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  • Interviews and Storytelling: Chris Green

     

    [TRACK 1]

    TONY WRIGHT: This is Tony Wright, it’s the 15th of November 2012 and I’m talking to Chris Green. So can you tell me your full name and where and when you were born?

    CHRIS GREEN: I’m Christopher Steven Green; I was born in Harrow, London on the 8th of May 1954.

    TW: Harrow, that’s up Middlesex way isn’t it?

    CG: It is indeed.

    TW: And what was it like in Middlesex when you were growing up?

    CG: Interesting; suburban and a bit boring, and…..I went to the local primary school and I thought that was…..that was the boundary of my life, of my world; I was in the Cubs and so on, and my mother was the Arkala of the Cubs but I was not allowed to be put in her pack because they thought I might have too much influence, she might be too nice to me, so I was put in the…the Wednesday pack as opposed to the Monday pack…..I went to school at the local primary school and I thought I was King of that; I was Captain of the football team and I played football the previous year, the year up from everyone else – kids do that – but then my first match, I scored an own goal, it sort of ricocheted for me, and the balls were so heavy; you couldn’t kick them anywhere you know, sort of heading leather balls in the mud, you know, but I was so mortified, you know, to score an own goal at that age…..tears running down my face, you know, but…….there were the usual things at primary school; chess club and a recorder club……there was no…..there was still an Eleven Plus in those days, and I was put in for a scholarship to the local public school, and….I didn’t know anything about these different systems and so on in those days, and I took this exam, walked into this school up this amazingly long drive and sat there and was asked interesting questions, and it was things like ‘where are the Pyrenees?’ and I said something like ‘oh they’re between France and Italy’ – well I got a bit of it right, so I guess that’s why they gave me a place you know [laughing]

    CG: and I still do believe that was incredibly unjust in that……it’s a use of Local Authority tax payers’ money to subsidise some young men from ordinary schools to go into this privileged environment at a major cost to the local tax payer. There were ten kids a year got this scholarship; ten boys a year I might add of course, because it was a boys’ public school…..and of course that then becomes your formative years because that was for me for the next seven years, from eleven to eighteen.

    TW: Harrow School, that famous Harrow School?

    CG: Not Harrow School…..we used to play rugger of course and we used to play Eton at rugger, but Eton were regarded as crap…..sort of soft, but Harrow, that was a grudge match……and so one of them was called Merchant Taylors; we used to play Harrow, Westminster, Rugby, Mill Hill, all these top boys’ schools are grouped around London, you know, there’s a few in the north, you know, but mostly…. Haileybury and ICS; that name, Haileybury School, stands for Haileybury and Imperial Services College……can you imagine?

    TW: Merchant Taylors; isn’t that a Guild, going back to the…..the Middle Ages?

    CG: It certainly is; that’s where they make their money and they’re still…in London…..the Merchant Taylor’s Hall…..when I was eleven in my first year, we got a trip to visit the Merchant Taylor’s Hall and we got lectured about….about sort of the interesting….the history of it all, and then we come back on the underground…..and there were four or five of us, sort of….lads, eleven-year-old lads, sort of just enjoying themselves running up and down the….whatever we were doing…..somebody wrote to the Headteacher….Headmaster of course, and complained, and then when we got back to school our Football Master just said ‘oh hello lads’ you know ‘how did you get back from’….you know, and extracted the information that us four had travelled back together, sent us off to the Headteacher, where we got beaten

    TW: Really

    CG: for not standing up, and obviously we’d met with this lady on a train and for not….for causing too much noise and so on you know, so it was two strokes of the cane; that was my sole experience of corporal punishment, and I don’t think it’s a good idea.

    TW: Right. So you sound like…..you didn’t really enjoy being there.

    CG: I’m not sure I did or I didn’t; I wasn’t……the biggest issue for me was I suddenly wasn’t the cleverest kid in the class anymore…..and I think that makes more of a difference when kids change from sort of a small school to the big school…..and gradually over the years of course I started to realise about privilege and the fact that most of the…..most of the kids who were at that school had come in at the age of thirteen, having spent four or five, six years at prep school…..preparatory school, which again is fee paying, it’s you know, for the children of the privileged who were boys largely of the privileged, and we used to go and play them at sports; when I was in the eleven-year-old class we used to play the top teams at the prep school, so I saw a few of these places and I used to think ‘it’s quite extraordinary, all these boarding schools’…..and it was just barbaric is the word I would use….those were barbaric privileged, but of course……you realise that vast numbers of the Conservative cabinet come from this background; have never experienced anything remotely about real life; never met many people in real life apart from being able to talk down to them, you know.

    TW: So would it be true to say that you become politicised because of your education?

    CG: I would….I would say it was partly that….I mean my parents were good Socialists; they used to vote…..they used to vote Labour and read the….The Sunday Citizen which was a new…..a Sunday newspaper; it was a mass circulation Sunday newspaper, and my father was also always a very committed, non-combatant, for example in the Second World War……and they had a very equal relationship which has…..informed my work and my life ever since.

    TW: So after….after Harrow then, what happened to you then?

