A look back at a fortnight in which Norfolk found its voice
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 November 2010
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It was at the EDP’s head office in Norwich just over two weeks ago where MPs, councils, businesses and communities across Norfolk united to launch a bid to save RAF Marham.
Little was known then of how many people would back our Make it Marham campaign ahead of today’s petition hand in at Downing Street and a target figure of 20,000 was set.
But in just 18 days the target was smashed with almost 37,000 people from across the county - and further afield - showing their support for the RAF base.
The fight to save the Tornado base started when campaigners, led by South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, took to the streets in Swaffham on Saturday, November 13.
The response from shoppers was incredible with people queuing to sign the petition and blank sheets filled up fast.
The mood of townspeople who wanted to see the Norfolk Tornado base stay open was summed up by plumber Kesito Poponne who lives in Castle Acre, near Swaffham.
He said: “The base has been an integral part of not only Swaffham but west Norfolk for decades and I think to close it will be catastrophic for the area.
“Swaffham will sink if Marham is closed and it will probably turn into a bit of a ghost town because so many shops will close.”
By Monday, the number of people who had backed our campaign reached the 6,000 mark with the number signing our online petition increasing daily.
West Norfolk-based independent radio station KL.FM also started plugging the campaign the same day and saw 500 people sign up to Make it Marham in a matter of hours.
Then on Thursday, six days into the campaign, MPs were told that more than 10,000 people had signed the petition to stop Marham’s Tornado fleet being moved to Scotland.
South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss spoke of the strength of feeling both in Norfolk and East Anglia in support of the base during Business Questions.
The following day, the fight to save RAF Marham moved to another town which could be hit badly by the closure of the Tornado base - Downham Market.
Ms Truss again led the signature collection and was joined by an energetic team of volunteers, including town, borough and county councillors, as well as Downham traders.
Like in Swaffham the Saturday before, volunteers were swamped with people queuing to sign the petition.
Shelagh Hutson, county councillor for Downham Market, said on the day: “So many people who live and work in this town have a connection with RAF Marham and those working at the base come here to do their shopping, so to lose it would be a disaster for the town.”
Last Saturday (November 20), we published a petition form on the front page of our weekend edition - something not believed to have been done in our 140-year history.
The fight to save RAF Marham was bolstered the same day by a sellout Carrow Road crowd, many of whom signed a petition before taking their seats to watch Norwich City Football Club take on Leeds United.
Around 2,500 signatures were also collected by North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham and other volunteers in just two hours at the busy Vancouver Quarter in King’s Lynn.
The campaign to save the Tornado base received a further boost when celebrities and sporting personalities, led by Amanda Holden, lined up behind our Make it Marham campaign last week.
The Britain’s Got Talent judge, who lives in Burnham Market, said: “Thousands of livelihoods in Norfolk depend on RAF Marham – not just the 5,000 or so who work on the base.”
The backing of the county’s famous residents, which also included TV presenter Trisha Goddard, had an impact as the amount of people backing our campaign soared over 25,000 by Friday.
It came as the two station commanders of RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth both spoke to the EDP about their love for the Norfolk RAF base and how it would be “difficult” for them to see it closed.
Then on Saturday more Canaries fans, including Delia Smith, signed the petition ahead of their team’s amazing derby win over Ipswich
As it stands today, Ministers will be left in no doubt how strongly Norfolk feels about the future of RAF Marham.
In just over two weeks the people of Norfolk have roared into life to help save one of the county’s oldest friends - but we will have to wait to see if our cries have been heard.
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