Wednesday, 28 November 2018

It is over two years since my last blog post; I am slowly regaining my equilibrium.  And where have I been?  Well, the campaign to prevent fracking on my doorstep and throughout the UK, is where.  

It has been an immensely rewarding, exhausting, confusing, at times scary and also wonderful time.  Along with my fellow protectors, we succeeded in preventing Third Energy from fracking at their site in Kirby Misperton, Ryedale, North Yorkshire.  Last Christmas saw me on the brink of utter despair and exhaustion; then in the new year, Third Energy left.  I was elated, then ill; the result of the endless days starting sometimes as early as 5.30 am, standing at the gates, in hail, snow and sunshine, extreme cold and heat.  But that is what protectors do; we are not a "travelling circus of protesters", as Claire Perry,  Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently labelled us, we are for the most part locals.  Yes, we were helped and supported by protectors from further afield, who have more experience than us and we are eternally grateful for their advice and energy, their hugs and wisdom but most people at those gates every day came from Ryedale or nearby and were, like me older than we care to admit.

The fantastic community liaison celebration at the main camp we held in Summer 2017.  The camp served as a wonderful hub for local people and people from much further afield, including Canada, to gather, to join us for a cup of tea, to learn about fracking and what they could do to help.

I volunteered to be the liaison person for the local community and the protection camps.  There was the original camp near the junction with the A169 and then, as matters became more serious and we needed 24 hour monitoring, a camp on the verge of the road at the gates to the site itself.  At the moment it all seems like a dream; I cannot remember everything I did to help the campaign run smoothly I certainly rose at dawn and had breakfast for the protectors ready at the gates in the early days of that camp forming.  I was one of the people that locals could come to for advice about how best to support the camps and of course, I cooked and made cake!  

Early start at the gates, before the bell mouth fencing had been erected and with the protectors from main camp that were always there.  A few tents had begun to arrive but the gates camp or Kirby Misperton Forward Protection Camp as it was named, was yet to be fully formed.

A highlight was the Christmas meal we cooked and served to the first protectors at the main camp in 2016; it is still talked about by those who tucked into it!  My proudest moment was a year ago, last September, when I participated in the first lock on at the gates as part of the "Bat Girls" protest, to bring to public notice the plight of the local bats, should fracking go ahead.  It was of the utmost importance that a local person should participate in the first non-violent direct action at those gates.  Of course, I was arrested; I knew I would be.  It was a physically painful yet joyful experience and I do not regret it for one moment despite being found guilty last May of Obstructing the Highway and given a 12 month conditional discharge and directed to contribute towards prosecution costs.

In the run up to all this, I have lobbied, spoken at rallies, written to my MP, written objections to planning applications, held meetings for local people, been sworn at and told to "F**k off back to where I came from", ironic as I live about a mile from the well site at KM8.  I have  attended endless meetings to discuss our strategic planning, baked endless cake, raised money for the campaign and supported other Frack Free groups across the country.  I continue to do so when I can.  

I have witnessed police behaviour so brutal that it took my breath away with its complete disregard for protector's safety as they facilitate this awful industry.  The police have become nothing less than the security force for this industry, a sad and dangerous state of affairs.  Recent developments have shown the complete disregard for our democratic rights to protest with judiciary listening to impassioned presentations from protectors regarding the ecocide of this land, (which incidentally, is not a crime in this country or anywhere on the planet, as far as I am aware) and showing sympathy, but finding them guilty anyway.  The injunctions against protest and protesters that all the oil and gas companies are now bringing, aided and abetted by the civil judiciary, to prevent any protest outside their sites and at the sites of their suppliers is a dangerous erosion of people's democratic rights to protest.  It will not stop us.

Since early this year, after Third Energy left the area, (we are constantly alert for any signs of a return), I have been slowly and surely regaining my health and life.  I have spent much more time with my beloved grandsons; I have been mentally unable to write any documents, my brain just will not function.  And now, here I am; still recovering slowly and surely and regaining my enthusiasm for "normal" things while at the same time supporting other groups fighting fracking where and when I can.  I should add that this is not a unique situation I am in; all of my good friends and colleagues have found themselves feeling much the same as me.  This campaign is a terrible and glorious thing to be involved with.

Catching the drone, after a reccy with Eddie Thornton, pilot.  I love this photo!

I have done no drawing, painting or printmaking; the most I could manage was to sit in quiet contemplation and crochet.  I felt that the world could do without more paintings and prints, but a blanket or scarf is always useful!   But now, I am beginning to emerge from this fog and starting to think of how to use my experiences in new work.  It had been creeping up on me for a long while, and now I feel sure that my work should say something about our struggle to regain democracy and protect the land.  How many more pretty paintings of landscapes do we actually need, after all?  And this is not to denigrate artists who make such work, this is just my personal opinion at this moment in time.

Camp, winter was awful!  I was so glad I didn't have to live on it like the hardy protectors.  I was very glad to have my warm home and bed just a mile up the road.

I have visited a few exhibitions when I can, to bring myself back into my preferred world.  I am not yet sure how my experiences and the knowledge I have gained is going to manifest as artworks but I have begun some tentative drawings in various sketchbooks and I signed up to a course of printmaking workshops as a way of re-engaging with my practice.  The courses are being held at Lund Gallery workshops,
near Easingwold and facilitated by Patrick Smith,  

The first was in October, entitled "Following in the Footsteps of Rembrandt", and was an etching workshop.  Working in that wonderful space, I felt a huge weight lifting from my shoulders and the realisation that I was re-entering my rightful world. Please do visit the web site for this wonderful space, there are amazing courses available and the exhibition space is wonderful.  

Meanwhile, the weather has turned very wintry and my studio is not a place to be during the cold, so I will be quietly attempting some drawing, maybe doing a bit of printmaking or book making in my smaller space at home with determined plans to be back in my messy space come next Spring.  Wish me luck.  

PS: I have quite a number of books on making simple book structures but I could not resist purchasing another one and I am so very glad I did.  It is full of information and great book structures.  It is called "bound 15 beautiful bookbinding structures", by Rachel Hazell, pub. Kyle Books.  Well worth buying a copy.  Rachel's mark making and ink work on the covers and pages of her books very much appeals to me as I utilise similar in some of my own work.