The Annual Gathering opened on Friday 8 November with what has become our traditional opening ceremony – A guided walk hosted by the amazing Mr. James Florey. This year’s walk focused on the theme of the Gathering – The Costs of War. James took us around various locations in the City of London. We started at St. Paul’s Cathedral. James chose this place as, fittingly, it was the place where the idea of VFP UK was born during the Occupy protests of 2011. We visited several stops of note along the route including Guildhall where James had arranged for the new Lord Mayor of London to come out and see the VFP flag! The walk focussed on corporate greed and how this has led to such things as the slave trade (we started it here) and perpetual war for profit as well as the Spa Fields demonstration of December 1816 (De-mobbed Napoleonic war veterans joined a demo & fought their way down from Clekernwell to Bank junction). We visited the monument to the Blitz – an area that was bombed during WWII and left as it was in order to remind us of the human costs of war. James also took us to the site of the Peasants Revolt in 1381 that got into the Tower of London, captured the two most powerful leaders of the land and publicly beheaded them. The Revolt was led & organised by veterans from the 100 Years War. The walk ended at Tower Hill on the spot of the former execution platform. Thanks to James’ hard work, the walking tour was well thought out and led, extremely interesting and very well attended.
In the evening, we hosted a screening of the film Kajaki followed by a Q&A session with a couple of the soldiers who were there (one of whom was portrayed as the key character of the film). The Q&A brought forward an interesting question as to how the soldiers feel about war now. The answer given to us by the veteran panellist was along the lines of “I don’t feel I have a right to an opinion about this. I am/was a soldier and I do what I’m told.” This is the automated response so common amongst serving and retired soldiers, and it highlights the importance of our work to show that veterans and soldiers have a right to have an opinion about what it meant to serve, and to ask questions and demand accountability.
Saturday 9 Nov 2019
On the Saturday, we had our AGM and Public conference. Thanks to Adrienne Beever for the following minutes and Public Conference write-up:
Michael Lyons, Chair
Danny Beever, Events
Adrienne Beever, Membership
Alan Chick, Treasurer
Apologies: Philip Clarke, National Coordinator
Annual General Meeting Minutes
Minutes below accompany PowerPoint Report, which was presented to members in attendance. For a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, please contact Danny Beever at email@example.com
- Reading of Statement of Purpose
- Year in Review
- Financial ReportFor a copy of the Financial Report, please contact Alan Chick at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Membership Report
- Current members: 258
- With Proof of Service: 100
- Reminder that members have to reapply to be a member of VFP UK if they haven’t done so already, due to a change in data laws in 2017
- Members are aware that proof of service (PoS) is required to stand for the policy group and/or vote on VFP UK matters, and most members are sending in PoS when they join at this time
- Please email email@example.com if you need to check on your membership status and/or have questions related to proof of service
- Discussion – ways to engage the public and get them involved in VFP UK, other than associate membership, which members feel would take away from our credibility as a “veterans” organization – perhaps a “Friends of Veterans For Peace” group, organise speaking events, donate funds, help us get our message out there – to be further explored by the policy group
- Recognise that we are a small group, of non-conformists who can see past the bullshit, and who can see how things can be better
- Priority Campaign status – Costs of War as background to Neutral Country – complementary, in keeping with statement of purpose and proposal for a positive way forward. If you would like to get involved in the Neutral Country campaign, please email Adrienne Beever at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Handbook Amendments, passed unanimously by members present at the AGM
- Section 7.5 Trustees shall read, “Each trustee has previously served on the Policy Group for at least one term.” [Explanation: This is to widen the pool of candidates available to fill trustee vacancies]
- Section 8.3 Term of Office shall read, “Members shall have a term of office lasting one year, beginning January 1st, ending December 31st, and be able to stand for re-election.” [Explanation: Smooths the handover to the new Policy Group by placing the handover date beyond the Annual Gathering]
- Other Business
- Dan Taylor, Statue Project: Dan Taylor took the floor to tell members about a current project of artist Micheal Rakowitz. Michael is looking for members to donate any army memorabilia they may have for use in his project. For more information, please follow this link: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1?ui=2&ik=b12ea4d8ab&attid=0.1&permmsgid=msg-f:1649433623502486978&th=16e3f72439737dc2&view=att&disp=inline
- Aly Renwick, Interviews for PTSD experiences:
Aly told us about a group researching PTSD and asked if anyone was interested in giving an interview. Unfortunately, the interview dates are now finished.
- Nev Dean, VFP UK South West coordinator, has put together some VFP UK Christmas cards. To get hold of some, please contact Nev at email@example.com or go to the VFP South West Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=vfp%20south%20west&epa=SEARCH_BOX
All profits will be donated to VFP UK
- Jim Toler told us about his upcoming book and album that is aimed at helping children understand PTSD.
Jim writes: “We are working on a children’s book that deals with Trauma and PTSD. We hope the book may serve as a conversational tool in addressing trauma and related PTSD issues.