    CG: Then I went off to university up in Manchester, again, my parents and I all agreed it would be a good idea to go away from home, not because I didn’t enjoy my home life, but there was a certain amount of tension….when you’re eighteen, seventeen or eighteen, so I packed my stuff up in to a friend’s Triumph Herald car, Nick Cavertal, he had a car; I didn’t even think about cars and we drove up to Manchester; he was going to a college in Manchester, so was I, and…..there I was.

    TW: Right. What did you study there?

    CG: Economics and Sociology…..but it was the Sociology which stuck.

    TW: Right…..right, okay……and how did you find Manchester compared to Harrow then?

    CG: I was always involved in the political groups and I was very proud of myself; I was elected to the Student Council in my first year; I was the youngest person to be on it and I was External Relations Officer which meant I was like the Foreign Secretary for the university [laughing]….it was so arrogant to think I was so important, you know; we had……stuff involved in……we were a South African Liberation Society and…….also I did environmental action; I remember we went into the stores and said ‘this product is over packaged’….we were on a free bus and again people were so suspicious…. ‘why is it free?’….. ‘because we want to show that free transport’s better than cars’ you know, and the same with the over packaged products; it was just….environmental issues, ecological issues, and this is 1972, you know, and I was also involved in……other parts of the Peace Movement as well…..did very interesting summer projects while I was at university….first year for the summer vacation I worked….I always worked in the summer as well to make some money but after working in the summer I went to Tanzania with a bunch of people from Third World First and then we all split up and went to separate villages which was interesting, and again, very very educational for me, and the year after that I went to Northern Ireland and worked in a Peace Movement in Northern Ireland in a youth club in Derry, and at the time some bombs went off at the Tower of London from the IRA and it was a challenging time to be there; I had passes to say who I was because I was challenged by local kids, saying ‘who are you?’ and they’d report to the other people who I was, and the British Army would want to know who I was, wandering around there; and I was staying in a flat, or in a house with a lady there……and I went back up through streets one night and there were British soldiers in my front garden, sort of, you know, patrolling and hiding in gardens, seeing who was out and about; it was just eye-opening; an ordinary terrace of houses in the UK, and soldiers in the streets, and I was just for me……it was just so bizarre, you know, and,….but also…..made me very much……interested in the Peace Movement; they created Peace activities.

    TW: Did you see any violence there or……or the marches, any of the marches?

    CG: No. I was…..in a meeting in a pub, sort of the Third Political Trotsky militant….. militant fringe organisation, and they had a meeting and the soldiers just came up and lifted, arrested two or three people in the meeting, just took them out, banged them in the back of what they used to call a pig, took them off to……one of the police stations, and of course we all had to troop down to protest about it, you know, and maybe after a few hours’ questioning they might get released you know, I can’t remember what happened…..but low level violence….I’ve been…..since then…..I’m going to jump a few years; I’ve been to Palestine and that….there is saw real violence there of course, I mean shockingly real violence and……very interesting….first time I’d been in morgues and seen….bodies…..first time I’d been on the streets on my own, just me and a tank, you know, because…..because I was a foreigner I was allowed to break the curfew, because I had a phone, a camera and a British passport, and to encourage little kids to break the curfew, because if little kids are breaking the curfew

    TW: Hang on…..[interrupted]…..

    CG: I went to Palestine as a result of……the young woman in Hebden Bridge who had been in Palestine, who had an article in the Bridge Times about being shot and then talked about it and I thought ‘if she can work for the International Solidarity Movement for a few weeks…..well she was there for a lot longer than that, but I can…..I can manage a few weeks in the summer holidays and so on’ and I went with another…..Hebden Bridge resident, Mike Prior, and that was completely eye-opening…..as I say, to work in a…..we were given……different places to work in; help support people picking oranges and picking olives, and……to find the settlers coming down with machine guns and saying….you know, ‘you’ve got to move’ and we were able, because we were foreigners, to stand in between them but they were scary people, the settlers, because they’re not even as disciplined as the Israeli army; they completely go off on a tangent…..and that…..that was really, you know, I got frightened. The Israeli army frightened me because they are subject to…hopefully…..rules and, by and large, because you’re from Britain they won’t touch you; if you are Palestinian they don’t have such qualms…..and that, as I say, to stand there and say, when somebody’s blaring through a…..loudhailer saying, and on a tank, saying ‘go home, go home; you must observe the curfew’ and your legs are shaking like jelly, you think nothing’s gonna happen, but it’s just the daunting prospect, and I’ve never met such a welcome and any of the Palestinians who we were with would stand in front of you if there was any danger, you know, because they were so….wanted to protect you because you were their guest, and they would give you things, you know, their last meal….lovely people.

    TW: So was that in the West Bank or Gaza?

    CG: That was only in the West Bank; our co-ordinator said to me did I want to work, just as I was leaving, they thought I was a stable enough chap that I could manage Gaza, because it’s so easy to get so emotionally caught up in it that you want to do something, and do inappropriate actions in terms of just…..which would risk your own safety and the safety of the people you are with, if you go charging up at a soldier and start shouting at them, which is what you want to…..I helped a number of ambulances get through checkpoints; that’s one of the things I did, work with the ambulances at night, and you sit there; the ambulance call comes in, and you’re just talking them through checkpoints by being nice and talking about football with soldiers, you might get them through a checkpoint half an hour earlier so that somebody who’s sick in the back gets into the hospital.

