Greenham Peace Women integral to Newbury's history
Jemima Brown’s Peace Camp project celebrates the women of Greenham Common at venues in and around Newbury. The exhibition at West Berkshire Museum, along with satellite exhibits around the town, marks the 40th anniversary of the arrival in 1981 of the peace camp at Greenham Common.
In 2011, the 30th anniversary of the anti-nuclear protests at Greenham Common, the Oxford-born artist Jemima Brown embarked upon a body of work in sculpture and installation, depicting the women of the Greenham Peace Camp.
The sculptures, made at approximately one third life size, fuse figurative portraits with found objects – thermos flasks, hurricane lamps and camping stoves, standing in for body parts.
This year, she explores in the work childhood memories of being at the periphery of the Greenham protest and contemplates its significance in turbulent times 40 years on.
“Considering the global picture, it is timely to note the direction of travel for the proliferation of nuclear weapons, while the 2021 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill points to the parlous state of the right to protest. Now is perhaps a particularly good moment to recall the events at Greenham Common 40 years ago.” West Berkshire Museum.
Additional artworks can be found at Old Chapel Textile Centre and The Green Sewing Shop (to Nov 30), Corn Exchange and Empire Cafe (to Oct 15), Honesty@The Base Café (Nov 20), Newbury Library (to Nov 30), Greenham Control Tower (Sept 4 to Nov 28), Runway Gallery, The Base (Oct 15 to Nov 30).www.westberkshireheritage.org/west-berkshire-museum
Jemima Brown Peace Camp review by Lin Wilkinson
West Berkshire Museum is hosting work by Jemima Brown, marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common, one of many linked events and shows in and around the town.
Acting almost as a taster for a further exhibition by the artist, to open in Gallery 5 of the museum at the end of the month, here Brown has interspersed eight small sculptures of peace camp women, singly or in pairs, with no explanatory labels, within the museum’s permanent collection. The camps are thus shown as an integral part of Newbury’s history, not something apart from it.
The scale of the naturalistic figures increases their quiet, determined presence. They are skilfully made, as are the clothes they wear; overcoats, woolly hats, scarfs and gloves – the objective was warmth and comfort. Two figures lie fully clothed in sleeping bags, on top of makeshift mattresses and tarpaulins.
Found objects relevant to life in the camps – thermos flasks and a small Camping Gaz stove – serve as both legs and plinths for the figures. Pieces of cut wire fencing lie beside one sleeping figure; bolt cutters were a powerful symbol of the protests.
The slogans on the tiny hand-made badges the figures wear, in the main supporting CND and the wider anti-nuclear movement, also show that gender politics were fused with the political ideology of the camps: Gays Cruise is a clever verbal play on both the missiles and sexual politics.
Two figures are positioned next to a larger display, part of the museum’s permanent collection, which gives detailed information about the peace camp protests and their place within international politics at the time, including the many arrests and convictions of the protesters.
The camps grew out of the Women’s March for Peace from Cardiff in October 1981, following the Government’s announcement the previous year that Cruise missiles were to be sited at Greenham. The first camp spawned others around the perimeter of the base, and the display includes a tent, a banner, and a photo of the ‘Hands Around the Base’ protest, when protesters formed a 14-mile human chain around Greenham, AWRE Aldermaston and the Burghfield weapons store. Lynette Edwell was a prominent local protester, and the display includes her coat and hat, and the loudhailer she used when women confronted the Cruise missiles out on exercise.
Jemima Brown’s Gallery 5 exhibition will open on September 24.
Both exhibitions will run until April 30, 2022.
Museum opening hours:
10am-4pm,Wednesday to Saturday.