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Week #3 of 48 Weeks of Historical Craftivism, Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

Welcome to Week 3 of 48 Weeks of Historical Craftivism! This week we have a lovely guest post by the lovely and amazing Sayraphim Lothian.

Craft Activism – the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp

Protesters ring the Greenham Common fence decorated with handmade banners and other items (date unknown)”

Protesters ring the Greenham Common fence decorated with handmade banners and other items (date unknown)”

On the 5th of September, 1981, the Welsh group Women for Life on Earth arrived at Greenham Common, an RAF Airbase in Berkshire, England. The group intended to challenge the decision to situate 96 Cruise nuclear missiles at the site, and presented the Base Commander with a letter requesting a debate on the topic. The letter stated, amongst other things, “We fear for the future of all our children and for the future of the living world which is the basis of all life”(1).

When their letter was ignored, they set up a Peace Camp just outside the fence. By 1982, the camp had become women only and with a strong feminist emphasis. In the following months and years thousands of women came to live and protest at the newly named Women’s Peace Camp(2), which now consisted of nine smaller camps at various gates around the base(3).

The women’s activism came in many forms, a considerable amount of it focused on the 9 mile fence that ringed the perimeter. In an interview with The New Statesman in 2007, the General Secretary for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kate Hudson recalls “…block[ing] the gates, pull[ing] down parts of the fence, danc[ing] on the missile silos, and creatively express[ing] our opposition to the missiles.(4)

In the camps between raids on the base, the women spent time making banners and weaving words, symbols and items such as toys and children’s clothing, into the fence(5). The banners were created both to hang on the fence and hold in protest marches that happened regularly around the perimeter. One of the most prolific banner makers was Thalia Campbell, who started making banners to address the stereotype of the Greenham Common women.

I did decide that I was an artist and I could have been one more body around the fire but I thought ‘no’, and we were so vilified… people did think we were dirty slags, lesbians, bad mothers and all this kind of stuff, like, like they vilified the suffragettes in the early days, but the vilification was so untrue I thought we had to counter it, so that’s why I started making my banners really, to sort of use beauty and humour to put our point across, because that vilification… So that’s why I made all the banners really and to tell the story… I used to go up and put them on the fence and gradually this became a great big display on the fence.(6)

image2

As well as banners protesting nuclear weapons, other banners (such as the one above) were created to show where the women were from, to show the media and the world that this was not a local issue.

The fence was also the focus of activism through weaving. Alongside toys and children’s clothes, which acted as signifiers of women’s ongoing everyday lived experience, in opposition to the destructive patriarchal threat within, and outside, the base(7), words, slogans and symbols such as peace signs, doves and rainbows were also often incorporated into the chain links.

image3

A protester remembers there was a lot of weaving things in the perimeter fence – rainbows, kid art, … the whole perimeter fence was very gorgeous. There were a lot of spiderwebs in the art. Spiderwebs were a big theme – I suppose the theme of weaving something, surrounding something(8). Another theory as to why the weaving of the webs was that “Before the world wide web connected people across the world, women at Greenham used the metaphor of a spiders web to imagine global connections between peace activists.(9)”

The webs often extended out to entangle the surrounding trees, the protesters themselves and the workmen and machinery that were sent in to remove them. A subcontractor who had driven his bulldozer in to remove a tree house stated in court “… the girls got in front of the machine. They stood there and a couple walked round [the bulldozer] with woollen string, going round and round with it…(10)” When the women were arrested and taken to court, some used the time to make webs there for installation later back at the camp(11).

The weaving was so important that mention of it made it’s way into protest songs, which were composed at the camp or modified from older songs and sung during protests, court hearings, while in prison or at home in the camp. We are the flow and we are the ebb and I am the weaver both appear in the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp Songbook, handwritten in 1983, photocopied in batches and sold to raise funds(12).

We are the flow
and we are the Ebb
We are the weavers
We are the web(13)

In 1981, at the very start of the Peace Camp, the women adopted the dragon as their symbol(14), explaining on a 1983 photocopied invitation that “The word ‘dragon’ derives from a word meaning ‘to see clearly’. She is a very old and powerful life symbol.” The invitation was to participate in The Full Moon in June Dragon Festival, where women were invited to feast and create a Rainbow Dragon together. Invitation 1 reads in part: At USAF Greenham Common, Newbury, Berkshire on the 25th June, a Rainbow Dragon will be born by joining the creative work of thousands of women… Women are making pieces of patchwork, banners, cloth paintings to join into the Rainbow Dragon for the future(15).