    TW: Right, I see……..what kind of………attitudes did you find amongst the Palestinian people, cos I suppose if you want to relate it to like the IRA and then the Northern Ireland sort of thing……it’s all based on religion, but it’s not, in a lot of ways it’s not is it? And isn’t the Palestinian Israeli thing very similar; it’s not really about religion, it’s….it’s about power really. Can you equate the two?

    CG: Yes it’s about…..it’s about occupation and so on you know, and…..for example, as we speak…..the….Israeli government have just…..assassinated a Hamas militant leader in Gaza, but that’s not the point; the point is that what they want is to kick off an escalation of violence because…..even the BBC said yesterday, there is an Israeli election coming up in….in January, and it’s just so calculated, and the fact that ten Palestinians are….have died in the bombing, and it says ‘ three Israelis are reported to have been injured’ and you think they look for some of these that have got a scratch and….you know, absolutely people shouldn’t….the militants should not be sending missiles into Israel, but those missiles are pretty useless and it’s a bunch of guys wanting to retaliate, you know, and of course you understand why they’d want to retaliate, but the retaliation is so futile….you’re based against one of the most experienced, one of the largest armies in the world, and that’s all…..who are also using remote control missiles and bombs and so on; it’s so…….that’s what I’m very upset about, but nobody should be violent, but I think I might have saved lives in terms of going to Palestine and I’d be doing more Palestinian if I wasn’t now completely caught up in something called the White Ribbon Campaign.

    TW: Yeah….okay, well after university then, what….. did you…….go back down south or did you stay up north?

    CG: Because I didn’t want to be one of those people who just hangs around and becomes a long-term student, I chose to go back to London even though I hadn’t really got a job to go to, like so many young people these days, but I went back down south; I stayed for one more year and did a Youth and Community Work Diploma, and I thought people would be offering me a job - I was twenty-two – I knew all about how to run communities, how to run youth clubs……and after a few months of doing odd jobs here and there; I worked for an organisation called Patchwork Community which…..worked for……it was a building organisation, so we would…we would go out and repair short life properties for……for short life licences, not……nice and squatty in other words, for six months, a year, sometimes ten years they were occupied for, and…..that’s Patchwork Housing…..but I was also living in a community of about seven people, where some people had more problems than other people….drugs, drink and so on, and that was a very useful community; I’d been living in communities for most of the time I was in Manchester; shared houses they started with and then communes they were called later on.

    TW: Yeah…..right…..so how did you come back up north then?

    CG: I worked for a number of years as a youth worker in London, in Stoke Newington……for the Methodist Church, and ran two youth clubs there and that was very interesting….Stoke Newington, a very big, black community, and on a disco night or whatever they call it, a sounds night, I’d be the only white guy in the building and there’d be about two hundred kids in there with sound systems blasting through the walls, and I would sort of….just stay in the kitchen counting the money [laughing]….and that kept the Youth Club going for all the rest of the time, but it was hardly youth work as I knew it; it was like running a commercial disco which I wasn’t equipped for; I was neither equipped for nor wanted to do with my life, and I did that for a couple of years and then I set up a workers’ co-op, when I say I set up a workers’ co-op, I mean, had the idea; I started it and then other people joined us and we gradually got a few more full-time staff to do printing and badge making and T-shirt making, and just propaganda I think; being a thorn in the flesh of the establishment.

    TW: Right

    CG: And I did that for a……three years, and then I had a sort of a row….that’s the trouble with co-operatives; you can’t get your own way [laughing] and I…..I left….probably still associated with that time, I had……mental problems, breakdowny problems, you know, so I ran away back to the north, back to somewhere, the house where some of my people had…..and I remember I stole some of my equipment back, which was really childish instead of discussing it properly but, you know, my badge machine for this……we ended up talking about it, talking it through some months or years but it sort of…..I was feeling very angry about it; I definitely paid for this equipment etcetera, but that’s not the point; it was not a very mature way to handle things, and so I came back north and…..set up the same sort of operation here; it was called Trojan Printing in London and I called it Raven Printing in the North, and the same sort of idea…..a local community print collective in Manchester, and also…..our own catalogue of badges and T-shirts and so on, which was fun.

    TW: Was that in the centre of Manchester?

    CG: It was in the centre of Manchester; Great Ancoats Street. The building’s now been knocked down; it was unsafe….we owned one floor and also, in order to share the costs, we advertised for other groups to be in there, and….The Northern Animal Liberation League had a…..and those were seriously political people…..lovely people, but not…if you did anything to hurt an animal, you know…..we called them The Animals [laughing] and they were…..they were serious militants……I was….I was very pleased with the work we did, both in Trojan and at Raven, and it was…..the same sort of thing that I do now, and it’s just sort of bits of activities….sort of community activities; it’s the people coming to you who are the interesting people, saying ‘I want to print five hundred leaflets to stop the demolition of this building’ or something like that, and….the orders you get from when you got some radical T-shirt ‘Down With The System’ – you get an order from Eton College – you think ‘yes that’s really fun!’ [laughing] I hope that…..I hope those ideas stay with you. laughing] But as you can tell, as you’re laughing, I mean I…..I always try to have fun in my life; that’s….that’s what my life has always been about.

    TW: Yeah….yeah….so, how did you come to Hebden Bridge then?

    CG: …….I got a job….after that I was applying for jobs and I was working in workers’ co-operatives and I saw this job for a Co-operative Development Officer, and…..when I was younger I always thought those were sell-out people, you know, they get paid by the City Council to help people to support co-ops but of course as you get older you think ‘oh the salary would be a bit nice’…..and…..I really didn’t know where Calderdale was or anything like that, so I came for the interview in Halifax and they said ‘you’ll be based exclusively in the Upper Valley – Hebden Bridge and Todmorden’ and I got a job…..I got the job which was very nice…..and the office was in Todmorden….but I didn’t go about it properly, the way Local Authority people are supposed to, and if I needed office equipment I went to an auction and bought it, instead of buying it at sort of ten times the price through the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation, because I knew I had a budget of £35,000 so I thought ‘the more we save the more we can give to community groups’ but it doesn’t work like that in Councils……and I remember I had some good times as a Co-op Development Worker….the North of Watford Actors’ Agency was set up during my time there; a number of people with…..in the food industry…..apples….. a co-operative making chutneys and sugar-free foods……Aurora which was a wholefood shop…they were already existing when I arrived here, and The Bear in Todmorden, so it was a wholefood based….you always got people applying to run a sandwich stall and you think ‘oh this is hard – they just want a job’ and I had the power to help them work out their business skills and their business plan, and then give them a thousand pounds and people would say ‘a thousand pounds – with that we can change the world’ and you can’t, you know, it’s just a tiny little fraction of the amount of money you need, but the…..Calderdale Canal Co-operative was set up to run trip boats up and down the Calderdale Canal, and that was another real possibility, and there was another…..there was another travel agency called Mills and Moors Tours which was to offer tours to this area, based on the Labour and Socialist history and I thought that was a really interesting one as well.

    TW: And that was based in Tod was it?

    CG: Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, yeah, I served the whole valley but my job was to be based

    TW: But that particular….Mills and Moors…..sounds fascinating, but I’ve lived here for a long time and I don’t remember hearing about that.

    CG: Exactly. That’s it; it’s always…..it’s to do with….public relations and……I thought when we had a….a full page advert in the Hebden Bridge Times and Tod News, with all the co-ops having little adverts round the side, and I thought that so much public relations, publicity would be great, and I just realised that nobody noticed it; you have to keep on and on and on with public relations and publicity, and….you know, none of the businesses that I was working with did enough….on that.

    TW: Right……so that’s….that’s a lesson for anything; anyone now wanting to start up; that should be a big part of….of their…you know, promoting themselves….longevity comes through promotion.

    CG: Yeah I think so, and…..and I think ambitious funding requirements, expectations…..don’t try and be the cheapest at anything, and there’s a recipe for death and disaster; go for the high end which is often an anathema to people because if you have sort of social ideals, you want it at the best value for the lowest price, but no, increase……increase your margins, go for high margins you know….

    TW: So how did you get on to……working with White Ribbon then?

    CG: That comes……that comes a bit later really

    TW: Oh before that then

    CG: Okay so before I started working between then and I…….I went off travelling for a year……I did a couple of….gap years, both of which were relatively recently; I never did it when I was a student…..and….when I came back from the first one, I……didn’t have a job because I was working for the….I went from Calderdale Council to Kirklees Council as Community and Co-operative Development Officer, so a community businesses thing, then…..I thought ‘I’ve had enough of this and I want to have some time to myself; have a year travelling’ and they wouldn’t keep my job open for me, so I threw it in and said ‘well sod it, I’ll find something when I come back’ and since then I’d…..I’d got a Masters in Business Administration which is one of…..supposed to be a recipe to making five times as much money, but I thought it was just an opportunity to give the social businesses some of the business skills, because……they knew how to hold hands and talk about stuff, but nobody knew about operations management or…..really about marketing, or really about…..budgeting, so I did this MBA and I thought ‘well I’m equipped with that, I can have a year off, go around the world, come back and pick up another job’…..but when I came back, after a bit of time as a painter and decorator, which I’m not at all good at; I was just helping other people, I got a job….at Manchester Met University…..because I’d been involved in the printing industry before and I was interested also in business; this was……a Business Lecturer within the Printing Department and I thought those married up my skills, and so it appeared I got a job; at the same time I’d picked up another job working in Finland, but I didn’t want to stay away from the valley…..and so I gave up the job as a….Communications Teacher in Finland and came back to work in…..at Manchester Met for the next twenty years [laughing]

    nineteen years I think it was……so that was commuting along the valley into Manchester, and for the first ten or fifteen years I was playing the game; I was writing books, I was…..going to conferences, I was working my way up the hierarchy and working very hard with former students…..and then they closed the course, so….it was….it was too expensive; it wasn’t quite…..the appropriate thing for the Faculty of Arts to be printing; it’s a bit dirty and impractical

    TW: Was that because of computers coming along?

