The WDC/CND AGM took place on July 8th in the studio of Brigitte Birch, after she had entertained us to a delicious lunch. A lot has happened since then and we can be proud of continuing to sustain a varied and effective programme of activities, which can only be briefly outlined here.
The Newsletter produced by Joanna and Harriet, published ten times a year, is distributed by a loyal team and continues to link our far-flung membership. Maisie and Kingston’s Noel Hamel both contributed ‘Comment’ columns in the past year (Maisie on Vietnam and the legacy of Agent Orange, and Noel on the campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo). Guest writers are always welcome. The Vigil for Peace has continued for a further unbroken year in St Mark’s Place, despite the gruelling conditions over the unending winter. The vigil, together with the monthly Peace Table outside Wimbledon Library, are our regular point of contact with the general public, where we collect signatures and hand out leaflets and generally ensure that in Wimbledon at least people are aware that CND continues to exist and is needed more than ever — with the Trident renewal in prospect.
A new departure in 2012/13 is that WDC/CND is now signed up to Facebook with Joanna also maintaining personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, both of which are a vehicle for campaigning. Please link yourself into all these Internet addresses if you have access to a computer so that our message is distributed ever more widely — into a world where reading Newsletters is old hat. Harriet continues to maintain the WDC/CND website where an archive of Newsletters back to September 1997 is available and makes interesting reading. It is also worth visiting the website to see the excellent picture gallery which we are unable to print with our black and white facilities.
We had a successful stall at the Morden Bank Holiday Fair, but again strong winds proved troublesome and irretrievably damaged the gazebo.
September 21st was the International Day of Peace which saw the first of the autumn series of lunchtime talks in Holy Trinity Church, Wimbledon Broadway, arranged jointly with Merton UNA. We are grateful to the vicar, Rev. Chris Palmer, and his congregation for making us so welcome. The inaugural speakers were Brian Wicker (Pax Christi) and Jim McCluskey (author of ‘The Nuclear Threat’) who discussed the theme “Can war be just in the 21st Century?”
On Sept. 27th Joanna was invited to contribute to Merton’s official ‘celebration of peace and unity’ marking London Week of Peace, civic dignitaries being joined by representatives of ten local faith and community groups to celebrate the chosen theme of ‘kindness’.
About a dozen of us took part in the TUC demonstration of October 20th (‘Future that works’), joining the CND/Stop the War bloc to make the link between austerity and the mindless waste of money on Trident. WDC/CND contributed £100 to the Guardian advertisement published on the same day. The second Holy Trinity event took place on Oct 26th (One World Week) where Tory Councillor Miles Windsor and Rev. Andrew Wakefield discussed the proposition ‘Is global equality an impossible dream?’. (MP Stephen Hammond had agreed to participate but was forced to withdraw because of ministerial duties).
In November 2010 the French and UK governments signed the Teutates Treaty, named in honour of a Celtic war god and pledging both governments to share their nuclear weapons research facilities for the next 50 years: “reiterating their mutual interest in keeping their independent nuclear forces at the highest level of safety and reliability at least cost and determined to cooperate to this end in the industrial, technological and scientific fields...” Valduc near Dijon is the French equivalent of Aldermaston and the chief aim of both governments is to save money by avoiding the duplication of expensive facilities.
The sharing of research information remains somewhat of a grey area (given that transfer of nuclear weapons “to any recipient” is banned under the Non-Proliferation Treaty) but in any case it is depressing that both governments have so little faith in Article VI of the NPT: the undertaking to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race... and a treaty on general and complete disarmament”. The draft Teutates Treaty ‘lay on the table’ in the House of Commons before being adopted without debate.
This August WDC/CND member Jill Beauchamp will join a party coordinated by Christian CND that will travel to France to show solidarity with the French peace movement and to publicise this little-known scandal which binds our two governments in nuclear common cause for the next two generations.
Barbara Bampton died on June 26th after several years of ill health, but we shall always remember her in her prime as a vigorous campaigner and good friend. “What battles she took on!” says Pat McManus. And Naseem has wonderful memories of a joint holiday in Cuba in Dec 2000. “It was great to explore and Barbara was always game for trying anything, and had so much more energy than me...”. I wonder whether ex-Mayor of London Ken Livingstone knows how much he owes Barbara personally, for it was she who was prime mover in the campaign to get sufficient signatures on his nomination papers to enable him to stand (and win) as an ‘independent’ after the Labour Party rejected him in favour of party-loyalist Frank Dobson.
Barbara was devoted to the Labour Party and worked hard on its behalf, eventually being elected as a Merton Councillor, but she was also prepared to be critical and this led to her expulsion when she and 2 colleagues refused to vote in favour of the closure of local libraries (anathema to one who had been a professional librarian); her remaining years on Merton Council were as an independent. We have a permanent legacy of her time as a councillor in the shape of the pedestrian crossing over the busy Kingston Road at its junction with the Wimbledon Chase pedestrian/cycle path.
Barbara’s public service and campaigning activities were in no way restricted to the Labour Party. She was a long-standing member of WDC/CND, always willing to help on the Peace Table, stand at the Vigil, sell books at the Fete, and join us on demonstrations.
She was an environmentalist. She loved her garden, taking delight in making a delicious elderberry cordial every year, and was a regular helper with Auriel Glanville’s Nature Club on Wimbledon Common. She supported the Pedestrians Association and supported Living Streets, and memorably helped children to create chalk drawings on the main road in Morden in 2001, the Council having agreed to a road closure for Car Free Day. She was a cyclist, a Tree Warden and a conscientious school governor.
Barbara’s family was very important to her and she found time to be a hard-working grandmother (annually travelling to the USA to do “grandma duty” there), and she was justifiably proud of the achievements of all three children.
She made brave efforts to recover from the devastating stroke which hit her shortly after her 80th birthday and it was during this period that she and I made a memorable trip (by taxi) to the Coliseum to see a performance of the modern opera “Dr Atomic” by John Adams based on the career of the Manhattan Project scientist Robert Oppenheimer. We had seats in a box near the stage and it was an experience that I shall never forget.
Hiroshima Day, August 6th, falls on a Tuesday. We shall once again assemble on the shores of Rushmere (hoping for better weather than last year), have a short ceremony and float candles according to Japanese tradition. This year we also plan to scatter white flowers, in case of wet weather or strong winds!
All are invited to 43 Wilton Grove from 12 noon to 3pm on Saturday July 27th when we shall review the year, elect officers and enjoy each other’s company. (Contributions of food/drink welcome.)