Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A chilly afternoon visit to Barton Moss

I'm going to start this blog post with a minor confession: as a general rule, I don't like marches/public demonstrations and avoid them as much as possible. In my experience, I find them frequently to be long-winded, ineffective, disempowering to participants, vulnerable to infiltration and manipulation by outside interests, and easily ignored by those in power. However, that didn't stop me going along with friends (including friend and fellow blogger Hazel Hedge) to the anti-fracking campaign solidarity march at Barton Moss in Salford last Sunday whilst I was in Yorkshire visiting friends for the weekend.

Despite my general reservations about marching and public demonstrations, I felt that this was likely to a worthwhile one to join as it wasn't claiming to be an attempt to close the exploratory fracking site or persuade stakeholders to stop the drilling, but rather an afternoon to show support for and solidarity with the campers living permanently on the roadside near the fracking site, and also an opportunity to visit Barton Moss and meet the campers in an open and family-friendly environment.

After arriving and being blown away by the fact that hundreds of people had turned up for the march, we spent the first part of the afternoon marching along the A57 from the Salford City Reds Stadium to the entrance to Barton Moss Road, getting frequent appreciative honks from passing drivers. It was interesting to see the range of creative and individualised banners and placards in evidence, as well as the solidarity support being provided from trade unions as well as the more expected green groups. On a cold day like this, it was good to keep moving!

The next part was a series of short speeches given at the Barton Moss Road entrance, with speakers ranging from trade union representatives and climate change group spokespeople to an 10 year old boy who makes YouTube videos on environmental issues under the name of Trafford Gas Mask Boy. It was also a chance to mingle with other marches and meet up with friends, including some I didn't know would be on the march!

Finally, just as the cold was beginning to bite, the march moved on to the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp and the entrance to the fracking site itself, where performances by musicians and singers interspersed the short speeches given about IGas (who are conducting operations on the fracking site), the camp and the protests and direct actions which have been taking place there. Tea, coffee and soup were all provided for cold and hungry marchers.

I'm still not convinced that marches and public demonstrations are my cup of tea, but I personally got a lot out of going to Barton Moss this weekend, and I hope others did too. It was a family friendly, welcoming and open way to see the site in person and to meet those who are campaigning against the fracking there and show solidarity with them, and if it helps to encourage more people to get involved with the campaign and to take action against the frackers, then that can only be a good thing.

To find out more about fracking (and the exploratory drilling currently taking place at Barton Moss in particular), please visit the websites of Frack Free Greater Manchester, Barton Moss Community Protection Camp, Northern Gas Gala, No Dash for Gas, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Frack Off UK.

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