    CG: No, it would have fitted very well with that because I also taught Media Management MBA at…..in Finland while I was working in Manchester, sort of, you know, for a couple of weeks a year, so Media….it’s cross platform, it’s not a problem; it was more to do with the attitude of some of the Fine artists thinking ‘these people get their hands mucky; when we’re talking about printing we mean printing a limited edition of ten; they’re talking about printing ten million’ you know…….and it wasn’t….it just didn’t fit, and we were expensive, and our students were…..because they were…..people who just wanted jobs rather than…..people who felt cool to be an artist, we didn’t fit at all, so….it was unfortunate, so that course got pulled; I then went on to do a bit of jobs here and there; when I had my next year off, my next travelling off round the year, came back, had even less to do, but was still employed by the University, and that was when I started the thing about……well White Ribbon was set up during that time, and it got busier and busier and busier, and I thought ‘yes I’ll take the plunge; I will go into working on this full-time’ and that’s also another lesson…….take plunges, go for it, jump off the cliffs, you know, somewhere something happens and it makes it worthwhile.

    TW: So the White Ribbon…..is it a national…..organisation?

    CG: White Ribbon is a national and international organisation; I set it up in my…..I set up the White Ribbon UK in my attic, having seen the……website of the Canadian campaign; the Canadian was the first campaign, and to be fair they then set up, sort of, and said to other people ‘you should follow this model’, and when we started there’d been campaigns in maybe twenty other countries, and this campaign’s in fifty other countries now, and it…..but we are……on that road to be of a size and the same sort of level of significance as the four or five other major White Ribbon Campaigns around the world, and I see it as our job to help spread the word across the world as well as…..but certainly in the UK.

    TW: Right. Well what is that message then, if anybody doesn’t know what White Ribbon’s about? What would you…..how do you define it then?

    CG: We recruit and work with men to……challenge other men that men should never commit, never condone, never excuse, and never stop speaking about the importance of opposing violence against women.

    TW: Right.

    CG: I mean, it’s a bit of a long sentence but that’s the pledge, never to…..so…..and that’s what wearing a white ribbon has meant for the other organisations, that we’ve taken up that promise as well, I mean…..it’s very simple; it’s the biggest human rights violation in the world, because one in four women suffer violence by men, and so we……we think something should be done about it, and…..so now increasingly, other organisations think the way to create a…..an interpersonal violence-free future is to work with men, because most men are not violent; most men don’t want violence, and it’s up to us then to challenge other men and to work on our own feelings, on our own education, to make sure that we never…….we never get involved in violence.

    TW: Now, you say most men aren’t violent, and I think I would probably agree with that, but if one in four women are experiencing violence, that means there’s an awful lot of violence going on; is that just a kind of a small proportion of men doing a lot of violence, or is there…..you’re saying most men……you know, twenty-five per cent of men are creating violence and seventy-five per cent aren’t. Is that what you mean?

    CG: That would still be most men, but I mean there is…..there are some serial offenders as well, I mean there’s plenty….obviously some men go from one partner to another partner, and they repeat their….their behaviours……but…..I think it’s up to us to work on ourselves all the time, you know, and…..because it’s not just about the physical violence, because when I said one in four it’s really….that’s what’s recorded as……usually as physical violence, but there’s the……the threats of violence, emotional violence, psychological threats, you know, which….we all might want to get our own way at any one time and I think we have to sort of step back and say ‘no, let’s just negotiate’ you know, so ‘what’s good for me and what’s good for you as well’, and that’s why I think it’s really important first to look at areas of masculinity as well, and when we look at the messages that young men get from pornography, which is their basic source of sex education, sex and relationships education, because it’s not compulsory in the schools……and certainly the acadamies are all opting out of….of those sorts of areas of work, so we have to make sure that…men start to look at….sorry, we have to address porn and…..and also prostitution as well as an issue, because it’s the…..when men start to feel a sense of entitlement – ‘I’m entitled to sex when I want it’ without negotiating, without discussing it, that’s when violence is likely to arise later on…..and so we have to get rid of the sense of entitlement and replace it with a sense of negotiation and equality and respect and all these things; it’s….it’s not hard to talk about it; it’s sometimes harder to get it into our heads, how we should be behaving…..and I think it’s very useful for men to talk to other men about their feelings and so on, and that’s…..I want to move White Ribbon as well, to doing that sort of work as well as just sort of saying ‘we’re against violence’ [shouting] you know, and stuff.

    TW: It makes me think about……well two things really. One is….working like at grass roots with individuals or small groups…….about getting a new mentality, but then extend that mentality into the corporate world or the governments, and those huge…..or the UN even, or whoever, going for those big organisations so that they can start promoting it as well, so the kind of work that you do; how do you deal with those two different sides of it?

    CG: Well I…..I…..we’re very interested in working with the corporate sector and it’s very hard to them to play ball, but we do have standard policies on……violence against women for companies and for organisations, but as you say it’s…… how am I going to succeed unless I push and shove and behave in a sort of macho, aggressive sort of way, and that’s….big changes need to be made, but part of that is…..the…..the new suggestion by the European Commission to have forty per cent of women on the board, you know, would be fantastic progress. Where you see the best progress around violence against women are the countries where they have got in the last few years, a much higher proportion of women into Cabinet…..Spain…..France, just in the last couple of years and the last year, and immediately there’s some changes been put into place……and you think Spain and France, very traditional Catholic, very traditional male roles….but they’re changing. Iceland of course has a lesbian president, you know, and completely unashamedly about it, and doing fantastically brilliant work because they’re as I say, ‘we’re….you know, we are proud to elect this woman’, you know, ‘we stand saying we don’t care about people’s sexuality’ in fact I should have said why do I care about it, because it’s the first one I suppose….and the first open….well not necessarily the first one, the first open, and that’s Iceland which is a pretty traditional male society there as well, but….so that electing women to positions is….is a start, and appointing them to boards and so on and so on, so….empowering women is such a major part of the sort of work which we want to do to prevent violence, but also getting men to say ‘there are other things in life besides power and control’ you know – being nice, enjoying stuff is better - it’s more fun, you know, so, lots of interesting challenging work together, and at White Ribbon we don’t do enough of that extending…..doing men interesting things way.

