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Greenham Common Peace Camp

The Free Festivals

and the saga of the

Peace Convoy.


The dummy Pyramid stage - Greenham Womens Peace Camp festival 1981.

Photo © Justin Warman

This was the dummy stage to throw them off the scent!!! me and Nik took the pyramid around to the west gate and left it there with a load of scaffolding and instructions. As you can see the PA crew had a go at erecting the pyramid but lack of time and improvisation led to a rather unorthordox version.Because I was involved with the original planning group that set up the greenham womens peace camp festival, I was also busy running the other main stage as well with the groups I had booked for the tibetans marquee with other PA and lighting and jenny on the other side of the base.
This photo is great because afterwards when we went to collect the scaffolding boards and pyramid it was all deconstructed and I never had time to see it at this stage. They obviously made a real hash of my instructions, je je je je je je je :-)
Big Steve

(Pyramid tent stagemanager )


    The Greenham Common Womens Peace camp was a major thorn in the side of the Thatcher Government throughout the 1980s . The camp, established in 1981, was situated outside the Greenham Common Airbase ,the aim was to protest peacefully against the government plans to install nuclear warhead equipped Cruise missiles supplied by the US .

    Following the Stonehenge free festival in June 1982, a" Peace convoy" of over 100 vehicles made the decision to join the women as a gesture of solidarity. The free festival proved to be a moveable feast, establishing itself wherever its participants were- much to the consternation of the authorities......

Peace Convoy Rolls Over Cruise Missile Site.

JULY 1982 .

This summer saw some of the largest free festivals in Britain since the early 1970s , when a military style dawn attack at the Windsor free festival by the notorious Thames Valley Police force signalled the event of an official hard line against such anarchistic manifestations. Some 500 police were able to attack and destroy the remnants of a 30,000 strong crowd, making 700 arrests. But times have changed and the authorities must content themselves with a policy of containment . In 1981, when two people were arrested by the police at Stonehenge, they were freed by a large crowd of people ( many of them alerted from the main festival area by CB radio ) The mobile police HQ was trashed when kids let loose with catapult fire . This was one of the first flare ups in a summer which would see by its end molotovs and plastic bullets flying and riots across Britain from Bogside to Tunbridge Wells in the marmalade and toast belt-one of the peachiest of the Tory Blue strongholds.

Right: Juggling for Peace- 1981 festival.

Photo © Justin Warman

    At Stonehenge 82 the main rule of law seemed to be the illusion that there was none - except your own ." You are now entering a liberated zone" - read a big sign on the gate" Its never too late to enjoy your childhood "
Inside was a massive encampment . At its peak , on the summer solstice , when the sun slices precisely through the stones at dawn, there were more than 50,000 souls , a tent city, a rabble army encampment , a crazy circus - full of contradictions - open drug dealing next to natural childbirth ... a liberated zone , with capitalism going strong .. hells angles smashing a bottle in someone's face and a baby being born ( the mother almost dying )in a tipi - at least one death.
"I'm glad my daughter isn’t here" , said the man in charge of police operations . In fact though uniformed police did not venture on site in large numbers, plainclothesmen were definitely at work , as many who were picked up after they left the site found to their acute discomfort.

1982. Festival summer.
    In Britain during the summer it is possible to start in early June and be at or on the way to a festival till late September's Psylocibin Celebration in Wales. Thatchers cabinet is even known to consider such events a useful safety valve after last years riots.
   With employment unabated , more and more "marginal people" have opted for the traditional remedy of Britain's underclasses and take up the festival trail , from Stonehenge through various Peace gatherings, more commercial rock festivals and even a festival on the estate of trendy lord ( just like in feudal times ) all combining the mercantile aspects of traditional country fairs with new age politics and New Wave ballyhoo .

       It was only natural that a caravan or convoy formed up out of the buses vans and other vehicles of the festival hardcore , the Rainbow people who live in tipis , or Ukrainian Tibetan Mountain Troupe who travel in buses all year and kept on picking up more and more recruits. One immediate advantage was an obvious rule of strength in numbers - the local constabulary through which this totally illegal juggernaut now rolled were usually only too happy to see it roll on by - constrained by the fact that the local gaols have only a few places to spare.

Greenham Common 1982 - raising the TUMT tent © Janet Thomson


Enter the Peace Convoy

    After the summer solstice , through some arcane internal consensus , participants in the convoy decided to join the full weight of their forces with the Women's Peace camp with had been going for nine months just outside the main gate of the US base at Greenham common , demanding the halt of the installation of US cruise missiles . The convoy left Stonehenge some 100 vehicles strong , for the first time calling itself the Peace Convoy , bound for one of the largest military bases in Britain . Ahead of them lay a full blown confrontation in progress , where the authorities were already completely absorbed in ridding the area of the three dozen or so women of the Peace Vigil.

  Above- The Peace Convoy leaves Stonehenge, bound for Greenham Common.

       During the nine arduous months of the Vigil, relations between the women and the local municipal council had deteriorated into bitter acrimony , long before the Peace Convoy was even formed . Parliament having passed legislation enabling the council to oust such squatters from village commons- 'said council was now embroiled with the Vigilers in court , doing just that.
The Vigil women claimed on documentation proving that their site was on private land and that they had permission to be there.

   Not only that, their tenacity had inspired a dozen or so other peace Camps at military bases all over Britain , shifting the focus of the disarmament movement from the big one shot peace demos in London to continuous protests outside the bases . this brought the issue home to local inhabitants, workmen and servicemen who every day had to walk by protests. The government was scarcely ready to have this relatively tiny encampment massively reinforced with the unpredictable energy of several thousand people already spaced out by two weeks at Stonehenge. The preventative measures hastily improvised by the coppers were inevitably doomed to failure. Forewarned by their spies of the Convoys destination , they set up a false detour at a traffic circle , only to have the great exhaust belching caravan swoop by, with the bobbies pointing frantically in the wrong direction .

Above Corrina and the Androids of Mu perform in the Tibetan Ukranian Mountain Troupe tent at Greenham Common Festival of Life , March 81.

photo courtesy Big Steve.

© Justin Warman

Greenham Common 1982 © Janet Thomson

Greenham Common festivals and the Peace Convoy 1982-83

Travellers Tales how the freaks outsmarted the fuzz at Greenham common.

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