inclusion of gender analysis next year – we need to keep on at that particular facet of campaigning within our movement.”

Thank you!
We have to thank a lot of people. Top of the list are Adam Twine, our wonderful farmer-host (for the second year running), and the PN Summer Camp organising group and our key volunteers: Beth Ash, Cath Bann, Glenn Bassett, Chris Bluemel, Gabriel Carlyle , Ian Cohen, Nigel Day, Margaret Downs, Maya Evans, Cedric Knight, John Macallister, Lorna Marcham, Patrick Nicholson, Claire Poyner and Emma Sangster.

Crucial to the success of the camp were our favourite campaigning caterers, Veggies of Nottingham (profiled in PN 2514), and their merry band of volunteers. Equally crucial were our excellent speakers and facilitators, many of whom donated their travel expenses.

The camp wouldn’t have happened without a lot of generous donors, including Oxford CND and Unite West London Branch. Lots of other people should be mentioned, but we have to end now with just one big thank you to everyone who came, whether for a day or for a week, for sharing the work of creating a wonderful camp, for making a co-operative, tolerant, thoughtful world-in-miniature.

May we all go out to our campaigning work renewed!