'The heroic actions of this small, but determined, group of women is told brilliantly in Andrea Needham’s fascinating account…. You can sense just how much human life matters to each and every one of these women. They spent six months in jail for acting upon their consciences – but were eventually, and rightly, found to be innocent. Anyone interested in social change, or campaigning for peace, should read this book and take inspiration from the brave actions of these amazing women.' Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion
'The Seeds of Hope East Timor Ploughshares action was one of the most imaginative and successful direct actions in modern-day Britain. It demonstrated that principle and courage are natural, crucial allies. Andrea Needham was part of that action, and her eagerly awaited book is now here. Read it and learn how to change the world.' John Pilger
In January 1996, three women broke into a British Aerospace factory in Lancashire and used household hammers to disarm a Hawk warplane bound for Indonesia.
They were arrested, charged with £2.4m of criminal damage, and sent to prison to await trial. A week later, a fourth woman joined them, accused of conspiracy. After six months in prison, all four were acquitted by a Liverpool jury in a court case that effectively put Britain's arms trade on trial.
Peace News wants to be able to publish Andrea Needham's book, The Hammer Blow, on the 20th anniversary of the action, 29 January 2016 but needs to raise funds to print it. By contributing to this Kickstarter campaign, you can help make it happen.
Andrea Needham writes:
There were ten women in the Seeds of Hope group, some of us taking part in the action and others forming the support group. All of us were crucially important to the whole, and each of us could tell a different story about that momentous year. This is simply my story.
I disarmed the Hawk because I had done everything else in my power to stop these weapons being delivered to Indonesia. Together with thousands of others, I had written letters, signed petitions, handed out leaflets, marched, attended rallies, organised peace camps, taken part in nonviolent direct action.
Nothing had worked, and the planes were about to be delivered to Indonesia for use in East Timor, a tiny country where one third of the population had been killed in a campaign which Noam Chomsky has described as 'the worst slaughter relative to population since the Holocaust'.
In that situation, with our government aiding and abetting genocide, what else could we do but disarm the weapons ourselves?
Why you should back this project
Supporting this project will make possible the publication, for the first time, of an inside account of the whole Seeds of Hope East Timor Ploughshares story. From the first tentative discussions, through almost a year of detailed planning, six months in prison, to the trial and beyond, this book will give readers an opportunity to experience the action through the eyes of one of the participants.
The acquittal of the four women was a landmark victory for the peace and solidarity movements in Britain. It generated huge media interest, and highlighted British support for the atrocities being perpetrated in East Timor. The action took place prior to widespread use of the internet, and nothing substantial has been written about it before. This book will make an important contribution to peace movement history.
Although the Seeds of Hope action took place almost twenty years ago, it is still relevant today. Britain is the world's second largest weapons dealer, selling arms to countries embroiled in conflicts and guilty of terrible human rights' abuses. As refugees pour out of warzones in the Middle East, Britain's response is to offer sanctuary to a very few, whilst continuing to see that area of the world as a key market for arms deals.
Campaigners in every area – the arms trade, the environment, human rights – need to be prepared to stand up and hold the government to account. The Seeds of Hope action showed how a small group of committed women were prepared to do just that, despite the risks to themselves. The Hammer Blow aims to inspire new generations of activists, and to show that, even when the cards appear stacked against us, we can still win.
About the author
Andrea's introduction to peace and justice issues came during three years living and working with homeless people in Washington DC in the late '80s. The communities she lived in – the Community for Creative Nonviolence, and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker – were both very involved in resistance to war and injustice, and it was in Washington that she took her first steps into activism. Back home, she spent many years with ARROW, a London-based affinity group, campaigning on issues including sanctions and war on Iraq, arms sales, and Northern Ireland. Andrea now lives in Hastings, where for several years she has been part of Combe Haven Defenders, a local anti-roads group.
The "Liverpool Four" were part of Timor-Leste's network of friends around the world who with courage and imagination contributed significantly in raising awareness about British arms sales to Indonesia. The book illustrates how nonviolent actions by citizens may deter, discourage and prevent greater violence against innocent peoples. I remain till this very day in admiration and gratitude for the "Liverpool Four".
