Activism and … Greenham

IssueSeptember 2011

I was about 24 at the time, and I was there with my small son. The diversity of the women was incredible. For some women Greenham gave them an alternative to our society, it gave a community. Many women came back to Greenham because of the benefits of women living together in co-operation. Despite the hardships that life was preferable. There was concern for each other and support. People got together on an open piece of land, not designed for living on. How they improved their lives, dealing with things like human waste. It was very much a learning process and an experimental way of living. We had taken it for granted, our waste and various things. It was a major issue, hygiene and we learnt to deal with it.

It was always incredibly powerful, especially when lots of women came by the coachload and decorated the fences and cut them down. So many women coming from around the country. For me the zapping was a horrible experience. It made me feel like I was going to die when I was there and it left me with a blood problem.

The bastard bailiffs putting everything in the refuse, and us trying to save as much as possible. A woman from Wales died of cancer and her family decided her ashes could come to Greenham and the bailiffs took the urn with her ashes in and put it in the refuse. Because of the bailiffs women stopped putting tents up. I arrived in the snow and women were sleeping in bivvy bags. I remember the levels of police brutality and the women took a very nonviolent approach. Women’s limbs were broken. There was day to day looking after each other. Cruisewatch played an important role, so we knew when there was a convoy coming and we would lie in the roads. That’s when the police were violent.

There was a lot of support from men bringing food. The men respected the wishes of the women there, that they wanted a women only area. I remember how insecure the site was – the dancing on the silos and when they drove a double-decker bus onto the Common.

Women would tactically try to detrain the soldiers on the gates. [laughs] sometimes they shagged them. Some thought that went too far [laughs]. There was quite a bond between the army on the gates and the women. I think the women made their job more bearable: it must have been incredibly boring. The whole issue of the South Pacific, women came over from there and talked about their lives and how they had been affected by nuclear testing.

There was a psycho-spiritual transformation of the area. You would look at the fence as a doorway or a window.

Women who got the most out of Greenham had lived disenfranchised lives. They came from society that said they were useless. They felt a great richness. Greenham gave a lot to their self esteem. A weight was lifted. They were doing something relevant. They were the women who couldn’t go back.
Woman community activist, 50’s

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