Wool Against Weapons

Wool Against Weapons, Northumbria

Wool Against Weapons

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We did it! On 9th August, North Easterners helped stretch a pink scarf between Britain's nuclear bomb factories in Berkshire, to say NO! to the UK's nuclear weapons. The scarf made an unbroken link between the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield. See Wool Against Weapons website for more about this fabulous project.

A gallery of images from our outings with the scarf is available online. The images within this gallery are all available for you to use in publications or online, as long as a link is included to the local Wool Against Weapons website, as tyneside.motd.org/woolagainstweapons.

We will maintain an email list for updates about any future actions using the scarf lengths, as well as sessions to recycle the scarf into blankets. Please get in touch using the links at the left hand side if you want to be involved.

Tue, 19 Aug 2014

Some photos of the re-wool-ution on 9th August

North East campaigners joined Scotland at the Blue milestone on 9th August, for the unfurling of the human peace scarf. Along with the Saltire and lots of bunting, we had pointers to our neighbours, at the Purple and Green milestones.

On 18th September, one more country might be added to the list of those nations who have given up the false security of nuclear weapons!

Here, two of the Scottish coordinators are considering where to base the big knit - a single 6-metre length of knitting that could be worked on simultaneously by a group of knitters. In the end, we had this on the grass, and held a separate length across the road while ringing bells at 1pm for the join up time, followed by a period of silence to remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 69 years ago.

North Easterners were lucky enough to have some beautiful woodland to unfurl our lengths of scarf in, while the Scottish lengths were mainly used along the grass verge to the west of our milestone.

Once the scarf was fully joined, we stood for a few minutes of triumph, hope and memory. It was all too brief, but a reminder that today was just the culmination of a protest that has happened mainly in people's living rooms, craft groups, pubs, workplaces, trains and cafes over the last 18 months.

The Scottish rolls of scarf were a sight to behold, so many beautiful parcels of creative inspiration. Once liberated from the coach, much time was spent carrying scarf rolls to fill gaps.

Such was the enthusiasm for the project north of the Tees, that we had far more scarf than we could use in our section. So much of it got loaded into a trailer, to support some of the other groups from nearer Aldermaston/Burghfield, who had arrived with more people but less scarf.

Amidst all the excitement of unfurling the scarf, meeting campaigners and helping to organise the Blue milestone, I was unable to view the scarf lengths until we were rolling them up again at the end of the protest. This was an opportunity for renewed inspiration, as I could see the imagination, skill and love that had gone into making lengths with messages, symbols or just sheer beauty knitted and crocheted into them.

Here are some of the North East group towards the end of the protest, when the scarf was rolled up and folk were beginning to head home.

Thanks to all for the inspiration.

Sat, 16 Aug 2014

Nuclear bomb factories joined by pink scarf, and more to spare!

We should have known that we would have more than enough scarf, after our local trips to the Angel of the North and Millennium Bridge in the spring and summer. But the sight of a trailer full of Scottish scarf being taken to other milestones because we didn't need it all at our Blue milestone, and news that the scarf was fully joined along the route, with bells ringing from 1pm and two minutes silence to remember the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 69 years ago, still seemed remarkable.

I'll get a small selection of photos onto the blog site as soon as possible, but meanwhile a mountain of photos from the peace scarf action is online at the separate image gallery.

Holding up a small section of the North East and Scottish scarf with other campaigners across one of the small roads last week, we could feel the immense energy, creativity and hope that had gone into knitting and crocheting each length. Thank you to all who took part.

Between us, we must have knitted 80-100 million stitches. So here's a statistic, to help make sense of the immense cost of our nuclear deterrence policy. If every knitter had thrown into a bonfire 1,000 pounds for each stitch - knit one, throw out 100 £10 notes, purl one, throw another 100 £10 notes  - then we still would not have thrown away as much money as the government plans to spend on replacing Trident.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014

Yet again exceeding our targets - the pink scarf reaches the Millennium Bridge

On Sunday, the #peacescarf stretched from end to end of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. As in May under the Angel of the North, we had more scarf than we expected, stretching to both ends of the bridge with extra to spare in the middle. And we know there's more scarf being knitted as I write: deadline to get this to us is 7th August (unless you can come to the protest on 9th August), please get in touch using the contacts at left hand side if you have extra pieces to contribute. And as in May, lots of bystanders joined in. We're hoping that the weather and local people will be as good to us on 9th August.

As for other images on this Wool Against Weapons blog, you are welcome to use any of these images for your own publications or online, as long as a link is included to this blog. Much larger or higher-resolution versions of the images are also available for publicity purposes, please get in touch if you need one of these images for printing.

