Bruce Kent: As I Please

IssueAugust - September 2019
Comment by Bruce Kent

I hope all readers had as good a time as I did on Saturday afternoon, 6 July. A trip to the Faringdon Peace Fête is not to be missed.

So, as soon as you get next year’s diary, make sure you put in ‘Faringdon, 4 July 2020’.

Why this enthusiasm? Faringdon can’t take the credit for the sunshine but it can for almost everything else that makes the day a success.

The peace group are old hands at this. It was the 38th such summer fête they have organised, which takes us back, if my maths are right, to 1981.

That was the year of a massive CND London demo as the campaign against Cruise missiles was getting underway, with similar demonstrations in capitals across Europe.

Great memories of the peace camp at Greenham, then also in its first year, came back. The bravery of those women who camped there in all weathers should never be forgotten.

So the Faringdon event began at an exhilarating time but, more than that, it has continued ever since.

Not all organisations or individual campaigners manage to persevere. Enthusiasm wanes, other priorities cut across and people get tired.

Not the Faringdon enthusiasts who have done so well for so long. This annual event part-funds the peace group’s activities for the rest of the year.

In a world of change and uncertainty, the role of persistence and reliability is often underrated.

There is a value in building up a peace tradition such as the annual Ash Wednesday vigil outside the MoD which Pax Christi and other Christian organisations have observed for 37 years without fail in protest against nuclear war preparations.

Or CND’s own Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations.

In Ireland, the justice, peace and human rights organisation Afri has been holding its annual ‘Famine Walk’ in County Mayo for over 30 years now: a walk that connects a terrible injustice from Irish history with poverty, hunger, immigration and conflict today.

Being there annually, come rain or shine, is a solid reminder about global issues that are easier to ignore. Such witness is an essential component of effective campaigning. These issues haven’t gone away – nor have we!

Another reason why the Faringdon Fête seems so special to me is because it has managed to draw together groups of all shapes, sizes and aims into one event, marked by cooperation and fun.

The Green Party, the local Community College, Greenpeace, CND local and national, the Labour Party, the Movement for the Abolition of War, Swindon Quakers, Extinction Rebellion and even Vegan Skin Care just to start with.

But the range is wider still: second-hand books, plants, potters and woodcarvers with their productions, plus music of varying genres – and great food.

I loved looking, towards the end of the afternoon, at a great circle of dancers, old and young, moving gracefully across the lawn of Clock House, the estate so generously lent year after year. A two-year-old, delighted to be the centre of attention, was showing off her steps in the middle of the swaying circle.

We all know that in parts of the peace world a bit of rivalry can creep in, especially when funding is at stake. Sometimes there is an unawareness that campaigns aimed at building a better world all need to work together.

So-called charity legislation unfortunately compounds this difficulty.

Not long ago, I listened as a major charity delivered a message of support for the victims of the bombing in Yemen. The appeal was powerful and moving. I’m sure it got a generous response.

But no mention was made of where the bombs, dropped by Saudi planes, came from.

In fact, they came from British bomb-makers and were sold to the Saudis with government support.

But to say this might risk charitable status and all the financial benefits connected. So the public are only told part of the story.

It is left to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, and other like-minded groups, to complete the picture.

Thank you Faringdon for both a great day out and a cheerful reminder that there is still lots to do and all kinds of groups and people to do it with.

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