Saturday, 24 August 2013

Radio interview ▶ Fracking Special 29July2013 by Dave Hampton

▶ Fracking Special 29July2013 by Dave Hampton

There are media demands that go alongside activism and most of them sadly, are truly unpleasant - this however was a relaxed and enjoyable interview with Dave Hampton of Marlow FM.

From his link:
[A chance to listen again to the Watt Next "Fracking Special" back in July. You heard it here first on Marlow FM. Great show, though I say it myself, and great content 39 mins in with Tina Louise-uk


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Letter to Alison...

A letter was posted on the Balcombe Parish site today that this is in response to:

Dear Alison,
I write as a resident of Blackpool (up here in the 'desolate/unloved' North) - we have been trying very hard for around 2 years to get Cuadrilla to stop drilling here; they have drilled 4 wells, with one failing due to the earthquakes and another now out of use due to equipment that is stuck inside. The one that caused the earthquakes is inadequately sealed and we are struggling to get a transparent picture of the plans around how they will deal with potential ongoing risks from it.

This image is of the proposal for well sites where I live:

Cuadrilla have been into our places of education and business, in order to 'sponsor' things and win over and divide the community - who are largely ill-informed as the public meetings are not broadly publicised or attended... most people just don't have the time or knowledge to even look at what this is all about - complicated subject indeed.

That you are experiencing what it is like to have Cuadrilla doing business in your community is such a sad thing. I have been down to visit the camp over the past three weekends to see such wonderful villagers and concerned residents from across the UK, coming together to question the haste with which this business is undertaken; to question the history of accidents and harm that this industry is known for; to question the honesty and transparency of Cuadrilla who were only this year in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority over exaggerations of safety claims in their literature.

You said in your post Alison that you were not aware of an invitation to people from outside of Balcombe to join in opposition to Cuadrilla’s drilling there and I understand how worrying this must be ...BUT I think it very important to note that the harm to air and water that could come when Cuadrilla are working, is something that will impact the residents everywhere - air and water have no respect for borders so it is to be expected that others from nearby and further afield will indeed be there.

I attended a meeting last Friday evening in Balcombe where a full room of village residents were indeed in favour of getting help to be heard – many had voted NO to Cuadrilla’s plans to drill, had signed petitions, objected to planning, written to MPs and Councillors – all to no avail.

You say that you have been balancing opinions and ‘tolerating extreme views’ and I don’t really understand what you mean? Is opposition to drilling an ‘extreme view’ or simply how they are expressing that view (genuine question)? 

What Cuadrilla are doing to our air, water, agriculture and communities is criminal (even if the paperwork paints it differently); concerned citizens asking for a potential harm to stop BUT not being listened to in our democracy, is criminal; standing up to this criminality is not easy and because the industry is brutal and powerful, we have very little we can use. Currently, my weapons are truth and determination – but these have got me nowhere; at what point do I look at the law that wraps our law enforcement around corporate vehicles and tries to silence objection and wonder, what IS legal?

When that drill leaves Balcombe, it's coming back here to the North - where no-one seems to hear us when we scream for help; we would be hugging every person that came to stand in opposition with us.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Democracy not found in Balcombe

(despite digging deep to find some trace of it)

Today was the day that the press release came out announcing that an event originally scheduled to take place at West Burton Power Station – would now be held in Balcombe, West Sussex. The event is ‘Reclaim The Power’ and it will now join ‘The Great Gas Gala’ in this welcoming, beautiful village in West Sussex; the current frontline of the stand against a relatively new form of ‘unconventional’ energy extraction, fracking for shale gas. The opposition to 'unconventionals' is based on overwhelming reports of harm by this industy from America, Australia and more.

Now on day 13, The Great Gas Gala has brought together villagers as well as concerned UK residents from across the country, to camp at the roadside entrance to a drilling site where exploration for gas and oil is being undertaken by Cuadrilla Resources (Chairman Lord John Brown). More than 30 arrests, insane amounts of police brutality and so, so many attempts at halting, slowing or even slightly delaying the trucks that deliver the equipment, have broken hearts and strengthened resolve.
The numbers on the roadsides vary from 100-350 depending on the time and day and although these wonderful, dedicated souls are enduring beautifully...

... it can’t go on, they need help

In a democracy, we would have the ear of those in office and the village vote of 80% AGAINST the drilling, would count for something; that it doesn’t... matters, maybe as much as the insistence by those in office that we accept this dirty, risky business on our land.

I have been in Balcombe over the past two weekends and feel no need to justify the reason the camp exists or explain the respect these people deserve – surely, this is obvious? Some of the mainstream media don’tsee it this way but the mainstream media is out of step with reality on too many things for this to have been unexpected. 'Activism' is not a lifestyle choice – it is an obligation by those who see a wrong and act to correct it.