For our unfurling on Sunday, we had groups of people and big rolls of scarf on each side of the bridge. On the left is the Newcastle team walking towards the middle of the bridge, and on the right is the final section of the Gateshead team.

After several minutes on the bridge, and a few minutes holding up the scarf as high as we could, we walked off onto Baltic Square, where we talked with more of the bystanders and rolled up our lengths.

Sun, 27 Jul 2014

The Human Peace Scarf at Gateshead Millennium Bridge today

A first batch of images for today's unfurling of the human peace scarf along the bridge is online at the image gallery. I'll post more there and on this blog site shortly, meanwhile suffice to say that we did it. Reaching from end to end of the bridge, with a big surplus loop of scarf in the middle, we had yet again exceeded our target. All bodes well for 9th August.

Time for a more ambitious target perhaps. Global abolition of nuclear weapons perhaps? Yes, we can reach that target too! And for humanity's sake, we must...

Meanwhile, here are two videos from today.

Tue, 15 Jul 2014

Join the Human Peace Scarf on 9th August

A growing number of people from the North East will be travelling to the Atomic Weapons Establishment sites in Berkshire on 9th August, to take part in the Wool Against Weapons protest. This is a quick update for anyone planning to go, on travel arrangements and timings.

Is there a coach or minibus from the North East?

We have not organised coach transport, partly because it would need to set off too early on the morning, and partly because most of those going are combining the trip with other visits.

If joining us on 9th August, you will need to stay in the area (e.g. Reading or London) on the night before, but will have time to get home on the afternoon/evening of the 9th. Coaches are booked from London, or you can make your way to Mortimer Station to get one of the shuttle buses. A few of the local group are staying in central Reading, get in touch if you want details so that we can meet up on the evening before.

Alternatively, you could stay in Yorkshire on the Friday night, and get the early morning coach from Leeds or Bradford. Details of the Yorkshire and London coaches are on the CND website.

Where will we be going?

The route is shown on a google map online. We will join Scotland for the blue milestone, which is near the Aldermaston end of the route.

Head for the blue milestone pointer on the map, or for Mortimer Station, where shuttle buses will be running to all the milestone points throughout the morning, and back in the afternoon. Once at the milestone, we'll meet up for briefings and then people will head in each direction with lengths of scarf, until we reach Berkshire and Hampshire groups (to our West), and the Green Party groups (to the East). We hope to have a Saltire flying at the milestone, in solidarity with the 90% of Scottish people who have voted against the nuclear weapons convoys from AWE to Scotland.

When do we need to be there?

Aim to arrive any time from 10am, but by 12 noon latest. That gives enough time to walk to the best location and help with the joining up of the scarf lengths - we can't carry a whole mile of pink scarf at a time! The scarf will be fully joined from 1pm to 2pm. We have then allowed an hour for taking apart into manageable lengths and rolling it up, tidying up the area, singing songs, and waving our fists one last time at the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

From 3pm, shuttle buses will be operating again, to take people back to Mortimer Station. From there, if travelling by train, you should be able to get home on the day.

What should we bring?

Please be as self-sufficient as possible. The only car-space is needed to carry lengths of scarf, so everything else is being taken by hand on public transport. If you can help with carrying string, ribbons, bin bags, toilet paper, first aid kit etc, please get in touch!

And please bring your own sun-cream, hats, waterproofs, water (lots), food. Also placards, banners, darning needles and bells for entertainment at 1pm. A commitment to safety and non-violence. And a spirit of hope and resistance.

Shall we meet up locally first?

Yes please! If you can come along to the Millennium Bridge on 27th July, we can meet up then. Please get in touch if you are joining the human peace scarf on 9th August.

What have we forgotten?

Please get in touch with questions and ideas! We're bound to have forgotten something, and need your help to ensure that everything is in place for an uplifting, safe and enjoyable demo on 9th August.

Let's join Gateshead and Newcastle with a Pink Peace Scarf!

Our final local outing for the human peace scarf will be on Sunday, 27th July. We will meet up at 1:30pm, on each side of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, with separate lengths of scarf.

At 2pm, we will walk onto the bridge, and link our two sections together. We're hoping to have enough to go along the full length of the span over the River Tyne. This will be an exciting moment, as some of the group prepare to head to the Atomic Weapons Establishment on 8th August, for the 7 mile protest on Saturday 9th August. It will also be one of the last opportunities to get your finished length of scarf to us: bring it on the day, or if you can get it to us earlier, we'll get it joined onto the main lengths in advance. See contact details on the local Wool against Weapons site.

