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MELKSHAM this week helped to mark the 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, which protested against the storage of nuclear weapons in the UK.
Marchers, who are currently recreating the 1981 women’s peace walk from Cardiff to Greenham Common in Berkshire, stopped in Melksham on Monday 30th August, mirroring the events of 1981, when protesters stayed overnight in the town and were looked after by members of the Melksham Anti-Nuclear Association.
And just like in 1981, Melksham locals were on hand to lend their support to the marchers – mayor cllr Jon Hubbard made tea, residents offered lifts to the marchers to their overnight accommodation, and some residents opened up their homes to some of the marchers, offering a place to stay.
Among the 20 marchers that arrived in Melksham, there were women who took part in the original walk in 1981, including Sue Lent, who remembers coming to Melksham with her 13-month old son, Chris Lent – now a grown man – who is joining Sue on the anniversary walk.
A ceremony was held to thank the town for its support in 1981, with a special plaque presented to the community, which was accepted by cllr Hubbard.
“We’re delighted to be here, following in the footsteps [of the original marchers] and receiving the hospitality that I know was shown here in Melksham,” said one of the march organisers, Rebecca Morden, who herself as a child was taken to the original peace camp by her mother.
Cllr Hubbard, who said he was “proud” of the Greenham women said, “The difference that can be made by what starts off as relatively simple actions can have a huge impact. The impact of the Greenham march can still be felt today.”
And then speaking to the children present at the ceremony, cllr Hubbard added, “Today you are in the presence of giants, there are people here who were on the march, people that supported the march, and people here recreating the march – these are people who have changed lives. Remember today, because you’ve met some really special people.”
At the ceremony there was also music performed by one of the marchers, Alice Robinson, and a talk by Zarghona Rassa from the British Afghan Women’s Society, who spoke about her own experience coming to the UK with her children in 1994 as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, and the current troubles in the country.
After their overnight stay in Melksham, the marchers continued on the next day to Devizes for their next stop. There are expected to reach Greenham Common on Friday 3rd September.