Three other invitations were also produced, the second of which invites women to “Dress up if you want – wear the colours of fire – make smaller dragons… believe in yourselves and know that our positive, creative energy will change the world.(16)” The visitors to Greenham that day bought patches and material from home and from women who couldn’t make it to the camp. Over the course of the day they helped sew together a 9 mile Rainbow Dragon, which then encircled the fence.

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

The Rainbow Dragon at Greenham Common, 1983

An article in an undated Greenham Common newsletter talks about the Rainbow Serpent from Aboriginal mythology and emphasises it as a:

‘universally-respected divinity’, a guardian of humanity, and a metaphor for menstrual cycles, and as such an important symbol for Greenham Common Peace Camp women … The Rainbow Serpent also represented ‘the dragon [that was] slaughtered by some patriarchal hero who established the present world order from which we are still suffering’. However, as a phoenix from the ashes, the dragon… is stirring from her sleep allowing, ‘the Australian Aboriginals and the American Indians, together with traditional people and women everywhere [to have] the last word(17)’

The dragon was clearly a powerful symbol for the women to create together and surround the base with and it’s nine mile length showed the world that many voices were joined as one to protest the nuclear weapons being held behind the fence.

Living conditions were primitive at Greenham Common. Living outside in all kinds of weather especially in the winter and rainy seasons was testing. Without electricity, telephone, running water etc, frequent evictions and vigilante attacks, life was difficult. In spite of the conditions women, from many parts of the UK and abroad, came to spend time at the camp to be part of the resistance to nuclear weapons(18). But the women made their protest heard, all around the world, with interventions, songs, marches, banners, costumes and craft based installations.

Ultimately, in 1991, the nuclear weapons were removed after US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which meant that the cruise missiles were taken back to America(19). The camp and the women remained for another nine years, as part of a protest against the UK Trident program, which is the ongoing operation of the current generation of British nuclear weapons(20) before leaving for the last time in 2000.

A Thalia Campbell banner on the Greenham fence (date unknown)

A Thalia Campbell banner on the Greenham fence (date unknown)

(1) Hipperson, Sarah (n.d.) Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp 1981 – 2000 [Accessed 13 September 2013]
(2)Hudson, Kate, 2013 ‘Remembering Greenham Common’ The New Statesman [Accessed 13 September 2013]
(3)‘Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (n.d.) Wikipedia [Accessed 15 September 2013]
(4)Hudson, Kate, 2013 ‘Remembering Greenham Common’ The New Statesman
(5)Eiseman-Renyard, Hannah, 2011 ‘Revolting Women: Greenham Common’ Bad Reputation: A Feminist Pop Culture Adventure [Accessed 17 September 2013]
(6)The Peace Museum, 2009 Thalia Campbell – Greenham Common protester and banner maker [Accessed 12 September 2013]
(7)Welch, Christina (n.d.) ‘Spirituality and Social Change at Greenham Common Peace Camp’ Journal for Faith, Spirituality and Social Change. Vol.1:1 [Accessed 08 September 2013]
(8)Eiseman-Renyard, Hannah, 2011 ‘Revolting Women: Greenham Common’ Bad Reputation: A Feminist Pop Culture Adventure
(9)Feminist Archive South, 2013 Greenham Materials
[Accessed 12 September 2013]
(10)Harford, Barbara and Hopkins, Sarah (eds)1984 Greenham Common: Women at the Wire London: The Women’s Press p48
(11)Ibid p47
(12)Greenham Women are Everywhere songs (n.d) [Accessed 13 September 2013] p 1
(13)The Danish Peace Academy, 2009 Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp Songbook [Accessed 12 September 2013]
(14)The National Archives (n.d.) Records of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (Yellow Gate) : Press cuttings 5GCW/E/1 Nov 1981 – Oct 1983 [Accessed 16 September 2013]
(15)The Danish Peace Academy, 2009 Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp Songbook : A Day in December 82 [Accessed 12 September 2013]
(16)The Danish Peace Academy, 2009 Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp Songbook : A Day in December 82..
(17)Welch, Christina (n.d.) ‘Spirituality and Social Change at Greenham Common Peace Camp’ Journal for Faith, Spirituality and Social Change
(18)Hipperson, Sarah (n.d.) Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp 1981 – 2000


    More resources:

Combomphotos, 1983 Aldermaston-Greenham Common peace chain 01-04-1983 04 [Accessed 19 September 2013]

For anyone over 30, the words “Greenham Common” mean two things: cruise missiles and the women’s peace camps of the mid-Eighties (n.d.) [Accessed 19 September 2013]

Levit, Briar (n.d.) Greenham [Accessed 19 September 2013]

Hi, Hey, Hello, 2011.

