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Peace & Protest

IN THE TWENTIETH & TWENTY-FIRST CENTURIES

Lancaster has a rich history of protest and dissent and this is especially so in the twentieth century. If the nineteenth century was characterised by political dissent, then the twentieth would witness a cascade of demonstrations – including strikes, environmental and peace activism. In this section of the website, Pete Yeandle offers a few case studies to illuminate how issues of national significance played out in local context.  >> READ MORE

The General Strike of 1926

The General Strike began on the 4th May 1926 with between 1.5 and 1.75 million workers throughout the country striking in solidarity. What follows is an account of what happened in Lancaster....

The Miners’ Strike 1984-5

The Miners’ Strike of 1984-5 was an event of huge national significance that also affected Lancaster and the surrounding area. Lancaster citizens formed both a Miners Support Group and hosted a summ...

The Trial of the George Fox Six

Linda Mary-Smalley describes how the treatment of six activists at Lancaster University - dubbed in the press as the George Fox 6 - became a land mark event in both the criminalisation of dissent and ...

Occupy Lancaster

Peter Yeandle describes how OCCUPY, an international phenomenon, came to Lancaster one night in November 2011....

Trident Ploughshares

On the 25th January 2000 the trial of Rosie James and Rachel Wenham began in the court at Lancaster Castle. They faced charges of £1m worth of damage to the Trident nuclear submarine Vengeance in Ba...

Matthew Wilson

Matthew Wilson describes his involvement in the protest at Lancaster University and the trial of what became known as the ‘George Fox 6.’ He describes how the establishment and the state continue ...

Zephyrine

Zephyrine describes her involvement in political activism, starting with Quaker-inspired activism which focussed on local, national and international campaigns, then later women’s activism, peace ac...

Bob Rowley

Bob Rowley from Lancaster describes his involvement in the General Strike as a clerk on the railways. In the second half of the interview he describes his work as a proof reader and copyrighter on the...

Avril Moncaster: Anti-Nuclear Campaigner

Avril describes how ‘Half-Life’ raised public awareness of nuclear issues, pressuring the nuclear industry to be less secretive and forcing a public enquiry into the 1957 nuclear disaster at Winds...

Rosie James: Trident Ploughshares

Rosie James describes the Trident Ploughshares action in Barrow-in-Furness and subsequent trial in the courtroom at Lancaster Castle....

Peace & Protest Dissent in Lancaster

Posted by Peter Yeandle

The General Strike of May 1926 was an event of considerable importance to Britain’s interwar politics. As Margaret Jones shows in her contribution, the Strike also played an important role in the political development of our city.  We also produce here digitised excerpts of a recording of an interview with Bob Rowley who was present in 1926.

 

Most studies of the miners’ strikes of 1984/5 focus on the coalmining regions themselves. This is not surprising – these regions were, after all, where miners came into conflict with the police in some of the most memorable moments of the 1980s. Little is known, however, about Lancaster’s role: both as providing support network for miners from Northumberland, but also as a site for pickets seeking to prevent the importation of coal through the small nearby port of Glasson Dock.

 

Histories of dissent in Lancaster therefore reflect histories of national dissent. One area, however, in which Lancaster is somewhat different to the national picture relates to peace and environmental activism. This is perhaps reflective of Lancaster’s rich Quaker heritage. In 2005, six students at the University – the George Fox 6 – were arrested for protesting against the exhibition of weapons on campus. Linda Smalley tells their story. A large number of students continue to oppose the university’s relationship with BAE weapons systems and have staged a series of “die ins” on campus.

 

In January 2000, the trial of Trident Ploughshares activists began at the castle. Those on trial received huge support from locals – this is far from surprising given the rich instances in which local people have opposed nuclear power. This includes protest at the construction of the nuclear power stations at Heysham and most recently a demonstration to highlight the impacts of climate change on Heysham nuclear power station.

 

Modern day environmental activism has been both frequent and varied. In Garstang, the UK’s first fair-trade town, protests have taken place over the processing of nuclear fuel at the Springfields site. Actions have been taken against genetically-modified crops.  A local “guerrilla” gardening group goes from strength to strength. Cyclists take part in a monthly “critical mass” bike ride, drawing attention not only to the dangers of cycling the city’s busy one-way system but the environmental impact of unnecessary car use. Campaigns against motorway building and road extensions have been commonplace, most recently opposing both the western and northern bypass. The concern of Lancaster’s citizens for the environment is reflected in the high proportion of Green Party Councillors on the City council.

Histories of dissent in Lancaster therefore reflect histories of national dissent.

And dissent continues into the twenty-first century. Several thousand Lancastrians travelled to London to protest Britain’s involvement in the second Iraq war. In recent years, large demonstrations against welfare cuts have taken place. An Occupy camp formed for three weeks in November and December 2011 and four people, arrested for squatting an unused hotel, made national and international news in January 2012. In the summer of 2014, the town centre was the site of multiple Palestinian solidarity rallies. Each year, the May Day rally attracts hundreds of demonstrators. Lancaster citizens, it seems, are following in the footsteps of their forbears and are undertaking many acts of dissent for future historians to document.

REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
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