Thanks to funding from Treasures of the Brotherton, on the 8thof June, we had the opportunity to explore the Special Collections at the University of Leeds. We were able to have a look through the archives and investigate posters, newspapers, magazines and photographs about Greenham common.
Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was created by women in the 1980s as a response to nuclear weapons being placed in Greenham common, which was a RAF base. This was one of the biggest peaceful protests in the world, and it was run entirely by women for over 10 years. It was amazing that this was done during a time where usually, women’s voices were not heard, and inspirational to us that they were so powerful and made a huge impact, and that this was all done peacefully. It was very clear that they were determined to make a difference, and they were able to do this.
During our trip to the archive, and through looking at the materials from the 80s, we learned a lot about Greenham common. We were able to take a lot of information in from the magazines and posters, but what stood out to everyone the most was the collection of personal photographs taken by the protesters themselves. By looking through the photo album, we were able to feel more connected with the protesters and have a different view and understanding of the protests. It was a unique experience to be able to see the true side of the protest, rather than what was written in magazines and newspapers.
“What these small things did was strangely intimate; they gave them the sense, as they picked them up and turned them in their fingers, of another person, an unknown person a long time ago, who had held that object in their hands. You don’t know anything about them, but you feel the other person’s there…It’s like all the years between you and them disappear. Like you become them, somehow”.
- Helen Macdonald, H for Hawk
For me, there was one photograph from the album that I found the most inspiring. The photograph showed the protestors sitting in their camp, in front of a fence containing policemen. The most important thing in this photograph, for me, was that there were many posters stuck on fences with the statement ‘put people first’. This stood out to me because of the simplicity of the message, to simply think about the impact of nuclear weapons on people’s lives. I think that posters like this could be used with the same impact today, and could refer to many things in our current lives e.g. the Women’s March, anti-war demonstrations etc.
All in all, the trip was very interesting and thought provoking! It was amazing to be able to get an insight into the lives of such an impactful and inspirational group of women.
Review by Aamna Fardous