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Activism & ... Dirt

Well there are various kinds of dirt, but I often think of something: when you’re planning to do some direct action, and when it’s going on, and then you’re arrested, you’re often very dirty because you can’t get washed.

There is another thing that’s occurred to me because that’s what you want! Twice I’ve been involved in digging a peace garden and that was good because you’re engaging with the dirt of the ground, the soil, and that makes you dirty. It’s a good kind of dirt.

To be honest, those actions, doing a peace garden, have been the most important peace actions that I’ve done because it’s about creating something.

- Woman, Bradford

Oh gosh, I’m trying to think of something intelligent, political, not entirely predictable. What comes to mind is there is a dividing line between those who are willing to commit and those who are just in it for fun.

There is a serious sense of commitment to a cause when you see them getting muddy and dirty – and not caring too much about it. Then you know it’s serious and they’re not just coming along for the day to see what it’s like.

- Man, Cambridge

Well! Dirt in the moral sense is quite out of the question. Dirt in the physical sense may be necessary. I don’t remember myself getting dirty. I know people who have got very dirty. The chap nicknamed Swampy, for example!

- Man, Bolton

What comes to mind immediately is things like sanitation in the third world, the number of people without proper access to hygienic sanitation, toilets and so on.

I used to travel a lot around the world without much money, and I have memories of being in places like Southern Sudan where there were no proper toilet facilities. I was on a boat going down the Nile in 1980 and I remember the problem there, all the stuff coming off the boat straight into the river, and so many kids on the boat with waterborne diseases.

I’ve never forgotten that, particularly in South Sudan, where it was such a big problem at the time. Now, often, in the books I do for kids, when I refer to statistics about sanitation that brings it to mind graphically. I can visualise it

- Man, Bangor

For many, many years I had an SLR camera with the mud from, not Greenham Common, but from another place they were going to put nuclear missiles, from Molesworth! For many years I kept the mud from Molesworth on my SLR. Mostly I avoid mud. If there was any likelihood of encountering mud on a demo, I would not go on it. So I was very proud of the mud from Molesworth on my camera!

- Woman, Hastings

Mudpies make peace. I think if you get people involved in touching the earth, feeling the earth and playing with the earth, they will realise what they’ve got.

The iconic experience I’ve had with mud was at a thing called the Harvest Fest in South Wales, it was really muddy for two days and then it dried. All the imprentations that were happening in the soft mud became really solid mud.

I lost my teeth.

In future archaeological digs, they’ll go: ‘Oh, this is where the hippies met and were grooving away, and we’ve found some plastic teeth, and they must have belonged to someone who attended that festival!’

- Man, Brighton