The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #67546   Message #1130530
Posted By: Susanne (skw)
06-Mar-04 - 04:48 PM
Thread Name: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Bridget Evans
This song is elsewhere in the forum, but in a more awkward format. It isn't, of course, one of the songs Glynis was asking for, but one about the Greenham Common women. Still, I think it belongs here. I've added extracts from some articles as well. Apologies if anyone thinks that's overdoing it.

(Judy Small)

And they're fighting for their families
They're fighting for their friends
And they won't stop, no they won't stop
Till this nuclear madness ends
Till this nuclear madness ends

There's a woman in Great Britain, Bridget Evans is her name
And she's out on Greenham Common and things will never be the same
And this is not just Bridget's fight, there's women by the score
By the hundred, by the thousand, and there'll be ten thousand more

And Bridget's left her husband and her kids at home in Wales
And she hears what people say of her, that she's gone off the rails
And she says that men have left their wives and marched off to their wars
And how can her fight for humankind be any lesser cause

And Bridget's been to prison for they say she breached the peace
When she sat inside a sentry box and sang to the police
And her song is growing louder as it echoes off the sun
That Bridget won't leave Greenham till the battle has been won

There's a woman in Great Britain, Bridget Evans is her name
And she's out on Greenham Common and things will never be the same

[1986:] Written 1984. The protest of the women at Greenham Common in England, against the siting of US nuclear missiles there, has inspired women from all walks of life all over the world to get involved in the struggle for peace. Bridget Evans is one or any of those women - she is indeed one of the heroines of our time. (Judy Small Songbook 52)

[1988:] Some peace groups are famous, [like] the Women of Greenham Common who have kept a brave protest vigil through five hard winters outside the sinister fence of the American base for Cruise missiles in Berkshire. (Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War, 1998 edn., 408)

[1999:] The shabby caravans, garden chairs and camping paraphernalia seem out of place at the new-look Greenham Common. A shiny corporate sign at the main gate proclaims that it's now called New Greenham Park, part industrial estate, part common land. But 12 years after the Russia-America INF treaty consigned the Cruise missiles there to the dustbin, and long after most of the protesters packed up and went home, three women remain.
The campaign started in 1981 with a march from Cardiff to protest at plans to house US missiles at Greenham. It peaked in 1983 when 50,000 women embraced the base and began to decline in 1987 after the treaty was signed and ideological splits between different groups appeared. The last missiles were removed in 1992. [...]
For many of the women once at Greenham, the fight carries on elsewhere. This week, the Ploughshares women swam out to a Trident nuclear submarine from a shipyard in Cumbria and attacked it with hammers and crowbars. Others have mounted new campaigns at places like Menwith Hill, the biggest US spy base in the world. There are no weapons here; instead, concealed under futuristic oversized golf balls, is the defence communications network that will allow the US to dominate space.
The Menwith camp was set up in 1994 by Helen John, one of the original Greenham women. Parked by the satellites is her caravan, painted in rainbow hues, with a cheery 'Visitors welcome' daubed on the side. The peace posse have, she says, renamed the base 'WoMenwith Hill'.
So far, so familiar, one might think, but appearances can be deceptive: John is quick to point out the difference between those still at Greenham and the work she and other women in the peace movement are doing now. First, there is the matter of numbers: 'Our campaign links up with peace activists all over the UK and in America.' Second - and more importantly - the camp is still getting up the military's nose. Until last year, there were 11 caravans at Menwith but a High Court judge booted the rest out and today, in a test case to determine the women's right to protest under new European human rights laws, he might rule that their ramshackle 'office' must go too.
So what else is new? According to John and Macdonald, the most significant development has been in the form of the protest itself. These days, gathering detailed information and using it to challenge the military and the Government is more important that any symbolic protest. The modern peace protester is more likely to spend her time poring over technical military information than counting warheads as they come in and out of the camps or pinning flowers to fences.
She is also no longer expected to abandon all worldly goods until global peace comes to pass. These days, the protests at nuclear bases like Aldermaston and Burghfield usually take place one weekend in four to allow protesters to 'have it all', committing themselves to a cause without sacrificing career and family.
But does the new improved model actually achieve anything? Though the Greenham women were given no credit for the removal of Cruise, they were justified in claiming it as a victory. Macdonald believes that while the new campaigns are not as high-profile, the 'drip, drip' approach is having the desired effect on the protesters' key target, the Government.
'In its Strategic Defence Review last July, it agreed to halve the number of nuclear warheads on submarines. Without our campaigns, this might not have happened. The Government knows Big Sister is watching and that if they put a foot as terribly, terribly wrong as they did with Cruise, we won't keep quiet about it.' (Guardian, 4 Feb)

