Monday, 23 January 2017

Signs, Singers, and Shafting...

Day 14 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people were joined by others in voice, in the flesh and elsewhere, in solidarity actions that empowered those involved and added spirit to an uplifting day at the roadside. Despite the coldest temperature of all the days and a persistent, niggly little drizzle that worked its way in through fabric, skin and bone… hearts were warmed at the sight of the jubilant, accordion-equipped Liverpool Socialist Singers making their way toward us.

So the day started as it was to continue, slow; no sign of a truck till 11:15 and only a total of 7 for the day at its end. The reason was clear when a Protector who had spent his early morning slow-walking some trucks at their start point of AE Yates of Bolton, came to the roadside and soon after, slow-walked the same trucks into the PNR site. Nice. This strategy of slowing the trucks at origin is looking like it will be an effective addition to the ever-evolving tactics being devised, to stop not just this site from development but the entire industry from progressing.

For 6 years now fracking has been halted in the UK… due solely to public pressure – that’s us, the Protectors of our communities who raised our voices, called meetings, leafleted, researched, shared information, lobbied politicians, wrote letters, signed petitions, set up camps, slowed-trucks, spoke at Planning meetings and Appeals and so much more . If passion, creativity and determination alone were enough to stop fracking… it would have been all over years ago. Sadly the system of government is in on the act and working with the frackers, against the people. It’s no longer even pretending to focus on democracy but instead has put itself at the service of industry and is even willing to create laws to help lubricate it into our lives.

It’s exhausting, soul-destroying and so sad sometimes. Yesterday I went for a nice family meal, been ages since I did and although it was lovely, it left me realising how much is missed and how much has been sacrificed by those of us who spend our time this way. I wonder too what those who work to get fracking underway think?

The politicians, shareholders, employees, contractors etc. do they imagine we are all crazed fools of no intelligence who just decided to sacrifice all spare hours to stop an industry because…? Because what? Pharmacists, aeronautics engineers, teachers, midwives, academics and all manner of others stand on our roadsides – couple this with countless fracking bans across the world and you have to wonder at what point, moral obligation and sense kicks in for those who serve the frackers. Our children are relying on us to leave them safe air and water… and maybe a voice in their democracy – fracking will steal all these things.

However… for all that is lost and all that is missed from a once-upon-a-time life, there is richness, little-miracles, kindness and joy in this world of activism that I wouldn’t exchange. Today’s smiles were brought to us by those singers from Liverpool who bothered; who got up on a rainy miserable day and journeyed all the way to PNR to sing us happy… they succeeded with bells on (and an accordion). Visits are more than just a chance to see each other face to face – they are a hug of solidarity and shared commitment.

Thank you Liverpool Socialist Singers and the Protectors in Bolton for all you did today xxx

*Thanks to Ros for image of new sign - someone suggested replacing the word 'putting' with 'shafting'

*Playlist highlight of the day… Elbow – One Day Like This. I tried to do interesting things with my board like the video linked here– I failed but may secretly rehearse alone lol

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Rocks, hard places and the strange in-between bits...

I received an email from a group who have for a long time, tried to slow vehicles carrying live animals in appalling conditions - they risk their lives on busy, dangerous roads in order to disrupt and to gather evidence. They wanted to know how we managed to be slowing vehicles without being attacked or in danger. My reply to them below, I hope will help clarify any confusion here too:

...this is a tense, strange and unpredictable thing unfolding and each day brings a new challenge... we at the roadside each day on Preston New Road are having to think quick and work together to deal with each thing as it happens. I update each day on the Blog which may offer some insight - but in a nutshell the whole facilitated slow-walk came about like this:

Originally the road was marked as single lane with cones for 9:30am-3pm as per the Traffic Management Plan (TMP) and there was nothing really to deal with until they had been on the site for 4 days (weekend included) and on Day 4 they introduced Harras Fencing - the say now that they did this because of trouble with protesters - which is a lie, trouble didn't come till after the workers dragged the fencing from along the hedge where it had been... toward where the cones marked the road.

Those protecting the area (Protesters = Protectors - at this stage primarily female and retired people)) stood against the fencing but each panel we held had a security guard who shoved hard into our backs - on the final surge they stopped pushing, paused then literally shoved with might... we toppled forward into the path of oncoming traffic in the busy single lane.

