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‘Nine miles: two winters of anti-roads protest’ – by Jim Hindle

nine miles: two winters of anti-road protestAs Jim says in his intro, this book doesn’t claim to provide a full history of the campaign against the Newbury Bypass (the length of which gives the book its title). All he sets out to do is tell the story of his own, personal, journey.

Just like schnews itself, the story begins during the heady days of the anti-Criminal Justice Bill campaign, in a squatted Courthouse in Brighton. We then follow Jim as he travels the country – on foot and hitching for the most part – and gets more involved in the anti-roads protest camps which flourished at the time.

As well as Newbury, he spent time at Stanworth Valley in Lancashire and Fairmile in Devon.

He writes vividly about the campaigns, and how it felt to be caught up in it all; his experiences of living in the trees, digger-diving, and all the new survival skills he acquired along the way (using axes, tightening walkways, cooking over fires etc). He also makes some thoughtful observations about the wider landscape and wildlife, the history of the surrounding area, and the relationships between the protestors and the wider world.

One of the great things about Newbury was the magical diversity of the camps which evolved along the nine miles of route, giving people the chance to choose one which fitted their needs/ habits/ dietary preferences. During the “clearance work”, I spent a lot of time down at the south end of the route – I don’t know if our paths ever crossed - I think his descriptions of camp-life, and the characters he met, would surely resonate with anyone who’d spent much time on-route.

The only thing I found unsettling was his use of people’s names throughout the text – when I began reading I assumed that he’d changed them, then realized that he hadn’t. Which doesn’t seem the most security-conscious decision, but maybe he asked them all first?

Like ‘Battle for the Trees’ and ‘Copse’, this book’s strength comes from being made by someone who was actually there, and intensely involved. A much better resource for radical historians than stories written at the time by paid journalists, academics, and other casual observers who never quite got it.

When we were at Newbury, we were keen to learn from those who had gone before us – stories of the Vietcong’s tunnels and the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common (and their interaction with the residents of Newbury) were particular favourites! – and I believe the world could do with some more people’s history, especially when it’s oral or self-published.

Overall, a fabulous, fascinating book, well worth the tenner and the shelf-space – I thoroughly recommend it.

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