Women for Peace – exploring the art of Greenham Common

Women for Peace: Banners from Greenham Common (Four Corners Books, 2021) is the latest in the publisher’s Irregulars series, which seeks out overlooked and underground British art and design from the 20th century.

In some cases, the work is overlooked because the creator’s primary intention was not to create a piece of art, but rather to achieve a specific goal – so they may not have seen themselves, or been seen, first and foremost as artists.

This is the case with the banners featured in Charlotte Dew’s book, which were created as part of the long-running anti-nuclear protest held at RAF Greenham Common, which began in the early 1980s. However, while the protest banners were created as functional objects, taken out of context they can also be viewed as works of art.

Above: Women for Peace: Banners from Greenham Common by Charlotte Dew

The timing of the book’s release coincides with the 40th anniversary this month of the original protest activity that led to the Greenham saga. In response to the deployment of US nuclear missiles on UK soil, a group of women marched form Cardiff to Greenham Common, with some chaining themselves to the fence of the airbase. From there, the protest grew to become a ‘Peace Camp’; over the next few years, it developed into a women-only camp that would maintain a permanent protest and vigil outside the base for 19 years.

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Threads – the film 35 years on

Radio Times Threads cover
Cover of Radio Times featuring the infamous armed traffic warden

Today marks 35 years since the broadcast of Threads, the BBC’s docu-drama portraying a nuclear attack on Sheffield.

Still shocking today, the film is widely held to be among the more realistic depictions of the effects of nuclear war on British life. Although it has only been shown three times on BBC TV (in 1984, 1985 and 2003), Threads has had an ongoing impact on the British psyche.

Last year saw the release of a remastered Blu Ray of the film, which included a new director’s cut and plenty of extras. There’s never been a better time to revisit this powerful work of nuclear horror. Whether you’ve seen threads hundreds of times, have only vague memories of the film, or have never seen it, this carefully remastered edition has something to offer.

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Transition to war in the 1970s

Transition to War

This unusual diagram shows the shape that Wiltshire County Council believed the descent into nuclear war would take. Officials prepared the confidential document in the late 1970s to help train ‘community advisers’ – volunteers ready to help in time of crisis leading to a potential nuclear attack.

The chart is a reminder how quickly things could have escalated from ‘the ups and downs of everyday life’, through a bad international situation, concern among the public and in parliament, the breakdown of order as the public started to panic, and finally the attack itself.

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The psychological impact of nuclear attack

We often consider the physical impacts of nuclear attack – widespread destruction, dangerous fallout, nuclear winter – but what about the psychological impact? In my latest article for the Wellcome Collection, I look into how the bomb would affect people’s minds.

You might predict – correctly – that, for the majority of people, it would be a very negative experience. However, there was one group who 1980s Home Office researchers suggested might actually excel in the post-attack society. To find out who, read the article now over on the Wellcome Collection site.

Next on CITV… the Four-Minute Warning?

Pop quiz: What connects beloved children’s shows Woof!Bernard’s Watch and Tarka the Otter with nuclear war?

Woof!.. boom!

Well, it turns out that these classic pieces of kids’ entertainment share a director with The Hole in the Ground, a 1962 film created for the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO).

Commissioned to showcase UKWMO’s quick response to a nuclear strike on Britain – indeed, they were the organisation tasked with issuing the Four-Minute Warning. The film was directed by David Cobham, who went on to create many happier memories through his work on cherished children’s films and TV shows through the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Watch The Hole in the Ground below, and then cheer yourself up by exploring more of the director’s work (including choice selections from Woof!) on this very comprehensive YouTube channel.

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