Police who made clear that their role was to ensure safety for ALL people in the area (many of our residents' groups have met regularly with the police over the past 6 years and there is a clear understanding here of the situation - unlike elsewhere)... the police intervened but as they were trying to calm the situation - a truck shot past and against the TMP, started reversing down the works lane.

We ran to get behind it and the security guards started pushing the fencing so that they protected their area - but trapped us between fence and reversing truck - terrifying. Police were banging the truck door, security were shouting to stop and we were literally close to serious injury or death. I believe the truck driver was not of sound mind. One Protector who wasn't trapped but could see us, jumped onto the truck and despite a few sharp braking moves, she wasn't shaken off and the police finally halted the crazed driver.

The discussion between all involved at this point (including security guards who had also been at huge risk) concluded that this was deadly dangerous and could not continue. We insisted our right to peacefully protest - they insisted theirs to work. We said we were going to slow-walk regardless and as was shown in all the cases before this (Balcombe/Barton Moss etc) there was no point trying to stop us as the cases all get thrown out and we still keep slowing them. The police spoke to builders who agreed to facilitate this on the next vehicle - I think they wanted to ease the incredible tension and ugliness of the scen; some of our older residents were scared and in pain.

The site area at this stage is literally one-lane wide and about 4 HGVs deep... no space for much of a walk! We said other sites got 90 minutes but in reality, when we'd walked as slow as was humanly possible (so as not to be illegally blocking) - the most we could drag it to was 15 minutes. After this and no idea how it was discussed between the company and police, we were told we could do this for each delivery. We were as surprised as anyone but the idea of getting everything we could at this stage (got a way to go with baseline testing and building before fracking can start) and without attacks on our bodies - was something we seized. There was no 'agreement' made but as the next vehicle came, the fencing was opened for us to pass into the work area.... we are limited by space and HSE limits to number of people in it so were asked to keep our numbers to 15 or so. Although as we discovered recently - the numbers we are, doesn't change the situation ie: 2 of us did it when others were late to arrive.

I believe it all came about because the police had little choice but to let this be... the alternative is not safe and this way is and their only remit is to maintain safety - this is a major road, a 'blue light' route for the most urgent ambulances carrying the dying and unlike all the usual places frack sites are, heavily residential and ridiculously busy.

No deals were made, nothing discussed beyond our insistence that we would slow-walk - the safer alternative to being attacked by fences and angered truck drivers. So maybe it was simply that we made clear that the ONLY safe way is for police to work to allow our way because the alternative is an almost certain accident? Also... after 6 years of local action, they know we aren't going away.

We have to cross over from our position demonstrating, in order to go into the fenced area for the walk, which means waiting for the temporary traffic lights to change and if wheelchair users or the elderly are with us, then we need to help them over too. Time drags and Cuadrilla are behind schedule and growing frustrated and a bit humiliated at having Protectors dancing in their work area... we continue to be astounded too that this change of way has happened. The company had planned for 20+ trucks per day but have not got more that 8 in yet and we were on working day 13 on Friday.

Things will have to change by necessity when the single lane area eventually goes after the new road entrance to the site is completed... but even then - the plans show a public footpath crosses their entrance so there are opportunities still to maintain disruption and of course we are not the only Protectors working to stop this.... others have made a start on stopping vehicles leaving their point of origin, a communications blockade is organised to disrupt Cuadrilla and those that supply them and we know that if we don't delay enough to make investors withdraw (Cuadrilla in huge financial difficulty after producing nothing for 6 years) that we can and will call for 'A Bentley' (larger groups have offered to support this)... a Bentley is massive blockade that will stop them completely from doing any work. We cannot call for this too soon though as in order to be effective and lasting, we would need the timing to be right.

So each day we arrive and enter the fenced area to slow them - is indeed an odd and curious thing. We though are seizing the moments and opportunities to work on hearts and minds and to weave ourselves as Protectors - into a strong, united force that can handle changes to come.

Hope this helps xxx

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Failure, Shame, Humiliation & Confusion at a Fracking Site...

