Anti-fracking: Reflections from Yorkshire
by Jill Bird and Jonathan Fishwick
At the end of November, Jill, Jonathan, Gareth and others travelled to Yorkshire to join the hardy souls at the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp in solidarity and peaceful protest. Some reflections (cropped from a group email thread afterwards) are shared here with permission:
It’s been a couple of weeks now since our trip to Yorkshire and I would like to update you on what happened.
First of all, thank you for your amazing support that made all the difference to me personally but also, I think, to the energy of our ‘Yorkshire band.’
The Rydale camp was very hospitable and allowed us to sleep in their ‘Roundhouse’ which had its own burner. They shared their food and gave us good advice about what was feasible in terms of protest. The camp itself is, to my mind, remarkable, as they have started with nothing but a field. From this they have built a kitchen, compost toilets, various shared spaces and store rooms and even a brick-built hot water boiler, as well as their own homes – they are very skilled. The other amazing thing is the great variety of protesters from young blades, to ex-oil employees to retirees – all sorts. There had been a lot of rain, so the camp was very muddy and the first night was very cold, so my appreciation of the commitment of the long-term protectors grew.
The equipment at the fracking site (which is around 2 miles from the camp) is ready to start the first frack in the UK and is just waiting for the ‘rubber stamp’ from the government minister. There are a few trucks and caravans on the verge at the gate itself with stalwart souls sitting it out through the Winter months. Chatting with an activist there, he explained how they appreciated the rural view over fields towards the hills. They also had a lovely Buddha in their truck.
Gareth invited others not connected with DANCE to join us, and I immediately felt an affinity with these caring people, even though I had never met them before – it was a joy. On the Sunday afternoon, Gareth and I faciliated a workshop, and a visitor joined us: physical practice, meditation, ‘The Work that Reconnects’ (milling) and a sharing session. I feel this helped us to build a bond of trust and inner strength, which was important because several people had not been on a frack protest before.
We arrived early at the fracking site gate early on Monday morning and found that we were the only ones there apart from the gate-dwellers. We tried to stop a couple of the big tankers coming into the site but we were we too few in number and there was a large number of police officers who just pushed us off the road. It had already been agreed between the permanant protestors and the police, that set of daily peaceful protests were allowed. In fact, it may not always be realised but the police have a duty to protect peaceful protestors. Unfortunately, there could be a change, as there is talk of giving the frack site security guards powers of arrest, which might make things nasty, as they often receive only a basic training.
Having been initially unsuccessful, ‘Team Aubergine’ consulted and it was agreed that we would follow the police permission and perform a slow walk in front of a tanker for 20 minutes which we did twice in during the day (see photos to the right). We linked arms, sang songs and I was pleased to chant “Gate, Gate, Paragate…” as taught me by Catherine McGee. This was, I believe, a pragmatic and effective decision and it enabled video footage to be gleaned for the activists’ website and it gave us all a boost, I think. In a way, more importantly, it gave a morale boost to the more permanant gate-dwellers who struggle on day after day. Afterwards, one of them said we had given a ‘good energy’ to the gate and I certainly felt that we had lowered the tension at the gate between frustrated protectors and the police. I felt happy that we had worked as a team in order to support each other and to consult over our decisions effectively.
For me personally, as I was about to set off home, I felt a very deep sense of peace, which took me by surprise. So I would particulaly like to thank Gareth who liased with the camp and organised so much.
Thought I might share with you my personal experience of the trip to North Yorkshire.
The weekend in Kirby Misperton went really well. A camp of about 15 very committed individuals braving the freezing conditions with little heating and no running water. Rats getting in amongst the food in the kitchen. Something we helped to remedy by assisting with the installation of a heavy safe of an iron cupboard to store the fresh produce in. We also set to, sawing up old pallets to build a bunk bed section in the reception room, as well as preparing and cooking food. And as you know Gareth and Jill put on a DANCE special in The Round House!
I think a big part of our contribution was in providing a short, sharp injection of new energy, boosting their morale and bolstering their spirit… because it’s a really tough life for them up there and they need every bit of help they can get. I have so much respect for the sacrifices they have chosen to make. Putting their lives on hold for such a worthwhile cause.