Jose Ramos Horta, President of Timor-Leste (2007-2012) Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996)
To convey the depth, pain and joys of nonviolent actions of civil disobedience is no easy thing. Yet this is what Andrea Needham does in her reflections, twenty years on, of the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares action in 1996.
The strains of secrecy and its invasion into every day life; the hours of scrupulous planning; the ability to grapple with legal challenges and the hilarious madness of all-night stakeouts are all part of this story. Preparation for actions such as this is essential and painstaking - definitely unglamorous. And where it would be easy to wallow in self-pity, Andrea presents clear and unsentimental insights into prison life. While these women were variously labelled as fanatics and full of self-delusion, their witness reached out to the ordinary people of East Timor, to the ordinary people of Liverpool and to thousands more, offering real hope that change is possible and that the war machine can be stopped.
Pat Gaffney, Secretary General, Pax Christi UK
The Hawk Ploughshares Trial was one of the most remarkable instances of a jury accepting the defence of preventing a greater crime. Andrea Needham’s story of the four women campaigners is an amazing narrative, not least in the manner in which they planned the action and went through with it while evading what should have been stringent security measures. The subsequent experience of arrest and detention, especially in “grizzly Risley”, is a revealing story in its own right and the background to the trial, how they prepared for it and worked with a support group says much more about what can be achieved. This is not just a thoroughly readable book but is, more importantly, an inspiration.
Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
Seeds of Hope was a wonderful act of solidarity with the people of East Timor threatened by British weapons. The support of people around the world throughout our long struggle for independence was crucial, and this action raised the profile of Britain's role in arming Indonesia, and raised the spirits of the Timorese people. The Hammer Blow gives a fascinating inside account of the whole story, and should be read by anyone concerned about solidarity and justice.
Bella Galhos, Timorese human rights activist
The occupation of East Timor was one of the biggest injustices of our time. I was frustrated by the lack of coverage this occupation got in the British press, and at the same time I was angry with our government for being an apologist for the Indonesians, and for selling them arms. Then I heard about a group of women that undertook a piece of cool, and effective, direct action. They disrupted the sale of a major piece of military hardware, and in doing so they inspired me (and many others) to continue. They went to court, but the truth prevailed. This book is an honest, personal account of how, when and why. It goes without saying that it is an important piece of history, but what’s more important is that it shows other women and men what’s possible when we stand together for a just cause. These women really did increase the peace.
This is a beautifully written first-hand account of a legendary action that has deeply inspired me many times. These women are experts in meticulous planning, taking effective direct action, developing a tight-knit team, and winning a court battle, which are timeless and essential skills that are every bit as relevant to grassroots organisers today as they were 20 years ago. I'm delighted this story is now finally available for the rest of us to learn from.
It is incredibly rare for such detailed information about an action of this scale to be shared in public, which is a testament to the continually open attitude of the women who carried out the action. So let's make the most of it! For anyone who is curious about the inner-workings of someone who carries out direct action, here's your answer. And for those of us who are ready to take action ourselves, this book is a must-read.
Hannah Lewis, grassroots environmental campaigner, part of the 'No Dash For Gas' week-long occupation of West Burton Gas Power station in 2012
An excellently written, fast-paced, emotional roller-coaster, this is the story of how four courageous women prevented Hawk jets from gunning down innocent East Timorese. This vivid and inspiring tale is especially relevant in the post-Snowden era as governments around the world step up attempts to criminalise protest.
Rob Newman, comedian
If we raise £5,000, we will be able to have colour illustrations in the book of the women, the action and the events around the action.
If we raise £10,000, we will be able to run a major national promotion campaign, increase the initial print run and offer discounted bundles of copies to student groups to spread the message of nonviolent direct action.
If we raise £20,000, we will be able to increase the initial print run and offer discounted copies, and a number of copies just for the cost of postage, to student groups, claimant groups, peace and environmental groups and community groups.
If we raise £40,000, we will be able to do do all of the above, and fund Andrea's writing and campaigning work for a year.
Risks and challenges
In order to for the book to be successful, Peace News Press must mount a nation-wide speaking tour for the author. Should Andrea for some reason not be able to do this, that would affect the financial viability of the project.
However, that's unlikely to happen, and supporters can help us by offering to host a speaking event with Andrea in the New Year. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7278 3344.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)