Archive | england.

After living in Norwich, Watford, London and Sussex and visiting often since 1995, it deserved its own category.

Notes from Fabrica Gallery, Brighton

Last week I gave a talk at Fabrica Gallery in Brighton! As promised, here are links to some of the topics I spoke about, in the order in which they were discussed.


*Sadie Plant’s Zeros and One’s
*Library of Congress’ Gee’s Bend archive
*Gee’s Bend quilts
*Helping the Trawlers
*Tina Selby’s knit hats
*Stop Sign Flower
*Cat Mazza’s Nike blanket petition
*Code Pink’s 2009 Mother Day’s vigil
*AIDS Memorial Quilt
*Craftivist Collective
*Carrie Reichardt
*Mapula Embroidery Project
*Madres de la Plaza de Mayo
*Chilean arpilleras

Notes from Unravel


Yesterday I gave a talk at Unravel: A Festival of Knitting in lovely Farnham. I talked about how you can make craftivism your own and help other people with it. During the talk, I noted that I would be placing links to what I was talking about here, so here we go.

In some cases, I’ve linked directly to a person’s work or to a news article, rather than the actual site where I got the photo from.


Weren’t there? Well, you can watch the clip below for a 6-second version or investigate any of the links below! (Disregard -or rock out to- the coffee shop music in the background!)

*tiny 6-second clip!*

Helping the Trawlers
Virpi Vesanen-Laukkanen’s Lace Bus
Kaja Marie Lereng Kvernbakken’s For the Love of…
NeSpoon’s work at the Baltic Sea
Carrie Reichardt’s Treatment Rooms
Craftivist Collective
Chalina de la Esperanza
Madres de la Paya de Mayo
Twin Cities Red Cross, Hmong quilt
CODEPINK Mother’s Day vigil 2009
AIDS Quilt
Craft Hope
Wool Against Weapons
Children’s Cancer Recovery Project
Knit for Peace
Blood Bag Project
Knitting for Oxfam
Percy the Pigeon
Prostate Cancer UK’s Tea for Victory
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home staffie campaign
Teddies for Tragedies

And… when I was walking about town I came across the Age UK shop and look at the sign it has on the front door!


You can read more about this Age UK campaign here!

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)


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.


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]

Why Craft = Punk Rock (A Revisit from 2004)

This is repost from March 23, 2004. You can see the entirety of that post here. I still think that the “grandmother” issues is as important today as it was then. What do you think? Also, aren’t you glad I use “regular” punctuation now?

there is a press frenzy surrounding [knitting] and i’ve been dealing with people who are calling knitting a ‘trend,’ a ‘fad,’ a ‘craze’ and i can’t help but get a little but frustrated by it all yet continually finding it all naive. both my reaction to the press interest as well as their wanting to just find a creative angle to fit their byline.

i don’t do my various crafts because it’s ‘trendy,’ although i do sometimes have crafty dreams that include everyone turning off their televisions and making stuff, whether it’s knitting a sweater or making macaroni necklaces or screenprinting fliers for a local demo. anything as long as you are letting your passion be your guide rather than what’s seen a ‘popular for the moment.’

i’m fascinated by the emails i get from people in regards to their pure love of various crafts. some of them are confused about what i’m trying to do here with this blog or in various work i do. i want to be a resource for people that want to help other people with their various crafty endeavours. maybe i’m helping to fill that void, or maybe i’m just taking up more space on the interweb, i’m not sure most days.

no, everything i make doesn’t go to charity. but some of it does.

the other part of my crafty dream is that everyone becomes conscious of all of their asking things like: do i need this? do i want to support this company? how can i help? where does my passion lie?

it is all quite emo and i’m sure my parents would conclude that i’m now a hippie.

but it’s about more than that.

my background is firmly entrenched in punk rock. i was always cutting and pasting my own little zines (and then hiding them under my bed because i felt they were crap) or daydreaming about playing drums in the next bikini kill.

but i never felt like i was good enough at anything really to make my mark. it was only when i started learning to knit, crochet, embroider, screenprint, make books, felt, etc etc that i regained my own sense of self and that fire that punk rock put in my belly when i was 16.

craft to me is very punk rock and it’s hard to read article after article about how craft is just for ‘grannies.’ i love my grandmother who knits, she is kickass, but i’m also inspired daily by the way that punk rock influences my own brand of activism and craft. craftivism, if you will.

who knows, maybe you feel the same way, maybe not. but i can never ignore how punk rock shaped my crafting. i owe my creativity to it, and it’s so not just a trend. and some days i get homesick for people who understand that.


Activism Is Not A Four-Letter Word

This is a post from 7 years ago that a lot of people still visit. The farm is the lovely Beech Hill Farm and run by the equally lovely Julia Desch. defines activism as “The use of direct, often confrontational action, such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or support of a cause.” This is the definition I have often been presented with the minute I mention either craftivism or activism. At the mention of these terms, some people rear up and want nothing more to do with the discussion. When such a negative definition is so commonly applied, it isn’t hard to see why feathers are ruffled by even a whisper of activism.

But my own definition of activism lies closer to this, “Activism, in a general sense, can be described as intentional action to bring about social or political change” from Wikipedia. It continues with “The word ‘activism’ is often used synonymously with protest or dissent, but activism can stem from any number of political orientations and take a wide range of forms, from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, simply shopping ethically, rallies and street marches, direct action, or even guerilla tactics. In the more confrontational cases, an activist may be called a freedom fighter by some, and a terrorist by others, depending on which side of the political fence is making the observation.”

Activism (or craftivism) is less about a call to arms and more about a call to act for change. Although there are negative ways one can bring about change, the majority of activists I know are working for the common good, attempting to bring about illumination instead of darkness. By negating a construct and stripping it of its positive intent, the more commonly used definition only breeds fear and unwillingness when in fact every time you make a conscious choice, you are being an activist. In choosing to buy one brand of yarn instead of another due to the way it was produced or by choosing to ride your bike instead of drive, you are being an activist.


The past two weeks I have been living in rural England on a small-scale farm. I can’t think of a time when I have been more inspired or been taught more lessons or been shown so much hope in such a short span. I have been connecting and meeting individuals who continue to farm despite all the obstacles in their paths. After all the governmental and financial restraints have been agreed to, there seems to be little reason to continue an agrarian lifestyle.


As we send all of our textile needs to further shores where people are paid less to work more, resources that the small-scale producers have relied on since the Industrial Revolution have vanished, leaving them trying to fill in the gaps. And as it becomes more and more difficult for small-scale farmers to survive, traditions and methods are lost in the name of technology and progress.

But there is a sense of activism in the air here as people strive to continue to produce wool and fleece as they once did when all the factories where up and running and could take in small quantities of fibre to be prepared. Out of love and determination, activism is alive in its most positive sense- as individuals try and band together to keep traditional methods afloat despite myriad setbacks. In watching their strength and learning from their dedication, I am reminded again and again of why I am not ashamed to call myself an activist.

Interested in learning more about the state of British wool? Go check out Wovember, a blog celebrating all the great things about British wool! To go hear (!) more about British wool, go have a listen to The Sounds of Wool!

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