In the shadow of the preparations for the main summit, a coalition of peace activists are planning protests and other activities to offer an alternative to the defence conference.

IT’S getting to be a familiar refrain – this September heads of government from more than 60 countries will descend on Newport’s Celtic Manor Resort for the largest diplomatic event ever in the UK.

But while preparations continue for the discussions that will be had by the 28-member defence alliance and its partners, a team of local activists are working on how best to give a different perspective on what will be taking place behind the security fence.

With its association with nuclear weapons Nato has always attracted protests – and the Newport summit will be no different with a group dubbed No to Nato Newport set up to bring activists together.

No to Nato Newport argues that Nato is a nuclear-armed military alliance “binding Europe to US foreign policy” which it claims is increasingly unpopular around the world following the Iraq war.

A month long programme of activities has been drawn up of demonstrations, alternative summits and nationwide marches that will precede and run during the event itself.

One of the most eye-catching events will be the Long March on Newport – described as a “colourful and vibrant opposition to Nato meandering purposefully through Wales” that could see people walk for 192 miles over 19 days.

The longest stretch will run from Llanelli to Newport from August 8 to August 29, with branches also running from Aberystwyth, Swansea and possibly North Wales.

Events in Newport will kick off with a march around the city centre on August 30.

A map of the event shows protestors will leave the Civic Centre, head over the river via Old Green Roundabout to Rodney Parade and back to the city centre at the junction of High Street and Skinner Street.

A counter summit conference takes place the next day in Cardiff Council’s County Hall in the Bay and will likely deal with topics around resolving conflicts peacefully.

The Newport Alternative Summit, taking place at the Pill Millennium Centre on September 1 from 10am to 5pm, will see talks about abolishing nuclear weapons, closing military bases, and how to combat the use of drone aircraft.

A further demo will take place on the first day of the summit with activists walking from Clarence Place to the summit venue.

Marie Walsh, a credit union worker from Oakdale who is involved with the Long March, said the event came about after it became apparent the number of organisations opposed.

“I thought it would be a good idea to take that argument around to people in Wales that wouldn’t have thought about what Nato was about.

“The fact that the Nato summit was coming in September was a good opportunity to do that,” she said.

Activists will be collecting postcards as they travel through that people can put messages on – and activists are going to try to deliver those messages on the Thursday of the summit when protestors walk from Clarence Place to the site of the summit itself.

“We know there is police between us and them. We think it’s a legitimate request,” said Ms Walsh.

“We don’t think it’s unreasonable to go up to the front gate of the Celtic Manor and say we would like to deliver these in person to spend 20 minutes of their time to listen to the people of Wales and what they are thinking.”

Malpas-based Pippa Bartolotti, Wales Green Party leader, said: “They are not exactly going to be rolling out the red carpet.

“We have messages from all over the world. I think they should at least receive them.”

Anti-nuclear weapons activists from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) are also taking part.

Dr John Cox, 79, a CND vice-chairman who lives in Talywain, near Pontypool, is a veteran campaigner, having joined the peace-movement in its early days.

He said that protests “will have their part” but that the counter summit will be “more positive”.

“Simply saying we are against Nato is fairly elementary,” he said. “What is not so obvious is how we would build on alternatives to it.”

He said Nato is “an aggressive alliance to impose the will of the Nato countries on the rest of the world.

“The only use of nuclear weapons is threatening people a long way away from Britain.

“It’s a weapon of aggression against the rest of the world.”