Climate Camp 2009 – a Visitor’s View

Climate Camp – educational forum, policing nightmare, Bank Holiday chilling weekend, activist heaven? All of these and more.


This year’s Climate Camp, the fourth [first was at mighty Drax –big, belching coalfired behemoth in Yorkshire; second at Heathrow, third at Kingsnorth where the ‘new generation’ of lovely, clean, carbon captured coalfired power is planned] has benefited enormously from the massively and justifiably unpopular – not to say brutal – policing of previous climate change protests. Climate Camp, as I understand it, has peaceful protest as its aim. As they say, all publicity is good publicity.

I decided to check it out, as my daughter Amelia is heavily involved. The first thing to notice was that the camp was crowning the top of Blackheath – lovely view of Canary Wharf – and that there were a mere couple of police vans parked discreetly at a distance. Oh, and a giant cherry-picker overlooking the site. But that was OK – there can’t have been much to upset them. [I should mention here that the very friendly cops in one of the vans allowed me to park next to them on the grass when I was stuck for a legit space]police

Inside the camp, which was very welcoming, there were meeters and greeters to encourage ‘day trippers’ like myself. I’m sure the lack of police at the entrance had the huge benefit of encouraging any and everybody who was passing and interested, to come and look at what was going on. And what a lot there was!

The camp has two aims – to prepare those who are up for some activism [and to make forays out to selected targets eg. RBS and Barclays], and to educate in how to live more sustainably in recognition of the impending impact on all our lovely suburban lifestyles, if we allow the politicians to continue to pay mere lip service to climate change and its implications.

bike with magimixSome of the activities were, I felt, created to make a point rather than to be realistic possibilities – the bike-powered smoothie machine [a magimix strapped to the back, a lot of hard pedalling], the bike-powered playstation [a 10 year old was pedalling furiously] – but were fun to observe. And the smoothie was delicious!

Others had considerably more potential – the crowd surrounding the guys showing us all how to make a viable, reasonably priced wind turbine, meant we had to form two groups and the questions kept coming. [see images below]

Wandering round, activity everywhere, as well as a lot of hanging out, a sea of tiny tents, middling sized tents for the kitchens and ‘area’ bases and one absolutely colossal marquee. Think Lambeth Country Show. On Sunday evening the Big Meeting was held here, well attended and very well run [in fact one of my abiding impressions was how well organised this group is] and agreement reached on plans for the immediate future. The finale was a wonderful spoof of the final of a reality show – compèred with genius, and acted out splendidly by Drax and Ratcliffe-on-Soar. Online polling ‘we took an online poll like all decisions on things that don’t matter’! had produced these as the two finalists for the Great Climate Swoop scheduled for 17 – 18 October.windmilllooking at windmill

The winner, after much banter and sparring, was Ratcliffe-on-Soar. Now, that will be interesting, as it was near this very power station that 114 people were arrested in April at enormous public expense, for unknown reasons. Given that the police and E.On will have had ample warning of the swoop, I wonder how they are likely to police this?

6show photo by Amelia Gregory The final highlight of the evening was the Ceilidh to Green Kite Midnight and anyone who has ever participated in one of these will know they can be quite……..chaotic. I understand it is somewhat different to Scottish Country dancing. Estimating the numbers in the tent as at least 300 it was pushing the bounds of what one caller can control, but bless her, she managed to keep this unruly mob from total anarchy. I was very glad I wore trainers – the several dancers who were bare-footed may have regretted by Amelia Gregory

So Climate Camp 2009 was energetic, inspiring, possibly completely nutty, or all three, but sadly, as with so many events in London, the climate campers seemed overwhelmingly white and middleclass.

N.B. I’ve since been told that over the next few days there were many more visitors from different demographics and I’d like to think that may partly have been due to the low police profile.

Photos by Amelia Gregory

Ed: Dulwich OnView was sent a second article about Climate Camp by our regular contributor iCandi© who is of a different demographic to that referred to by Ursula. Read her article next.

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