The end of an era

EPISODE THIRTY ONE: “The Illusive Fugitive”

The guilty verdict stands and Helen and Sylvia continue their lives as convicted criminals under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.  When their peace camp is evicted it certainly seems like the end of a chapter but with Sylvia quickly re-offending, the pages ahead are all too familiar and as Helen dodges the bailiffs for unpaid court costs, the future isn’t necessarily bright but instead rebellious as these two veteran peace campaigners continue to work for peace in the only way they know how.


Click here to find out more about Sylvia’s action which led to a new arrest under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act


This is the last episode of Disarming Grandmothers and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Helen and Sylvia for trusting a filmmaker to come into their lives and for showing me a slice of British protest life that I never knew existed.  As a result of Disarming Grandmothers I am years older but hopefully also years wiser!  I strongly doubt that I have enriched your life as much as you’ve enriched mine, so thank you both.

I’d also like to thank those behind the scenes, from Steven Keevil for his unfaltering belief in the project and to all the supporters, family and friends who have donated their time and expertise, photographs and music, re-tweeted, facebooked and blogged the episodes, as well as leaving thoughtful comments on the site.

And finally, if you have taken something away from this series that has in some small way added to your life, I hope that you too will spread the word of these inspiring and extraordinary women who were once tried for terrorism whilst fighting for peace and became two very well known disarming grandmothers, who I can only hope will never fully retire.

The Final Verdict

EPISODE THIRTY: “A big fall”

Helen continues with her appeal and is dismayed when her expert witnesses are unable to defend her argument that the interception of communications, carried out by Menwith Hill, is an illegal act.  Helen’s argument, throughout this case, has been that the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act provides a layer of protection to America’s global surveillance outside of war time, which is in breach of our human rights.  But with a lack of approved evidence to back up her claim, it seems that this veteran peace campaigner has finally been defeated.  As Helen and Sylvia leave court for the last time, emotions run high.  Realistically, the enormity of the task at hand was always going to be just out of reach, however, Helen and Sylvia’s courage and determination to try to change a global inequality and an oppressive law, is remarkable; it is undoubtedly the human spirit which held the hidden successes during this trial for justice.

EPISODE TWENTY NINE: “Nothing to do with safety or security”

Sylvia and Betty attend a Yorkshire CND ‘Breaking the Links’ demonstration outside Menwith Hill.  The women soon discover that they are denied the opportunity to walk freely around the perimeter of the base and finding themselves ‘caged in’ and under close surveillance by the police, tensions rise.  This small group of elderly campaigners is soon outnumbered by the police; a disproportional response which is estimated, by those on the ground, to be 3:1.  Police intimidation during peaceful protest highlights the concern that if people are deterred from protesting, using simply their voice and a placard, will they find new ways to be heard which could in fact warrant such over zealous policing?

Further Information

Read CND’s evidence to the inquiry on human rights issues arising from policing and protest here.

When two becomes one

EPISODE TWENTY EIGHT: “A little landmark”

Helen returns to the British Courts to try to overturn her conviction as a Serious Organised Criminal.  This time, however, there is a key person missing as Sylvia steps aside for fear that another trial would take it’s toll both on her as an individual and her friendship with Helen.  Now a solo activist against the state, Helen begins her new trial optimistic that the Judge shares her concern about the interception of communications.  But with press interest dwindling and the women easily baffled by court proceedings, is it too little too late?

Campaigning Life Resumes


With the trial over, Helen and Sylvia re-focus their energies on campaigning and decide to surprise RAF Fylingdales by arriving under the cover of darkness to display banners outside the base.  It seems, for now, that their humour, wit and cheeky banter has returned as they battle against the unforgiving conditions of the Yorkshire moors to try, once more, to promote their messages of peace.


To find out more about Fylingdales please visit the official RAF site

To find out more about Yorkshire CND and their campaigns against Fylingdales please click here


EPISODE TWENTY SIX: “Dedicated, thoughtful and whatever”

The women begin their first day as convicted serious organised criminals by protesting outside another US Base, this time Fylingdales.  The ironic contrast between verdict and sentence raises questions among fellow campaigners as to the outcome for future arrests under this legislation.  By making trespass onto military bases an ‘act of terrorism’ yet punishing those found guilty with, what is effectively, a slap on the wrist, the message to the peace movement isn’t entirely clear.   Indeed with a growing number of campaigners deliberately seeking to challenge the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, in conjunction with the costs of lengthy court cases, one wonders what the new legislation has achieved; besides uniting protesters young and old to make a stand against their Government.


Find out more about Tansy and Lavinia’s act of protest and the outcome of their own terrorism trial. 

To find out more about Fylingdales please visit the official RAF site

To find out more about Yorkshire CND and their campaigns against Fylingdales please click here


EPISODE TWENTY FIVE: “Are you the famous Terrorist Granny?”

Helen and Sylvia’s court battle comes to a conclusion… well in the magistrate’s court at least.  With their expert witness being denied the opportunity to provide evidence about Menwith Hill and Helen surprisingly being off her game, the pair leave convicted under Section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.  The punishment for being a serious organised criminal proves negligible with the pair receiving £50 costs and a 3 month conditional discharge.  Hungrier than ever for their chance to air the issues in a public court, Helen quickly talks of an appeal, but is their friendship up to the test?

The Golden Age of Protest

EPISODE TWENTY FOUR: “Headbangers against the state”

Fellow peace protesters, Joan and Joy, join Helen for an evening down memory lane as they remember protests past.  However, with the resumed trial just around the corner it isn’t long before thoughts turn to the consequences of that infamous April Fools Day and the terrorism charge that is now more real than ever.


Find out more about Joan’s life of protest on her blog.

EPISODE TWENTY THREE: “Criminally insane… Ordinary People”

A new day brings a new protest at Menwith Hill.  Sylvia and Betty, another close friend and ally, greet the morning traffic into the Spy Base with banners of peace whilst standing strong against an antagonist policeman.  Back at the camp personal tensions run high between Helen and Sylvia, as thoughts turn to the lack of involvement in the peace movement.  Feeling the weight of peace firmly on their shoulders, perhaps it is not surprising that the women aren’t always smiling?

Breaking Point?


Helen and Sylvia’s trial for terrorism fused together two very different women.  Their contrasting personalities, beliefs and ways of working have slowly come under strain and in this episode we catch a glimpse of the tension that runs throughout their friendship.  Whilst united by peace, the woman freely admit the need to find common ground in their personal partnership, but is this one resolution too far?

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