An account of a daytrip to Greenham Common, through the eyes of a young Welsh girl.

A Daytrip to Greenham

Joanne Payton

I don’t remember how old I was when I got on a bus with my mum to Greenham, but I was young enough that my mum thought it would be cute to dress me as a little Welsh girl, in shawl and hat, and I was young enough not to protest. My memories are vague: the excitement of seeing the camp through the bus window, with the ragged yet somehow joyful banners; the Greenham women cheering the buses as they unloaded; a crumpled sheet of protest songs which I taught all my friends in the playground for months afterwards. ‘Oh we’re not not having Trident and we’re not not having Cruise….’ to the tune of ‘Oh Susanna’.

Most clearly, I remember the end of the day: darkness and the bitter-cold sinking into my small bones. The buses endlessly circling us, under orders from the police, I was told. Watching the bus that could take me home to my bed pass us by again and again. Trying not to cry so as to not upset my mum, bring the carnival spirit of the day to a close and make my cheeks any colder than they already were. Becoming numbed and muted with cold. Standing close to a wood-fire built by the adults to keep the children from freezing, and watching the orange sparks sputter and drift up and up into the black. Being bundled with the other children into a police minibus after they had ordered the fire extinguished: still cold, but at least out of the wind, they said. We sat quietly in our seats; intimidated by the police, exhausted. I was carried to the bus, finally, under a sky greying with dawn.

My mother was very active against all things nuclear, but she was an anti-feminist. I regret this, not just because I think all women should be feminists, but because feminism explained so much about her frustrations, her anxieties, and the suffering she experienced as a working class woman in South Wales. For her, Greenham was about Trident, about the acetate map overlay she had, which you could place on an OS map and calculate epicentres and fall-out and see how quickly, how horribly, you would die; about sirens and bunkers and the end of the world. It was only later, as a teenager neck-deep in second-wave feminism, that I discovered the importance of Greenham Common in the UK’s feminist history and remembered that briefly, just for a daytrip – hey – I was there!