Louise K Wilson
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Spadeadam bus tour | 2002

A one day guided tour to RAF Spadeadam to visit the Blue Streak remains and the electronic warfare tactics range. A Grizedale Arts event.

The RAF were to host the afternoon, showing videos and explaining aspects of electronic warfare; Ray Hancock was to talk about Blue Streak. Bus tour-ists included the then curator at the Museum of Flight in Edinburgh and an elderly artist friend who had taken part in a peace march on Spadeadam in the 1960s and was still living nearby. Her home was a cottage divided into two flats, for thirty years or so she had effectively lived in the same house as a Blue Streak engineer whom she didn't get on with. 

Some months later I asked some of the bus tour-ists for their impressions and memories of the day at Spadeadam:

"I found myself as one of a motley crew on a bus tour of RAF Spadeadam. My fellow passengers included retired people from the local village (whose families had worked at the base, and had grown up knowing that the rocket existed but that it was not to be talked about), artists and Ray Hancock an engineer on the Blue Streak Project (so the secret really had to be true).  And sure enough, parked up on a trailer at the entrance to the base, is a section of the rocket that really should be in the science museum.

As we bumped along the bleak and exposed moorland we unpeeled the layers of secrecy and openness covering the site. We visited the fantastic rocket test beds - beautiful examples of modernist concrete architecture that may one day become a listed heritage site (much to the annoyance of the RAF who would have the responsibility of maintaining them). 

From another artist (who took GPS readings at various Blue Streak sites):

"The strangeness of a concrete support structure being made a listed building seemed apt in an environment where there was a mixture of real but ancient anti-aircraft devices with no english instructions, on an airbase with no runway, along side fake wooden tanks and decoys.  Somehow the whole place was a support structure and a test ground, a place to fly over rather than to land, almost making it a non-location. Feeling like I had to be furtive with my gps emphasised that, almost as if secretly it was impossible to map (incidentally I never did manage to save the gps data properly, all that is left are a few co-ordinates labelled owl or phonebox or decoy.)

From a photographer: 

" It's difficult to pull out a single impression from the visit and I don't want to attempt 
a major statement which will sound pompous. I suppose I would say that I am always amazed at the things that take place in Britain which are 'on our behalf' and all of the secrecy which surrounds them.

The remoteness and closed nature of the area surrounding Spadeadam must have greatly added to the feeling of isolation and exclusivity of the whole enterprise. I'm also slightly surprised at how the real reason for making Blue Streak in the first place becomes wrapped in a kind of miasma around British craftsmanship and excellence as opposed to French incompetence. The fact is that Blue Streak was to deliver nuclear weapons to Moscow as part of a totally lunatic defence policy which institutionalises genocide as an acceptable outcome of conflict. Phew.. That said I have very fond memories of the sandwiches which (you) brought in on a baker's tray with a gingham cloth covering them. They seemed to be reflective of an era when Spadeadam was at its height. ."

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