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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 10:59 GMT
West: Never ending protest
Paul Barltrop
Paul Barltrop
The Politics Show West

Protester and police
Protester takes his message to the line of police

There have been many protests about the war in Iraq. But there has been nothing quite like the Bristol Peace Vigil which is in its fifth year.

For an hour every day, except Sunday, rain or shine, they stand out beside a busy roadside in the city centre, holding placards and handing out leaflets.

It is not just the dogged determination of the participants which is striking, but also their ages.

Two of the most devoted campaigners are pensioners who retired more than a quarter of a century ago.

Lois Atherden is an 86 year old former teacher. A devout Christian, her opposition to war started early; she marched with CND and protested outside Greenham Common.

She was with the Bristol vigil from the start, in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre attacks in September 2001.

People worried about the threat of war spontaneously came together, several days running - and agreed to keep it going.

"We decided on the time, when people were going home from work, and where to do it, with banners or whatever," she recalls.

"Now I am virtually there six days a week, except when I have got something really really important.

"My whole life is organised around it."

Within a couple of weeks they were joined by Neville Carey.

He has spent a lifetime in politics, having worked for the British Communist Party, and protested against everything from American bases to the poll tax.

But he has been more moved by this conflict. "War of any sort is terrible, because it means killing people," he says.

"Not just the other side's soldiers, but it means killing defenceless people with bombing."

At 92 he is the oldest protestor; yet even in the coldest weather he spurns gloves in order to quickly hand out leaflets to passers-by.

He jokes that it could actually be doing him good: "Normally for years I get a cold in November.

"I haven't had one last year or this - though whether it is the carbon monoxide I don't know!"

After 1,300 days, they have become an almost permanent fixture. The hoots of support from passing cars far outweigh the occasional abuse.

They have had some high profile visitors, such as the former Bristol MP Tony Benn and George Galloway of the Respect Party.

But they would give it all up tomorrow.

"If they stop killing, I would go home to tea happily," says Lois, "until the next one!"

For now, though, the ongoing bloodshed in Iraq means they're staying put.

The Politics Show West talks to an MP who has served with British forces in Iraq.

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