IssueDecember 2016 - January 2017
News by Symon Hill

‘I would rather have been there than anywhere else in the world,’ said Scottish pacifist poet Ashby McGowan after the Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony in London on 13 November. He added: ‘Like many of the people there, I was in tears during the ceremony.’

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) organised the ceremony in Tavistock Square only a short distance from the official ceremony at the Cenotaph with its display of military pomp.

Ashby McGowan read some of his poetry in the quiet. There was a short reflection on refugees and war, followed by two minutes’ silence for all victims of war, both civilians and combatants, of all nationalities. A wreath of white poppies was laid on the Conscientious Objectors’ Memorial Stone by Amy Clark-Bryan of the PPU.

‘Ministers today have mournful faces at the Cenotaph. But we know that tomorrow they’ll be back in Whitehall planning the next war,’ said the PPU’s Albert Beale. ‘One of the phrases associated with remembrance is “never again”. As pacifists, we mean it.’

Around the UK, alternative approaches to remembrance were met with a mixed response. In some places, such as Leeds and Glasgow, white poppy wreaths were laid at war memorials after the official red poppy wreaths.

But in the Forest of Dean, pacifists were prevented from laying a wreath following threats of ‘trouble’. In Lewes, a white poppy wreath laid on 11 November had been removed by the time the town came to mark Remembrance Sunday two days later.