Lots of people are needed to help hold up the scarf, so please spread the word, and bring family and friends. No knitting or sewing skills needed for this one!

Sun, 29 Jun 2014

Great at sewing up, not so good on the smartphone

Here's a couple of videos of our last sewing-up session in Gosforth, with thanks to Frances for getting these posted, and for clearly being much better than me at the art of videoing with a smartphone! They give a close-up view of some of our most recent sections of scarf.

There's just time for you lovely knitters and crocheters out there to get extra pieces knitted. And if you have lengths to join in, please bring to the last local outing at the Millennium Bridge on Sunday 27th July, or to the Green Party's Northern Pride stall the previous weekend. Thanks!

Sat, 21 Jun 2014

Beauty and the Beast: the pink scarf at Fylingdales

I have received some photos from the Yorkshire CND picnic at Fylingdales on 21st June. Unfortunately, our Tyneside length wasn't able to join theirs, due to lack of transport. But as the photo shows, Yorkshire knitters have set us a high standard when it comes to getting their message sewn into their scarf! In the distance of the photo above, you can see the phased array radar for RAF Fylingdales, which is watching the skies as part of the US Missile Defence program. This has contributed to increased standoff between the US and Russia over the last decade.

The Yorkshire knitters demonstrated a clever technique for holding their scarf up, using bamboo canes, string and clothes pegs. There are plenty of trees around the blue milestone where we will be holding our scarf on 9th August, so we will pack lots of clothes pegs and string in case needed to help hold up all that creative knitted energy.

Here are a few of the Yorkshire lengths on display, showing the great range of pink shades and designs in our scarf lengths.

Some of us were shown around the radar building a few years ago, as part of a Fylingdales public relations exercise. The Officer in charge was keen to hide any evidence of American involvement, though a naive question about the old computers on show revealed that all the equipment belonged to the US and even redundant kit could not be disposed of without their approval. More worrying was the recognition that space is littered with stray objects and unexpected events (our visit came days after the Chinese had blown up one of their redundant satellites, without forewarning the West). Any of these incidents might be misinterpreted, as they have been in the past, and with only seconds or minutes to make snap decisions on whether the Missile Defence system should be deployed, there's a lot hanging on the judgement of the men sitting in the bunker at the bottom of that radar building.

Mon, 05 May 2014

Video of Wool Against Weapons at the Angel

Yesterday's unfurling of our pink scarf was captured on two videos, which you can see below.

Sun, 04 May 2014

With the Angel's Blessing - WE DID IT!

We took our pink peace scarf to the Angel of the North today, to see whether we had knitted enough to stretch the full 54 metres of the Angel's wingspan. As I hope you can see from the image, we had! And as the picture makes clear, there were lots of other visitors to the Angel who enjoyed the spectacle - taking photographs, asking for information and flyers, and even helping us to hold it up. So with a great sense of success so far, we planned some more dates, and these will appear on this site soon. But first, an account of today's action.

First that lovely roll that we sewed up last week is delivered. We're hoping we won't have to carry it too far during the main action on 9th August.

Unrolling started easily enough, until we realised we needed to be on the other side of the path to stop wrapping up all the bystanders in our scarf. Thanks to them all for their patience, navigating a pink peace scarf wasn't in the brochure for the coach party who had just pulled up!

With perfect choreography, the scarf holders set off for the far side of the Angel. We knew we had more than 40 metres, but weren't yet convinced that the scarf would be long enough once held up.

With two helpful bystanders joining in, we had plenty of people to hold up the scarf comfortably (and take photos, and run from end to end to check on progress). But had we bargained for the need to go round the feet and the slope on the far side, both of which added to the 54 metres?

We've got many more photos from today which will get into an online gallery by the end of the week, along with two videos which we'll get online. Meanwhile, if you want bigger/high-resolution versions of any of the images on this site, please get in touch.

Once it was all unfurled, I first scrutinised the far end, to check that our anchor person was perfectly in line with the Angel's northern wing-tip.

Then back to the southern tip, to check it against the final piece, held up by Green Party Euro candidate Shirley Ford. As you can probably see, she was beyond the edge of the wingspan (where I am standing and pointing). Our pink scarf is at least 57 metres long. Wow!

OK, so an extra 3 metres isn't going to lead directly to an outright ban on nuclear weapons, as most countries are now calling for and working towards. But it's a good sign for the grassroots action that is needed to make sure that nuclear weapons are, in the Austrian Prime Minister's words to the United Nations last September, stigmatised, banned and eliminated.

Mon, 28 Apr 2014

A little stretch and we're there!

