This first meeting of the Board in its second century – at Sheffield Central Quaker Meeting House, on Saturday 9th March – was attended by Representatives from as far apart as North of Scotland, Nottingham, West Cumbria and North Wales. We were joined and hosted by Sheffield Friends throughout the day, providing plentiful supplies of tea, coffee and cake and a Friendly welcome.
As well as the upper floor meeting room, we had use of a neighbouring room to show our 10-panel centenary display which had been launched at our celebratory party in Manchester a month earlier. Reflecting on our centenary event, Friends spoke positively about the celebrations so far. The planning group is developing a range of resources that will be sent to Meetings, from historical essays to an illustrated historical booklet , a play and a poster-design competition.
The Board is looking for Meeting Houses to host the display, for particular events or for a period of time. A3 versions of the display panels will be available to buy or borrow soon. A walk of witness from Richmond Castle to Menwith Hill in June/July is still looking for Friends to join the core group of walkers and will be inviting Friends to join parts of the walk and opportunities for witness. There will also be a centenary conference in York on 15th June.Members’ concerns and activities A regular part of NFPB meetings is the ‘members’ forum’ in which Friends share news and information of peace-related activities and concerns around the North. On this occasion, the following were just a few of the items mentioned:
- Meeting for Worship planned to take place in April outside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, the base from which military drones are now being controlled.
- Educational work in Kendal that included a mock-tribunal, giving school children an insight into the issues around conscientious objection.
- Planned relaunch of Westmorland General Meeting’s ‘Preparing for Peace’ project website, focusing on the futility of war.
- Involvement in the burgeoning City of Sanctuary movement around the country.
- An artwork in Skipton that will include a feature that celebrates NFPB’s centenary.
Ten years on from the 2003 anti-war protests
In the afternoon, our main speaker was Ian Sinclair, a writer whose book ‘The March that Shook Blair’ has just been published. Reflecting particularly on the demonstration that took place in London on 15th February 2003, he challenged us to see it not as the failure it has often been described as, but an event of significant consequence. The UK government was very close, soon before the actual invasion, to withdrawing its support and it is believed it was more cautious in its approach post-invasion as a result of the anti-war pressure.
The movement that organised the march was the first that brought sizeable numbers of British Muslims to work together with non-muslim activists and this had a lasting effect on participation by Muslims in civic life since. Many young activists, on the other hand, became convinced that marching changes little or nothing, with the many of the radical political movements since then – such as UK uncut and the occupy movement – having their roots in this desire for a different way of engaging.
After the talk, Friends shared reflections of their experiences of the march itself, of witness and protest in other parts of the country and of the collaboration that was such a key part of the anti-war movement ten years ago. NFPB met just one week after the 2003 march, and a powerful minute from that meeting was shared again on this occasion, reflecting both the hope and the challenges.