Here’s to the new year and all the dreams and adventures and love it may bring. As for 2010 parting, few things could be more fitting that this piece above.


Why this piece, you ask?

Because it depicts the juxtaposition of rough, activated and rugged (bull) vs warm, welcoming and beautiful (crochet) and how well they can go together. As those are the two poles we circumnavigate continuously in our daily lives, in between the good stuff and the bad stuff, I really like that it appeared on Wall St right at the tail end of a rough year. While this particular installation only lasted a scant two hours, this image remains as a testament to an artist’s vision, as she expertly combines aesthetics and concept. Of her work, Olek (born Agata Olek) writes,

It was truly a year of guerrilla actions that opened a new path in my crocheted investigations. I started it with a bike and ended up with the Charging Bull as a Christmas gift to NYC and a tribute to the sculptor of the bull, Arturo di Modica,* who in another guerrilla act, placed the bull on Wall Street in Christmas of 1987 as a symbol of the “strength and power of the American people” following the 1987 Stock Market crash.

This crocheted cover represents my best wishes to all of us. It will be a great, prosperous year with many wonderful surprises!!!

For more on Olek, check out her website, artist statement and be sure to check out her work, especially the Sculptures section for more amazing crocheted and fiber work.


So here’s to 2011, and here’s to new work, new ideas, new collaborations and new joy in this new year! And like di Modica and Olak, keep in mind that creativity and its creations are a gift, for both the maker and the viewer.



As makers we’re meant to let our ideas and whims break through into actual visual manifestations, we’re meant to put forth the work we envision in the shower, in a conversation, in dreams, everywhere we look. Maybe some projects falter and crack, but if you look carefully enough, they always light the path to an even bolder and more thought out project, the original thought was just the starting block.


As viewers, we’re meant to not only appreciate the time and effort that has gone into the making, we’re also meant to see these creations as manifestations of our own goals, in whatever shape they might evolve. Like the maker (creator, artist, crafter, whatevs), as viewers we are also here to create and make something beautiful, just perhaps not visually. Creativity, while at times, goofy, melancholy, engaging, is at its root, transformative, freeing and bold sparking revolutions both inside and outside of ourselves.




*For more on Arturo di Modica, check out his website. For more information on his statue, Charging Bull, go check out the Charging Bull Wikipedia page. Most interesting perhaps, is the original NYT story written the day after the bull’s installation on Wall Street in 1989.

[For more about the second photo, it’s by Flickr user Fotologic. About this photo she writes, “A still from a stop frame animation I made with my 8 year old son today. The full quotation from Henri Bergson reads: “To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating.”]

And for extra credit and two gold stars, go learn more about Henri Bergson, k?

Riot Dog!

Apologies now to anyone who really dislikes parentheses.

This is one of those “in case you missed it” posts, because this story broke earlier this year. Because it’s Saturday and because I find this completely fascinating, here’s a video of the Riot Dog in Greece.





While the destructive element of the Black Bloc angers me to no end, there are members who have saved a lot of protesters from harm’s way, which is never a bad thing. So I’m not posting this in solidarity of them, who feature in many images in the video, but for the fascinating repeated attendance of this dog.

But… This post is about the dog, not the Black Bloc. The fluffy, furry 4-legged pal who has shown up at riots in Greece over the past few years. Riot Dog was in the news a lot earlier this year and even has his own Facebook page. Apparently there are several Riot Dogs depending on the source, the most famous being Kanellos, who died in 2008 according to some people. Others seem to think Kanellos is still with us.

Interestingly, I found a blog post reporting Kanellos died in 2008, and was eventually given his own wheelchair and, eventually, a proper grave. It seems like the dog in the video is Louk, who is rumored to be one of Kanellos’ pups. There is (a lot) more about the life of Kanellos over here. You can also decide for yourself whether his name is spelled Kanelos or Kanellos, it seems to vary.

What I like is the idea of these pups being “of the people.” Psychology Today even wrote a nice article about why these dogs get involved. A lot of the stories on (the) Riot Dog(s) have featured the same photos over and over, but for variety, here’s one with the dog and teargas one of the dog drinking milk (which is unrelated and therefore, weird) and (also somewhat weird) a photo of Kanelos’ reception -with cake!- on winning Dog of the Year over on his own personal Facebook page, where there many more photos of the supposed “original” Greek Riot Dog. And when you’re done with the photos, there are quite a few “Riot Dog” videos over on YouTube.

I like the thought of (a) pup(s) of the people joining them during all of the chaos, y’know, (wo)man’s best friend and all. Riot Dog is most likely several different dogs, but, that still doesn’t take away its mythical status, or make it less like a folktale. I like the thought of people speaking up (although not a fan of these types of protests) for their city and country and the dog(s) doing the same alongside them. Whatever his (her?) name is, or however many Riot Dogs there are, these dogs are widely celebrated for the loyalty, courage and energy they disperse among the chaos. Three traits in which anyone who wants true change must adopt, no matter how many feet.

Venus Envy!

Wow, do I get excited when people have new craftivist projects! And today, The Guardian gets excited, too, with an article about the Venus Envy Project.

Venus Envy from Venus Envy on Vimeo.



And what does the artist herself say about the project?

In an attempt to undermine classical notions of idealized feminine beauty, Venus Envy is a series of manipulated Venus de Milo statues, created by interdisciplinary designer Lionhe[art], intended to subvert the male-defined notion of the feminine, which traditionally within art and popular culture (as the Venus illustrates) is beautiful, passive and silent.

The statues have been installed in various locations across Edinburgh city centre. The name Venus Envy is derived from invasive advertising and consumer culture that invites us to constantly compare ourselves to others.

And to the artist who did this, a special shout-out. Thanks for kicking my arse recently with an email round of feminist theory and well done on this project, I can’t wait to see what you do next. Wish I had been there to take part in the unveiling of the Venus statues around Edinburgh, such a gorgeous city!

You can also follow the project on Twitter over here.



And a few interesting linky links of late:
*Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe Just ’cause
*28 Days Later Urban Exploration Forum
*12 Instances of Inoffensive Guerrilla Art Knit graffiti
*Tarsian & Blinkney Socially responsible Afghan-made ethical clothing
*FrontlineSMS: Legal Helping people the world over to get access to the law
*Jane McGonigal and The Institute for the Future Can games save the world?

Who needs fiction?

One of the coolest things about putting new content online is that people start to send you notices and info about new projects coming up! Yay! Yes, sometimes people even send me promo items. That being said, there are a few amount of promo items I get that I don’t like. And at times when I get a fair amount of them, not all of them I end up writing about. Which means that a) the ones I do write about I really like and b) I know that the web is a wild and woolly place and that the awesome projects I don’t get to write about will be championed elsewhere.

It gets even cooler when people learn that I live for opening the door on real life. While fiction has its place, it’s non-fiction that truly transports and guides towards noticing, questioning and reinterpreting the world around us.





That being said… here is a little bit about one documentary I was contacted about recently called The Lives of Mt. Druitt Youth. As I do love documentaries more than most things, I was chuffed to see that this particular documentary is about shedding light on a place that stereotypes tend to darken and view negatively instead of truthfully. While as we all know that stereotypes do tend to exist for a reason, we should also know that they rarely present the whole story. And when it comes to specific cities, neighborhoods or places, linguistics tend to sully things allowing fear to gain traction solely on a name… Something that gangs, criminals and other not-so-nice people tend to capitalize on.

From his email, Saad notes the sypnosis for this new 60 min long documentary:

Come with Saad as he explores the face of Mount Druitt never seen by outsiders. A look into the various lives of youth across this misconceived suburb that has built up a notorious reputation of crime and drug’s. Saad unravels life stories that go against all the stereotypical branding of the suburb, as the young youths tell of their experiences in regards to Money, Drugs, Crime & Social Conflicts whilst growing up in an area looked down upon by many. An intimate Journey that aims to change the perspective of any viewer.

You can check out the Facebook page for this doc over here. There’s also more information on the film plus links to interviews and press over at Wikipedia. Adam’s documentary is available for sale over on the documentary’s website, and there are several clips other than the above over on YouTube.

While I haven’t personally seen this doc in its entirety, I wanted to share a bit about it as I think that what Saad has done at 23, documenting his local community and fighting stereotypes is well worth applauding and supporting. Imagine what could be accomplished if more youth decided to open up the curtains behind what’s really going on in their communities beyond the negative press.

Need more documentaries? You can now watch PBS’ series Independent Lens online! Need more photos? Go check out the hellobetsygreer.com. Come over and say hello or feel free to email me directly at betsy@hellobetsygreer.com!

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