    TW: Yeah, it seems to me that …..at a very high level, whether it’s in corporations or government or what have you, there’s more women involved, and not just women but men who have….a kind of open mentality about these sort of things, then the ordinary person who….a man who might want to look after his child for six months or a year, but he can’t because his boss sees it as being bad and his boss’s boss sees it as being bad, and so he’s trapped; although he might want to, he’s…..he’s trapped within the kind of structure, but if it came from top down as well as from bottom up, it would be a much more open and equal society.

    CG: Absolutely. And interestingly then you start to get opportunities like….extension of paternity leave, and for our work as well, [incomp] men don’t want to say….if you say to a guy….. ‘well your daughter might get attacked’….. ‘oh I’ll do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen’….if you say ‘your son might be a perpetrator’… ‘oh I’ll do anything to prevent that happening’ ….the average guy in the street would say that, you know, and so to work with……men and talk about their children is as you were just saying, it’s…..guys in the home saying things would be different, and that is something that Governments can do by extending paternity ……leave, and by making it easier for men to have part-time jobs and so on, and for heralding it, and for people and men in Government saying ‘yes we think this is a good idea’. There was recently an MP who was going to apply for a post as a job share, as an MP; what a great idea, what a great role model, an example; a job share MP, and the media were saying ‘no you can’t do this……’ and I said ‘of course they could; you’d get far more out of them’ you know, because two people – it’s well known – two people sharing a job work twice the time as one person, so lots of…..lots of good examples, lots of good work to be done, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of, you know, new roles for men.

    TW: Right. So do you work with women’s groups as well then…..focusing on men’s violence?

    CG: Yes, absolutely, I mean next week I’m going down to talk to the people who work on Women’s Aid helpline, because they’re really interested in talking about…..White Ribbon Campaign and having a talk about what we do…..but….I recently gave a talk to Women Against Violence Europe and they said centre on the cooperation with other women’s organisations and I was able to list sort of eighteen British women’s organisations that we’d worked with; not just at a token level, but at a significant level…..and we are also members of Domestic Abuse Partnership, which unfortunately…..when I go there, is eight women and me….you know, it’s domestic abuse; why shouldn’t men be…men should be saying ‘yes I’m interested in this group’ and so often that’s the case, that I go and address women’s organisations when I should be talking to the local darts team or the local rugby club, you know, assuming those are men’s organisations……the local Freemasons Society or whatever……talking to men.

    TW: Right…..yeah.

    CG: We can go back in time if you like, cos we’ve skated over years and years…..

    TW: No it’s fine…..well what would you like to go back to?

    CG: I don’t know…..I’d like to go back to when I was young. [laughing]

    TW: What in reality or in this conversation! [laughing]

    CG: In this……in this conversation……no but in reality, I don’t understand why I didn’t start doing this years ago; thirty years ago I was involved in sort of men’s politics…..and we were talking about the masculinity stuff now, and if I’d realised I could have started organisations then, oh my goodness I would have done so, because…..I don’t think I’ve wasted twenty-five, thirty years of my working life, but I would have been far more interested in doing this sort of work then, and

    TW: Well it does seem to me that you have a progression, in the sense that……you were in a Peace movement which was basically against violence, because war is violent but it’s against violence against children, women and men…….and anybody else for that matter that might come your way, and you’ve progressed from that sort of universal war…..anti-war thing to….now…..and almost…..almost in a way, wider things and it’s like……half the people on the planet are men…..and so you’re trying to deal with that, so in some ways you’ve focused on a particular gender, but in another way you’ve widened it out to a lot larger…..so I can see the connection of where you’re coming from don’t you……don’t you feel that?

    CG: Absolutely. Couple of things to say about that; I mean first is some of the people we work with have talked about why aren’t we working on men and militarism, you know, and I think that’s a very interesting big question; I think…..I would love to….we’ve done a little bit of work with the army, but not enough……and….partly because they had particular issues around domestic abuse and violence to women in general, as in armies, rape is used as a weapon of war…..internationally, and of course, they say ‘oh not in our army’……yeah yeah, just see what happened in the Second World War or….anyway, but the second thing is…..going back to talk about……thirty years ago, is that my agenda on men was far wider than it is now, and I was talking about men and sexuality; men and……….reproduction and contraception; men and marriage, you know, I’ve been happily married to the same person now for……sorry to say happily married…..that was some mistake….happily unmarried [laughing] to the same person for the…..for the last twenty-nine years…..and….for us that was a political statement and it remains so, you know, and….and I think sort of marriage is sort of….the marriage ceremony itself is about…..women serving men, and going subservient to men…..but it’s very difficult when I’m in another country talking about sort of…..White Ribbon and violence against women, to somebody who says ‘well of course I want to talk about sexuality, I want to talk about marriage, I want to talk about contraception’, but I think those are fundamentally part of the same package about men and violence

    TW: Do you talk to religious groups then, because an awful lot of……well, the three classics….the Jewish, the Catholic, the Muslim, are all very male orientated…..and an awful lot of violence against women I would think comes from those sort of, you know, religious bases.