We aim to publish the book in a few months which will be announced on the website https://artlifecycle.com
Also, we have 2 CD’s of music coming out. Some will be used in the story “Annabelle’s Lullaby” … (the book)”
- Dave Gannon, would like to explore interest among members in lobbying MPs, caucusing within political parties to further VFP UK mission and goals. More follows.
- Election of new Policy Group – The following people were affirmed unanimously by members present into the stated positions:
- Chair – Danny Beever
- National Coordinator – Adrienne Beever
- National Events Coordinator – Ian Johnstone
- Membership Coordinator – Michael Lyons
- Treasurer – Alan Chick
- Handover of Ben’s Tasks:
- Trustee – to be addressed
- Registered address – work in progress
- Metro Bank – Treasurer
- PayPal – Treasurer
- Stores – Liz and Walter Heaton
- Shop Keeper – Liz and Walter Heaton
- GoDaddy – regarding items g-k, look into setting up a Communication Role and Technical Role, with Alan Chick, Dave Collins and Julio Torres
- Other Business
- Discuss proposal brought forward by Dave Gannon to explore lobbying public officials/parties in accordance with VFP UK handbook, respecting our political independence.
- Anyone interested in lobbying, please get in touch with Adrienne at (before 1 Jan 2020) firstname.lastname@example.org (after 1 Jan 2020) email@example.com
- Conversation continued during public meeting summation
- It has been decided that next year’s AGM will be available live via an app called “Zoom”. The VFP USA board of directors effectively uses this app for their board meetings. This saves a lot of money on travel costs and ensures that people who can’t make the meeting in person can join in online.
- Awards in recognition of commitment to peace work. Congratulations to:
- Michael Elstub
- Gerry Osborne
- Group Photo
The Costs of War – Public Meeting, Open Discussion
Members and supporters present shared their reflections on the “costs of war” as a building block to support our Priority Campaign, Neutral Country:
- We need to increase awareness of how damaging war is – social/political, human, financial, environmental, and opportunity costs
- Ruling class pits poor against poor and children against children
- NATO ally, Turkey, invades Syria, commits war crimes, our government says nothing
- Address war profiteering, nationalize arms industry, take away profit component
- Feelings among Veterans of having “been had for a mug”
- Moral injury
- Our mental health is being traded away for barrels of oil
- Prioritize renewable energy, end our dependence on oil/end a reason to wage war
- Recruiters target vulnerable populations, with no warning of the possible negative impacts from being in the military/going to war
- Toxic masculinity in the military
- Soldiers paid very little, crap food/housing, while companies are earning billions of the arms industry/war profiteering – they should pay
- First casualty in war – the truth
- People are also facing own hardships, local issues and systemic issues are related and we need to show connections
- What is good for veterans is good for all and vice versa
- Do it yourself politics
- Terrorism act of 2000, began to limit rights of people even before 9/11
- Experiences of veterans when they leave the service and hardships they face, mental health problems, homelessness, alcohol and drug use and abuse – most charities are rip-offs the steal people’s money, and control the narrative of pro-soldier meaning pro-war/patriotism, while not actually helping veterans
- Lack of critical thinking in the public sphere about war and militarism
- Discussion of types of control the government uses, to include partitioning people
- Let like-minded organizations know what we want as VFP UK
- Get our message out there – set the narrative
- Call to nationalize the arms industry
- Add voice where we have our own skills
- Attend environmental conferences and highlight war and militarism’s impacts on the environment
- Lobby members of parliament regarding our goals as an organization, keeping in mind Neutral Country
- Truth in recruiting, counter recruiters with our own experiences
- Ask questions, engage the public in dialogue
The public conference was concluded with a briefing for the walk to the Cenotaph.
Saturday Evening Social
Members and supporters of VFP UK convened (after a walk in the rain) at the Lost Boys pizzeria in Camden. Here, thanks to Lillian and Mike Lyons, we enjoyed some rather nice cupcakes that had edible photos of Ben, Jo and Gemma Griffin on them. This was followed by some extraordinarily interesting karaoke routines and a private performance by our very own number 1 charting Jim Radford!
Remembrance Sunday 10 Nov 2019
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”. This day was very poignant as it marked 100 years of the Never Again banner. After the traditional wait for the BBC to remove their microphones, Danny Beever had the honour of leading 35 members of VFP and a large number of supporters down Whitehall until we were beside the Cenotaph. Jim Radford sang Lemmy Kilmister’s tribute to the young soldiers who fell during the 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 by Ben Griffin (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.
To see a video of this event by Shaun Dey from Reel News please follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQuUW9kt0kw
After the ceremony, we convened at The Marquis pub where VFP UK laid on a buffet for our members and supporters. We also had a raffle for Neutral Country pin number 001 that had been generously donated by VFP UK member Dave Lawrence. The raffle raised £105 which has been put towards our Priority Campaign.
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 Trustees, Policy Group and Regional Coordinators, to every single member and 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 Veteran’s For Peace UK 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.
Danny Beever; National Events Coordinator