Boscombe Down: PEACE courtesy of the MoD

This piece by Genevieve Bridgeman was first published in Green Line magazine issue 25 (Aug-Sept 1984) as part of a series "I was there" providing contemporary reports of events. The photos beneath have been provided by Owly Dave and were not in the original article. The Green Roadshow provided support and facilities for the event which could be categorised as a cross between a gathering and a peace camp.

THE BOSCOMBE DOWN festival took place in the countryside of Wiltshire a few miles from Salisbury. The Ministry of Defence not only allowed us to use their land for free camping, but also stopped their planes for the entire weekend and arranged a contingent of friendly Wiltshire police to ensure that we were undisturbed by local bikers. Although some people were put off initially by the very substantial police presence, there can be little doubt that there was a real threat of local hostility. The festival was a small gathering, including several families with young children, camped in the heart of armyland, eating beanburgers and generally having a holiday along a strip of grassland adjoining a popular bike track alongside the perimeter fence of the USAF base. 

Whatever their reasons for being there, it was to the credit of the police that they went well their way to be cooperative and helpful, and tactfully ignored minor attempts at provocation including a picture of a pig in a helmet placed strategically along their route by enthusiastic animal liberationists. Thanks are owed not only to the MOD and the police but also to the organisers who arranged water, toilets, an inflatable and other essential facilities for families with children, and all the organisations and individuals who stayed to make it a memorable festival - including the Green Roadshow, Planet Waves, Greenham women, Portsmouth women, Andover WFLOE, Green CND, Interhelp, PPU, Southampton Animal Liberation, the Kernow Environmental Research and Insulation Development Ltd., the policeman who gave out badges and let the children play with his lights and Sirens, and particularly to Fungus who lent us his kite.

The only apparent disadvantage of that particular site was the long walk from one end to the other. Some sensible people had come equipped with bikes or horses and the police had their Range Rover, but for most of us it was a hot, dusty half-mile trek. By Friday evening it became apparent that numbers were not going to be overwhelming and the police relaxed sufficiently to take off their helmets and stop for a cup of tea at the Cosmic Cafe.

There was one moment of tension during the Dragon's outing on Saturday evening when a MOD policeman mistook a pair of cardboard cutout bolt cutters for the real thing, but he realised his mistake just in time and the Dragon returned safely to camp after a successful excursion up to the main gate during which s/he was extensively filmed by a MOD camera-man and watched over by a small but supportive group of anti-nuclear ex-Servicemen and women.

Genevieve Bridgeman

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Sources: reprinted from Green Line magazine issue 24 Aug/Sept 1984

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