As the dust settles after Camp Frack it’s my job now to describe the events of yesterday, try to sum up the camp as a whole and discern a way forward from here, personally and for the campaign. This last bit is not going to be easy for me, not least because my feelings at various times over the weekend were conflicting. Hopefully as I write about the more straightforward stuff (what actually happened) then I’ll be able to find a way to do the difficult stuff (what it means).
I was one of the first people up and about on Sunday morning and as I sipped tea and munched porridge in the chilly morning air it was gratifying to watch the camp wake up and listen to the excited chatter as people breakfasted. By 9.30 the camp was humming with anticipation as people finished their cups of tea and headed off to their various meetings and workshops.
I was involved in a meeting which discussed the formation of a national web group which will work together to formulate a strategy for co-ordinating between local protest groups, sharing information, resources and experience. Being “the techie man from Frack Off” (as I was recently described by one of the members of REAF) this kind of activity is all very exciting for me. The meeting went well I think, although my contribution was a bit fuzzy (not enough coffee perhaps). Certainly the team that is beginning to form contains some great people.
Although Sunday’s march had been widely discussed over the course of the weekend, no formal planning activity had taken place. After my web meeting finished I headed straight over to the main marquee and joined the planning meeting for the march. When I arrived the route of the march was being hotly debated.
The meeting went smoothly. There was plenty of good humour, particularly during a brief interlude when the lyrics of a protest song were being discussed. It was suggested that “Mark Miller is Godzilla” was too much of a personal insult for the man in charge of the drilling, which is interesting because I swear I heard the shout “Miller Driller Killer” at some point during the march later on. It’s damned convenient for our campaign slogan department that the boss’s name rhymes so well.
Everything seemed to come together incredibly quickly after that: the banners, the plackards, the legal observers, the media team, the branded bottles of dirty, “produced water”… and lunch, which was served early so that we could start marching at the agreed time. That’s good planning! We’ve seen consensus decision making working really well in various key meetings at the camp, well done to all the facilitators.
At exactly 2pm the marchers set off from the camp. We were about 140 in number – activists, campaigners, union representatives, locals, children… and police, who were almost completely silent the whole time. We made up for their stony silence by shouting and singing the whole way to the rig. It was great fun, as marches always are, the celebratory mood providing an appropriate contrast to the seriousness of the issue we were there to highlight.
Members of REAF led the march, followed by activists full of admiration for them. From my own experience I know how hard it is to take those faltering steps along the difficult path of action in the face of sometimes overwhelming opposition, strong criticism, but more often than not, simple apathy. REAF and local opposition groups that are forming in other areas are taking these steps with great courage. Many of them spoke at the rally which took place at the culmination of the march. Their words inspired us all.
The march was a great success in terms of cementing the bonds between groups of people who, until only a few days earlier, had never met. I just wish more local people had been there to witness it, but I’m confident the local and national media interest the camp generated has resulted in a lot more people starting to engage with the issues. The slow, hard slog of further raising awareness of these issues has just begun but Camp Frack has done a fantastic job of setting the scene for all that.
Tat down kicked off pretty much as soon as we returned to the camp, our energy levels buoyed by the empowering nature of the march and the sense that we had achieved a huge amount over the course of the weekend. By the time I left at 7pm most of the work was done and those who were staying another night were settling down to watch some more films about extreme energy and the power of local resistance. The previous night we had watched an incredibly powerful short film about Rossport which tells the story of 11 years of successful local resistance to the interests of big oil in Northern Ireland.
Now that I’ve described the day I realise I’ll need to write another blog post about what’s next. There are some important things to say and I don’t want them to be lost and unread at the bottom of this post, so I’ll take a short break from my blogging to reflect a bit more and hopefully return a bit later with a better sense of what I want to say.