    CG: I did a…..two minute slot on Channel 4 last year, and it was called ‘can your God be a woman?’ and I thought ‘well of course she can’…..if there’s any such thing as a God, you know, I mean, it was…..during the week they had different people speaking and my mouth drops open really with what some people would say they believe, you know, and it was….. ‘it’s a guy on the white throne sitting up there’ and I thought….they’re mentally ill, in my opinion…..

    TW: I don’t know if I’d go that far, but they’ve obviously been brainwashed to some extent

    CG: Yes, brainwashed, but people would say I was weird, that I didn’t believe this, and I think ‘no – you prove that this is in existence’…..and that’s……that’s the sort of thing, and I think it’s very strange that sort of people can…..but anyway it was an interesting show and I was as nervous as hell; I’d done lots of research about it all, and I wasn’t able to talk about violence against women, and of course the church and how………….in the Middle Ages, millions of women were…..burnt at the stake as witches……just to keep the status quo, you know, you’ve got weird ideas….you don’t come and let the local priest tell everybody what to do….. ‘you’re crazy’ they’re saying…… ‘who’s crazy?’ you know, just because we’re a bit independent

    TW: It’s….. ‘our’ again isn’t it?

    CG: Yeah…..so, very interesting times, yes, and….but I think I was trying…..yes we do do work with faith communities and I sort of bite my tongue, because to have….. members of faith communities condemning violence and getting their people ….men in their congregations to do something about it, is progress, but I would rather I weren’t going into those buildings in the first place, but that’s…..you know

    TW: That’s a different point I suppose isn’t it?

    CG: Yes I mean…..we call it baby steps; somebody wearing a ribbon…..it’s a baby step of a commitment; you know, somebody signing a pledge to say ‘I will not….commit or condone or remain silent about violence’ is another baby step, you know, have your photograph taken signing something, you know, another little step along the way…..so I just think it’s starts and maybe gets people starting to think, and what we need to do then is to provide literature and information so that they can then talk about the wider roles, but that’s what I think….the media has such an important role because in five minutes they can undo five years of our work by reinforcing terrible gender stereotypes……as I said before, I mean like…..years ago, you know, pornography was a couple of pictures of women with nothing on in Playboy or something like that; pornography now is graphic images of women being upset, hurt and……looking as though they’re in pain, and a guy at the young end just thinking ‘oh is this what it’s like?......you know, ‘this…..this is how we’ve got to treat women all the time’ you know, and it’s….weird, you know, so these people….we have to roll that back somehow, and somebody recently was talking about……having nicer porn; I don’t……and I…..you can call it erotica or what have you, and I think that might well be a way forward, but I haven’t talked about that as an issue, or broached it, and I think that’s……that’s probably a bullet that I will be biting in the next sort of year or two, working with groups to try and develop that sort of work

    TW: I was gonna ask about what you’re gonna do next, or what your plans are, you know, your most recent and then your forward planning; what kind of things you might be, you know, looking at.

    CG: Well at White Ribbon we know we will continue with…..the joy was to get it sustainable, and it seems sustainable now. We get no grant from Government, but that might change…..but we…..at least we get massive amounts of merchandise, and the very fact that every…..people out there around the rest of the world, or the rest of Britain anyway, saying ‘what’s happening on White Ribbon day this year, November 25th’, the international day to eradicate violence against women, means that next year they’ll be saying it again; next year…..so, something will happen, so in that case I could just sort of pack up and stop doing it, but I want to do different work, but in the…..in the knowledge that work will continue in some shape or form….and for example, we’d just been asked, or somebody had just suggested us having motorbikes with a white ribbon and we’ve just developed a design which has these white ribbons coming out of the exhaust of a motorbike, because……a biker said ‘I could sell these at some big rally’ and just…..and in the New Zealand White Ribbon campaign they have motorcyclists going round for two weeks, roaring up into a town, hundreds of these guys, and just saying ‘right, we want to talk to you about masculinity’ – what a cool thing – so, that sort of diversification means that we can keep spreading the message in different ways, and I want to diversify as I say sort of into me, personally looking at wider issues of….of masculinity. I was Chair of something called The Coalition of Men and Boys, but that….got a grant for one year or two years and then the grant finished, and that’s a suicide note for an organisation - give people money and then take it away – because we did just cease to be, and the national organisation which was part of the coalition sort of completely disappeared, and so we just didn’t have anything to work on, but to look at that sort of thing; a bunch of men’s organisations from different areas – men’s health….men’s sport if you like, men’s schooling and education…..men at work – just talking about all of these sorts of areas and having….set some policy…..to get Parliamentarians doing stuff is a good sign - change laws – but also local groups….I once met a guy who wanted…oh a couple of million quid to set up a men’s group in every community in Britain, and I thought ‘it’s a great idea but the couple of million quid is like gonna be the problem’ [laughing] but to have men’s groups in…..when I first moved to Hebden Bridge I was in a men’s group and…..two years ago another little local men’s group set up and I keep joining them, but they have no momentum, they have no reason to exist