At the end of an upbeat sewing up session in Gosforth Garden Village Hall yesterday, we rolled up our completed pink scarf length so far, ready for its trip to the Angel next Sunday 4th May.

It doesn't look that big does it? But hidden inside that roll is metre upon metre of creative hope and inspired stitching. We had knitters bearing scarf lengths from Hexham to Sunderland, Wideopen to Whitley Bay. The two hours passed quickly, and we thought we would never get it all sewn together. But as 4 o'clock approached, we realised that the mountains of pink metres were all joined, and it was time for some practice at holding it up.

We counted the lengths: 40 of them. We also realised that many of them are quite a bit longer than a metre - a case of knitters going the extra rows for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. And our practice at holding up the scarf suggested that we'll need need to stretch it a bit to hold it up successfully.

Will we want to stretch it enough to reach the tips of the Angel's wingspan? We'll only know that when we get to the Angel of the North next Sunday, 4th May. We'ld love lots of people to come along and help us unfurl it beneath the Angel at 12 noon - please be there by 11:30 if possible (especially if you have an extra piece to sew on). The no.21 bus to Chester-le-Street from Newgate Street and Gateshead interchange will drop you off at the Angel and runs every 10 minutes.

Tue, 15 Apr 2014

The pink(ish) scarf just keeps on growing

Here are photos of a few of the Wool Against Weapons scarf lengths completed so far.

These and many more will be at our knit and sew up session, on Sunday 27 April, 2-4pm.

Venue for session on 27 April is now confirmed, as Gosforth Garden Village Hall (near Regent Centre Metro, please get in touch for directions).

After sewing our lengths together (and perhaps knitting a few more, extra knitters are all welcome!), we will take the length to the Angel of the North, on Sunday 4 May.

The scarf will be unfurled under the Angel's wings at noon on 4 May, please be there at 11:30 if you have extra lengths to sew on and to help with the unfurling!

After the Angel, we'll be knitting more lengths, and hope lots of you will be too! We'll then head to the North Yorks Moors for a picnic at Fylingdales (21 June), and to Atomic Weapons Establishments in Berkshire for the big day (9 August).

Fuller details are online.

Sun, 30 Mar 2014

We're off to the Angel of the North: date and time announced

After another upbeat group session yesterday, the local Wool Against Weapons group confirms plans to take our scarf length to the Angel of the North, and measure our progress so far against the Angel's 54 metre wingspan.

Below is the press release sent out last week. The website has been revamped too, with details of our events and useful links.

From the Angel to Aldermaston, northern knitters join 7 mile peace scarf project

Press briefing, 27 March 2014 (no embargo)

A growing group of knitters from Tyneside and Northumberland has joined the Wool Against Weapons project, to knit a section of a 7 mile pink scarf. The scarf will be stretched between the two Atomic Weapons Establishment sites in Berkshire on 9th August 2014, in an anti-nuclear protest being described as the world's biggest ever yarn bomb.(1)

Tyneside's contribution is already well advanced, with 20-30 metres of scarf knitted or on the needles. The Tyneside pink scarf will be taken to the Angel of the North on Sunday 4th May, when it will be unfurled beneath the Angel's 54 metre wing span at noon.

"Wool Against Weapons is greeted enthusiastically wherever we mention it," says Andrew Gray, one of the local coordinators. "I was at a conference in early March, and somebody came up to me to ask why so many of us were knitting. The number of people joining in just keeps growing - which is lucky, as we need 11,000 one metre lengths to get from Aldermaston to Burghfield."

Jeanie Molyneux adds, "Wool Against Weapons is part of a growing international movement to ban nuclear weapons. In September, the Austrian President urged that nuclear weapons should be 'stigmatised, banned and eliminated'. We're calling on the government to disarm its nuclear weapons, before the vast majority of the world's governments declare them illegal."(3)

The Tyneside group is planning additional events and outings for its length of scarf, after unfurling it under the Angel on 4th May. In August, several local knitters will be travelling to Berkshire with the scarf, to join it onto other sections coming from around the world. They will then bring it back to Tyneside, where it will be taken apart and re-assembled into two metre square blankets, and donated to local hospices or disaster relief efforts.

Andrew and Jeanie are available to talk further about the project, and there will be an opportunity for journalists to meet with members of the group at one of our monthly knitting sessions, before we measure it against the Angel's wings at noon on 4th May. Further information from Andrew Gray or Jeanie Molyneux as below.


[see left hand side]


(1) Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) Aldermaston (Berkshire) is responsible for the research and development of new nuclear weapons, and the maintenance and testing of the current weapons. Its sister site 7 miles distant, AWE Burghfield, assembles the plutonium shapes with explosives and other fissile materials, to create the warheads. Further information [see links at left hand side]. 9th August is the anniversary of the second (and so far the last) use of a nuclear weapon in wartime, on Nagasaki in Japan, 9th August 1945.

