Coral Maddock met up with Kay Clarke, founder member of WOW (1950s Women of Wales (1950sWOW) and beyond group, here she tells Coral about her pension campaign.
What made you choose the groups name WOW?
I had been a member of the first WASPI group in Wales since almost the beginning quickly becoming admin. After the first few months I was encouraged to set up a WASPI group in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Sadly campaigning was held back in the area when the second WASPI split occurred. 1950s Women of Wales came about after my having become disillusioned with what was happening within WASPI. It grew very quickly and women from all over the UK were asking to join. Consequently it then became known as 1950s Women of Wales (and beyond) Having kept my association with WASPI all along we have work together on rallies and other events such as local council addresses and talks to members of the public throughout S Wales.
Has Coronavirus affected your campaigning?
It has. To begin with it was felt that what was happening in our country and all over the world was far more important than our fight for our pensions. People were fighting for their lives. But soon after it became evident that many people were being helped financially. Since we had such a strong case for consideration I felt we should tactfully resume due to the fact that so many women had been suffering the same financial losses for years and were even now still not being considered as were it seemed everyone else!
Have you had experience in running other groups?
I have 2 other groups on completely different subjects. Blaujager.....I have bred and shown dogs, predominantly Weimaraners having bred champions and gained top honours at Crufts. I also bred the famous Smirnoff ice dog. The other is The potty pantry and blooms where many of my bespoke celebration cakes can be seen.
Did you find campaigning and public speaking easy?
When Campaigning and talking one to one there is no stopping me but even now you will see me visibly shaking when speaking in public!
Did you find MPs supportive of our campaign? Many are! From all parties. The problem is Party policy and the whip!
Are members proactive with campaigning?
Sadly it is the usual few who join in. Though we have many many members, the response is only high when news of progress is shared. Though I realise that work and caring responsibilities come in the way of rallies and other events I am forever appealing for more support from all members.
Why are you campaigning when the Government-and DWP clearly state that all of those affected were clearly notified, Kenneth Clark clearly mentioned this in 1995?
Clearly mentioned it to who!? I was far too busy bringing up 3 children alongside holding down 3 jobs at that particular time in my life. I had no letter then though I'm sure if I had fallen short in my tax payments there would have been one pushed through my letter box soon enough! As I have said I was in court for the Judicial Review where it was stated by Sir James Edie, barrister for the DWP , that the government did not send out letters at this time to all of those affected and it is not the legal responsibility of the government to do so! In layman terms... No we didn't so tough!
Does your group welcome men and women?
We do indeed.
I understand you had significant health issues last year, thankfully you have recovered, you must be extremely passionate and determined to continue campaigning, are you putting your health at risk again?
I have had many offers of help since my heart attack. These have been taken up with relish and I now ensure that I do not allow myself to become as stressed or stay up so late quite so much as I did! I have a very supportive team around who keep an eye on me!
Do you campaign with other Pension campaigning groups?
I believe completely in all groups working together in harmony to achieve our goal. To fight amongst ourselves only gives fuel to the real enemy......those who stole our pensions and refuse to come to the table, admit they messed up and put things right! So yes I most certainly do and shall continue to do so for the duration.
Do you think campaigning for pensions has made progress or maybe stagnant?
It has indeed made progress! We are now a well known campaign. The biggest this century. We have many politicians on side and have an appeal pending after a very hard fought court case. It was an honour to have been in attendance at the original hearing on both days last year. Just two weeks before I fell ill.
Do you feel Pension injustice is political?
If so do you accept political posts? I was in the public gallery in Westminster along with about 35 other campaigners from various groups on budget day 2018 when we saw the chancellor take his seat after his speech. We stood up shouting 'shame on you' for a good 10 minutes before being removed. The sight below in the chamber was very political. The whole of the opposition benches were standing clapping cheering and taking photos. The other side of the room saw sullen, cross, embarrassed and shocked faces. But in amongst them were one or two stifled grins! So yes it is indeed political. But as to political posts unrelated to our campaign I will decline. Some of our members still hold allegiance to the party we need to win over. We have no desire to have these ladies upset by party politics.
Are you campaigning for Social injustices as well as pensions?
No. Our campaign came about because the women born in the 1950s had little or no notice about state pension age changes. It remains the same. We do now have some members from the 1960s who it seems had also not been notified. As we have spent six years of our lives at a time when life becomes even more precious, it is hoped that if no restitution is soon agreed upon that they will step into our shoes and carry on campaigning for justice.
How many members are in WOW?
To date we have 1,740 in WOW and 1,913 in 50s Women United, the group I set up for the 2 London rallies, Remember Remember and the aborted 21/7 support rally.
Are you a public or private group? Private. We have become public on a couple of occasions in order to promote events. However we have found that it is too easy for people who have a hidden agenda with a desire to cause upset within our group to comment on our issue.
Can you please share some of your rallies, demonstrations, with us please.
Personally I have been to most of the major rallies throughout the UK since the very first just 2 days after the dreaded BREXIT including the infamous one the following spring where we saw 7,500 campaigners outside Westminster interrupt the broadcasting of the budget with their chanting! I travelled to Manchester to the wonderful Radio City rally by Linda Wyatt and again back to London for two further large rallies, one for Trudy's book launch and the one I had a hand in organising along with Catherine Cuthbert on 5 November last year. I also came south to the Weymouth rally where the wonderful suffragette image was taken on the seafront with the south of England ladies joined Trudy for a 'local shout out'! I have with help arranged a number of Wales rallies at the Senedd (Wales Parliament) and three in Cardiff City Centre, and been instrumental in having had one of two plenary's within the Senedd resulting in papers of support for our campaign being sent to Westminster requesting action to be taken to resolve our issue.
If we are unsuccessful with the Judicial Review 21/22nd July 2020 will you give up, or do you have an action plan?
We had planned on doing a rally in London on the 21st July and I was on the organising committee. Sadly COVID put paid to that. I have no plan to stop campaigning for justice for these women. It's in my blood!