Photo story

Edward Barber And The British Anti-Nuclear Movement

In June 1980, during the Cold War, it was announced that 160 American nuclear cruise missiles (guided nuclear missiles), would be stationed in Britain. They would be based at RAF/USAF Greenham Common and RAF/USAF Molesworth, Cambridgeshire.

Public opposition to this move led to an increase in support for the British anti-nuclear movement, which began a sustained protest campaign lasting many years.

British documentary and portrait photographer Edward Barber captured aspects of this campaign while working as a freelancer 1980-1984. Peace Signs, his collected body of work, was originally created to publicise the anti-nuclear movement. It has now been re-interpreted in a new exhibition at IWM London.

The photographs on display capture many of the forms of protest used by the anti-nuclear movement over the years. 

Here are six of Edward Barber’s photographs capturing different forms of protest. 

  • CND Demonstration

    CND rally, Hyde Park, London, 1981, Image © Edward Barber

    Anti-nuclear protesters staged mass demonstrations around the country.

  • Die-In

    Greenham Common protesters stage a 'Die-in' outside the Stock Exchange during the morning rush hour in the City of London, 1982. Image © Edward Barber.

    'Die-ins' were a popular form of performance protest in the 1980s. Protesters pretended to be dead in order to obstruct and attract attention.

    This photograph captures the first major London event initiated by the Greenham Common women, which also coincided with the Falklands Conflict. The 'Die-in' symbolised the one million who, it was argued, would die in a nuclear attack on London. 

  • Picket

    A picket mounted by the Women’s Peace Camp at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire, 1982. Image © Edward Barber.

    Picketing enabled protesters to apply non-violent pressure on individuals associated with key organisations.

  • Performance protest

    'Embrace the Base' - 30,000 women link hands, completely surrounding the nine mile perimeter fence at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire, 1982. Image © Edward Barber.

    This photograph shows some of the 30,000 women who linked hands around the nine mile perimeter fence to 'Embrace the Base' at RAF/USAF Greenham Common, Berkshire in 1982.  As a form of performance protest, the linking of arms provided a very visible and symbolic demonstration of unity.

  • Protest art

    CND march and rally, Hyde Park, London, 1982 . Image © Edward Barber.

    Banners and costumes were an essential form of direct communication for the protesters.

  • Labour Party Rally

    Labour Party 'Nuclear Arms No – Peace Yes' rally in Hyde Park, London, 1980. Image © Edward Barber.

    Rallies enabled large numbers of protesters to be addressed by speakers.

You can see these photographs and the new commission Mind Map of Anti-Nuclear Protests in our exhibition IWM Contemporary: Edward Barber at IWM London 26 May –  4 September 2016.