There is no local funding for London Peace Week this year. In previous years this has been billed as Merton’s celebration of “peace and unity”, coordinated by Merton’s diversity and community cohesion manager, and it might be thought that minimal public funding, even in this age of cuts, might appropriately be directed at healing some of the wounds left by the riots of the summer. Our Prime Minister has publicly condemned “a culture which glorifies violence” without moving beyond vindictive punishment and retribution.
We are very fortunate to have access to an new impressive documentary by award-winning American producer Bob Frye, “In My Lifetime — a presentation of the Nuclear World Project”, and council officers have agreed that we can show it as Merton’s contribution to London Peace Week. The date is 7·30pm on Tuesday September 20th, the eve of the UN International Day of Peace, and the venue is St Andrew’s Church, Herbert Road SW19. As the final edit of the film has only just been completed following a private preview (which I attended) in Central London in July, this may well be the UK public première and it is definitely not an opportunity to be missed.
Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND, has accepted our invitation to be present, and Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond has been invited. Please do everything you can to help publicise this remarkable event which we have had to arrange at short notice. When we showed the Rotblat film last year the Mansel Road venue was too small for the size of the audience. St Andrew’s has a capacity of 600, so let’s fill it!
Bob Frye has been an independent documentary producer and director since 1988 and is well-known in the USA as executive producer of news programmes such as ABC’s World News Tonight (for which he was for 4 years senior producer in London), Good Morning America and World News This Morning (which he created in 1982). His previous work has received multiple awards and includes a feature-length documentary “Berlin Metamorphosis” telling the story of “reunification, reconciliation and rebuilding” — the culmination of a fifteen-year exploration of the impact of World War II — and the post-war period, as well as the story of the Holocaust.
Bob describes “In My Lifetime” as the result of a personal journey which began in 1960 when he was in the US Army in Germany. “This documentary tells one of the most urgent stories of our time; the continuing challenges and struggles of dealing with nuclear weapons and fissile mterials around the world.”
The film was four years in the making and the pace is deliberately gentle, the aim being “to inform, and to create a dialogue” about a complex subject. (“There is a lot to unravel” as he puts it, and “it is easy to become numb to what we have created”).
Many years as a TV journalist have made Bob lots of contacts and he was able to gain access to many very eminent people in his search for material for the film, including carte blanche permission to film inside the UN during the NPT Review Conference of 2010. He stresses the importance of acknowledging different points of view and the film is much more subtle than a campaigning polemic such as “Countdown to Zero”; but slowly but surely the anti-nuclear case is built up. “In my Lifetime” is a quote from Rebecca Johnson.
Rebecca is interviewed on her return to Greenham Common where she spent many years at the Women’s Peace Camp campaigning against Cruise missiles in the 1980s. She is now an eminent academic, director of the ACRONYM Institute and acknowledged expert in the disarmament field, and has given evidence to Select Committees of the House of Commons. In the film she describes her early engagement in ‘direct action’ at Greenham, her many arrests and court appearances. As the women sang and danced on top of one of the nuclear weapons silos at Greenham, they made a promise to restore it to Common Land. “None of us thought we could keep that promise, but we did!” and it is only the power of ordinary people saying “no” that is going to make governments get their act together to remove the nuclear threat from the whole world.
Complete abolition is a real possibility “in my lifetime” according to Rebecca. We need to object to governments “carrying on as usual” and ask why we are wasting resources that could be so much better used. Nuclear weapons are the products of the human intellect and we need to find a more intelligent way of living together, instead of continuing to be imprisoned by the past.
St Andrew’s Church, venue for our film “In My Lifetime”, is ‘behind the houses’ and not well known, but it is a fine Edwardian brick building and very easily accessible from Wimbledon’s buses, trains or trams. Approaching from central Wimbledon, Herbert Road is the fourth turning on the right down Hartfield Road (pedestrian access only). By car or from Merton Park tram stop, the church is best approached from the southern end of Hartfield Road via Graham Road.
7·30pm, Tuesday 20th September.
CND Conference this year is in Bradford, 15th–16th October. If anyone is willing and free to go as WDC/CND delegate please get in touch: WDC/CND will pay all basic expenses. The number of delegates (and votes) to which we are entitled is determined by the number of company members in our group who are also current members of CND. (To be a ‘company member’ means signing a form agreeing to accept a £1 personal liability if CND were ever to go bankrupt.) All necessary forms can be found on the Conference website: http://www.cnduk.org/about/cnd-conference Please help us to get group records up to date.
This year’s event takes place from 13th –16th September and will feature arms companies from around the world hoping to capitalise on global unrest. Everything from rifles to tanks and fighter jets to battleships will be on display. At the last exhibition in 2009, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were among the countries receiving official invitations and Israel exhibited its ‘battle-tested’ weapons just months after its attacks on Gaza. CAAT will be holding a silent prayer vigil outside the Docklands venue on 12th September (see Diary for more details).