Thankfully at Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest... there's nearly always a Councillor or two amongst us who will challenge the lies and CONTINUE to remind the frackers why #WeSaidNo, our Council said NO and the answer remains NO! Westminster can dance all over democracy but it doesn't change anything here.

This past few weeks has drawn the evil out of the fracking companies - into public view. They're behind schedule (not only on this project but ALL projects over past 6 years!); shamed by the contrast of their abuses of law with the genuine concern of Protectors; humiliated that the police/site staff/security stand aside for our slow-walks and because this is not how they usually have to play 'the game' - the chances of them continuing to drag themselves into the mud, is high.

Talking to my sister Julie a while back and said that I wasn't going to make the next move that usually happened in 'the game' and that if it was a chess board - I wanted to pay tiddly-winks on it instead; in order to shake off the pattern... this week things changed and I am sure I saw tiddly-winks.<3 span="">

This posted this morning from one of our Councillors (who is also a Protector):
[Got up this morning to several emails from Cuadrilla telling me that protesters have gone against agreements and closed the Rd At PNR, stopping emergency vehicles from gaining access!

They obviously don't realise I was in attendance at the time and their PR shit is not going to work on this occasion!

Very angry this morning at how they twist the truth, to Councillors]
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Friday, 20 January 2017

Day 13 in the Cuadrilla House...

Day 13 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people found their individual ways to be heard, to impact this industry and to work together for great cumulative effect. Our movement is so very diverse, a kaleidoscope of humanity breathing out the same words – "They WILL NOT frack"… our steps are not all synched but our movements in the same direction, make the pull-and-push of us all, all the stronger. Much love for Protectors in all our shades and ways today x

So the day started with an excellent early action by strong-willed, principled Protectors at the entrance to the site on Preston New Road, rose through the day in good voice and fantastic mood at the roadside and for slow walks… then culminated in a gorgeous crescendo of activity at contractor AE Yates of Bolton – where Protectors gathered to make clear that this industry and those that enable it, will not be tolerated. An action now termed a 'Pop-up Protest'. Come on AE Yates – there are better contracts to have than the soiled, dangerous fracking one… this choice will only bring disruption.

The Day unfolded thus...

PNR Early Shift:
In the early hours of the morning, some concerned residents went to the Preston New Road site in order to carry out a well-considered action to prevent the intrusive site from taking up too much of this busy and important road. Over the week, the fencing and cones have gradually edged out, limiting the lane for traffic and worse, delays to ambulances. We have witnessed 3 delayed ambulances this week and in the absence of Council Planning Inspectors to enforce safety requirements, residents took the task into their own hands. The delay to work lasted over an hour and ended with the fencing in a less dangerous position …and the assurance of an Inspector to come and clarify the situation. Brilliant.

PNR Day Shift:
Protectors started arriving for the slow-walks and demonstration, part way through the ‘siege of the fence’ incident; lining up to receive the gift of ‘honks’, the joy of the music, the gratitude for our solidarity and growing friendships… and the absolute delight that a mere 3 trucks and 1 road sweeper arrived, were slow-walked and went. Almost literally no work done at PNR today (there was though a lot of singing and dancing).

Meanwhile in Bolton…
Protectors gathered too at the gates of AE Yates of Bolton – the contractor helping Cuadrilla construct this monstrosity that threatens us. This solidarity action not only let this company know that they are now part of this unfolding drama… but enhanced the day of those at the roadside of PNR who were eagerly awaiting news. if we can all work together to stop contractors from supplying this industry, we can starve it to its end... long live the 'Pop-up Protest'!!

The frack-free movement may not have an easily definable ‘strategy’ but we share like-minds, same goals and strong determination… this is the start of more to come.

These actions are I think evidence of our ability as a movement to not only overcome the troubles and tackle the challenges we face …but to successfully use our many skills to pull together, regardless of anything else. Protectors sometimes try to walk away when harmed by the intensity of all that this entails… but I have never met any who truly can stop. Once you know the truth of the threat this industry brings, you cannot UN-know it, cannot pretend it away or suddenly start trusting our government or regulators to miraculously care enough or have the skills required to keep our children safe. We’re stuck in this and the most we can do… is hold each other up through the hard bits.

