About 50 people braved the melting snows in mid-January to come to the first-ever Peace News Winter Gathering, at the Sumac Centre in Nottingham. The gathering was followed by street theatre focussed on Nottingham arms traders Heckler & Koch.
Gathering participants heard the legendary Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs; the equally legendary George Farebrother of NETLAP and World Court Project UK; as well as workshops on “Killer Drones” (by Chris Cole of FoR and Jim Wright of Hastings Against War), No Borders, the Anti-Militarist Network, the Gaza Freedom March, Copenhagen, Radical Routes and more.
PN staffers Gabriel Carlyle, Emily Johns and Milan Rai gave workshops on “Strategies against the Afghanistan war”, “The Marukis’ Hiroshima Panels” and “Chomsky and Revolution” respectively. Peace News trustee Gail Chester convened a lunchtime discussion on community-building.
We were royally entertained by visiting singer Clayton Denwood and activist-violinist Chris Bluemel; there was also a reading of the play Seven Jewish Children. Many people said it was good to come together for solidarity, warmth and encouragement in the midst of the cold, dark winter. One person wrote on their evaluation form that they had gained “lots of new information that has inspired me to carry on with a more positive attitude”.
On 18 January, a small group from the gathering went to deliver a letter to the Nottingham branch of Heckler & Koch, the small arms manufacturers. When a staff member failed to appear at the gates to take the letter, as promised, one of the Citizen Auditors leapt over the barrier and ran through the business park into the H&K building.
He was escorted out before he could inspect H&K files to determine who the arms company was selling weapons to, the point of the day’s activities. A larger group of Citizen Auditors circled the town centre performing street theatre and collecting signatures on a petition. With placards asking: “What are they hiding?”, the group then processed out to the H&K offices.
Also on 18 January, anti-arms trade group Smash EDO held a 300-strong funeral march to “Remember Gaza” in Brighton, at one point surrounding the EDO arms factory on three sides. EDO shut its factory early at 3pm. Four people were arrested at 7pm on public order charges.