We have already reported the reasons why it was not possible to hold our annual Fête of the Earth this year. I know that members, supporters and the public at large will have shared our sadness that we have had to forego what was an important event for peace, for the time being at least.
But thanks to the creativity of Gill McCall and a few other supporters, we have decided to hold an art exhibition, entitled The Art of Peace, and have booked two exhibition rooms in Wimbledon Library for Saturday 16th November. The idea arose because we have accumulated quite a lot of art work connected with our long-running and one-off campaigns over the years. In particular, Edwin’s posters have become very well known in and outside the borough, even appearing in the film “We are Many”, the 2015 documentary about the Iraq War protests. Such a display would be in many ways a fitting tribute to him and the many others who have drawn attention to our work for peace in this highly creative way.
As well as posters, we will exhibit photos, murals, sections of pink knitting from the Aldermaston–Burghfield seven mile protest scarf, and embroidery, including the Collateral Damage collage of unique hand-made white poppies, started by Linda Murgatroyd, which has been displayed in many parts of Merton and other boroughs.
Space is limited and time is limited; there is much to do, so we would appreciate any help, with examples of work for display, items for sale, (we aim to sell Christmas cards, etc), and of course assistance on the day. There will be a variety of jobs where volunteers would be very welcome, from helping to set up the exhibition from 12·30pm to 2pm, staffing a stall, leafletting before and during the event, displaying posters and other publicity, and naturally helping to clear up from 4·45 pm onwards.
If you are one of those who are not normally involved in the day-to-day work of the group, but would like to help in this quite ambitious but exciting venture, please contact Maisie on 07377 333034 as soon as possible.
Every two years the ExCel Centre in the London Borough of Newham hosts a ‘one stop shop’ for the arms trade. This year 1600 companies were exhibiting, including the world’s ten largest, and 35,000 potential customers were expected to attend. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) mobilises supporters from all over the country to raise awareness of this shameful event and create enough practical difficulties and public outrage to stop it. Three cities have already refused to accept arms fairs (Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham) and in 2019 Glasgow promised not to host another.
Each day had a different theme, with various WDC/CND members taking part in the demonstrations: Daphne Hussein and Christine Bickerstaff joined the group from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to protest against the collaboration with, and the sale of, arms to Israel. Alison Williams participated in the “No Faith in War” day, when Quakers held silent Meetings for Worship, morning and afternoon, and Christians, Hindus and Muslims joined in singing, dancing and prayer from their various traditions. Roots of Resistance activists chained themselves across the road to bar access to vehicles, and about 60 were arrested.
On No Nuclear day, Sue Jones and Alison Williams held placards at Royal Victoria Dock, calling for disarmament and hope in front of vehicles bringing in the lethal equipment. Rokshana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, was the last speaker on that day. She said, “All this stuff is an affront to our ethics, our politics and our humanity; it shouldn’t be happening in Newham.” Good to know that Sadiq Khan feels the same about the whole of London!
In the following week vigils were held in solidarity with victims of wars fuelled by the arms trade and a final laying of wreaths.
Complementary to the above events was Art the Arms Fair, 3–13 September at three venues in Peckham. This was the second year of an exhibition exposing the arms trade through art of great diversity and creativity. Artists who donated work included two from the Yemen where so many have suffered from British arms sold to Saudi Arabia. For further information and pictures, go to the websites: http://www.caat.org.uk and http://www.artthearmsfair.com.
The annual Gandhi Foundation Ashram Experience was held from 27th July to 3rd August at St Christopher School, Letchworth Garden City. Since its inception in 1984, this week has changed from a formal Summer School to a Summer Gathering and, for the past two years, an attempt to recreate what one may experience in an Ashram.
Each day followed a routine, starting with meditation or yoga, followed by breakfast, then a study session, then some form of physical activity — usually cleaning or preparing lunch. Gandhi was a great advocate of Indian farmers learning handicrafts, so the afternoons were usually filled with craft-based activities. We had hoped that some of the participants would be skilled at spinning, as Gandhi was, but no such hidden talents emerged.
Participants took turns to prepare evening meals, then rounded off the day with various activities: watching films relating to Gandhi, having further discussion, playing co-operative games and even on occasions circle dancing. Each year takes a particular theme relating to topics that were of interest to Gandhi. This year we focussed on thoughts being the seeds of action and looked at how Gandhi has inspired thoughts, whether within a group environment or in individuals. Next year the provisional title is ‘Finding Principles to live by’. If interested in next year please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; we will be back at St Christopher School from 25th July to 1st August.
As part of the Wimbledon & Merton Amnesty Group programme, Naseem Nathoo and Christine Bickerstaff invited friends and supporters to tea and cakes and to discuss what we can do to help those suffering persecution and imprisonment.
Christine explained that Wimbledon & Merton Amnesty Group meets regularly and referred to recent group events. This year, we had a speaker explaining Amnesty’s work in the Global Campaign to help the Human Rights Defenders — those supporting human rights activists under threat of violence, death or imprisonment. We also ran a ‘Write for Rights’ session at Wimbledon Library and an Amnesty stall at the Raynes Park ‘Lark in the Park’.
