Elisabeth Millard writes about the exhibition “‘Til the Skies are Clear” currently on display in Special Collections.

MA students from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies curated an exhibition celebrating and exploring the feminist, nuclear peace, protest camps.  There were camps at Greenham Common, Berkshire and Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire  The students have selected and displayed items from the Feminist Archive North.  The exhibition opened on 12 December and will remain in the foyer of Special Collections in the Brotherton Library until 22 January.

Greenham Common was the site of the female-only peace camp protesting against the USA nuclear missiles that were based at the RAF base. Evoking ‘squatters-rights’, the women built benders made from plastic bags and twigs to live in at the site in protest. They would also stage ‘die-ins’, breached the military base, danced on the missile silos and once painted a USA military spy plane. These camps and protests remained until September 2000, nineteen years after the first camp was set up.  Menwith Hill near Harrogate remains an active surveillance centre for the USA and still attracts protests today.

Display from the exhibition ‘Til the Skies Clear, Dec 2019-Jan 2020. Image credit Leeds University Library.

The objects on display from the Feminist Archive North include political badges, postcards, maps, songbooks and leaflets recreating the authentic voice of the women to tell their story of the nuclear weapon debate. In relating their story the women were emotive, using images of their children to show soldiers and the public what their nuclear destiny was. They also reminded the world of the devastation created by the atomic bomb drops on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945, and the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Through the objects, the exhibition aims to show you how close to nuclear war the world has been in the past three decades.

A pamphlet is available to take away detailing ways that you can get involved in the nuclear weapon debate.

Running until 22 January, our temporary exhibition “‘Til the Skies are Clear” celebrates the women’s story and successes against the nuclear threat.  You can find behind the scenes images and further information on our exhibition on our dedicated exhibition blog.