(3) The Austrian President's comments were made to the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2013. Austria has agreed to host the next conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons later this year. At the second humanitarian conference, in Mexico in February 2014, growing numbers of countries called for nuclear weapons to be banned: see report at http://tx0.org/7cc.


Sun, 16 Feb 2014

Half Way to the Angel!

At our get-together yesterday, we added up lengths knitted and pledged, and reckon we are almost half way to our first target: the wingspan of the Angel of the North (54m). So watch this space for news of our spring outing!

More lengths are being pledged all the time, and we're now fixing up regular gatherings to plan, socialise, and learn new skills ... and to carry on the knitting. So if you've not got in touch yet, please contact Andrew or Jeanie and we'll count you in.

Sat, 15 Feb 2014

FAQs for the Wool Against Weapons project (updated)

60cm wide seems a lot, are you sure that's right?

Yes, the scarf needs to be wide enough so that it can stay flat without getting tangled or twisted. But if you prefer not to have too many stitches on your needle, or to use shorter needles, you can knit two 30cm (1 foot) lengths, and then sew these together. That's what I'm doing: here's my first half length, with Natalie Bennett (Green Party leader).

Isn't this a terrible waste of wool? What happens to the scarf after 9/8/2014?

Everything will be recycled. The scarf is made up of 1m lengths stitched together, so can be easily taken apart: 3 x 2m lengths will make a square blanket, for giving to local hospices or donating to a disaster relief collection. We plan to bring our length back to the North East, so we can meet up to convert the scarf into blankets etc (and chat about the day at AWE).

I won't be able to get to AWE on 9 August 2014. Can I still take part?

Certainly. It wil be great if we can get a group to Berkshire next summer for the unrolling, but won't need everyone there. We'll be able to keep in touch on the day for anyone who can't make it, and know that lots of people will only be able to knit a length, without taking part in the rest of the action. All contributions are needed!

I don't ever use pink, do I have to buy new wool?

You can probably find spare wool from your knitting friends and work colleagues - remember that any shade of pink(ish) will do, and you can use several small lengths for your 1 metre. Or try local charity shops. And don't forget that our independent wool shops and high street stores need our support: you don't need much wool for this, so it's a good opportunity to try out one of those fancy or specialist yarns that you've always wanted to have a go with.

How many stitches and rows? What size needle to use?

This is up to you, and is part of the fun of knitting something that doesn't have to 'fit' perfectly. The Wool Against Weapons website has the following as guidance. But do measure, and adjust as you go along if needed.

  • 80-90 stitches per row
  • 100 rows
  • 4.5mm needles (old UK size 7)

Jaine must knit more loosely than I do, because my figures are 90 stitches per row on 6mm needles (and many more rows), but you may well need fewer or more stitches/rows. This is for plain knitting (knit all rows, or 'garter stitch'). You will need extra stitches per row if doing a pattern.

Wed, 01 Jan 2014

Newsflash - change of date for scarf action

CND is now backing Wool Against Weapons, so well done to everyone involved in getting CND on board. Meanwhile, note that there's been a change of date. The action at Atomic Weapons Establishments is now going to take place on 9th August 2014 (Nagasaki Day).

Sun, 15 Dec 2013

Local flyer for Wool Against Weapons on Tyneside

Download the local flyer here (click on the image).

Mon, 02 Dec 2013

Launching Wool Against Weapons on Tyneside and Northumberland

See above for contact details - please get in touch if you want to take part in this great project. We're looking for people to help sew up or come to the action in August, as well of course as doing knitting or crocheting.

As well as encouraging each other and meeting up to dream of a nuclear free world, we're planning some local publicity for Spring 2014. The wingspan of the Angel of the North is 54m, so that's our first target - 54 of us to knit a metre each, or 18 people knitting 3m. How difficult can that be? We'll meet up over winter to sew lengths together and plan publicity actions, before taking our scarf to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in August 2014. There, we'll be able to join it onto lengths coming from around the world. After the action, we'll bring it home and can have some more fun, converting the scarf into blankets for local hospices or disaster relief efforts.

If you would like to contribute to this woolly action from the North East, please get in touch to let us know what you're knitting (or crocheting), and so that we can keep in touch. We started with two of us, now there are about 12, so soon there'll be 54 of us ... or more. We can also supply flyers if you can use them for your knitting or peace group, or can come to talk to groups about Wool Against Weapons and [Action AWE http://actionawe.org].