The annual Independence from America demonstration at Menwith Hill in 2015 was remarkable in several respects. Sunshine, a play area for children, a small number of good humored police and the presence of other peace groups all helped. Good vegetarian food provided by the 1 – 12 Café Collective was enjoyed and the CAAB stall did good business selling the last of the special “Over the Hill” Menwith mugs along with several copies of Margaret Nunnerley’s book “Surveillance, Secrecy and Sovereignty”.
But it was more than that. Two Members of Parliament (Fabian Hamilton and Richard Burgon) spoke clearly and drew our attention to the bigger political picture in which the mass collection of surveillance data plays a significant and de-stabilising part. Two ex-military service men provided an insight into the damage being done to young men and women who join the armed services in the expectation of a better life and become severely traumatized by what they experience.
Two powerful messages were shared by Lindis Percy as she read communications from John Pilger and Noam Chomsky. We heard from Sukant Chandan who drew parallels from history of how those with the power to do so have oppressed and exploited other people. Music flowed from choirs, individual singers and artists. Gary Kaye drew on more than two decades of playing and singing songs that reflected his understanding of social and political issues. The East Lancs Clarion Community Choir performed some great music drawing on the peace heritage, telling us why Yorkshire based peace campaigns should welcome like minded friends from across the Pennines.
Also from across the Pennines came Tayo Aluko, a gifted baritone, whose moving performance draws on the inspiration given to him by Paul Robeson. The formal event was taken to a lively finale by the brass instruments of Les Vegas and the International boys of Rhythm with their irrepressible vocalist Sara Allkins. It was such a privilege to hear the speakers, performers and musicians who contributed so much to the experience of participating in the event and in restating why campaigning for peace is so important.
But it was more than all that. There was a sense of growing unity amongst those present that however difficult peace campaigning may be it is essential and it is worthwhile. Maybe the take away message was that “one day we shall overcome”.
Plan now to join the Independence from America Demonstration at Menwith Hill on Sunday 4th July 2016.