American writer Maya Angelo wrote that those who have an untold story carry a heavy burden. The untold stories of the Twyford Down protests and indeed the subsequent road protests can be hard to tell, because these are not the stories of bravery, of the hardships of living outdoors or the determination to stop construction work by any means necessary. They are not tales of glory or derring-do; they are not accompanied by eye-catching images.
Instead, these are the stories of the endless hours spent writing leaflets and press releases, posting newsletters, travelling to meetings and festivals or conferences to try to drum up support and media attention. In the years before social media, before even the internet and mobile phones, these took hard and constant work.
This part of the Twyford Down protests have been captured in the forthcoming Twyford Rising book, in an effort to tell the story in as many voices as possible
John, South Downs EF!:
The reason so many people turned up was ‘cos we’d done an obsessive amount of networking, mailing FoE groups, spending a fortune on the ‘phone. This was never recognised and hasn’t been in many protests since.
In 1994, octagenarian Benny Rothman spoke at a Twyford Down rally; Benny had been one of the leaders of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District in 1932 – an action that helped lead to the creation of Britain’s national parks, but also landed Benny and his co-leaders in jail.
Benny Rothman’s account of his visit to the Down includes an evocative recollection of visiting the campaign offices:
I could see how difficult it was for them to carry on, with only scrap furniture, no real tables, old gift computers and office equipment. They had very little more than tremendous enthusiasm to carry them forward. They were young in years, but already old in experience, in touch with protest groups from all parts of the country…their office was answering calls from all parts of the country, organising and arranging press interviews, drawing posters, checking arrangements for the 1001 minor events which were due to take place. Far from being eccentrics, they seemed to be very down to earth, intelligent youngsters…it was of course all done on a shoestring.