The Control Tower opened as a community hub in the summer of 2017, and is the last surviving building of RAF Greenham Common, a military airfield near Newbury in Berkshire. It is particularly known as the site where, at the height of the Cold War, NATO decided to locate American cruise missiles and nuclear warheads. The decision led to the establishment of a women-only protest and Peace Camp, in which Doughty Street’s Rebecca Trowler QC participated.
The exhibition runs until 9 March and documents daily life at the camp in 1985 through a series of striking and evocative black and white images. The exhibition poster brought back fond memories for Rebecca; she lived at the camp between September 1984 and November 1985, and she features on the poster, as well as in other images in the exhibition.
The Greenham Common protests were a remarkable demonstration of female power and solidarity, and were all the more notable for intruding into the distinctly male military and political environments, despite a female Prime Minister leading the government of the day. Indeed, as the more recent women’s marches continue to show, there is still a particular power in the voices of female protestors.
Although this latest exhibition celebrates the achievements of the Greenham Common women, the protests were not without hardship, as Rebecca recalls: ‘We lived in pretty challenging conditions, sleeping under plastic and being exposed to the elements 24/7, but the experience of being part of the Greenham community, the camaraderie, the focus, ingenuity and humour of the women at the camp more than made up for it.
‘My later decision to go to the Bar was inspired both by the lawyers who advised the Greenham Women in the exercise of their right to make peaceful protest and the realisation that the protection of our rights and freedoms generally is dependent upon the rule of law.’
It was fitting that the exhibition opened at a time of year coinciding with the United Nations marking Human Rights Day. The exhibition, entitled Common People, runs until 9 March 2019 and is very much worth a visit in order to learn more about this important time in the history of political campaigning (see www.greenhamtower.org.uk).
Maurice MacSweeney is business development director at Doughty Street Chambers.