Peace gathering at army's 'ghost village'

Gerrard Winstanley bristol at
Sat Mar 5 14:28:20 GMT 2005

Cherished hopes of a "ghost village" on Salisbury Plain becoming a 
lasting symbol for peace - despite being surrounded by an Army 
training range - will come a step closer this year.

See also -
Contact Ruth for further info 0207 272 8500
& CU there! - Tony Gosling - TLIO

Roads into the village of Imber on Salisbury Plain will be open on

Peace is Possible

A Community Arts Day for Peace and Reconciliation in St Giles Church 
and the open air.

(In memory of local peace campaigner and founder in 1961 of the 
Association for the Restoration of Imber, Austin Underwood, who died 
11 years ago on Easter Sunday 11 April 1993.)

The purpose of this day is to invite the local community, churches and 
other faiths to meditate on how we can create a prevailing culture of 
peace rather than violence and to explore Imber's potential to play a 
future part in it. Reflecting on the hopeful transition of Grade 1 
listed St Giles Church to the Churches' Conservation Trust and its 
transformation into a centre for community education and development, 
creativity, peace & reconciliation, healing and environmental 

"In today's uncertain and unpredictable world, we must be able to deal 
effectively with crises and conflicts whenever and wherever they 
occur. But equally important, if not more so, is helping to prevent 
conflicts in the first place."                   - from the 2001 MoD 
booklet What do you know about Defence Diplomacy?

Join in with:
ALL DAY - All sessions designed to include children, adults and those 
with special needs * open air exhibition of Imber photographs * guided 
tours with Rex Sawyer, author of Little Imber on the Down * 
opportunities for visual art throughout the day * 

10.00-10.40: Interfaith meditations/Creating a Culture of Peace 
Discussions, sharing of ideas, presentations and creative 
participation around citizenship, peace education, conflict 
resolution, community building, race equality and human rights - how 
do they relate to Imber historically and how can these links be 
explored here in future? 

10.40-11.00: Tai Chi with Robin Brookes 

11.00-11.30: Music - join Wiltshire schoolchildren in three songs: 
Song of the Open Downs (Ruth Underwood), Shadows (Mick Ryan) and Come 
on all Children! (Ulla Carin Nyquist/UNICEF)

11.30-12.00: Ecology "Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee" (Old 
Testament, Job, Chapter 12, Verse 8) 

12.00-12.40: Visual art - come and draw the church and its 
surroundings - materials provided. Dedicated to the memory of Imber 
descendant, local artist and teacher, the late John Rickman, who 
painted St Giles Church.

12.40-1.00: Music: "Tanks for the Memory" - songs from the musical by 
Mick Ryan about Tyneham in Dorset: "In '43 they came to me and took me 
from my door..."

1.00-1.30: Creating a Centre for the Community at St Giles Church - 
how do we transform pain and loss from the past and continue to build 
a sense of community at Imber for the future? 

1.30-2.00: Bellringing - a chance to play the 17th century bellringing 
changes written on St Giles Church tower wall.

2.00-2.15: Hands Around St Giles Church - take part in an old 
Wiltshire custom

3.30-4.30 CHURCH SERVICE organised by The Friends of Imber Church

IMPORTANT: Please follow all Ministry of Defence warning signs and 
keep strictly to the roads and village. This is a community gathering, 
not a political rally. No banners, leafleting, political speeches or 
chanting, thank you.

"It is possible to live in peace." - Mahatma Gandhi 

"Some day you'll return to your valleys and your farms and you'll no 
longer burn to be brothers in arms" - Mark Knopfler

"Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association" - UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights


09:57 - 21 January 2005 - Western Daily Press 

The next community gatherings at Imber will be on Easter Saturday, 
March 26, and Saturday, August 27. It is hoped to bring together 
people from the Ministry of Defence, Peace Direct, the Movement for 
the Abolition of War, Wessex Archaeology, Wiltshire Racial Equality 
Council, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and interfaith groups from Bristol 
and Swindon.

There will be music, art and theatre, and the events will embrace 
peace education, ecology, healing and transfor mation.

A peace vigil held at Imber on New Year's Eve was attended by Bruce 
Kent, of the Movement for the Abolition of War, and Sidney Hinkes, of 
the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.


09:57 - 21 January 2005 
Cherished hopes of a "ghost village" on Salisbury Plain becoming a 
lasting symbol for peace - despite being surrounded by an Army 
training range - will come a step closer this year. St Giles' Church 
at Imber - a community abandoned in 1943 after it was requisitioned by 
the military - is now poised for a £250,000 facelift. It is about to 
be handed over by Salisbury Diocese to the care of the Churches 
Conservation Trust, and will be renovated with money from the 
Department of Media, Culture and Sport and the Church Commissioners, 
who support the trust.

The good news comes from Wiltshire-born Ruth Underwood, an ardent 
campaigner for the restoration of Imber, who told me she would like to 
see Imber treated in the same way as the Dorset village of Tyneham, 
which was also taken over by the Army in 1943. In 1982, the Army 
stopped using Tyneham for training, landscaped the area, and restored 
its church and schoolroom.

"Something similar will happen at Imber," said Ruth, now living in 
London. "It is just a question of time before public awareness, 
understanding and imagination catch up with the situation.

"We have the ability to use the place for more than preparing for 
warfare. Instead we can use it as a training ground for co-operative, 
compassionate and collaborative living where we can find new ways 
through those conflict situations which lead to wars.

"Whereas Tyneham is preserved solely as a kind of museum piece, what 
is evolving at Imber is something living and breathing, where people 
are coming together through community education and development."

At both Imber and Tyneham, evacuated villagers were told they would be 
able to return to their homes when hostilities were over, but the Army 
failed to keep its promise.

For 60 years, an atmosphere of mystery and timelessness has enveloped 
the two sequestered villages, winds blowing between the deserted 
buildings still seeming to usher in the ghosts of their long-departed 
inhabitants. Eerily, the names of the schoolchildren at Tyneham are 
still there with the coat pegs as they left them, and their work 
remains on the desks.

In recent years, original residents, by being buried in the villages' 
churchyards, have been going back in death to the places they could 
not go back to in life.

Ruth's book, Forever Imber, praised by Tony Benn and Bruce Kent, will 
be out soon. T

he title is an allusion not only to the Kathleen Winsor novel Forever 
Amber and the 1947 Otto Preminger film, in which a country girl takes 
on the nobility, but also, and more significantly, to the phrase from 
the 1914 Rupert Brooke poem The Soldier: ". . . there's some corner of 
a foreign field/That is forever England".

Forever Imber pays tribute to Ruth's late father Austin Underwood, of 
Amesbury, who started the campaign for Imber's restoration in 1961, 
and re-appraises the 1943 evacuation and the 1961 public inquiry into 
the permanent closure of the village's roads, as "unresolved 
miscarriages of justice".

It is Ruth's wish to see the church become a centre for community 
education, arts, healing, environmental and historical awareness, 
peace and reconciliation. "There is a moral imperative for the state 
to make reparation for past wrongs by restoring the church, a Grade 1 
listed, 13th-century monument, and ensuring greater public access," 
she said.

"With a background of neglect over 60 years, and such strength of 
feeling among Wiltshire people, an official gesture of reparation is 
long overdue."

Forever Imber is sponsored by Active UK (Visual Communications) Ltd, 
of Salisbury, and all profits will go towards educational projects in 
Wiltshire, and teaching Imber awareness in local schools.

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