Artist Suzanne Lacy brings together key strikes and actions in the 1980s in part three of a timeline ahead of her forthcoming BMW Tate Live project Silver Action at Tate Modern on Sunday 3 February. This document has been assembled by Echo Collins, with support from Margaretta Jolly, Luke Davies, and Suzanne Lacy.
1980 Hoover Strike. In Merthyr Tydfil women took strike action against ‘women out first’ redundancy plans.
1981 Lee Jeans occupation in Greenock. The mainly female workforce barricaded themselves into the Lee Jeans plant, beginning a sit-in which lasted seven months. Around 240 mainly women workers at the local Lee Jeans factory had occupied to prevent its closure by the American multinational VF Corporation.
1981 Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp. A peace camp established to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. The camp began after a Welsh group, Women for Life on Earth, arrived at Greenham to protest against the decision of the British government to allow cruise missiles to be based there. The first blockade of the base occurred in May 1982 with 250 women protesting, during which 34 arrests were made. Multiple actions included a Teddy Bears action, Embrace the Base, and the Silo towers. Parallel actions included into Holloway women’s prison, where Greenham women were being held, die-ins in Downing Street, and follow on women’s camps at Faslane, Brawdy etc. 30,000 women gathered at Greenham Common Peace Camp. The camp remained open for 20 years during which thousands of female protesters visited and lived in the camp.
1984 The Miners’ Strike. The Strikes began in Barnsley but became national, with protests in Wales and Kent. The wives of picketing miners organised themselves into a powerful women’s group. At first, they supplied the picketers with food and other supplies, but it soon became clear they wanted to be involved in the strike in their own right. Women’s support groups formed in every mining village and a working class women’s movement developed. The movement eventually became national with conferences and an elected leadership. It left a legacy of a common class struggle against sexism and oppression.
1986 Violence against Women Demonstration. National demonstration of women against violence against women organised by Network of Women.
1987 Smash the Backlash. National demonstration (London) against homophobic and racist attitudes/actions. 3,500 march through Haringey, promoting positive images of gay men and lesbians in response to homophobic attacks led by the Parents’ Rights group.
1988 Section 28 protests. Section 28 of the Local Government Act made it illegal for any council or government body to ‘intentionally promote homosexuality, or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’. Massive demonstrations took place against Section 28 in London and Manchester, with a group of lesbians abseiling into the House of Lords during the six o’clock news.
If you’d like to be involved in Suzanne Lacy’s performance Silver Action join the conversation and follow the debate on Twitter using #silveraction.