On Saturday the 21 July 2018, a small group of activists for Stop The Arms Fair met outside the Farnborough International Airshow to participate in a peaceful family friendly action. The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) hosted arms deals during the week of the 16-20 July. On the weekend, it held a public “family friendly” weekend, to whitewash its deadly trade show. Stop The Arms Fair had a thought-provoking message for the public and families attending this event.
Mariette Labelle from Bubbles Not Bombs and Stop the Arms Fair writes:
I set off from London by train, carrying a large back pack weighted by leaflets, 3 litres of bubble solution and 288 small bubble packs-the kind you get in children’s party bags. Weightless compared to the weight many families carry as they are forced to escape from their conflict ridden communities.
Another activist and I met at Farnborough Main train station, greeted by signs reminding us that the whole town of Farnborough is sponsored by BAE. As we sat outside Gate B by the airshow, waiting for the others to arrive, we looked at the Typhoon performing stunts above our heads, entertaining the public. We sat there pondering how many NHS positions could be financed by this beast, the cost and use of fuel, the training of the pilots and sadly wondered how the sight and sound of it makes a child in Yemen feel.
The others arrived and we started to set up, promptly surrounded by a photographer, police and Airshow security. The police were not aggressive, they just asked us if we were the “Bubble…(mumbled the rest as they probably wanted to snicker at the word bubbles) crew”. Some activists voiced feeling uncomfortable with them circling around us like vultures. They left, replaced by a staff member working for security who politely and calmly explained that the whole area was private (apparently- the FIA have purchased the land including the bus station there at gate B) and not public property. I wasn’t about to argue and wanted to just get on with our action peacefully, though some others were gearing up for an argument. I just said “if asked to move, we move” and the staff member showed us where to go as another activist magically appeared.
We found ourselves on the road we had spotted from the shuttle bus previously and had said:” if we are asked to move, we will come here”. A well-seasoned activist steered us towards Gate A along this road, where a lot of local families were settled to watch the planes. As we walked, we leafleted whomever we met, with the banner unrolled and visible from the road. We attached the banner on a fence, by what is probably a monument-oh dear, oops, how rude…but prime picnic spot for families. Nobody told us to move and we quickly settled into different roles. No cops. No security.
Two activists found new talents as children entertainers using bubbles, another set up shop on the pavement, while the rest of us wandered up and down the road leafleting and handing out the little bubble packs.
A local activist joined us, followed by another who found us by noticing the bubbles. His effective patter of “bubbles are good, bombs are bad” made it impossible for families to resist taking notice. Who could argue that. We had a team of 7. We engaged with the locals picnicking under the flight path of roaring Typhoons and Red Arrows. We were ignored by the plane spotters with their oversized lenses, ready to capture every detail of these weapons. We gave our leaflets telling a story about how bubbles should be in the skies, not bombs, for children all over the world.
Overall, there was a positive response with the usual obligatory denial and guilt-ridden apathy. We continued on till 5:30 pm, two of us leaving just a bit before 6pm. I was gallantly escorted to the train station (gee, that was a trek!), thank goodness my back pack was now much lighter.
We can only hope that our actions and leaflets stimulated some conversations over supper for some families, on how these planes, seen as entertainment for the children here, are a source of fear and devastation for children in areas of war and conflict…and what we can do about it. We can only hope that the young generation can see that the only thing that should burst in front of a child is a bubble and never a bomb!
– Mariette Labelle