Posts Tagged ‘April Fools Day’

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60 – Twice in the last ten years, on 1st April 2013 and 1st of April 2018 I’ve got on my bike and cycled to Aldermaston to take part in protests by CND around the UK’s Aldermaston nuclear bomb factory, 12 miles west of Reading.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

I wasn’t there for the first big Aldermaston March in 1958, though one of my older brothers went, and I remember him coming back rather tired and muddy but please he had managed the whole 4 day march. CND had then just been formed and supported the march organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War and the next year they began a series of annual marches, marching from Aldermaston to a rally in Trafalgar Square.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

The annual marches continued until 1963, and in 1964 there was just a one-day march in London which I think I may have taken part in, though by then I was a student and I don’t recall well which of many demonstrations I took part in during the sixties. I didn’t keep a diary and couldn’t afford to take photographs then. There was a shorter march in 1965 from High Wycombe and the march in the original direction to Aldermaston was revived in 1972 but with fewer marchers taking part. And a number of marches and rallies in London since then which I did photograph.

Nuclear Fools Day & CND at 60
Aldermaston, 2013

The next revival of the march I think took place in 2004, and on that occasion I photographed the rally in Trafalgar Square at the start of the march on Friday 9th April and marched with around 2,300 to Hyde Park but left the around 430 of who set off to spend the night in Reading. I got on my bike on the Sunday to meet them again at Maidenhead, walking with them to their lunch stop at Knowl Hill, from where I walked back into Maidenhead to pick up my bike and ride home.

Kate Hudson, Natalie Bennett and Pat Arrowsmith, Aldermaston, 2013

On the Monday I was up early to catch a train to Reading where the final leg was starting with my wife and elder son. I didn’t feel I could walk the 12 miles with my usual heavy camera bag so took along just my Canon Digital Ixus 400, (aka PowerShot S400), an ultra-compact and light camera with a 36-108mm equivalent lens giving remarkably sharp 3.9Mp images, although the autofocus wasn’t always precise. You can view a large number of pictures from 2004 on My London Diary

The pictures on this post come from two more recent events, the Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident rally at Aldermaston on Easter Monday, 1st April 2013 and CND At 60 at Aldermaston on Sunday 1st April 2018. On both occasions I cycled from Reading station the 12 miles there carrying my normal camera equipment. I think I was a little tired when I got there on both occasions, and perhaps not working at my best. The ride back was a little easier as it is downhill much of the way.

Aldermaston, 2018

In 2013 there were protests all around the extensive site and the bike enabled me to get around and take pictures of the protesters at each of half a dozen gates around the over 5 miles of the site perimeter, as well as of people walking around and attaching messages and banners to the tall security fence.

Aldermaston, 2018

The speakers were also travelling from gate to gate, but in a couple of cars and a lorry and among those I heard and photographed were CND Vice-Chairs Jeremy Corbyn MP and Bruce Kent, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett and South East Green MEP Keith Taylor, Stop the War’s Chris Nineham and CND founding member Pat Arrowsmith and another veteran Walter Wolfgang, as well as US activist Linda Pentz Gunter, the founder of ‘Beyond Nuclear’.

Rebecca Johnson holds up a copy of the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons

The 60th anniversary event in 2018 was easier to cover as it took place mainly in the Atomic Weaopons Establishment Car Park close to the Main Gate and on the fence close by, so I didn’t need to ride around the area, parts of which are rather hilly. As well as 60 years of campaigning by CND it celebrated the UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, finalised last year and signed by 122 nations, for which ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, of which CND is a part was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Something that went almost unnoticed in the British media.

More at:

2004 on My London Diary
Nuclear Fool’s Day – Scrap Trident
CND At 60 at Aldermaston


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April Fools Day

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

The idea of a day – or rather a morning – for largely harmless pranks to be played on others on April 1st seems to have been fairly widespread around many countries, but the seems to be no real explanation of its origin, but it seems to date back as least into the middle ages. The choice of date is suggested by some to have marked the end of the week of celebrations for the New Year, which was traditionally celebrated across Europe on March 25 until the sixteenth century.

There have been some celebrated hoaxes over the years – and those of us who were around in 1957 still remember the spaghetti harvest on the BBC with its narration by Richard Dimbleby, which fooled much of the nation and amused the rest of us. But so many of today’s news stories and government pronouncements throughout the year now seem so bizarre and unbelievable that I now am disappointed when no-one comes on afterwards to shout ‘April Fool!’

On several occasions in recent years I’ve found myself covering protests outside our Atomic Weapons factory at Aldermaston on April 1st and it’s long seemed to me that our government’s policy on nuclear deterrence is at best a complete hoax – but so far no government has stood up to admit this.

But I wrote about Aldermaston a few days ago, so today I’ll look elsewhere and to April 1st 2014, where I photographed three events in central London, one of which was by probation officers, naming then Justice Minister Chris Grayling whose birthday it was an ‘April Fool’, a judgement adequately confirmed by the failure of his reforms of probation and legal aid, and by his performance in later Government Ministries. Who can forget his no-deal Brexit ferry fiasco which resulted in us taxpayers forking out an extra £50 million on termination bonuses including to the firm with no ferries? ‘Failing Grayling’ is a truly well earned epithet.

But the first event on that day was a picket by disablement activists at the Department of Work and Pensions HQ in Westminster, then run by Iain Duncan Smith, another Tory with a rather too consistent record of failure. Among the groups protesting were the Mental Health Resistance Network who successfully took the DWP to court over the discrimination against people with mental health conditions built in to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The DWP lost their appeal against the judgement but had defied the court in failing to address the issue.

Along with the MHRN were campaigners from DPAC and Winvisible and the picket was one of a number around the country demanding that assessments of work capability and personal independence payments be carried out by local GPs rather than the discredited tests by IT companies such as ATOS, which are inadequate by design and deliberately administered to disadvantage claimants, with trick questions and falsification of responses to meet targets set by the companies for the largely unsuitably qualified staff who administer them.

From the DWP in Caxton St it was a short walk to Parliament Square, where Kurds and Alevi were protesting against the attacks on the Kurdish areas in Northern Syria by forces supported by Turkey.

Kurds want justice and autonomy for northern Syria, where the area known as Rojava has a constitution that supports the rights of women and of all its population groups based on widespread community involvement. Many at the protest had flags for the PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) which, like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) calls for the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in a Turkish jail since 1999. The PKK was made a proscribed organisation in the UK in 2001 probably at the request of the Turkey, one of our NATO allies, who have a long record of discrimination and attempts to eliminate Kurdish culture and invaded and occupied Kurdish areas of Syria in 2016, implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing of the Kurds.

The largest of the protests on 1st April 2014 was by probation officers and lawyers from the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and other supporters of the Justice Alliance against the moves to privatise probation and cut legal aid.

Among the speakers at the event were two shadow ministers of justice and other MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, trade unionists, and solicitors as well as several probabtion officers.

Following the rally in Parliament Square, the campaigners marched the short distance to the Ministry of Justice, where Tom Robinson led the singing of “the alternative ‘Happy Birthday’ and unwrapped a couple of presents for InJustice Minister Chris Grayling, a packet of Skittles (as bought by Travon Martin) and a copy of ‘The Book Thief’. Grayling had just announced that he was to stop books being sent to prisoners in UK jails.” A small group then delivered a birthday cake with a tombstone with the message ‘RIP Justice’ to the ministry.

More at:
Probation Officers Strike for Justice
Kurds protest at Rojava attacks
DWP & Atos Work Assessments