Our AMNESTEA on 7th September was especially intended to highlight Amnesty UK’s campaign to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in prison in Iran. She was given a five-year prison sentence in September 2016 for ‘membership of an illegal group’, after being arrested on a family visit to Iran with her infant daughter and accused of crimes against national security. The United Nations has repeatedly called for Nazanin’s freedom, and she was given diplomatic protection by the UK Government on 7th March this year. Those attending the meeting signed petition forms to be added to the petition asking Iran’s judiciary and President to allow Nazanin to go home and be reunited with her husband and daughter Gabriella.
If you would like to contribute to the petition, you can do so online at https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/help-get-nazanin-zagari-ratcliffe-home.
The local group would welcome your participation in local meetings and activities, and the next meeting is 7:30 pm, 22nd October, at 20 Parkwood Road. Email address for contact: email@example.com
I remember joining union colleagues outside the Lucas Aerospace factory in the 1970s — the Lucas shop stewards had developed the Lucas Plan to defend their jobs by proposing “alternative, socially useful applications of the firm’s technology and their skills”. Unfortunately, both the Lucas management then and successive governments (and even most trade unions, who thought to protect well-paid jobs) were not so farsighted. Lucas and the UK lost many initiatives to other countries even on proposals, such as wind turbines, hybrid car engines and kidney dialysis machines. In the meantime, direct jobs in the aerospace, defence, security and space sector have reduced from 740,000 in 1980–81 to only 135,000 now.
Forty-plus years on, a new Lucas Plan Arms Conversion Defence Diversification has been developed and is receiving more understanding and support, so that most unions are in favour of a Defence Diversification Agency being established.
Our Chair, Maisie Carter, has written on behalf of WDC/CND to Merton Council, requesting that they become a ‘Nuclear Ban Community’. The following is the text of her letter to Councillor Alambritis:
I have been asked to draw the attention of Merton Council to the request for local authorities to become nuclear ban communities, by supporting the United Nation’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
I am sure you will know that the Treaty was opened for signature by the United Nations in September 2017. It is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination. To date 26 countries have signed up to the treaty, but sadly the UK is not one of them.
We live in increasingly dangerous times; President Trump has withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and the Iran nuclear deal. This will inevitably result in more upgrading and stockpiling of new nuclear weapons by the nuclear weapon states, including Britain. The Treaty, which was the culmination of years of work by the International Campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons and for which the organisation won the Nobel Peace prize in 2017, presents a wonderful opportunity to work for the abolition of these obscene weapons of mass destruction.
And for those of us who took part in one of the many remembrance ceremonies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the first atomic bombs killed around 250,000 people immediately and where many more unbelievably painful deaths occurred for years after from the effects of radiation, our determination to work for worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons has been renewed.
Nation states and numerous cities around the world, in Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Japan, Spain and the US have signed up to the treaty. In the UK, Manchester was the first European city to sign and pass a motion of support, followed by local councils in Renfrewshire, Yorkshire and West Dumbartonshire. We urge Merton Council to follow their example. Further information can be obtained from Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition/CND at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Chair Maisie Carter prefaced her verbal summary of the year, with that well-known line from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. The worst: the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty; a new generation of nuclear weapons; the threat of war with Iran. The best: the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty; climate change protests; national CND successfully making the links between climate change and nuclear weapons.
Locally, we very much felt the loss of Joanna, but were determined to carry on her initiatives, such as the Vigil for Peace and the Peace Table. The regular newsletter production has continued, thanks to Harriet Bazley.
Lack of transport continues to present a problem for transporting the stall materials, but this year Gill McCall and Dave Johnson offered their help and vehicle, particularly with the regular Peace Table and a stall at the Mitcham Fair. We were also able to have a stall at the Raynes Park Festival, thanks to Maisie and Ruth Crabb, and revived the Peace Picnic in Cannizaro Park, near our commemorative cherry tree.
The Steering Group will continue, as far as possible, to do what is needed to keep WDC/CND functioning and thriving. There are no elections, only volunteers! Those who have volunteered this past year are willing to continue: Chair: Maisie Carter; Membership: Alison Williams; Minutes: William Rhind; Newsletter coordinator: Sue Jones; Finance: Edwin Cluer, with Jean Paterson volunteering to audit the accounts. We do need new faces, so please give serious consideration to coming to the monthly meetings, which are open to all members. The next meeting is on Friday 25th October, 7·30pm at 130 Langham Court, Wyke Road, SW20 8RR. Let’s look forward to an active 2020!
27" flat screen TV and wall bracket. Enquiries and offers to Maisie 07377 333034.
If you have anything you can sell to raise funds for peace, please email Sue Jones on email@example.com by the middle of the month, and it will be advertised in the next appropriate newsletter.