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Report on Rossport Solidarity Camp Speaking Tour of England
Friday November 25, 2005 06:42 by Terry - Rossport Solidarity Camp rossportsolidaritycamp at gmail dot com
Over the course of the last month participants in Rossport Solidarity Camp have been speaking at public meetings in UCC, Tallaght IT, UCD, Trinity, NUI Maynooth, Dundalk town, as well as at twelve meetings in England; this is a report of the English part of the tour; we are still looking for more meetings, make contact at the above e-mail address, the purpose is to garner sufficient recruits and logistical support for the new ‘construction season’ in the spring of 2006, when the camp re-opens.
Marx's grave in Highgate cemetery, London.
The speaking tour started off on the 3rd in Manchester in a place called the Basement, which is a quite centrally located social centre and vegan café. We showed Margaretta D’Arcy’s film and spoke for an inordinately long time. The people present were mostly members of Manchester Anarchist Group and some folk said they would come over in the summer, while others are organising a Rossport photo display in the Basement. Arising out of this meeting we were invited to participate in the Earth First! Winter Gathering, or perhaps Earth First! Northern Gathering, I forget which, that is taking place somewhere in the North of England in February.
Then it was up to Lancaster, which is a small city north of Manchester, for the conference ‘Making Global Civil Society: Grassroots Practise and Academic Theory of Globalisation from Below’, which mostly involved people who study social movements. Here we spoke as part of a workshop including other folk speaking about the movement of the unemployed in Argentina, the anti-dams struggle in India and on ‘what should the movement of movements do if we want to win’. The following day we made a photo presentation on the struggle in Erris.
At this point we split up to cover more ground with Tracey heading to Oxford while I went down to London.
In London I spoke at a bi-lingual meeting at the Freedom bookshop in Whitechapel, translated into Czech due to the presence of a number of comrades from that country. The next morning I was up early to rendezvous for a protest action in commemoration of the activists executed in Nigeria 10 years, which consisting of leafleting, drumming and banner wielding outside the Shell H.Q. while a couple of people scaled some poles and hung out nine nooses representing the anti-Shell activists murdered by the military regime in Nigeria. We also got moved on by the police due to the crazy law they now have about protests in Central London.
In a very welcome and unexpected development I had been invited to speak at the performance of stand up comics/political satirists Rob Newman and Mark Thomas taking place in Brighton so I had to run off quickly, while the protest continued to a Shell sponsored exhibition in the National Gallery.
Obviously speaking at the gig in Brighton (at the University of Sussex Arts Centre), was a high point as there were hundreds of people there, and lots came up to me in the foyer looking to see how they could help. I also met the nice people from SchNews while I was there.
That was quite a busy two days.
Then it was up to Nottingham for the tenth to meet back up with Tracey and to speak at the International Community Centre, we stayed in the wonderful Sumac centre, but couldn’t speak there as that was one of the nights its’ bar is open. The Sumac is a very nice centre and seems properly embedded, that is, an actual community centre as opposed to being largely sub-cultural. There seems to be a good deal of interest in the Mayo situation among libertarian and environmental activists in Nottingham and some folk spoke of coming over.
On the 11th, the next day after the speaking in Nottingham, one of the organisers of the meeting there took us up to the Nine Ladies protest camp in a very pleasant rural area about an hours drive north of the city.
It’s called ‘Nine Ladies’ after a nearby stone circle, and is in opposition to the re-opening of a long dis-used quarry now covered by native woodland. In terms of politics and internal organisation this camp is quite different from our own. For instance its goal - defending a particularly beautiful place as opposed to supporting community based resistance. On the other hand the defences built there are truly incredible, principally the ‘sky light’, which is a platform suspended by ropes attached to tree branches over the former quarry. There is a sheer cliff face around the former quarry hole and the platform is held, over the now wooded hole, from the trees on the cliff top. This making it so that in the event of the trees being demolished everyone on the platform will fall to their deaths, or rather making it so the trees cannot be demolished. The camp has been going for five or six years and the people there that we spoke to seemed quietly confident of victory, who, while pointing out most protest camps in Britain have not been victorious, spoke of their defences as the most successful variant of 13 years of evolution in technique.
The following day we were back down in London, speaking at Ramparts, which is a squatted social centre.
There was a very big turn out for this meeting, 40 or 50 people, and even more for the wonderful benefit gig which followed (and went on till 5 a.m.) featuring ceilidh and samba music. Yet more folk at this meeting were interested in coming over to the camp. Films of the solidarity actions in London, and about art projects commemorating the executed Nigerian activists, were shown.
At this meeting we met Jose, a Bolivian man, who spoke about issues in Bolivia in regard to oil and gas multinationals and the gas war, and we discussed raising awareness in Ireland of the Bolivian situation.
In London we stayed in a very together squat in the Isle of Dogs where live some people who were at the camp in August and September and whom will hopefully be back shortly.
After this I braced myself for the bus journey from hell – 8 hours through the night up to Newcastle, which turned out not to be that bad, and going to Newcastle would have certainly be worth it even if the journey turned out to be hellish. Meanwhile Tracey had the soft option of an hour or so to Bristol.
In Newcastle I spoke in Tyneside Irish Centre, and, technical glitches involving projectors aside, this was one of the best meetings, -with the biggest numbers outside London (and obviously outside the special circumstances of speaking in Brighton). The meeting was organised by the Newcastle part of the Dissent network.
Proceedings in Newcastle were improved by the presence of a couple of Irish people quite familiar with the issues and campaign, one of whom was involved in the industry and knew a lot about pipelines (name escapes me) and another, Johnny, who had been involved in the Gaeltacht civil rights movement. Some of the folk in Newcastle are planning on bringing a busload over to us over the summer.
Then, like a yo-yo it’s back to London, to speak at a meeting organised by London Rising Tide, meeting up with Jose again, and doing an interview for the quite professional looking punk/alternative music magazine Last Word. The next morning we had our last meeting, at an unholy 11 a.m. in the Greenpeace offices, arising out of which Greenpeace gave considerable practical support to the Shell to Sea campaign. That morning we also had a little tour around the Greenpeace workshop, which holds lots of quite impressive stuff and holds a good deal of collective expertise in the form of the people running it.
All in all this was quite a productive and interesting trip, and also something of a morale boost, as many people, especially in the North of England, were quite impressed by what we have been up to in Mayo.
There is a strong chance we will be returning to Britain in the near future to give more talks and do more networking. A very big THANK YOU goes out to all the folk in England who organised meetings and offered support and the folk who made our stay pleasant with lots of hospitality.
Tracey’s report on the tour will follow shortly.
Pipeline protest outside Shell HQ
Message on the overpass outside Shell HQ
The lovely SUMAC centre in Nottingham