In the past few weeks many of us have experienced some degree of isolation and will no doubt have been relying on mobile phones and internet connections to stay in contact with family and friends. It is almost impossible now to remember a time without mobiles and apps, live-streaming and social media. Yet, for the camp and protestors at Twyford Down in 1992, none of these things existed.
The sense of isolation from the rest of the world was felt in many ways – the camp was high up on a hill and not accessible by vehicles. The camp was largely hidden from view, lost in thorn scrub and the ancient trackways known as the Dongas. Without internet or mobile phones to rely on, communication was hard – the nearest phone box was nearly a mile away at a petrol station. Finally, the mainstream media and environmental groups had walked away from the protest, creating a sense of political isolation.
Amongst the many memories collected for Twyford Rising, is one by Potty Phil, a student who joined the camp in the summer. Phil remembered how Oxford Friends of the Earth recognised the problems the camp faced with communication and raised funds to buy an early mobile phone:
This was 1992 and no-one on camp had used one before, let alone had their own. We were all very excited, passing it around and wanting to have a go. We were told it only had a limited charge and must be kept for emergencies.
In order to test the phone worked, a call was arranged for four o’clock one afternoon. However, the intrigue gradually evaporated as people went off to cook, chop firewood, collect water, milk the goat or stoke the fire under the kettle for a cup of tea.
Phil recalls what happened when the phone rang at four:
Everyone ran for it, the first person went to answer it…still ringing…”How do you answer it?” “I don’t know! Quick, give it here…what do you do? Oh no!”
It was passed around everyone and nobody could work out how to answer it before it went silent!
The phone never really worked then or later.
In our current time of isolation, I have been able to finish writing Twyford Rising and am currently waiting for a reply from a publisher – if that fails, then I will be crowdfunding in July.
Please watch this space or get in contact via this page or the Twyford Rising Facebook page.