This year’s annual gathering started on the morning of Thursday 8th November with a coordinator’s workshop hosted by our outgoing National Coordinator, Ben Griffin. The goal of the workshop was to share communication tools and action development strategies, while highlighting our VFP UK Handbook as a key reference, to regional coordinators in support of their work with members across VFP UK. This workshop will be offered again for regional coordinators who were unable to attend.
On the afternoon of Thursday 8 Nov, VFP UK member and London tour guide James Florey led a guided tour around Whitehall. The walk ‘100 years of Never Again’ was attended by VFP members & supporters from the UK and overseas.
In the evening, members of VFP and supporters attended the premier screening of War School – a film by Mic Dixon. War School reveals how the British government is spending £100m of new public funding and using more than 40 new strategies to promote military values to the public and entice children into the armed forces.
The film’s release coincided with the centenary of the 1918 Armistice ending World War 1 – “The War to End All Wars” and, with revelatory testimony from veterans of the numerous conflicts Britain has joined since, tells an untold soldier’s story of the country’s century of perpetual war.
Structured around the journey from child to soldier to peace worker, War School features the work of Veterans for Peace, Quakers and Forces Watch becoming, ultimately, a film about the battle for the hearts and minds of Britain’s children.
More information can be found at www.war.school
Fri 9 Nov 2018
On Friday, after the welcome, outgoing VFP UK Chair Phillip Clarke briefed our members on our activities in 2018. We took some moments to remember the tragic passing of VFP UK member Stuart Richards. Stu was one of our youngest members who was very active in VFP UK. He was always so positive and happy and a total pleasure to be around. Stu will be sorely missed by our organisation.
Following the moments of reflection for Stu, Phillip presented the review of the year. Phil covered some of the bigger actions that VFP UK had been involved with throughout the year.
Next was the start of the AGM and important business of ensuring our members voices are central to our organisation. First the handbook changes that had been submitted throughout the year were discussed. The VFP handbook is our governing document so any changes had to be voted on; attendees agreed the changes. The new handbook is available online and printed handbooks will become available as soon as we can have them printed.
After a break for lunch, the elections for the Policy Group positions took place. This year (as voted on during the previous session and handbook changes) members stood for defined positions on the policy group. The results of the election are as follows:
Chair – Mike Lyons
National Coordinator – Phil Clarke
Treasurer – Norman Lynch
Membership – Adrienne Kinne
National Events Coordinator – Danny Beever
We thanked the outgoing members of the policy group – Kathryne Piquette, John Bourton and Ben Griffin for all of their hard work.
It was decided upon at this year’s AGM that VFP UK would appoint 3 trustees of the organisation. These trustees must have served at least 3 terms on the policy group. For more information on the role of the trustees please refer to the handbook when it becomes available. The new trustees of VFP UK are Ben Griffin, John Bourton and Kathryn Piquette.
Following the elections, Ed Horgan (VFP Ireland), Ben Griffin and Phil Clarke gave a talk on what it means to be a neutral country and how the UK could potentially achieve this. Read more here: http://vfpuk.org/articles/suggestions-on-neutrality/
There was an interesting discussion, and members voted on whether VFP UK should continue its priority campaign to make the UK neutral. The motion was passed.
For the last hour, we split into regional groups to discuss how each region would go forward during the next year.
In the evening, VFP UK hosted our Band Night at the famous “The Water Rats” in King’s Cross. U.S. veterans James Toler and Arte Harpman opened the event with a fantastic set. This was followed by our one and only Jim Radford who, in my opinion, gave his best ever performance. James and Arte then performed the second half of their set with Arte and James giving a couple of solo performances. Next, we were privileged to have Fenya and Daniel on stage. Fenya released our Christmas single 3 year’s ago (Christmas Truce). The band night was closed by our very own amazing band Batang Kali.
All of the bands performed for us for free and we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to them. Also, through the generosity of James Toler and a small contribution from VFP UK, the night was professionally recorded with sound and video. Once editing has taken place, the sets will be made available via our website.
Sat 10 Nov 2018
On Saturday 10th November we hosted our public conference at Friend’s House. Phil gave the review of the year again as many people attending had not been able to see it the previous day.
The first session of the day were two German veterans; Florian Pfaff and Jürgen Rose from Darmstädter Signal gave a fascinating presentation on their experiences in the German military. Florian spoke about the legal obligations that German soldiers should adhere to. and Jürgen gave a presentation on conscientious objectors, both of their personal stories were also incredible to hear. Florian’s presentation is here; http://vfpuk.org/annual-gathering/audio-german-armed-forces-and-the-law/
To see the Darmstädter Signal website, please follow this link:
U.S. veterans Dennis Stout and Barry Ladendorf then gave a presentation on their very differing experiences of the Vietnam War. Dennis’s presentation was extremely hard-hitting and very difficult to listen to at times but really brought home the true horrors of war. This short video outlines his experience.
Barry’s presentation showed us that, by compartmentalising the war machine, no single person lower down the chain of command really knows what is going on and, therefore, the war continues as per the government’s bidding.
Silvia Binenti was our final speaker. She gave a lecture on her research into the poppy titled: “The Poppy Brand: Fitting National Remembrance in a Shopping Cart”. Her engaging lecture was extremely interesting and the text is available here: http://vfpuk.org/articles/never-again-1918-2018/never-again-the-poppy-brand/
The public conference was concluded by Mike Lyons and Ben Griffin giving instructions for the Cenotaph.
In the evening, VFP members and supporters had a chance to socialise at The Exmouth Arms, Euston.
Remembrance Sunday – 11 Nov 2018
The walk to the Cenotaph is VFP UK’s biggest and most important day of the year. This year was no different. We formed up in Whitehall Place with the original message that WWI veterans carried: “Never Again”. 61 members of VFP and a large number of supporters walked smartly together down Whitehall until we were beside the Cenotaph. Jim Radford sang Lemmy Kilmister’s tribute to the young soldiers who fell during he Battle of the Somme “1916” . James Florey then recited the poem “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon. This was followed by the laying of our wreath (handmade by VFP supporters Lynzi Hopper and Lisa Smith and by Dale Smith from VFP UK). The last post was played, and we observed a minute’s silence – many of us remembering friends that we have lost through war and also remembering all victims of war. Once the Reveille was played, we headed back up Whitehall to an extremely emotional round of applause.
The final social was held in The Marquis pub where VFP laid on a buffet for our members and supporters.
Veterans For Peace UK is an entirely voluntary organisation with no paid workers. I would like to extend my thanks to everybody who makes this organisation happen. From the Policy Group to the Regional Coordinators to every single member and to all of our brilliant supporters thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Without you all we would not be here. Thanks also to everyone at Friend’s House who allows us to use their conference rooms for free.
To help Veterans For Peace UK to continue functioning, please consider donating via: http://vfpuk.org/donate/
The Annual Gathering is an event that fires us all up and motivates every single one of us.
Let’s keep this motivation up throughout the entire year.
Let’s make Peace happen.
Written by Danny Beever, National Events Coordinator, VFP UK.