Report on Rossport Solidarity Camp speaking tour of Scotland and England

After a very productive publicity tour of England back in November we decided it was time to do some more outreach, this time to Scotland. This has been an important part of our work over the winter months. Its important that we make as many links as possible so we can show that this campaign is not isolated that its part of a worldwide struggle against capitalism, a struggle against the profits of big business always being put before the needs of communities. Also this report will feature my trip to the World Social Forum in Venezuela where I got to give a presentation on the Shell to Sea campaign. Apologies for not reporting on this sooner but things are very busy here. During the g8 we had made some good connections in Scotland especially with other protest camps. So on the 3rd of February 4 of us from the Rossport Solidarity Camp headed off to Scotland in our trusty transit van.
At Saorse social centre in Glasgow
The first place we visited on our tour was Faslane Peace Camp. This is a permenant camp set up outside Faslane naval base in Argyll and Bute, Scotland where Britian stores it’s nuclear submarines. It has been continuously occupied since 1982 making it Britians oldest protest camp. Along with the famous Greenham Common camp its seen as an inspiration for most protest camps in the UK. Because of the recent evictions at Dalkeith protest camp in Edinburgh, Faslane was quite empty. We spoke with the remaining people living on the camp about the Shell to Sea campaign in Iireland and the Rossport Solidarity Camp. There was considerable interest in our camp even though their resources were fairly stretched. We spent the night on the camp sleeping in a caravan heated with a woodburning stove. The next morning we walked down to the north gates of the military base with huge surveilance cameras following our every move. We filmed a bit of the camp and had a look at their defences and learned a few things that might help with our solidarity camp. We left a big buch of Come to the Rossport Solidarity Camp flyers in their office and headed off for Glasgow. In Glasgow there were two meetings organised with us as speakers. Myself and Aron spoke at a community centre called The Annex. This was organised by the jam74 collective, joint action against the m74.They are opposing a 6 lane elevated motorway which would run through the southern suburbs of Glasgow despite a recommendation from the public local inquiry that the road shouldn’t be built because it would cause further pollution in an already heavily polluted area, health problems and community breakdown. The was a great attendance at The Annex, people knew a lot about the campaign already. We showed the short movie Margaretta Darcy made about the Shell to Sea campaign. We told the history of the campaign discussed the issues involved: the health and safety concerns, the environmental impact, the dodgy deal. We spoke about the solidarity camp, why we got involved and why we feel this is such an important campaign. People were very responsive and decide to organise a Glasgow solidarity action for the 17th or 18th of Feburary. We sold a few Shell to Sea tshirts and made great contacts. A woman organising a thing called Art not Oil asked for a copy of the movie to show, we got contacts for people in Aberdeen active in campaigning against destructive oil companies. Michael and Eve spoke at the Saorsa Social Centre, this was organised by the g42 collective, who did loads of amazing organising around the g8.The Saorsa Social centre was set up by a collective who aim to establish a permenent social centre in south Glasgow run on the principles of voluntary mutual aid and by decision making without hierarchy. It was a very interactive meeting and great contacts were made with people even expressing an interest in coming to the camp over the summer. We spent the night in Glasgow and the next day we joined the refugee welcoming committee at the immigration offices in Glasgow. A lot of refugees were being taken into detention centres during dawn raids and taken straight from the immigration office where they must sign in. So a group of people in Glasgow go to the immigration office every signing day and keep track of who goes in and who comes out, making sure no families are taken to a detention centre without someone knowing about it. When families have been taken away they have blocaded the gates stopping any vecicles from exiting. The next place we went to was Talamh housing cooperative outside of Glasgow. The housing cooperative is based in a 17th century farmhouse with 9 members including their children, dogs, cats and chickens. We met a good few people here who had been at the Dalkeith eviction. The Dalkeith campaign was about protecting 700 trees and hibernating bats at Dalkeith country park. The Dalkeith northern bypass will cut in two the 850 acre park that serves as a valuable wildlife habitat and is visited by 50,00 people annually. We showed the film to everyone living in the cooperative, their kids and visitors and had a good discussion afterwards. We received great hospitality at Talamh and wished we had more time to look around. After Glasgow we headed east to Edinburgh where we spoke at the Forest Café. People were very impressed by the campaign and what has been achieved so far. Once again we made very good connections. Two Greek girls volunteered to organise a fundraiser and show the film at it. We meet an Italian guy who was so interested he decided to come back to Ireland with us! As usual we left a big bundle of flyers and stickers after us. The people in Edinburgh also decided to organise a solidarity action. From Edinburgh we travelled onto Bilston protest camp, which was set up in June 2002 to prevent the construction of the proposed A701 bypass and the destruction of Bilston Glen a site of Special Scientific Interest. We received a very warm welcome and most people knew about the campaign already as we had visitors from Bilston on the camp last summer. I thought people here would be very burnt out after the Dalkeith evictions but they were really interested in coming to our camp and had advice for us on camp life seeing as they have occupied that camp for the last 3 years. They seem to be wining and are soon to be paid by the local university for managing the woodland they are protecting. We slept high above the ground in a huge tree house and had some really interesting conversations about defences and evictions. Then we made the long journey from Scotland down to Nottingham in England. As we had already done a talk here in the Sumac Centre on our earlier publicity tour this was really a chance to update everyone on the campaign. We spoke about the role of the camp over the winter, what action has been happening locally, like the women blocking the ESB from installing electricity at the compound in Rossport, the so called environmental works at Bellanaboy, the Ogoni memorial day, the pickets on Christmas Day and New Years Day at Bellanaboy, the private Shell meeting in Erris etc. We talked about what we are expecting to happen this spring and how we feel this campaign can be won and what people could do to help. We were delighted to hear that they have planned a really good solidarity action in Nottingham on Saturday the 18th of February. It will be a critical mass action meeting at the university in Nottingham. Once again we were impressed by how active and organised people in Nottingham are. Lots of people here are planning on coming to the camp over the spring and summer, there’s even talk of a whole bus of them coming over! We stayed at Ned’s housing cooperative and also went to the ASBO Centre a squatted community centre. UK solidarity campaign can be contacted at: Next we went to Nine Ladies protest camp about an hours drive outside Nottingham in the Peak District. In 1999 Stancliffe quarry submitted a planning application to reopen 2 dormant quarries on the wooded hillside beside Stanton Moor. The proposed quarry would be 200m from the Nine Ladies stone circle. The camp defied a court eviction in February 2004 and the campers believe that they have practically won this campaign. The subject of our guidelines came up a lot on this tour especially the no drink and drugs on the campsite policy. Most people were actually impressed rather than put off. Some people we spoke to thought it would make the camp an easier place to live and a more serious tactic. We learned a bit about defences and building structures to live in here. We saw amazing tree houses and spoke to a good few people who were interested in coming to Ireland to help out. We were also directed to a really amazing army surplus store where we got cheap army canvas and tarpaulin for the camp. Our next stop was London. On our last tour we had made some great contacts in Greenpeace, so we were headed there to pick up some equipment and do some action training. The guys who work in the warehouse and on the action team gave us two full days of their time training us in climbing and all sorts of stuff. We even got to abseil off the Greenpeace building! Before we left London we got to spend a few hours at a street party called Operation Infinite Love! We visited one last protest camp before we home. Camp Bling was set up to oppose the F5 road scheme which would cover the burial site of a Saxon king with tarmac and destroy over 100 trees. We really enjoyed going to this camp, firstly nearly all the campers were from the local are, and they were incredibly organised and very, very welcoming. It wasn’t just the usual crusties, they were families and people of all ages living here, one guy I spoke to left the camp every day to go to work! It was a really inspiring camp with great communal space and amazing defences. Camp Bling expect to be evicted around April and some people expressed an interest in coming to our camp then. We felt it would be really valuable for both our camp and theirs to keep good connections. So we finally headed off to Wales to catch the ferry home and to pick up a caravan in Wales that had been kindly donated to us. Between all the places we visited we managed to bring home a van full of great gear: A caravan, 2 topper boats, tents, sleeping bags, really good outdoor gear like Gortex and waxed jackets and pants, wellies and boots, 2 dry suits, warm army surplus clothing, army tarpaulin and canvas, good storage containers, wood burning stove and loads of other useful things So as you can see this was an incredibly productive trip. As well as all this we made a lot of very useful contacts. People are really talking about this campaign in the UK and a lot of people are planning on coming over this summer to show solidarity. And we found that the public meetings aren’t just attracting the usual suspects but people from all walks of life. We also left with plenty of ideas for the camp, structures, defences, publicity etc and left over 600 come to the camp flyers behind us. Also it has confirmed our thoughts on our guidelines, they seemed to impress people more than turn them off. People with young children felt safer about bringing children with them, it shows people how serious we are. Also people were impressed when we talked about how we don’t want the media to be presented with an eco warrior elitist image of the camp and how we want the focus to remain on the local campaign. Report from Venezuela: The world social forum took place in Caracas Venezuela from the 23rd to 29th of January. Both Rory Hearne and myself went to give a presentation on the Shell to Sea campaign. Around 100 people attended our presentation, this was fairly remarkable as there were countless other workshops and presentations happening all over Caracas at the same time. So we spoke to people from places like Chile, Venezuela, The States, Canada, Brazil and Australia. I gave a presentation on the background of the campaign, the history, the issues involved like health and safety concerns, the environmental impact, and the dodgy deal etc. Rory linked the campaign to wider struggles like against the privatisation of natural resources etc. The presentation was very well received and there was good discussion afterwards. People from Australia talked about the damage Shell refineries were doing in their local town. A man from Chile said it was god to see Irish people fighting for something other than religion! Another man asked if we were targeting Statoil, as they are a much weaker target than Shell. A Dub who has been living in Brazil for years came along because he had been following the campaign said it was heartening to see such a fighting spirit. A lot of good contacts were made and afterwards I gave an interview to a freelance American journalist and Canadian radio. This was a great chance to widely publicise our campaign, I spoke to people from all over the world over the course of the week and there was so much interest and support.