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Protest Songs at Greenham Common

03 Mar 04 - 07:04 PM (#1128727)
Subject: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Glynis

Did you go to Greenham Common? Did you sing, or hear other women singing, protest songs there? Was much folk music played? Any traditional songs sung? Were there songs specially written for Greenham? What existing (traditional or contempory) songs were adapted for the protest?

03 Mar 04 - 11:22 PM (#1128829)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Boab

I did, indeed, go to Greenham Common [Yellow Gate]. I fact I carried a tent all the way from Canada to Glasgow which was picked up at the University there by a sweet lass called Beth Junor who was giving a talk there at the time. Beth was a longtime activist at the Yellow Gate, but her health finally dictated a change and she now lives in Edinburgh where she makes a living by writing and in puruance of some profession or other, I'm not sure what. I'm sure she could be contacted quite readily on an internet --or even an Edinburgh --phone list as her name must be fairly unique. Have a go, and let us know---failing that, I MAY be able to get contact thro' a good friend of hers here on Vanc. Island.

04 Mar 04 - 04:07 AM (#1128913)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Glynis


04 Mar 04 - 05:58 AM (#1128951)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Philippa

not tradtional, stuff like "You can't kill the spirit, She is like a mountain, old and strong, she goes on and on and on ..." and "Who are the witches, where did they come from? Maybe your mother or grandmother was one, Witches are wise wise women they say, there's a lot of witches in the wide wolrd today"

04 Mar 04 - 08:11 AM (#1128996)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Philippa

I remember a bit bettter about the witches now: "Maybe your great-great-grandmother was one"

04 Mar 04 - 10:35 AM (#1129084)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: KathWestra

Debby McClatchy wrote a wonderful song called "The Women of Greenham Common," which she has recorded on one of her many CDs. When my friend Mary LaMarca, her husband George Stephens, and I were working on the song for a performance last year, I looked up Greenham Common on google, and found a really neat website that includes sound archives of oral history interviews with women who participated. You can find it here: Greenham Common History Debby also has a homepage with listings of her CDs, but I'm having trouble finding it. Maybe Joe Offer can help, since Debby's now living in his neck of the woods....

04 Mar 04 - 10:45 AM (#1129094)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Claire Short

Corr......... those Yanks must have been quaking in their boots under the barrage of all that high pitched Bob Dylan being warbled at them over the fence. Please tell me you didn't sing "We shall overcome"

04 Mar 04 - 02:35 PM (#1129225)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Geographer

Boab - you went to Greenham Common by going from Canada to Glasgow? You must have missed it since it's in Bucks. Went there with an old girlfriend. She said one of the gates were manned (womanned?)by women who walked about naked. Never took me to that one.

05 Mar 04 - 03:46 AM (#1129612)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Boab

Ah, now Geographer---Iknow "akenaton" has me fingered as an O.A.P., but in dotage I am not! The journey which landed me at Greenham common actually did begin with a flight from Canada to Glasgow. There was no intention to focus on Greenham common, but my Lady and I set out on a tour of England which took in Canterbury, Dover and various parts in the South. Greenham common just happened to be in general direction of our travel across towards Devon and Cornwall, and curiosity was the motive for our arrival at the Yellow Gate. Wewere greeted with some wariness by the ladies at the gate---they had been firebombed the night before. But when I introduced myself as "the tent man" we were welcomed with open arms. I found these women to be highly motivated, intelligent [one was a Glasgow magistrate]and deadly serious about their mission. A few days before our visit, one of their number---a young Welsh teacher---had been killed, by a police car, while she was standing on a traffic island close by the gate.

05 Mar 04 - 11:24 AM (#1129813)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: sian, west wales

The young Welsh woman who died was named Helen, and the Welsh singer, Dafydd Iwan, wrote and recorded a song in her memory, "Cân i Helen".


05 Mar 04 - 11:39 PM (#1130199)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Liz the Squeak

There were indeed naked women there, but I was not one of them.

The group I was with were rampant CND Christians and the songs we sang were mainly from a book of choruses and Christian songs, called 'Sounds of Living Waters', freely available and was the 'Mission Praise' of its day. There were lots of trad protest songs as well, but they've already been mentioned. It's been a very long time and I was only there for a short while, but if I remember any specific songs, I'll post. 'Make me a channel of your peace' was very popular for obvious reasons.


06 Mar 04 - 03:26 AM (#1130245)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Joe Moran

A wonderfully talented folk artist called Kevin Littlewood ( orginally from Southport, Lancashire ) wrote a thought-provoking song with the title " The Women of Greenham". He also wrote a great song called "Rainbow Warrior". I haven't heard him perform for years.

