Will you give peace video a chance?

Nic Barnard

Moves by radical political groups to produce films for citizenship classes look set to raise the hackles of right-wing traditionalists. Nic Barnard reports.

AS a symbol of the divisions in Britain under Margaret Thatcher, it ranks second perhaps only to the miners' strike. Now the story of the Greenham Common peace camps has been turned into a video for schools.

The 10-minute video and teaching pack were launched this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the setting up of the women's camps at the Berkshire air base where the US air force stationed nuclear missiles in the 1980s.

Produced by anti-nuclear arts group Atomic Mirror, And the Fence came Tumbling Down focuses on the event last year when the common was finally returned to the public.

It is one of a number of political videos being produced for citizenship lessons and in reponse to a growing awareness among young people reflected by globalisation protests.

Also launched this week was Wasted Lives, a video opposing animal experiments, produced by lobby group Animal Aid and narrated by Jonathan Creek actor and comedian Alan Davies.

Janet Bloomfield, of Atomic Mirror, said it was important people remembered the protests. "People talk about the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid, but they don't often talk about this huge movement of people that was part of the end of the Cold War.

"There's also still a huge amount of unfinished business. People talk of Star Wars (the new US plans for missile defence shields) being the next Greenham. We want to promote a sense that things can change.

"I hope that young people will see a connection with what's happening in the anti-globalisation movement or the anti-roads protests."

For Mark White, education director of Animal Aid, which opposes all animal experiments, the aim is to counter videos by the pro-experiment lobby. The meat industry also produces education films.

He said that the video, which contains some disturbing images, was unashamedly one-sided. But like Atomic Mirror's teaching pack - which includes website addresses for NATO and the Ministry of Defence - the written materials are well balanced and well-referenced.

Nick Seaton of the back-to-basics Campaign for Real Education said that schools should not be arenas for political campaigns.

"If teachers are expected to raise standards, these sorts of thing are just a distraction. They should be left to parents," he said.

But Mr White said there was a demand from schools for challenging material because young people were becoming more aware of political issues.

"I'm often surprised how in-depth the questions from students are. They don't just accept the argument. They want everything backed up and justified."

"And the Fence Came Tumbling Down", video and teaching pack pound;12.50, from info@atomicmirror.org "Wasted Lives: the case against animal experiments", video and teachers' notes pound;5, student activities' pack pound;2.50, from info@animalaid.org.uk

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Nic Barnard

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