Follow the signs...
...down the pleasant tree-lined avenue...
...to be intercepted by leafleters...
...before making a lantern (step 1)
Making a lantern step2
Making a lantern step 3
Making a lantern step 4
Lantern under construction 1
Lantern under construction 2
Raw materials for making lanterns
Peace Pledge Union sign
Peace Pledge Union's display on nuclear war
The event was well attended
Some people made their own floating lanterns(!)
My camera really isn't up to this sort of thing...
...as you can probably tell
The lantern-making itself follows a tried-and-tested formula. For the sum of £2.50, you can buy a tin-foil takeaway tray (with silvered paper lid), four lolly sticks, a tealight and a length of tissue paper. Taking these items to one of the tables, with scissors, pritt-stick and big lumps of putty provided, you use the putty to secure the tealight in the middle of the tray and the lolly sticks to the four corners so that they stand upright. You cut the lid of the tray into decorative shapes of your choice and stick them to the tissue paper. You wrap the tissue paper around the lolly sticks, and secure the ends together with more pritt-stick, and hey presto, one lantern!
Some more enterprising people had made their own miniature lake-faring vessels with integrated tealights and brought them to the event, but most opted to make their lanterns on the spot to the supplied recipe.
In order to restore the link in people’s minds between the lantern-making exercise and the act of nuclear warfare which must never be repeated, activists from Swindon Stop the War Coalition and CND were strategically placed on the path leading to the event area, handing out leaflets. On one side of the leaflet was a reminder of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with an argument against developing a replacement for the UK’s ageing Trident submarine-based nuclear weapons system, and a reminder of Tony Blair’s war crime in Iraq. The other side was dedicated to the ongoing massacre in Lebanon, with a callout to join a protest this coming Saturday (12th August) outside the main gates of Brize Norton air base in Oxfordshire, which is believed to be one of the bases used for refuelling planes delivering munitions from the US to Israel .
The peace campaigners were mostly well-received, with leaflets being accepted by a much higher proportion of people than is usually experienced during the average town-centre leaflet distribution exercise. One man in military-style camouflage trousers, wearing two wristbands with the words “gulf war veterans” stopped to talk for a few minutes, and quite surprised me by saying that he thought our military shouldn’t be in Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the US were only interested in Iraq for its oil, and that the UK forces were doing the US’s dirty work in Afghanistan.
As the sun was setting and people were starting to light their lanterns and set them afloat on the lake, two passers-by became the first people I have seen in person to defend Israel’s behaviour in the current bombardment and invasion of Lebanon (in contrast to the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when members of the public would frequently argue with peace campaigners’ objections to the idea of making war on Iraq). A man who claimed to be from Israel, but with Moroccan Arab parents, and his English wife, were fiercely supportive of Israel in all respects, and took the time out of their evening to argue heatedly with the peace campaigners. With each of them carrying on separate arguments with whichever of the peace campaigners who stepped forward to engage with them, I found myself trying to follow two separate debates, one in each ear, and as a result failed to follow either of them with any success, and thus I will not even attempt to report them in detail here. The arguments ranged widely, and included whether it was the Israelis or the Arabs wot started it (this one jumped backwards and forwards through history so quickly that I didn’t stand a chance even if I wasn’t trying to listen to another argument at the same time), whether or not Israel is a racist state, whether Hizbullah is an outpost of Iran and Syria or a genuine political organisation, and likewise whether Israel is an outpost of the US or a genuine nation.
Somehow, these arguments were concluded with an agreement that what we all wanted was peace for everyone, and with much shaking of hands. This was quickly followed by the Israeli man coming back to the peace campaigners to ask if he could borrow a lighter to light the lantern he’d made, a request which was quickly fulfilled. Sometimes I live in despair that Homo Sapiens will never learn to live peacefully with his or her fellow Homo Sapiens, but this incident gives me a small glimmer of hope.
 The 61st Hiroshima day, UK IMC feature: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/08/347100.html
 Brize Norton: A few facts, and how Brize and Prestwick are linked: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/08/346843.html
See also the UK IMC feature on the Ceasefire Now protest held in London on 5th August: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/08/346936.html
And also the feature on the ongoing massacre in Lebanon: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/08/347318.html
Text of the leaflet distributed by peace campaigners at the Lanterns on the Lake event
Why lanterns on the lake?
On August 6th the American Air Force dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people, three days later on August 9th a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki killing 74,000 people.
Nuclear weapons indiscriminately kill everyone, soldiers and civilians, children, women and men, the elderly and infirm. They are not a weapon of war, but a way of committing genocide.
The Labour government wants to spend £25 billion on a replacement for the current Trident missiles. There are many better ways it could be spent: on hospitals and schools, 120,000 newly qualified nurses every year for the next ten years; 100,000 extra community midwives every year for the next ten years.
The lanterns on the late tonight are as a gesture of remembrance to the hundreds of thousands who died at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and to commemorate all victims of war.
IRAQ – Tony Blair’s war crime
Around a hundred Iraqis per day are dying violent deaths under American occupation. Most of the time there is no electricity, and there is often no water. The health service has collapsed. The Iraqi people clearly do not want the British and American troops there. There are daily military arracks on the occupation forces, and 110 British soldiers have lost their lives.
We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That was a lie.
We were told that Iraqis would welcome British soldiers as liberators. That was a lie.
RAF HELP ISRAELI MASSACRES
Israel has killed more than 1,000 Lebanese, more than half of them children.
They have destroyed the country’s economy, blowing up bridges, Beirut airport, power stations, even attacking a convoy of ambulances, and unarmed United Nations observers. But their main target have been civilian residential areas.
American planes carrying bombs to Israel are being refuelled at RAF Brize Norton, just an hour’s drive away from Swindon. The planes are being refuelled by RAF ground crew, under the instructions fo the British government,
This is active military support for the Israeli army by Tony Blair. Instead of working for a ceasefire, the Labour government is giving active aid to Israel.
CEASEFIRE NOW IN LEBANON
STOP USING BRITISH BASES FOR ARMS TO ISRAEL
Protest – main gate RAF Brize Norton
Saturday 12th August, 12 noon.
Meet 11am in car park outside Swindon College, Regent Circus, for car share.
Demonstrate at Labour party conference – Manchester – 23rd September
Ring 520903 for details.
Swindon Stop the War Coalition & CND
PO Box 1177