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Anti-War Protest Discussional Forum

Click below to play our volunteers' protest songs that were played at the event.
Brooke and Troy's protest song:
  
Candice and Hayley's protest song::
 


Imperial War Museum London

 

 "The strength of feeling by young people against
injustice and war is as strong today with
new forms of communication as it was in the
1960s and 70s. The Hanging Out forum will be an
 opportunity to explore the importance of
youth protest then and now."
Tony Benn

On Sunday 15th May around 150 people of different ages, races and backgrounds came together at the Imperial War Museum in South London to discuss protests, in terms of anti-war protests and the more recent protests against cuts. This event was filmed to capture these moments in history which people for years to come will be able to enjoy.  
 

Back row left-right: Mike Bieber, former youth CND member; Lullyn Tavares, Project Officer; Charlotte Gerada, LSE Student Union General Secretary; Billie Ann Ohene, Facilitator; Joshua Greenaway. Student Panel Member; Lee Greatorex, Volunteer Web/Social Media Editor; Helena Stride, Head of Learning at Imperial War Museum; Dr. Emma Vickers, Lecturer Reading University. Front row left-right: Alex Pascall OBE, Broadcaster; Tony Benn, former Labour MP and campaigner; Lorna Holder, Managing Director/Project Director Full Spectrum Productions.  




  "I was idealistic. The more I went on I thought the CND was a good idea"
Mike Bieber
 
 Left to right: Billie-Ann Ohene, Project Facilitator; Helena Stride, Head of Learning, Imperial War Museum; Lullyn Tavares, Project Officer.
 
 Left to right: John Alfredo, Project Manager; Tony Benn; Sharon Rapaport, Project Oral Historian.
Along with myself there were 5 other volunteers who were working on today’s forum. Lanté and Julia were assisting with ushering the audience to their seats and dealing with any enquires which they had, Lee was working with the production team and assisting with the roving microphone when the forum was opened to the audience, Alex was part of the filming production team helping with lighting and also assisting with the roving microphone and Christabel was part of the production team and had the opportunity to film the event using a secondary camera.









She explained that today’s event provided ‘a unique blend of important figures of the past and youth of today....Discussing relevant issues...this is quite rare these days.’

 

"You have to be sceptical of people
in power. But don’t believe that you
 can’t bring change."
Tony Benn

As people entered the cinema of the Imperial War Museum, the art of protesting and marching was put into historical context through the visual images of protests from the Vietnam War taken from the BFI archives.


Short clip of footage of the 1960's protest demonstrations against the Vietnam War, courtesy of the BFI.
 
This was accompanied by songs created by volunteers who took part in a music workshop at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.

 
 Jan Faull, BFI Archive Production Curator & Tony Benn.
 
 Tony Benn & Errol Holder.
  "I am not a militant I am just straight to the point"
Alex Pascall
 
 Yvonne Deutschman, Documentary Co-Director & Tony Benn.
First to take to the stage was Kurt Barling, who has been a BBC Correspondent for 15 years, but for today was the presenter of the anti-war discussions. He introduced the panel members, veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn, trade unionist and broadcaster Alex Pascall OBE, former secretary of Marylebone YCND Mike Bieber, General  Secretary of LSE’s Student Union Charlotte Gerada, lecturer of Modern British History at the University of Reading Dr. Emma Vickers and a first year History student Joshua Greenaway from the University of Reading.





After speaking briefly about his own experiences of protest and journalism, Barling then left us with the inspiring words ‘When people decide change can happen, change will happen’ before handing over to the Imperial War Museum’s Head of Education Helena Stride

 

"When people decide change can happen, change will happen"
Kurt Barling

Helena Stride enlightened the audience about the Imperial War Museum’s collection, focusing on posters of protest. We explored posters from as early as 1949 with Alfred Leet’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ to more recent posters in 2004, ‘Make tea Not War’ by Karmarama.  She explained that posters in war have a very prominent place in being ‘weapons of mass communication’ and they should not be forgotten when discussing protest.    

 

"When Politicians fail people must give the lead...to make politicians think."

The audience were invited to watch a BFI archived edited version of ‘March to Aldermaston’, which was filmed during the Easter of 1958, where approximately 6,000 people marched in opposition to nuclear weapons. The footage started in Trafalgar Square which was full of people ready to take to the streets. These images seem to foreshadow the more recent scenes from the crowds of protesters who were kettled in Trafalgar Square earlier this year whilst protesting against Government cuts.
 
 


This footage became the perfect starting point to open a discussion about anti-war protest and the panel members were invited onto the stage to begin the forum. First to talk was Mike Bieber, who spoke about his involvement with CND and the Committee of 100 from 1961, when he was 15. He set up a local Youth CND group that year, and was its main organiser until 1964. He talked about the group's aims of educating its members through monthly meetings with guest speakers from a wide range of political views, and trying to get new members through marches and demonstrations and by canvassing and selling the CND newspaper, "Sanity" - this could be a 'long and lonely’ process but ‘we cheered when one was sold’. He also mentioned the Spies for Peace letter he received in 1963, giving full details of the secret Regional Seats of Government established in case of a nuclear attack - long before wiki-leaks.





From what Bieber discussed there was a strong sense of ‘getting out onto the streets’ and creating change. Barling opened up a new element of the discussion through the comment that now ‘instead of being activist we're click-to-this’. However, Charlotte Gerada quickly deflated this explaining that the recent protests on campus ‘built a sense of unity across students’ and there were ‘5 to 6 protests a week which they saw 100 to 200 students attend each protest’. However, not all students had a strong sense of wanting to be involved as Joshua Greenaway discussed his split decisions to be involved in protests in London. He went on to explain that ‘what struck me most were not the students protesting, it was the destruction caused by the protests’.





