Camp Life

The Greenham Common Peace Camp was the largest women’s led movement since suffrage. The camp lasted for 19 years through harsh winters and tough conditions. Sometimes the space was held by a few women, at other times thousands would turn up for large actions. They were all Greenham Women.

Women only

From 1982 onwards it was decided that the camp would be women only. Men could support the action by making sandwiches, running the creche or joining cruise watch but they couldn’t sleep at the camp or be part of the action. While many women came to the camp to protest American nuclear weapons many came to live and be part of an exclusively female space and they thrived together, pushing those watching to question war, violence, sexual orientation, and gender roles. Many women who were there say this changed their lives forever.

Choosing your gate

The camp was non hierarchical which meant there wasn’t a leader. There were multiple camps around the 9 mile perimeter fence and each camp was named after a different colour so one wasn’t seen as more important than another.

Each gate had it’s own personality:

  • Green gate was tucked away in the wood and was where many of the women went to heal or recover if they were hurt.
  • Blue gate was near the pub and sometimes had a party atmosphere. It was where a lot of the younger women stayed when they arrived at the camp.
  • Yellow gate had strong political views and they regularly talked to the press.
  • Violet gate was where the women called themselves the ‘write offs’ as the rest of the camps were largely vegan and vegetarian but at violet gate they still enjoyed the odd bacon sandwich!

Where would you have stayed?

Making a camp

The women made shelters called benders. These were temporary shelters made out of  flexible hazel branches or willow withies. The branches are placed in the ground, then bent and woven together to form a strong dome-shape. The dome is then covered using tarpaulin or plastic sheeting. When built properly these temporary shelters can withstand strong wind and rain.

Bailiffs would regularly visit the camp, throwing shelters and women’s possessions into the muncher. The women would need to be able to take down and pack up their belongings quickly to avoid loosing them. Sometimes bailiffs would come round multiple times in one day.

To agree or disagree?

With thousands of women joining the camp at different times from all walks of life they didn’t always agree. The Greenham Women would discuss their views of the world and listen to others over a cup of tea or round the campfire. Often they would strongly disagree with each other but for all the things they didn’t agree on there were always many more things they did agree!

When the time came to jump into action all arguments would be forgotten as they linked arms and watched out for one another.


The camp was frequently in the news. Reporters would come to the camp to talk to the women. It was important that Greenham Common Peace Camp stayed in the news but it was often tough for the women who lived there who were living in tough conditions and were often cold and tired.
The camp was made up of temporary shelters that would sometimes need to be packed down fast when the baliffs arrived.
The camp was a creative place and the women would make banners and weave spiders web on the fence.
Inbetween actions the women spent a lot of time at the camp, holding the space. This was an opportunity to process their experiences, talk to one another and entertain one another.

Uncover life at the camp

Explore the impact tree to find out what day to day life at the camp was like through interviews, images and hold your own conversations round a cup of tea or the campfire to discuss the causes that are important to you. You’ll also find activities and lesson plans to help you discover more about life at the camp.

Greenham Women are everywhere – who in your local community remembers Greenham or was at Greenham?

AudioPenny Oral Testimony Clip
Penny was a member of the West Hampstead peace group, and after attending a conference on nuclear power she sought out women’s groups and anti-nuclear groups on moving to Reading....
Animation, VideoGreenham Women Come Together
Warning: Some strong language and stories of police violence.
This animation provides a brief introduction to Greenham Common Peace Camps, why they started and what they were like as well as the clashes with the police.
Animation, VideoGrowing up at Greenham
This short animation gives an insight into what it was like at the camp through the eyes of a child.
GalleryBanner Gallery
Banners play an important role in any protest. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they tell us something about the protestors for example what group they belong to, sometimes they tell us...
ActivityBeautiful Banners
Banners play an important role in any protest. Explore the images of banners from Bridget Boudewijn’s archive for inspiration as you design your own protest banner. It could be a...
ActivityPowerful Poems
People sometimes write poetry as a way of understanding their experiences and emotions, particularly during and after significant moments in their life. Some of the Greenham Women wrote poems about...
ActivityGreenham Women are Everywhere
Tens of thousands of women took part in the protests at Greenham Common between 1981 and 2000. They came from all over the UK, some stayed for a day, some...
Animation, VideoGreenham Women on the Fence
This animation provides an introduction into Embrace the Base. Hear what it is was like to be there from the Greenham Women who held hands to embrace the base.
VideoJ&C at Greenham
This is a video clip from a 1980s children’s news programme which reported on Greenham Common at the time. What do you think of the coverage? What does it tell...
ActivityStirring Songs
Many social and political movements have used song as a powerful tool to speak out against war and oppression. Song was an integral part of life and protest at Greenham...
GallerySymbol Gallery
Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA) was at the heart of the Greenham Common protests which included an agreement that property but not people could be harmed. Different symbols became important...

The Creative Camp

Song, poetry and banner making were all part of daily life at the camp and an integral part of the action. Songs helped keep women’s spirits up, poetry helped them to process their experiences and a rich language of symbols images helped them to create a colourful, positive and empowering identity for the camp.

Find out more about the role creativity had to play at the camp as well as ways you can explore craftivism and creativity to communicate your own message.

The Creative Camp

Actions Large and Small

Some women stayed for a day or a weekend whilst others stayed for weeks or months and even years. All the women played an important role and the success of the Greenham Common Peace Camp rests in everyone giving what time they were able. The women caused daily disruption in order to remind the base and the world that they were there. Large actions could bring 30,000 women together while smaller actions might include a few women cutting through the fence.

Find out more here.


Actions Large and Small