The week ends with stronger hearts, tighter bonds and justifiable optimism. Much love to all… see you Monday?

*Highlight of today's
#PNR playlist: looking down the line of us all as arms stretched out in a dance move to Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' and imagining if this was a movie... it would absolutely be made by the Cohen Brothers & Tarrantino xxx

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Day 12 in the Cuadrilla House...

Day 12 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people brought the humanity, kindness, wisdom and joy to PNR along with steely determination and growing rage. Each day still unfolds something new and it’s only really at the end of it, when you stop, rest and look back, that you realise the tension, apprehension and high-alert you have been on. As this consumes much of our time, those at the roadside discussed ways to improve conditions and maintain energy… now our Nana music system is adding a new dimension to proceedings. This along with the continuous honks of support, gifts of food, sweets, masks (such a polluted road), hand-warmers and growing numbers, has brought lashings of positive energy with it

So today was another slow day for Cuadrilla and work is behind schedule… which is nice. They got 8 delayed-trucks in – nothing like the 20-30 they said would be the daily number. An ambulance was again delayed (third one now) due to Cuadrilla; this time with 4 vehicles oncoming in the single-lane that meant it couldn’t proceed till they cleared. Still no action from Inspectors at Lancashire County Council (LCC) and the reports of planning violations are mounting. We had two Councillors visit this week who worked on the rejection of the original planning application – they updated that the reports are being received and they’re pushing for action to be taken against Cuadrilla’s abuses. Video, photographs and testimonies make a clear case… so please, if you can, write or call LCC to register your concerns.

It was a different sort of day for us - our voices were raised in song and the little steps taken to keep us warm, turned to dance moves. Music does indeed calm the savage beast and it was impossible for anyone – even the 'other side' – to avoid the rhythm in the air. Sounds trivial? I beg to differ… PNR is a place where residents become Protectors as we discover what it is going to take to stop this industry – it isn’t pretty and the task ahead is daunting; there has to be something worth clinging to that is beautiful. Music, singing, dancing and sharing the laughter is every bit as important as the actions we will be forced to take to stop this powerful industry.

Admittedly my playlist is a bit odd and not adequate but it sufficed and now Julie has created a dedicated list of fantastic music covering everything from Motown to Grease, Sinatra to Whinehouse and much in-between that will enhance our tomorrows.

Although we prepare for the storm to come… we cling tight to these moments of joy, unity and power. Soon enough the task of stalling this industry will get harder and tactics and responses will change by necessity. For now though, residents are weaving our understanding of what we can each do as the ‘Protector’ in each gets ignited by the threat that literally is… right here, right now, right in front of us. Groups large and small are working with us too and although often unseen, will become more evident as things change. There may be many bumps in the road ahead but the many are working to clear the way. 

See you tomorrow?

*Playlist highlight today – two Protectors using their signs as guitars for Slade’s ‘Goodbye t’Jane’

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Day 11 in the Cuadrilla House...

 Day 11 in the Cuadrilla House… and the good people multiply as lunch hours are sacrificed, school-runs speeded up and leisure/commitments/family put on hold for this emergency. Despite being told by staff this morning to expect 12 trucks and one concrete mixer, only 6 trucks and one concrete mixer made it through in the allotted time – the slow-walks may be short (the space we’re in offers no real distance) but when applied to every truck during the brief delivery window of 9:30am-3pm, they impact not just the time taken but the flow of vehicles and work.

The act of opposing our government and defending ourselves is an exhausting and unpleasant thing to commit to but the creativity, smiles, hugs and warmth of those who do – softens the harsh reality and makes it bearable. This intense period of activity will only be possible because we support each other and also… if we can sustain ourselves by introducing some joy to the ugly task.

Today there was joy; Nanas brought the music system so that rather than slow-walk, there was some dancing and a great deal of singing, motorists passed yummy treats to Protectors at the roadside for sharing, Nana Rhona in Scotland sent delicious home-made fudge for everybody (along with lovely woollen hats to keep Nana heads warm) and the day passed not only without aggression – but with growing unity.