06 Mar 04 - 06:26 AM (#1130285)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: ard mhacha

I belatedly sanction all of you courageous women for the Nobel Prize, you were the bravest of the brave,Henry Kissinger go away and hide you war-mongering terrorist, you are not fit to walk in their footsteps.

06 Mar 04 - 04:48 PM (#1130530)
Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Bridget Evans
From: Susanne (skw)

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)

06 Mar 04 - 07:11 PM (#1130586)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Cattail

It's probably already known, and I don't know if its relevant to this
thread, but Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, with the London youth choir
produced an album in 1959 called "songs against the bomb".

If it's of any interest I will post the track list.

Hope this helps


Cattail !

07 Mar 04 - 03:32 PM (#1131061)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Glynis

Thanks, Suzanne - I certainly don't think you've overdone it. In fact, the more the better, so PM me with anything else you have. I'd be interested in knowing the tune for the song too.

Thanks also to Cattail - I'd love the tracklisting and a copy of the LP notes too, if there are any. Would it be possible for you to PM me with them?

Thanks everyone - do keep your messages on the subject coming.

07 Mar 04 - 08:28 PM (#1131294)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Cattail

Hi Glynis, give me a day or so and I'll find it and see what is on it.
I can't remember if there are many notes on the cover, I suppose that
there must be. I know that it is EXTREMELY tatty (and the disc is
probably worse)but I'll see what I can do.

I'll PM you with anything I find (unless anyone else wants the track
list putting up here).

Cheers for now

Cattail !

09 Mar 04 - 01:14 PM (#1132206)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Felipa

You can't kill the spirit ... it goes on and on and on... .... I read that one of the activities in Ireland to celebrate International Woman's Day this week is a protest at Shannon airport against US military use of the airport.

Like Boab and Liz, I was only a brief visitor at Greenham; I went there when I was in the area to interview fiddler Lucy Farr. I was more active in CND than in specifically women's anti-war activities (the latter were not confined to Greenham Commons). It was mostly the women's groups, however, that I remember singing. And the songs we sang were more feminist than pacifist. A couple of other songs that I remember from women's demonstrations against Cruise and Pershing were one with a hymn-like tune -
Woman power, woman power, woman energy
We are rising, no surprising, far as the eye can see.

and an adaptation of a well-known old song -
Oh, sister don't you weep don't you moan
Oh sister don't you weep don't you moan
Women's army is marching [orWomen together are marching],
Oh sister, don't you weep.

with verses such as
God gave Noah the rainbow sign - She said, "No more fire, it's the women next time"
Women's army is marching, Oh sister don't you weep.

I can't vouch for the singing of these two songs at Greenham Common specifically, but it seems likely that they were. "Women's Army" pre-dates the Greenham occupation; lyrics are published in the Hackney & Islington Music Workshop songbook "New Songs New Times" with this preface, "The origin of this song is unknown. The tune is taken from an old spiritual:'Oh, Mary, don't you weep.' Women have sung 'Women's Army' on women's day marches and other marches throughout the country. It has been made widely known by the Stepney Sisters, the women's rock band."

I had a cassette tape of Greenham songs. It had a rainbow on the cover. It may have been called "Bringing Greenham Home".* I didn't have the tape long, it got lost serving the cause. I lent it to the sound man to play in-between acts at an outdoor gig for peace and we couldn't find the tape at the end of the day. Derry Anti-Nuclear group organised a couple of these events, with local bands plus guest speakers (one of whom was Peadar O'Donnell, who had been a founder member of Irish CND)

* not too sure about that title - but Peggy Seeger composed a song called "Carry Greenham Home" and there's a video also called "Carry Greenham Home"

It sounds, Glynis , like you are doing a research project, or writing something or producing a programme. Kindly fill us in on some details.

09 Mar 04 - 01:30 PM (#1132224)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: ard mhacha

And what do you think oul Carolan had in mind when he composed FANNY POWER.

09 Mar 04 - 02:08 PM (#1132266)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Felipa

a woman's name, Ard Mhacha, and what food and drink (etc) he could get by composing and ode to her.

Despite my memory of having lost a cassette at that lark in the park, I do have a rainbow-covered cassette with peace songs in my possession. It's called "We Have a Dream" and was produced by Oneworld PeaceSongs of London. Unfortunately I didn't send Oneworld Peacesongs an SAE to receive a "lyrics sheet, with photos of the singers & more information".

