So this isn’t the shortest blog I’ve ever written but I thought with interest in the 40th anniversary rising and more and more of us all getting involved with the celebrations I would chart here the journey from us here at SLG running a project about Greenham Women, their voices and legacy, to the work we are now doing alongside Greenham Women through the company Greenham Women Everywhere. Hopefully this will answer some questions that have come up, put some fears to rest and invite feedback as we go forth!
Having spent much time at Greenham and in the peace movement with my mum as a child, I knew how important the camp was on our lives and to my mum’s generation as a whole. As I grew older, I was concerned that no-one younger than myself seemed to have heard of the camp of the Greenham Women, and this concerned me as Greenham Women I knew, including my mum, died taking their stories with them. I felt we were in danger of losing these vital experiences which was cultural robbery committed against future generations, as well as the erasure of vital female and lesbian history.
So through my feminist theatre and production company Scary Little Girls (SLG) and The Heroine Collective I set up the first stage of the Greenham Women Everywhere project – I didn’t know it was the first stage then! I just thought it was important to get some Greenham Women’s experiences recorded and hosted on a website so they could be easily accessed by the public. Happily the Heritage Lottery agreed and funded us to hold interviews for three months, edit them and prepare a website for another few months and then promote them though a pop up exhibition tour for the last three months.
At first there was two of us managing a team of 15 volunteers. But at an agreed stage of the project my colleague went on maternity leave and I tried to keep things going without her. Which got rather tricky as we had way more interest than we had expected! We had put a shout out across social media to ask for interviewees – to be clear, we don’t select or seek out interviewees, they come forward and ask to be interviewed and if we have capacity we interview them – hoping we might get 20 or 30 if we were lucky and we got over 300 women get in touch in the early stages of the project. We interviewed as many as we could, choosing by range of experience to give the widest intel on the camp and by where they were placed in the country to ensure we had volunteers who could get to them to interview them.
This interview process had to stop for a while in the first stage of our work but we have been steadily addressing the back-log and interviewing new women when they come to us throughout last year and this one and will continue to do so at least till the end of this year – then we’ll have to apply for more funding again. But the interview process continues to be self selecting, with us interviewing women who step forward and those they recommend to us and involving them in the editing afterwards so they are happy with the final interview. These then go on the website and are housed in LSE’s Women’s Library.
As I now realised there was much more interest in the project than I had originally calculated, and we had so many more testimonials to share than I ever thought possible, I did 2 things:
- I applied for another Heritage Lottery grant to continue interviewing and to disseminate the interviews more widely, including through digital projects, arts commissions, work in schools and universities and by giving talks and appearing at festivals. In all of these we worked with Greenham Women who contributed on every level of every project. The only thing we did on our own – and again when I say we I mean myself and 3 colleagues who work with SLG part time – was fundraise for the project to go ahead, having consulted on the content with Greenham Women we were working with. This fundraising takes months of work to do, the money is public so it’s rightly rigorously scrutinised and of course we aren’t paid to submit the forms, you have to fit them around your other work and you only get paid if you are successful, which is not guaranteed of course (and it’s getting increasingly competitive post covid) and then you have to account for every penny. For examples of our previous publicly funded projects and annual accounts you can find all our Annual Reports on our SLG website.
- I asked some Greenham Women and some other supportive women who had helped most with the project so far to help set up a Community Interest Company specially for Greenham Women Everywhere (GWE) which had far outgrown it’s modest beginnings with SLG. I think there has been some fears that this means we have copyrighted the phrase Greenham Women Everywhere and I just want to take the opportunity here to say that is not the case, we have no copyright on that or any other phrase, I wouldn’t know how to begin doing that! Here is the explanation of GWE CIC and its aims as agreed by its board –
Founded in 2020, Greenham Women Everywhere is a Community Interest Company formed by Greenham Women and their allies, supporters and affiliates, who helped set up and maintain or lived at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace camp during its nearly 20 year existence. Our purpose is to ensure that the cultural impact of the Greenham Women is not lost, mis-represented or overlookedin order to offer lessons, options and inspiration to future generations.
Our aims are –
- To allow Greenham Women to share their heritage and legacy with current and future generations in order to promote and preserve creative, positive, non-violent, feminist choices for the good of themselves and the planet.
- To archive and celebrate the campaigns of the peace camp, such as the liberation of women and girls, the protection of the environment and end of nuclear power and weaponryand actively support those who are engaged with these struggles today.
- To archive and celebrate the successes of the peace camp such as the departure of Cruise Missiles from the UK and the reclaiming of Greenham Common from military enclosure and its return to the British public and to nature, for all creatures and all people, in keeping with its historical status as a common.
- To create interest in and wide-scale awareness of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp though art, media, tech and education so that it receives and retains the position it deserves in our culture and so that it is a well known and acknowledged piece of our protest history across all generations, not just those alive at the time of the camp but also younger people in all foreseeable generations to come.
Now that GWE exists, it has taken a lead on the anniversary celebrations, with SLG supporting as a sister company. The funds for the anniversary events have come through a Heritage Lottery grant that I and members of the GWE board submitted after consulting with various Greenham Women from a range of backgrounds and we delighted they have been secured.
We also launched a crowdfunder earlier this year to create some items to promote the 40th anniversary of Greenham Women and to raise awareness of the legacy to a new, younger generation.
There was a lot of interest which meant there was some money left over, so we used that money to create these new items based on what people were interested in. We have invested in ethical, vegan, sustainable items only and a percent of each sale goes back to the artists whose designs we are using.
If there is any profit from these new sales, we plan to put it towards celebrating the anniversary of Embrace the Base next year. It will be a very small amount, but the smaller amounts can be used as matched funding when we apply to funding bodies which means we can make things happen.
As I’ve mentioned, Greenham Women Everywhere is run by a board, most of whom were at Greenham. All the decisions taken go through these women and our other Greenham networks including the approximately 200 women we have interviewed who took part in the original protest.
Our advisory board of Greenham Women will meet this month and we always take their guidance when planning future activity.
After this September, I will have to dedicate most of my time to fundraising for SLG again as we are a small team (me full time and 3 others part time as and when I can afford to hire them and artists and others brought in as free-lancers on a project by project basis) are dealing with the effects of the pandemic on our industry and the wider economy. I hope that we can continue to celebrate Greenham Women in our work and we may return to help GWE with events around the anniversary of Embrace the Base in 2022, but this will be dependent on our own survival going forward.
Dear Reader, thanks for your patience in staying with me while I lay all this out, do let me know if you have any more questions, we are all committed to working together to preserve the legacy of Greenham Women – onwards!