[1999:] The Greenham Common airbase - home of anti-nuclear protests in the Eighties - is being redeveloped as a high-tech business park. The former airfield, stripped of cruise missiles and US marines, has been turned into a 150-acre enterprise zone which the backers claim is 'an attractive proposition of inward investment'. Arms manufacturers are thought not to be welcome. (Observer, 23 May)

[2003:] Sarah Hipperson, 75, was the last woman to leave Greenham Common, having spent nearly 20 years there. She stayed on long after the missiles had left to challenge the continuing military presence on the common. She is now involved in setting up a commemorative garden on the site of the camp
"I was involved in the peace movement even before I went to Greenham, but began to want to be totally committed to the cause. In March 1983, I started preparing the children for my departure. I have five, but three of them were in university at that stage, leaving two teenagers at home. I domesticated them a bit, making sure they knew how to use the vacuum cleaner and so on. The papers had a great thing about women abandoning their homes, but that was more hype than reality. I used to go back home every so often to gather my thoughts and wash my clothes. I needed to acclimatise myself because I had never even been camping before.
The lack of toilet facilities was something we had to come to grips with, but it wasn't too difficult once we got used to it. At the beginning we were just sleeping out in the open in March and sitting all day in the rain. It was shocking how primitive it was, but it was a case of giving up comfort for commitment. We were treated in some places as heroines and in others as harridans. Shops in Newbury had signs on the door saying 'No Peace Women' and once a bus driver wouldn't accept my ticket and threatened to drive the bus around to the police station. People could tell we were Greenham Common women just by looking at us. I had dusty trousers, an anorak that smelled of wood smoke and my hands would be dirty from collecting firewood.
For me, the best time was sitting around the fire in the morning, having our first cup of tea, while people would be coming out of their tents. Everyone would be listening to the radio and they would always have a response to things and an opinion. We would all go off to take some action, such as cutting the fence around the base. We would be arrested, processed, given our appointment to return to court, and then come back and sit around the fire, re-hashing the whole thing. None of us had ever been involved in anything like that before.
There were two turning points in Greenham. One was the mass eviction and the other was the decision to use bolt cutters to damage the fence. Some women realised that the consequences were to end up in prison and they weren't prepared to go for that, deciding instead to continue their work away from Greenham, so the numbers of women at the camp diminished.
Keeping the protest going was dependent on a core group staying there so that the people inside the base knew that we were serious. Even after the missiles were gone, our job was to make the military presence at Greenham unworkable and that wasn't done until they were all gone and the land was put beyond their use. We pursued this through the courts, and that brought me to the end of road in 1998.
The question was where to go from there? That's when we decided that we could go, but leave ourselves there at the same time by building a commemorative site that would mark the work that had been done and honour the fact that ordinary people can bring about change.
I returned home to the house I bought when I split up from my husband in 1984 - we had been going in very different directions, and we still see each other at christenings and so on. I wasn't lonely when I went back, because I'm quite self-sufficient, but the loss of community was difficult. I missed having access to the wonderful opinions of such a diverse group of people. I went back a couple of times after the caravans were removed to try to make the reality sink in. I can remember thinking how still it all was, and that any sense that the women had been here had been eradicated. I was feeling quite bereft when suddenly I thought about the times the convoy used to come out at night with the weapons. The entrance to the base would be lined with police and there would be a handful of women taking on all of that military might. The sound of those vehicles on their way to practice war on Salisbury Plane was the most evil thing I've ever heard in my life. That's when I remembered that we were going to build the site on that very land and it was going to speak for peace when we were no longer able to speak.
That's really what kept me going. It gave me the ability to walk away from the Common, come back to London and get down to the work of raising money. The people who helped us to survive on the common, sending blankets, wood, and the occasional nice chocolate cake are the same people who are giving us money to do this. Ordinary people are sending money and Yoko Ono, who has always been a supporter of ours sent £10,000 which arrived the day before the inauguration of the site. I'm at a time in my life where my family's grown up and this is the best way I can occupy the latter part of my life. I'll always be grateful to the people who thought of the protest at Greenham and who took part in it. I gained insight there that's carrying me through to the end of my life now." (Observer, 29 Jun)