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‘Where Webs of Hope are Woven’: Greenham Common, a Poem and Drawings (1982)

February 2, 2014

This poster/poem was drawn/composed sometime in the spring or summer of 1982. Although it mentions the proposed ‘Cosmic Freedom Festival’ (of which I’d heard a whisper…), that event was incidental to what I’d already wanted to do with this text/image.

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This site (two links), from which I quote below (in green ink), appears to have the most complete account, so far, of the festival:

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.

I’d hitched up to Greenham on July 1st to find the Peace Convoy had occupied a large area of land by the perimeter fence of the base. It had not been taken without a struggle:

Outside the base, with the buses, vans and campers and microbuses, station wagons and cars of the Peace Convoy filling the highway as far as the eye could see in both directions, a token force of a few officers and two wagons stood at the head of the main driveway to the site – a few feet in front of a deep trench dug across the drive by relays of determined lawmen working all night long.

What they weren’t prepared for was the sheer mass of the convoy filling the highway in both directions – making it impossible for the cops to move around. Eventually one group from the convoy entered via a back entrance unknown to the police whilst the rest swelled around the police and their paddy wagons, pushing them gently to one side. Crowd rearranges rocks and dirt, outnumbered bobbies retreat for fight another day and the site is occupied.

Inside the base a meeting of top brass broke up in consternation. Aides ran about frantically, telephones started ringing in London, Washington, Moscow…

As for the poem. Well, thirty plus years of ‘theoretical elaboration’, bitter experience and disillusion later, and the wait ‘for that timeless moment/When the whole Earth will be free’ doesn’t seem any more naive than the years of an impatient activism that could not wait, against an enemy which ‘has not ceased to be victorious’. I like the fact that that phrase seems to anticipate – by almost twenty years – my first encounter with Walter Benjamin’s concept of Jetztzeit (‘now-time’) in his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History‘. Jetztzeit – the Messianic interruption of the empty homogeneity of capitalist civilisation’s measured triumphal march, as its clocks ‘tick until doomsday’ – is the spanner thrown into the works of such a system of temporal inevitability, which would crush all in its way.

The same year I decorated a webbing bag with various occulty/alternative symbols (using permanent marker pens): Magic Mushrooms; a Cretan labyrinth with an Anarchy symbol superimposed; a waxing, full and waning moon; the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, uniting the upper, lower and middle worlds; the Rainbow Bridge, Bifrost, linking those worlds; the World Egg, integrating that schema… All pretty eclectic and cosmic… I suppose an invocation of the ‘powers of nature’ against political power. It had one outing, I think at the ‘Embrace the Base’ demo on December 12th that year.

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