Locked in Protest

Our Vice Chair Paul Maddocks is reminded of a bare faced protest at the Cathedral.  Paul writes:

Recently a lad woke up to find his mate had put a ‘D’ lock around his neck and lost the key. So he had to go to the fire station and they had to use special cutting tools to get it off. It took them hours!

It reminded me of on incident in the Cathedral in 1996, which involved a ‘D’ lock.

It was the 100th Anniversary of the British car industry. After long planning, a programme of various events was scheduled in Coventry to celebrate one hundred years of car manufacturing in the city. It was decided that it would be launched in Coventry Cathedral on the anniversary of the day that the Daimler Company set up their factory in Drapers Field in November 1896. The Transport Museum and the Cathedral had a very good working relationship with sharing Tourist trade stands and other events.

On the launch date in November 1996 the oldest British Daimler drove into the Cathedral. I was inside the Cathedral and everyone was looking as the car chugged and spluttered in through the middle doors. I noticed a tall lady who looked a bit like Vanessa Redgrave in a large fur coat and hat walking very fast in from the other entrance. She was followed by a man and a group of cameramen. Still everyone was watching the car, the lady stood in front of the pulpit and one of the men was trying to attach a cycle ‘D’ clamp around her neck on to the railings of the pulpit just underneath the eagle lectern by Elizabeth Frink.

Elizabeth Frink Eagle Lectern with railing in front

In front of the pulpit was the Chief of Police who quickly jumped up and grabbed the ‘D’ clamp off the man. The lady then pulled open her fur coat to show she had no clothes on and across her body written in lipstick was ‘Millions die’, ‘cars kill’, ‘give up the goddess’  and other things. Quickly other people joined in and they removed her from the Cathedral, but she carried on struggling and shouting and the fur coat did not cover her completely.

If the ‘D’ clamp had been locked around her neck and the pulpit rail and the man with the key had got away, the service would have had to be cancelled but it was not and the proceedings carried on as though nothing had happened. But you could hear outside the protesters singing and shouting.

It was the time of anti-car protests and protests against the building of new roads and motorways such as the Newbury bypass. People like ‘Swampy” had tunnelled under land which was to be built on.

The press had had a tip off and many cameramen caught the scene on film as it unfolded in the Cathedral. It was shown on the National TV news only an hour later. My mate Malcolm who was with the old Daimler car had a brother in the Bradford Police. His brother was in his police staff canteen and in the corner mounted on the wall was a TV with the news on. He spotted his brother and the old Daimler, so he shouted out that’s my brother pointing at the television. But when all the police staff looked up, it was just showing the lady in the fur coat being taken out of the Cathedral half dressed. Everyone laughed and he got ribbed for this for ages.

Sadly around this same time, a motorway crash resulted in the death of a mini coach load of young student musicians. The Cathedral set up a special memorial service for victims of road accidents. This was focused on the sculpture of Christ’s head and shoulder made from metal from crashed cars with candles lit in front of it. This memorial service continued annually afterwards for many years.

It was always held on the second Sunday in November. I was involved in the commemoration committee and I suggested that everyone who attended the service was given a acorn which they could plant as a permanent reminder of their loved one. This was after the John and Yoko planting of acorns for peace. I sometimes wonder how big the Oak trees have grown and where they were planted?

The Coventry Telegraph news item wrote – “During a thanksgiving service at Coventry Cathedral to mark the centenary of the British motor industry, a woman protester calling herself ‘Angel’ stripped naked as an anti-car protest. Also protesting were mothers dressed in black holding photographs of children killed in road accidents. An 1897 Daimler model led the procession into the cathedral, but shortly afterwards the service was interrupted by a protester invoking the spirit of Lady Godiva – with a naked proclamation in front of the packed congregation.

“As she stood starkers in the nave, the woman who went by the name Angel, exclaimed: ‘Mother Earth forgive us… the thousands and thousands of acres of beautiful land destroyed, deforested, desecrated, mined, tarmacked – Mother Earth forgive us!’

“As she was bundled out of the front of Coventry Cathedral, Angel shouted: “What is this worship of the motor car? It is a killing machine, you are killing each other!”

The protest reminds me a bit of HS2 and the thousands of acres of beautiful land and trees being destroyed at the moment.

Paul Maddocks, March 2021

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