Magazine article The Spectator

Let It Be

Magazine article The Spectator

Let It Be

Article excerpt

People like my parents, who live around the former air-base at Greenham Common, look back on the peace wimmin of the Eighties with loathing and contempt. It always seemed that 'peace' was just another word for nothing else to do. Far from exuding gentleness, the wimmin were a threatening presence who turned an eyesore into a pox, their tents trampling the blackberry bushes along the double fencing the Americans built to keep them out. Happily, despite their pea-brained search to find meaning in their lives, the Soviet Union collapsed, removing any need for an American base in Berkshire. The local people are now being given back their common land.

It was bought by the council and is being returned to heathland with the help of English Nature. Well, except for a hundredacre business park. This park is owned by a trust, which has just run a landscaping competition for the common. According to one newspaper report, the winning design includes a `lake of light' shining on the old runways and a number of sculptures to be placed according to the whims of former shock-troopers of the sandbag movement.

Haven't you come to hate the word 'park'? It conjures up images of corporation gardens in hot colours, corporation merriment queuing for the log chute, and corporation art overshadowing our every move. Of course, a big businessman wouldn't think a plain old bit of heathland around his park would be enough. He'd want to prove he's not some geek in a suit by commissioning the school of 'yah, I'm cool' to build really big - and, you know, really daring -- sculptures. Then he'd find somebody iconic - like the peace person in the combat fatigue frock - to plonk them amongst the rare butterflies. Finally, he'd light them up, to ensure the residents of Greenham couldn't escape his ego, even at night. `Why can't patrons of the arts just stick a little abstract picture on their sitting-room walls and leave us alone? …

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