Joanna Bazley, who died of cancer on October 5th, became a respected and much-loved member of the Wimbledon community through her tireless voluntary work for music, education, peace and the environment, which spanned several decades. She was a resident of Wilton Grove since 1976 and raised four children in the area.
She always loved classical music, especially opera. She attended opera performances at Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells as a teenager, funding tickets from a newspaper round. She met her future husband, Desmond, through their shared membership of the London Philharmonic Choir. More recently, she particularly enjoyed smaller-scale opera productions and local concerts.
After graduation she worked for three years as a laboratory research assistant at Kings College, London, then for several more years as an editor and (German) translator for International Retrieval Ltd, a company providing bibliographic support to medical and scientific researchers. Though she chose to prioritise her family over her career for most of her life, she always remained keenly interested in the scientific basis of peace and environmental campaigns, and dedicated to sharing her scientific knowledge.
She was a governor at several local schools: firstly as a community governor at Poplar and then later at Wimbledon Chase and Dundonald. In this capacity she fostered music and gardening, helping Dundonald School to obtain a coveted Arts Education kitemark. Her exceptional work as a school governor was acknowledged when she was chosen as Merton’s governor of the year.
Had the opportunity offered, Joanna would probably have trained as a schoolteacher, but her growing family put paid to that ambition. Instead, she devoted her time to music teaching. She taught several generations of school children to play the recorder. As a volunteer with the University of the Third Age (U3A), she also invited adult learners into her home to teach them to play. Following her husband’s retirement, they co-founded the Dundonald school orchestra and endowed a small charity to enable it to continue after his death. She encouraged every member of her family to develop their own musical talents in whatever way they chose, enjoying and supporting everyone’s musical achievements.
In later life, she developed her own skills as a violin player — putting into practice her belief that you don’t have to be an expert, nor exceptionally talented, in order to improve your musicianship and enjoy playing an instrument. As a violinist, she greatly enjoyed her membership of several orchestras in south-west London.
Joanna had a lifelong love of gardens and of the English countryside. As a member of the John Innes Society, she was an active volunteer gardener and a regular contributor to the Society’s newsletter. She helped to judge the annual front garden competition and wrote a column on traditional gardening. She was also a tree warden and planted many of the trees in Morden Park.
As a peace campaigner, Joanna was active in CND from the 1980s. Since 2001, she would have been a familiar sight to people passing a weekly peace vigil held in all weathers outside Wimbledon library. She was a member of Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition for over 30 years and its secretary for 20 years. In this capacity she made connections with like-minded people of many different faiths and none.
The recent unwelcome news of the United States’ intended withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and UK government support for this, potentially implying the relocation of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles into the UK, does offer one chink of light.
Responding to an ‘urgent question’ during a Commons debate on 25 October, the Foreign Office Minister Mark Field said “It is important to recognise that the US has not yet withdrawn from this treaty. While the treaty remains in force, we shall continue to support it, and in particular to press Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance.”
He added that Presidents Trump and Putin were to meet in France on Remembrance Sunday to discuss this further and concluded that “It is very much the policy to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. We shall continue to work with all partners across the international community to prevent proliferation and to make progress on multilateral nuclear disarmament.” We have been waiting for 50 years to see convincing evidence of that.
The Peace Pledge Union reported that in spite of attacks on social media and some vitriol from Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and broadcaster Piers Morgan against white poppy wearers, the sales of white poppies were higher this year than at any time since they were founded in 1933. PPU attribute the rise in sales to the growing resistance to militarism, with more and more people wishing to remember victims of war by working for peace.
WDC/CND’s Steering Committee decided to concentrate on white poppies at the November peace table as part of our Remembrance Day activities. And thanks to Gill McCall and Dave Johnson, who produced a very colourful display of white poppies, peace doves and relevant literature, it proved very successful, attracting many passers-by who stopped to chat and express support. A record £60 was collected, new contacts were made and a possible new member of CND. Many thanks also to Alison, Sue and Caroline who turned out in support, all of them agreeing that they had spent a very worthwhile morning. Photos can be seen on the WDC/CND Facebook page.
Gill McCall’s invaluable help has been enlisted again for the December peace table, when we plan to have a Christmas and Peace display. We have an excellent new leaflet from CND to distribute and there will be Christmas stars for children to make and decorate, so please come along if you can, to help or just to say hello.
Just as we had a bigger turnout for the peace table, we were delighted that more people came to our own Remembrance ceremony at the War Memorial this year. For many years, after the main parade and official speeches, we have had a small alternative commemoration, when we speak out against the glorification of war and to reiterate the original message, which was not just remembrance, but to say Never Again to war. That message is more important than ever now, at a time when there is growing concern about the increased presence of the armed forces in schools.