2011 is the first time that Parliament is sitting during DSEi, presenting a massive opportunity to challenge MPs on the reality of the government-supported arms trade. On 13th September there will be a demonstration outside Parliament at 11am, accompanied by a mass lobby of MPs (http://www.caat.org.uk or 020 7281 0297), with non-violent direct action at the ExCel centre at 2·30pm (http://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk for details)
Please sign and promote the Government e-petition sent in by Abolition 2000 UK about a Nuclear Weapons Convention on http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/12697
An e-petition is an easy way for you to influence government policy in the UK. You can create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons.
WDC/CND AGM was held at 43 Wilton Grove on Sunday July 17th. All officers were re-elected as follows:
Christine Bickerstaff and Sheila Knight continue on the Steering Group. (All members are invited to attend monthly Steering Group meetings: dates notified in the Newsletter.) There is still a vacancy for a (much needed) Press Officer.
The Secretary’s and Treasurer’s Annual Report summarised a further impressive year’s activity but Chair Maisie Carter sounded a note of caution reminding members that we need to delegate preparation and jobs more widely for big events such as the Fête, to avoid too great a burden falling on the faithful few.
We also agreed that it was vital to make the effort to involve young people in CND, and plan to re-establish contact with Merton College and Wimbledon School of Art (now part of London University). An excellent opportunity would be to aim to take part in the cavalcade at Mitcham Carnival in 2012. Please let us know of any contacts which you have, especially via Facebook, Twitter etc., which may help us reach beyond the Newsletter readership.
Unfortunately the inclement weather sabotaged any garden party plans, but we nevertheless followed the AGM with a pleasant social occasion from the safety of Joanna’s dining room, with at least a view of the garden through the French windows.
The continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has rather fallen out of the headlines in this country, but we must remember what Ian Fairlie said in the spring: “no news is probably bad news, in this context”. A recent story in the Guardian (“Residents may never return to radiation-hit homes in Fukushima zone”, 23/8/2011) was a timely reminder: “The plant operator... is working to bring the three crippled reactors and four overheating spent fuel pools to a safe state known as ‘cold shutdown’ by mid-January.... but signs of progress at the plants have been tempered by widespread contamination of soil, trees, roads and farmland.”
The summer issue of Connect (the Greenpeace supporters’ magazine) contains a vivid account by Sakyo Noda (logistics coordinator from Greenpeace in Japan) of his experiences and how it became evident very early on how few facts were being made available to the general public. Greenpeace made the decision to investigate and monitor radiation levels themselves, finding radiation levels nine times higher than usual as far as 250km from the plant, while seaweed samples revealed radiation levels up to fifty times higher than official limits.
“If I needed any convincing of the importance of my rôle it was seeing people oblivious to the health risks surrounding them. Watching children playing and touching the contaminated ground and flowers was particularly painful” writes Sakyo. An article in the New York Times published August 8th (“Japan Held Nuclear Data, leaving evacuees in peril”) tells a similar story: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/world/asia/09japan.html Meanwhile despite overwhelming rejection of nuclear power over much of Europe (Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Italy have all decided to switch to clean energy) the UK government continues to pursue its policy of blindly subsidising the nuclear industry.
One encouraging news item which has received very little publicity is the closure of the MOX plant at Sellafield, announced on 3rd August but making headlines only in the Morning Star. [In fact I first heard the news from a correspondent in Japan: Ed.] Michael Meacher writing in the Morning Star on 5th August says “It is a monumental scandal that the MOX plant... was ever given the go-ahead in the first place, since it was a no-hoper from the start. It was built by the Tory Government in the mid-90s at a cost of £500m but without a licence to operate. This could only happen in the nuclear industry. After the 1997 election BNFL pressed for a licence on the grounds that there was an international market for mixed oxide fuel... the plant actually produced [only] 13 tonnes in 8 years — 1·3% of its target. The whole project has wasted £1·4 billion of taxpayers’ money.” [As Environment Minister, Michael Meacher opposed the licensing, as BNFL could produce no reliable evidence of likely markets, but was ultimately overruled by Tony Blair.]
Hiroshima Day fell on Saturday this year, so we were able to leaflet outside the library in the morning and hold our traditional ceremony at Rushmere in Wimbledon Common in the evening. We were pleased with the generally positive reception we got on the Peace Table, including a fair number of extra signatures on the Nuclear Weapons Convention petition which will be handed in to CND this month. (This can also be signed online: http://www.parl.com/petition-cnd/)
We were pleased that at least two members of the general public joined us at Rushmere in response to our leaflets. Unfortunately, a stiff breeze put paid to any candle-floating this year, with the sole exception of Edwin’s magnificent illuminated orange bucket (which rode out the storm without a flicker). It was a pity — next year we shall learn how to make proper paper lanterns, which we hope will be more weather-proof than open containers — but it was a lovely occasion and at least it didn’t rain: in fact there was a fine rainbow just before sunset which we hoped was symbolic.
The Rev. Andrew Wakefield gave a thoughtful address followed by a two-minute silence, and then we sang the lovely peace songs which we know so well — “Where have all the flowers gone?” and “Last night I had the Strangest Dream”. By gathering together knowing that we were sharing our determination to rid the world of nuclear weapons with activists all over the world, we re-dedicate ourselves annually to our campaign and ensure that the ordinary men, women and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not forgotten.
NB: If anyone has digital pictures of the event please can we have them for the website?