I sometimes think that when we stand with others who we don’t really know too well, yet share a purpose… that there is a kind of choreography that happens. In the frack free movement, we are ALL entirely in-step for the first move – agree that the UK MUST remain frack-free. The next step involves the tricky bit in this dance of strangers …to move together in ways that stop the industry. We are still treading on each other’s toes but at least that’s a consequence of trying – not a deliberate thing.

At sites across the UK where frackers came to poke their drills and test for shale, Protectors have done all possible to stop them; from slow-walks and lock-ons, to blocking gates with wind-turbine arms and much more besides. The term ‘Investor Removal Team’ became used as we noticed that with each action against this industry, the investors grew more nervous. Of course we weren’t able to prevent the sites being built (although a few companies gave up before starting) with these actions alone and even though the stands against drilling at Balcombe and Barton Moss for instance were hugely powerful… the drill still came. This visible public opposition is vital though. The slow-walks don’t stop construction – they delay and deter whilst alerting and making clear there is no social license for this industry.

What WILL stop this industry?

Looking at successful actions that actually halted unconventional energy companies from doing their dirty work… and it tends to be:
-powerful influence (*see New York Medical Profession ban)
 -community legal challenges
-cross-party political co-operation (*see Victoria ban)
- or as with the glorious Bentley Blockade – a whole lot of people refusing to allow drilling.

Up at Preston New Road, we are witnessing and delaying the slip-road building stage but soon, it will be the pad itself being brought in and put together in order to accommodate the wells. We need to do all we can and need all the help we can get to ensure success in one or all of the ways we see that work. Currently:
-ALL Unions (except GMB) are against fracking and have declared support for the frack-free movement; we could do with more visible and audible opposition so if you’re in a Union, please ask what actions they are taking to stop this industry and if they can do more.
-There are two legal challenges pending that are getting vital additional arguments based on the abuses of planning at PNR. Please see Preston New Road Action Group for details.
-Labour & LibDems have caught up with the Greens to call for an end to fracking… we could do with them getting a whole lot more vocal in parliament and visible with their local frack-free groups– so if your MP or Councillor is LibDem or Labour (Greens already on this) it’s worth pushing for them to do their job and stand by their party’s public declarations.
-Residents who oppose this are growing more numerous and a whole lot stronger each day and the support from passing cars is overwhelming and deafening in the best of ways… visitors today came from all over and it was fantastic to see banners of support from Lancaster and Greenpeace. If you can come to PNR and show solidarity – it would be fantastic. We’re there each week-day 9-3 at the roadside and the groups in the area are also putting together events to bring more visitors on Saturdays when more are available….

One day soon, if bankruptcy, court or wisdom don’t get Cuadrilla first, we may need a ‘Bentley-sized’ solution so please prepare and see what you can do to make time in your life to help us stay frack free.

Ending tonight with a few words from a new Protector:

“I went to the Preston New Road Peaceful Protest today for a few hours on a drizzly dark morning. As I arrived at the Frontier of Fracking in Great Britain - The Badlands of Gasland came into sight.
My usual place of work is on the shoreline, desolate, quiet and no human in sight. Only the roar of waves, the wind and seagulls to keep me company; so you can imagine the fright, fear and trepidation I felt as my mind and body told me you ‘have to go and show your support for the Protectors’. You believe so strongly in their cause, there is no other way around this. Wherever this leads to you have to see this through to the end

There must be many people in Lancashire and throughout the UK who feel the same way but perhaps have never been to a protest before. Slightly worried and wonder, oh dear dare I but really want to. I personally feel this is a natural human reaction that many have to move through.

The protectors need your support, they cannot do it all themselves.

The people of Lancashire and the UK said no and your Democratic decisions have been overruled by the powerful ones who are supposed to represent you. Pick yourself up and walk out of your door and just go and support them for an hour or two or three. Talk to them and listen to what they have learned. Do a little research.

I could go on for hours but feel at times perhaps I can put people to sleep with my thoughts. All I am saying is that millions of people said no or are talking amongst themselves at this moment saying: “I hate this Fracking idea but what can I do against the powerful ones?”

You must realise YOU ARE the powerful ones, the sleeping giants, but when woken watch out.

Go down and support the protectors. They will give you a warm welcome.”
See you tomorrow? x