35 years ago, the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common in Berkshire was a constant image in national media and a beacon for both women’s activism and peace campaigning around the world. The slogan “Greenham Women are everywhere” was used to sum this up and peace camps grew up at American military bases and nuclear weapons sites across the country; some lasted only a day or weekend, others longer, but none were as long lived or well known as the Greenham camp.
The Greenham camp was small by the summer of 1992, as activists were moving onto Twyford Down and starting to take direct action against the early stages of motorway construction. Perhaps inevitably, women who lived near Twyford Down and who had been part of anti-nuclear protests at Greenham and beyond, became involved from early on, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge on rights on arrest, non-violent direct action, building benders and living outside in all weathers, as well as that undefinable thing – the spirit of taking direct action, of walking into a place and feeling, deep within you, that what is happening is so very wrong that you will stand up and try to stop it.
I think there was a precedent for what was going on at the Down and that was what happened at Greenham (Common). A lot of the inspiration for doing the camp on the Dongas was what happened at Greenham. Because that was a massive movement that changed people’s lives and that just had an incredible effect on the whole of society and send ripples all over the world.
Sam, from Dialogues with the Dongas
Greenham Common was not the only thread of protest history that was woven into the early days at Twyford Down; people involved in the huge and anarchic squatting movement of the 1960’s were there alongside New Age Travellers, who had their own experiences of living outdoors and in conflict with authority. The then fledgling UK Earth First! was there too, in the form of local groups and individuals who were part of this growing network of people prepared to take direct action against environmental destruction and frustrated with mainstream environmental groups.
That’s what I like about direct action, ‘cos it was saying bollocks, you know, it was like looking at authority and saying bollocks to you, we are going to play it our way, ‘cos your way is crap and it hasn’t done any good.
Debs, from Dialogues with the Dongas