Tony Benn, then began discussing change and how it is brought about within society and addressing whether protest truly made an impact. He explained that ‘you have to believe that it can work’, and progression happens through people initially believing that the change is ‘mad’ and can never happen to everyone then arguing that it was their idea in the first place!



Alex Pascall then talked about his time as a student when he created an academic piece of writing about mental institutions in Grenada. However, the response from his tutor was ‘fascinating’ and Pascall was told that his work could not be sent to the Prime Minister so he can either withdraw it or water it down. Pascall did not see an option in this and decided to withdraw his work. He questioned and still does to this day, ‘what can be watered down from the truth?’ explaining that he ‘don’t like forced compromise’. Pascall also spoke about the importance of song in protest, explaining to the youth that ‘the way we demonstrate is through song....It is the most powerful weapon you can ever get...It is better than any boom box’.




However, not all were optimistic about the outcome of protest as Dr. Emma Vickers explained that she is not sure if change is actually going to happen. ‘I do not believe the government would listen’ She used the women’s right to vote as an example, as she explained that the change in the law was forced by changes in different aspects of the law, rather than politicians listening to protests.





When the forum was opened to members of the public, the first comment was from a respected man within the Brixton community who explained that the ‘English style (of protest) goes down dead ends because it is too decent.’ However, Tony Benn explained that ‘If campaigns frighten people that can become unproductive’ the CND were successful because they won respect.




 "Demonstrations and protests are about persuading people for change"
Tony Benn
Charlotte commented on the recent violence associated with protesters and argued that ‘it’s not meaningless violence...it’s not just vandalism for the sake of it...these people are evading tax...it is meaningful.’ Moreover, she went on to explain that being kettled for six and a half hours in London can cause a pacifist such as herself to want to ‘smash things up.’ She also said it is important to explore how this violence is portrayed through the media. She encouraged the audience to think about what the meaning of the violence reflected? And whether who was initially violent was conveyed by the press? However, she also advocated peaceful protest and explained that it can be a force of change. She used her University occupation of the Senior Common Room as an example as it forced the University to use the money from Gaddafi’s regime as scholarships for Libyan students.




"You have to think very carefully about the legacy that you leave behind"


A lady from the audience quite rightly paid homage to Peggy Duff, who was a political activist who made huge contributions to the peace movement through the CND. Richenda C. Barbour then expanded on this, explaining that ‘sometimes people forget that it was a woman’s thing.’ It was the women of Golders Green who first discussed the issue of nuclear waste, which was affecting cow’s milk in the Lake District area. Ms. Barbour explained that around 15 to 20 women would gather together to discuss these issues. ‘I brought my children and they played fairly quietly in the corner’. She explained that it was after the issues were written about in the ‘Hammond High Express’ that men started to get involved and it became the CND, as it is known today.






The forum ended with Lorna Holder, the Managing Director of the Hanging Out project, thanking the audience, panel members, Kurk Barling and the volunteers for their participation and attendance to the event. She also thanked the Heritage Lottery Fund for their contributions and gave an overview of the project and training which has been completed by the 85 volunteers who have already been involved in the project.


 
In relation to this discussion there will be a protest exhibition at the Rich Mix in January 2012 and all the work which has been gathered from this project will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum between May and October 2012 and a book will also be available which will be given to schools, museum and members of the public.



A documentary, which will feature this forum and oral histories which have been gathered by the volunteers will be premiered at the Victoria and Albert Museum and will be screened at the BFI.



 Diane Stocking & Tony Benn.



 Janet Browne, Program Manager Victoria & Albert Museum Black Heritage and Culture; & Tony Benn.
People were in good spirits about what had been shared at the forum and were invited to enjoy Afternoon Tea whilst they continued to discuss protests and memories with familiar and new faces.


 
"Excellent forum, some very good speakers and all expertly chaired. the resume of the Hanging Out Project at the end of the forum was very informative"
 "Excellent venue for this discussion. Presentation and panel worked well. The subject was very well covered and explored. Informative, educational and entertaining"
 

"I thought the discussion was very necessary and a well informed reminder. Being that I just happened upon it in passing, I am happy that such discussions are taking place. It has made me want to take more interest in demonstrations and general youth affairs"
 "Good to see Tony Benn and the rest of the panel. Informative and entertaining discussion. It was long overdue that the museum of war concerned itself with peace"
 
"Most interesting afternoon. Great to see Tony Benn up close and hear his thoughts"
"Excellent debate. Keep up the good work"

"A very interesting discussion. The film was powerful and thought provoking. It was good to hear from such a spectrum of experiences and ages. The message to us is clear"
"It was a good mixture of older and younger people on the stage. The presenter was very good, and fair. Thank you for letting me have a say concerning the CND Golders Green Cooperative Women's Guild! I hope you have more interesting discussions in the future"
 

 "Very interesting. Reminds me of parts of my history as member of the 1960s and 70s Protest Movement. Should be very educational for the younger generation"
 "I found the discussion and filming really insightful. A real inspiration"
 

"Well presented and stimulating. The panel were well selected to give different viewpoints"
 "Very well presented, good reflection from senior members of the panel"
 

"Any chance we have to look at how we are affected by history is a good thing. Interesting speakers and well organised production"
"I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. I have not grown up in this country and found it very informative. I especially like the questions from the audience and comments from the panel. A well researched and informative project"
 



Volunteer Reporter: Simone Nelson
Photographer: Damian Walker

 



 





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