Songs on the tape are:
Building Bridges/Stand Up (sung by 1world Peacesingers)
The Opposition (Margo Random, author and singer)
Four Minutes to Midnight
Carry Greenham Home (Peggy Seeger)
Like a Mountain (Naomi Littlebear Morena)
Tierra Sol (Cupido)
Speech to Apollo/Out of the Darkness (Frankie Armstrong)
Women Make Your Move (Rachel Hayhoe)
The Woman in Front of the Bus (Joanna Cazden)
Tomorrow (Peggy Seeger)
No More Genocide (Holly Near)
The Silo Song (Rebecca Johnson)
One World (Rachel Hayhoe)

09 Mar 04 - 02:37 PM (#1132296)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Susanne (skw)

Glynis, I'd be glad to send you more, but in order to exchange PMs with anyone you'd have to become a member first. Else, you can eMail me at skw at worldmusic dot de.

Judy Small recorded 'Bridget Evans' on 'Ladies and Gems'; that recording is on 'Word of Mouth', a compilation brought out by Greentrax a few years back. Don't know where you live, but you could send me a tape or MD to Germany.

09 Mar 04 - 04:19 PM (#1132401)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: Cattail

Susanne, I wondered about this as well, but if you look at Glynis'
first post she is a member there and must have lost her cookie
somewhere in between.

I have sent her a PM but don't know if she has received it as there
has been no reply so far.


Cattail !

10 Mar 04 - 04:25 PM (#1133305)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: KathWestra

With thanks to a friend who looked it up and passed on the information to me, Debby McClatchy's "Women of Greenham Common" is on her "Radioland" CD on the Plant Life label (#079). I'll try to transcribe the words and post the lyrics soon. Kathy

29 Aug 05 - 05:08 PM (#1552445)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Holger Terp, the Danish Peace Academy

What was the title of the Greenham Common songbook published around 1986.

30 Aug 05 - 02:42 AM (#1552677)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: rich-joy

"We Have a Dream" was also available as an LP recording 1WPS-1 from One World Peace Songs - PO Box 692 London SE15 4AT - if they no longer exist, try contacting Frankie Armstrong (at Harboutown Records? - in Cumbria) - she would have the contacts still ...

Cheers! R-J

30 Aug 05 - 02:51 PM (#1552926)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Barrie Roberts

On a trifling geographical point --- you won't get to Greenham Common if you look for it in Bucks, as someone suggested. Its in Berkshire, just across the River Enbourne from Hampshire. If you've read 'Watership Down', the rabbits' original warren was on the banks of the Enbourne below Greenham.

23 Jan 23 - 11:32 AM (#4163319)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Hazel

The Oneworld Peacesongs album "We Have A Dream" was my brainchild. Some of the tracks (Building Bridges, Stand Up, Four Minutes to Midnight, The Silos Song, Like A Mountain) were also sung at Greenham, particularly Like A Mountain. And Peggy Seeger's "Carry Greenham Home" was the title song of the movie (which is brilliant!)
Pete Townshend of The Who gave us free recording studio time, and all the artists donated their time and energy to make it happen.
We sold about 5000 copies altogether of the LP and the cassette, and the proceeds were sent regularly to the wimmin at the camp. When sales eventually dried up I was left with several hundred copies, and I still have over a 100 cassettes plus lyric sheets which I'm happy to give away: contact

I could write a book of memories of those amazing, inspiring times. Some of those protests were huge, and the extraordinary thing to remember: this all happened before the internet and social media !

23 Jan 23 - 11:43 AM (#4163321)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Diolch

There was at least one Greenham Common song book around in the 1980s (and I've seen it scanned online too). My memory is that the songs were primarily feminist and sung by protestors to and for themselves to keep their spirits up, but I'm sure people sang whatever they were in the mood to sing.

24 Jan 23 - 01:58 AM (#4163398)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common

25 Jan 23 - 04:12 AM (#4163496)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GeoffLawes


25 Jan 23 - 04:28 AM (#4163498)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GeoffLawes

32 songs from Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp Songbook

25 Jan 23 - 06:06 AM (#4163507)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GUEST,Pip Radish as was

My Mum went to Greenham on the day of an action and was really blown away, particularly by the singing of "Like a Mountain". I went once myself in 1986 (I can date it quite precisely), as part of a delegation from my union branch. The group was mostly male (self included), but I can't now remember if that caused any issues; possibly we were steered away from Red and/or Orange Gate. Anyway, there wasn't a lot going on - I think the biggest event was the arrival of some donated supplies, followed by discussion of the quality of the biscuits - and the only singing I heard all day was a couple of women passing the time with an improvised rendition of "Living Doll" (!!!), complete with the dialogue from the Young Ones version ("I feel sorry for the elephant" etc).

For all of that, it was a genuinely inspirational experience - the fact that they'd put everything on the line, the fact that they were confronting war with peace in the most direct way possible, the fact that they were there. (Still wish I'd heard "Like a Mountain", though.)

25 Jan 23 - 07:39 PM (#4163535)
Subject: RE: Protest Songs at Greenham Common
From: GeoffLawes

WOMAN ON WHEELS by Peggy Seeger: hear it on Bandcamp