It seems they rely on donations from the public, who drop anything off, from food to firewood. Really touching offers of help from big-hearted individuals like the man who came bearing bags full of fresh food and sacks of rice and potatoes, and the lady who came with a big pot of home made soup and then gave reflexology and shiatsu to help revitalise the minds and bodies of “The Protectors”.
Short of most things though, apart from a plentiful supply of mud! Small wooden pallets were used as stepping stones to cross the deep areas. Very little lighting too, so when the sun went down people huddled together like cold turkeys before Xmas! So it was off-grid and pretty basic.
These people seemed so worn down by the struggle, and had experienced so much abuse from the police, that it felt like the fight had assumed the proportion of war. I guess I was a little surprised by the level of hurt… Injustice had gone deep.
Yet I also fully understand why. We had a small dose of it ourselves. It felt like the police were acting as the private army of the Fracking Industry. They were agents of the Corporation and their role was to keep the wheels of this toxic industry moving, even if that meant denying us our right to peaceful protest. There was no sense of them being impartial.
Anyway, although the experience was very valuable it has left part of me with a sour taste. An Orwellian vision of eroded civil liberties, a carefully spun illusion of democracy and the bleak reality of soulless big business bulldozing it’s heavy machinery over the wishes of ordinary people, without a care for the poisoning and scaring of our beautiful land.
So I feel a little dispirited, in this land where the corporate giants have all the muscle and where the flag of hope is waved rather wearily by a bedraggled few.
It brings me to that point where I can see that the problem lies in the unbalanced human mind. The good old greed, hatred, and delusion. Sadly I can’t see humanity shifting that boulder any time soon. And it’s not as if we have time on our side if we are to avert so much unimaginable yet avoidable suffering.
It really upsets me that people aren’t more awake to this. People close to me, who are fast asleep. And most people are just too busy struggling through life to have room to care about the bigger picture and the future we’re creating.
I understand that, and don’t blame them. Just too busy sowing seeds to even question what it is they’re growing.
But there are those, I think, that DO know what they are doing, and don’t seem to care. The meeting of their needs for power or personal security comes first. And it is that absence of care that really hurts. Especially in the face of how much I think I care. Again I understand the not-caring. I wish I cared more. Sometimes MY heart is closed to it. But I long for people to care. Surely that has to be the path out of here. Somehow teasing it out of us. Because it IS there, no matter how deeply buried.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, and I’m guessing you all pretty much think the same. It’s just that this stuff sticks in my throat like a bit of unchewed apple.
And as I sit in front of my wood burning stove feeling a bit cold but refusing to use the gas central heating, I am so grateful to be able to have the luxury of doing it willingly and voluntarily.
But it is a bit hard at times and a bit lonely. I just wish more people would come and join us. Not because I want them to be like us, nor do I want them to be cold, but because I believe it’s a worthy, and even a noble cause. Living simply, that others may simply live. Seeing how little we can take out of the pot, of what are ultimately shared resources. Not How much can we have? but How little can we take?
And I know I’m just as greedy as the next man. But thankfully I can see how that greed impoverishes me if I let it run. I know the inner wealth that comes from giving, or from not taking. So I’m blessed in this respect. In fact in so many respects.
So I think I’ve managed to talk myself round to deep gratitude without any of you saying a word!
It is hard. But it’s also beautiful… to be in touch with what we care about. Better to be hurting and caring than numb and asleep.
So on that note I will sign off and thank you for listening.
P.S. Thought we might use this song I’ve just written at some point in the future at a protest/action. Hope you enjoy it.
Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s off to frack we go
With a devilish drill
and a chemical spill
Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho
Hi Ho Hi Ho Just watch our profits grow
It’s a toxic crime
but that’s just fine
Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho
Hi Ho Hi Ho We’re sure to make some dough
Got the Yorkshire Police
right up our crease
Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho
Hi Ho Hi Ho We’ll make the planet glow
It’ll be so hot
Do we care a jot?
Oh no! Hi Ho Hi Ho
Hi Ho Hi Ho who cares about the woe?
We’ll frack the Earth
for all its worth
Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho Hi Ho