I make no apologies for devoting this issue to our annual Fête on May 18th at St Mark’s Church Hall, 11am–2pm: please note that this is not at the Community Centre! We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in the hall where the inaugural Fête of the Earth took place and we have a lot to be proud of. We have raised tens of thousands of pounds over the years (it would be interesting to know the exact figure) and this has enabled us to be one of the most active and effective of the London CND groups, both in our contribution to the national CND campaign and the extent to which we can offer support to allied campaigning organisations.
Some of the organisers of that first Fête are still active in the group, frustrated at the slow progress towards nuclear disarmament but quietly convinced that slow progress is better than no progress. We have moved a long way from ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ and the Cold War. Free-fall bombs are no longer stationed on British soil. Cruise missiles no longer roam the lanes of Berkshire. Opinion polls regularly show public scepticism at the wisdom of replacing Trident (our so-called ‘minimum deterrent’) which operates on an out-of-sight-out-of-mind basis, with its military value increasingly questioned by top defence staff.
The biggest barrier we have to overcome is ignorance. Later in this Newsletter Lisa writes about her experiences of talking to young people, but sadly, a whole generation has grown up without access to the facts about nuclear weapons, just a hazy belief that the Hiroshima bomb “ended the war” and saved lives. Nella Last, whose diaries of WWII (the BBC’s “Housewife, 49”) have become a classic social document, had no such illusions.
“Tonight I thought of the dreadful new bomb — we will always live in the shadow of fear now,” she wrote on August 22nd 1945. “With the dawn of new and comparatively easily made and handled weapons, no country will ever be safe, however big their armies and navies. Only by change of thought and heart can civilisation be saved. Old sayings are real truths — ‘Put not your trust in Princes, or any sons of man’ — more vitally real than ever. And what change of heart can be expected today? Bitter hatred, chaos, broken faith, lost ideals are poor foundations. I feel again this world of ours has blundered into a beam of wickedness and unrest... I’ve a deep sadness over my mind and heart like a shadow instead of joy the war is ended.”
The great scientist Albert Einstein said “Everything has changed except the way people think”, but today we are served by journalists and politicians who have very little knowledge or understanding of relevant international treaties, historical, legal, environmental or humanitarian aspects. In other words by labelling our weapons of mass destruction ‘the deterrent’ nuclear reality is conveniently forgotten.
Last year we made a record profit on the bric-à-brac stall thanks to some high-quality donations, and we hope to do the same again. Have a spring turn-out and let us have anything that needs a new home. (Our bric-à-brac team reckon to be able to sell most things as long as items are not too big.) It would be helpful if deliveries can be made to 43 Wilton Grove in advance (ring 020 8543 0362 for collection), but things can also be brought to St Mark’s Church Hall on May 18th before 11am.
Please do your best to make sure everybody know about our fête. The back of this Newsletter is designed to be displayed in your window or on your front gate and the enclosed flyer is for you to give to a friend. Are you able to ask a local shop-keeper to put up a poster? Or could a poster go onto a noticeboard at your church, club, workplace or school? (Ring 020 8543 0362 if you can distribute extra flyers.)
The ambitious scheme to link AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield by a 7-mile pink scarf is really taking off. “Every square is a conversation,” says Jaine Rose the coordinator, and I can vouch for that: after adding several inches while queuing for a recent hospital appointment I found myself explaining the project to an interested Consultant.
Awareness-raising is what it is all about. Most people don’t even know these bomb factories still exist. Have a look at the website http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk for stories and pictures and be inspired to do your bit!
Over 200 students at a local college in Wimbledon have recently participated in an interactive assembly talk on nuclear weapons. I started the talk off with an introduction to CND and asked students to raise their hands if they had ever seen the CND symbol before and where it comes from. Most raised their hands but none knew about the true origins of the symbol. I wasn’t surprised. Most students that I speak to are unaware that the symbol which many of them wear on their jumpers, T-shirts and jewellery was designed by Gerald Holtom for CND’s first anti-nuclear march in 1958 and that it incorporates semaphore letters.
Our assembly talk also includes a quiz with multiple choice questions. When asked “How many countries in the world have nuclear weapons?” the majority of students raise their hands for 114, which is the highest number in the list. Interestingly, when asked “How much will it cost to replace and maintain Britain’s nuclear weapons?” most do not choose the highest number in the list, which is £100bn.
The overall aim of our school sessions is to empower young people with facts on the financial, environmental and human impact of nuclear weapons. The hope is that we have drawn to their attention the issues and, if some have been moved, that they will share their knowledge, discuss and debate. As with many things at this age, the seed is planted and although they may not react overtly now, it can grow.
Lisa Rønsholt Bounds
CND Peace Education Development Coordinator
Sunday May 19th sees a major event at Deen City Farm: the relaunch of Merton Friends of the Earth. The AGM in the morning (10·30–11am) gives a chance to meet the new joint coordinator, Ben Muton-Phillips, and formal business will be followed by discussion of what FoE is all about and how a local group can play its part in the national campaign.
‘Beecause’ in the afternoon, attended by the Mayor, will have experts on hand to give tips on bee-friendly gardening, bee-friendly seeds will be planted and prospective apiculturalists will be able to ask lots of questions.
Have you spotted the latest newspaper ad for the National Army Museum in Chelsea? (A Lottery-aided charity with free admission, the National Army Museum exists to “tell the story of the British Army at home and abroad”.)
None of the obituaries of this great conductor who died recently mentioned that he was a Patron of MANA — Musicians Against Nuclear Arms. This wonderful organisation, which for so many years was coordinated by the indefatigable Joan Horrocks, has had an unavoidable period of inactivity after Joan’s enforced retirement due to ill health.
The orchestral concert at 7·30pm on 23rd May at St James, Piccadilly, marks the beginning of a new era. A professional administrator has been appointed and this concert is being promoted in conjunction with the doctors’ anti-nuclear group Medact (http://www.medact.org) who provide the inspirational speaker. The popular programme of Beethoven and Mozart is introduced by a celebratory piece by modern composer Dai Fujikura who writes that it “celebrates in advance the future we dream of.... There is nothing positive or creative about nuclear weapons. Why produce something whose only function and purpose is mass murder? My wish is for a future where there are no more nuclear arms, then we can all focus on enriching lives, wherever we are, wherever we are from.”
Purchase tickets either online at http://www.wegottickets.com/event/216463 or on the door — £17 or £12 concessions.
Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
Soloist: Noriko Ogawa
Speaker: Dr Frank Boulton of Medact