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Peace Signs

In June 1980, the British Government announced that 160 American nuclear cruise missiles would be stationed at RAF/USAF Greenham Common in Berkshire and RAF/USAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire as part of NATO’s strategy to counter the "threat" to Western Europe posed by Soviet SS20 nuclear missiles.  Public opposition led to a surge in support for the British anti-nuclear movement.  This mounted a determined and sustained protest campaign in the years that followed. 

Edward Barber photographed the campaign in a freelance capacity between 1980 and 1984.  Peace Signs, his collected body of work, was originally created to support the anti-nuclear movement’s quest for publicity.  Today, it represents an important social document of mass popular protest in late twentieth century Britain.

 Barber portrays the protests as a multi-generational and distinctly British form of self-expression.  Photographs of home-made signs, badges, make-up and costumes reflect the activists’ creativity and humour while illustrating the role of performance theatre, folk art and fashion in popular protest.  Barber also highlights the important role of women in the movement and the innovatory protests of the female-only peace camp established at RAF/USAF Greenham Common from September 1981 onwards. 

Edward Barber’s photographs invite us to reflect on the continuing relevance of their achievements as Britain once again debates the future of its nuclear weapons capability.