While Books with Spine usually focuses on the printed word, I’m not oblivious to the power of digital storytelling. Interactive environments offer us the opportunity to take control of a nonlinear narrative and experience stories in a completely different way, with music and visuals complementing the written and spoken word. When the content shares the lived experience of pioneering activists and feminists during the early era of British environmentalism – BOOM – we’ve got something that totally fits the brief of Books with Spine by the name of Greenham Women Digital. My understanding is that there is also a book to be published sometime in 2021, so watch this space.
GreenhamWomen.Digital is an online interactive exhibition which launched on November 25th to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The original plan was to create a touring exhibition until 2020 threw its corona-shaped spanner in the works. But for once, the virus did culture a favour because now we have something that will be available for environmental and peace activists and feminists the world over, in perpetuity. Cheers, Rona!
What’s the Story?
The project is a ground-breaking, interactive online exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, which sprung up at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire in September 1981. The first occupiers were a Welsh group called Women for Life on Earth, and their mission was to protest the storage of cruise missiles at the base. The camp grew over the years, augmented by many other women’s groups and individuals campaigning against nuclear weapons. Amazingly, the camp was not disbanded until the year 2000!
“Our aim is to give people a flavour and feel of what life was really like at the peace camp,” explains Rebecca Mordan of Scary Little Girls, the production hub responsible for coordinating this ambitious project.
The website was developed by mixed-reality specialist Animorph. Explaining the cooperative’s involvement, Producer Geoffrey Morgan explains: “Together we set out to push what an archival website can be and do. We wanted to create a multi-modal experience.”
The resulting site contains a huge amount of music, artwork, interviews, and dramatisations, reflecting the diversity of those who were part of Greenham.
Rebecca Mordan explains: “Like any organic movement, there were different ideologies, interests and personalities. As a result, like-minded women gravitated towards each other and shared spaces in different camps at gates situated all around the site.
“Visitors to the exhibition will be able to explore the different vibes and activities at each of the gates (violet, indigo, turquoise, emerald, green, blue and yellow), finding interactive multimedia at each.”
Designed almost like a treasure hunt, visitors are encouraged to explore widely while collecting songs, stories, and first-hand accounts hidden in the 2D and 3D landscapes. By clicking on an object or scene, visitors can share everyday camp life: the protests, actions, love and loss during this pivotal period in British history.
But don’t expect a sanitised or singular view of events. Part of the joy of this experience lies in the fact that it is based on interviews with more than 100 women whose lives were deeply affected by their time at Greenham. Like witnesses to almost all dramatic events, their accounts vary. It is their unique and sometimes conflicting memories and perspectives that create such a rich tapestry.
Explore the Greenham Peace Camp today!
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith