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This review is taken from PN Review 144, Volume 28 Number 4, March - April 2002.


My own memory of Greenham Common and the protests at the American Airbase there is resolutely trivial. It is of doing the hokey cokey across a perimeter road with the chain of people opposite, on one of the 'Hands Around the Base' days, a day of first fear, then boredom. We had come down on the coach with the peace group from Milton Keynes, found a place on the perimeter road and then waited - I'm sure we never did find out for what; communication and organisation were not the strong point of protest in the 1980s. The protest might have got onto the telly. Well, that's how it was for me, plying my trade as a school teacher, unaffected, possibly disaffected, and committed in that distant way it was easy to be then.

For the women in the peace camps at Greenham, on the other hand, commitment was total. In his new collection Burning Babylon, Michael Symmons Roberts has sympathy for their protest and shows how their discipline was predicated upon constant threat and the consequent need to be mobile, 'rucksacks packed for the weekly / 6 a.m. eviction.' He also describes how local boys would go to the camps and hurl obscenities and sometimes petrol bombs into the tents - actions for which they were never prosecuted.

For Roberts there is also a kind of deracinated exoticism in the women's protest. He describes seeing one of the women in a local shop:

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