    TW: Well a funny thing that’s just struck me…..you spoke earlier about being in like the Cubs or Boy Scouts when you were young. You would think that you might be able to get a message to those sorts of young men at an early age, if it was part, you know, if they had to win your badge out of something that they did

    CG: Great, a great idea, and…..we are in touch with national youth organisations but interestingly, and of course typically, it’s the Girl Guides who are running a big Violence Against Women and Girls Campaign, and the Scouts think ‘oh it’s nothing to do with us’ and that’s…..that’s the way we have to….conquer that, and I said could they put us in touch with their equivalent in the Scouts, but it’s the way of just getting in to people at an important senior policy level, for them to say ‘yes we will make a badge’ – that would be fantastic……it’s always opening doors, but we are getting doors opened to access at Governmental levels, and in fact in the last few days…..I’ve been appointed a United Nations…..Men’s Leaders Group, which is about twenty men around the world; I’m thrilled to get that request, and some of them are Prime Ministers doing particularly important in their countries; others are leaders of men’s organisations in other parts of the world, where they have active anti-violence activities, like in South Africa…..South America and North America, so I think that’s changed…so we’re making progress into being recognised and being known about.

    TW: Sounds fantastic!

    CG: It is, but it’s only a question of doors opening, and the more you do, the more you realise people say ‘your work is useful and important’ and the more you realise you need to do even more because, you know, once every six seconds a woman cries - once every three days a woman dies, you know, so our job is to get men to speak out about this all the time, and…..and as you said before, change our own behaviour as well.

    TW: Yeah……..I’m just wondering….I mean we’re getting near to the hour mark

    CG: Yeah yeah

    TW: Is there anything I haven’t actually asked about, that you would like to say something about?

    CG: …..Hebden Bridge; let’s go back to Hebden Bridge……..last week or the week before, somebody had a fortieth birthday party in Hebden Bridge and it was in the Town Hall

    TW: And I went

    CG: forty years of Hebden Bridge, and it was fantastic, and it was all the people talking about the….the history of all the issues, and….somebody else…..sorry I’ve remembered another story which adds to that….I was going to say that’s the reason I want to live here for ever, you know, except for the damp [laughing], I mean because it’s a wonderful place, but I was in London and….a couple of weeks ago, taking pictures of MPs and one of the people who works in the parliamentary Labour Party said ‘oh yes, my sister lives in Hebden Bridge, and she describes it as treacle’ – you know, you move there and you never leave because you’re stuck to the floor [laughing] and, because it’s such a wonderful place, there’s such a sense of community and……it’s….I don’t understand why it’s so different to…..it’s the heritage….I came here almost by accident….and I hope that I’ve added a little bit to the rich heritage, but I feel I’ve benefitted hugely from the……the heritage of….the modern incomers as it were, the hippies if you want me to say shorthand, who have helped enormously with my education and my social life, and…..and I’m having a great time here.

    TW: Right, okay

    CG: There’s probably loads more; there’s always…..later on I’ll be saying ‘oh I wish I’d talked about that’…..I don’t feel I’ve talked enough about how wonderful Hebden Bridge is, and the wonderful people I’ve met here. I always go off and start to preach about the White Ribbon Campaign instead of talking about our experiences

    TW: That’s fine…..hopefully…..our next project will be…..in six months or maybe longer, it depends….will be talking to all those types of people that came…..and we want to tie the thing in with…..the so-called hippies, the incomers, with….we want to look at all the shops….as well; we’d like to go to Mytholmroyd because a friend of mine, born and bred here, there used to be forty-six shops in Mytholmroyd and something like forty-eight different works, and he’s drawn me a map of what they all were and what they were all called, and now there’s not that much here, and it would be very nice to do a project where I’m looking at the shops in Hebden and Mytholmroyd, and comparing……looking at the change and why Mytholmroyd’s got smaller and Hebden Bridge has got bigger, and they’re only a mile apart; it would be a very interesting thing to look at

    CG: I think people often…..when they talk about the building we’re in now, say ‘oh yes I remember when it was da da da….. and people who do know the area…..I think that’s a great project; it will be really fun, but all your work, all your project ideas sound fantastic

    TW: Well if we get that together I’ll come back and talk to you again about all the people, well all the incomers, yourself included, and all that side of it.

    CG: Yeah…..and I just think it’s all been….it’s all been….I feel very privileged, you know, and…..that’s….that’s why you sort of feel the opportunity to give something back, but the trouble is, going back a little bit, suddenly you get more bonuses, you know, you get invitations to go and talk to these people and meet with these people, and you think ‘I want to share that out, not get more for me’ but, as I say it’s been very…..a wonderful…..forty, fifty, nearly sixty years [laughing] and you’ve got to keep laughing through life, that’s the important thing. Well done, thank you very much Tony, well done.

    TW: Right, thank you. [END OF TRACK 1]

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About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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