As well as the reading of poems and the preamble to the United Nations Charter, we remembered Joanna Bazley, who originated the idea of our commemoration and worked tirelessly for peace, not just on Remembrance Day, but always.
The New York Times of 28th October carried a report from Reuters saying the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons could come into force by the end of 2019. ICAN, the campaign which won the Nobel Peace Prize for its assistance in achieving the treaty, has a page on its website detailing how specific countries are progressing towards ratification: http://www.icanw.org/progress-towards-ratification/
According to Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN, up to 30 more countries say they will be ready to ratify by the end of 2019, enough to reach the 50 needed to bring the treaty into force. She compared clinging to nuclear weapons for defence with the gun debate in the United States: “You feel safer, but all statistics and logic say that you are more likely to be shot if you have a gun in the house.”
Opponents of the treaty say it undermines the effectiveness of the deterrent; would having more nuclear weapons in the world enhance it? Of course the nuclear weapons states which negotiated the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 are content with the status quo — they have ignored its disarmament clause with impunity for 50 years.
In our October Newsletter, we reported on ‘progress so far’. We encourage all our readers to follow developments in order to play a part in changing the position of our government. It’s all too easy to think it’s hopeless and not persevere — but remember it was the strength of public opinion against nuclear weapons which persuaded New Zealand to refuse access to them in 1984, a policy which has survived changes of government. In these unsettling times of transition, maybe there’s a chance of a Nuclear-Free UK!
This is a new and independent British film based on the 1923 novel by Jaroslav Hasek. It will be shown at the Sands Film Club in Rotherhithe on 9 Dec at 5pm and 18 Dec at 8:30pm. It uses humour to convey the absurdity of armed conflict and remains a scathing critique of war, the arms trade and the class system. Further information from http://www.sandsfilms.co.uk/the-good-soldier-schwejk.html
Caroline Lucas gave the annual Remembrance Day Lecture organised by the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW) on Saturday 3rd November. She gave an inspiring talk called ‘Waging Peace’. Caroline started by reminding the audience that one of the main reasons for the founding of the EU after the Second World War was to avoid the conflicts between European nations states that had so blighted the twentieth century in particular and many of the previous centuries.
Her key message was that remembrance needs to be active and to change what we do next. Just looking backwards can sound passive, but it needs to make a difference to the future and to guide our actions as we go forward. Remembrance should help us face the many challenges ahead of us, ecological, military and on so many other fronts. She ended by talking about the importance of like-minded groups working together to fight the many challenges facing the world.
This lecture is usually held at the Imperial War Museum, but due to the large number of activities connected to the centenary of the end of the First World War they were unable to host it this year, so it took place at St John the Divine, Waterloo. It is ironic that in this centenary year of the Great War, the ‘war to end all wars’ as was the great hope of the time, that the Imperial War Museum was unable to host the one event completely dedicated to peace. Caroline’s talk should, however, remind us once again of the importance of working for a more peaceful world and of making links with those groups also trying to make the world a better place as Joanna did so successfully during her lifetime.
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The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen has warned that 13 million people in Yemen are facing starvation. Yemen is on the brink of the “world’s worst famine in 100 years”, with millions of victims, if airstrikes led by the Saudi led coalition are not halted. The Saudis have bombed buses full of children on their way to school, hospitals and houses. They have blockaded ports and airports controlled by the Houthi rebels, including bombing the port city of Hudaydah, where 90% of all humanitarian aid and commercial food and fuel supplies must pass through if they are to reach the people. Their bombs have also targeted agricultural land, fields of crops and village wells, dairy farms, food processing factories and airports and the markets where food is sold. Thus the people are being systematically and deliberately starved of all means of subsistence, including their own domestic production of food inside Yemen.
This is without doubt a war on the civilian population, with the use of mediaeval tactics with modern weapons. 85,000 children are estimated to have died from malnutrition and disease since the war started, in addition to the several hundred killed by Saudi air strikes. It is a war for which we must feel some responsibility, for many of the weapons being used are supplied by Britain, with nearly £5m worth of bombs and aircraft sold to Saudi Arabia by British armaments manufacturers since the war started. British military personnel are in the command and control rooms of the Saudi Air Force.
It is surely time for the British Government to speak out and take action to bring an end this brutal war and to ensure access for humanitarian relief for the Yemeni civilians. A start has been made by the 100 MPs of all parties who have signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging her to “use all available means to end the catastrophic military assault on Hudaydah Port by the Saudi and Emirati led coalition. This includes removing material support from combatants. We implore you to make a statement condemning an attack on Hudaydah and calling for an urgent ceasefire.” We must ask our MPs to make a similar call and support every effort to secure peace in the region.