A phone call had alerted me to an upcoming meeting where the possibility of moving the Reclaim the Power event to Balcombe was being discussed. It was made clear that the event would not come to Balcombe uninvited and people involved wanted to talk to villagers and ask their views; as I was going to the site and had met some of the warm, friendly (feisty!) villagers, I was asked to arrange a get-together with some of them. 

I was so very torn

The people I know from Reclaim the Power are exemplary - I trust those I know implicitly and am certain of their right, just and appropriate intent - but I still did not really know how I would feel if I were a villager of Balcombe, if I was presented with this. A night of long pondering followed until I got it down to two simple and unavoidable choices I thought the villagers faced:

-accept that Cuadrilla WILL drill because they clearly have the power to wrap our laws and law-enforcement around their machinery in order to ensure they are not stopped

~ OR ~

-accept the powerful offer of help from a dedicated, well-organised group of determined people that comes with unknowns...  a large number of people, living together in tents, performing acts of civil disobedience and having to confront the law, does not come without incidents. BUT ...a large number of people, living together in tents, performing acts of civil disobedience and confronting Cuadrilla - is probably the ONLY thing that stands a chance right now.

On Saturday, as 120 villagers walked into the camp, singingnew words to Jerusalem, smiling broadly and adorned with children – there was no more beautiful sight; it followed though on the heels of countless vile incidents of police brutality in defence of Cuadrilla vehicles in the preceding days. This contrast of idyllic village life and ugly confrontation is a stark and raw vision of light and dark, right and wrong, good and bad.

A showdown is imminent, inevitable and so horrid that I want to get under the duvet, pretend it all away and not come out till it somehow just stops being a fact. It’s the heaviest feeling knowing that IF we don’t stop Cuadrilla in Balcombe that not only do we put our air, water and health at serious risk – but that any ideas about living in a democracy, are just fantasy. The power of those with financial interests in this industry, over our government - is evidenced beyond doubt and obvious with every policy decision made by those in office.

IF we tolerate this – then we accept we have no voice

I watched a cluster of smiling women from different walks of life, discuss feelings about relocating Reclaim the Power to Balcombe’s Great Gas Gala and thereby infusing it with many hundreds more people; video and notes from this meeting of  villagers and visitors from Reclaim the Power went to a meeting of those involved in the event and today’s press release is the outcome.

Reclaiming the power
...means more than sane energy decisions 

Change is already happening in Balcombe, not just this stand the villagers are making or the camp that is growing but the realisation of another reality that comes with each arrest, each ignored vote, each rejected petition, each un-heeded planning objection, each ignorant political response, each ill-informed Councillor, each revelation of powerful lobbyists in OUR government, each divisive headline in the press and each and every moment... that what we KNOW to be true, is hidden from view. 

IF the drill at Balcombe is not stopped, it will do its job on West Sussex then return to Lancashire for more of the same – I live in Blackpool, where the drill is due next - so I know what I would choose, if I were a Balcombe villager.

*Calling the cavalry.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Some Balcombe moments...

~The best-ever chocolate brownies - made with beetroot!
~Villagers singing new words to Jerusalem whilst making the most fabulous entrance since Liberace created the genre.
~The little girl in the prettiest blue flamenco dress who seemed puzzled when I said so - she corrected me, saying that actually she was dressed as water.
...The police officer grinding the young man’s elbow into the gravel and dragging it so it ripped the skin away – even though he was being held down by so many, that he posed no risk.

~New friends, old friends, virtual-friends (made flesh) and fresh new smiles met.
~The emergence within just a few hours of a fully decorated lounge/family-room with carpets, sofas, a candelabra and idyllic families to populate it.
~The feasts of vibrant, fresh, local produce along with brilliant cooks that all seemed to appear as if by magic when hunger struck.  
...The panicked smile on the young girl’s face as she was held aloft by her arms, legs and hair by police officers treating her as if she was a weapon-carrying threat to all in the vicinity.

~The early morning "Good mornings" from smiling faces, en-route to and in the kitchen area; as we all avoided looking at the kettle for fear it actually would never boil.
~The late night talk and laughter as the day was digested into conversation with heaps of humour to season it.
~The easy, natural hugs that occur between strangers and friends with shared purpose and intent.
...The tears of frustration and screams of “SHAME ON YOU!” that came from me, without my control as we stalked the circles of police that wrapped round painful scenes too ugly to be viewed - too wrong to be tolerated.

~The schemes and plans that bubbled up through the hours as we 10 of us sat in traffic on the bus from the ‘Unloved, Desolate North’ to reach 'The Great Gas Gala of Balcombe'.
~The goodbye that was positively regal as we headed off to the sounds of whoops, well-wishes, whistles and chants and the sight of warm, smiling faces that just looked like reason to go on with all this.
~The superb certainty of a return to this place and awareness/relief/gratefulness that others with honour are doing what's necessary.
...The ache inside that is the true, deep and inescapable reality of the threat from this ugly business - and knowing, we MUST stop it.


Call out from residents in Lancashire: PLEASE come be with us: "Cuadrilla the frackers have a new plan and it's t...