A Focal Point

 

Another factor in the success of the campaign was the camp itself. Having a physical space where people could meet, learn, organise and communicate gave the campaign a crucial focal point, with approximately 20 to 30 people staying there at any given time. This allowed those who were unable to stay and participate on a daily basis to come and engage at their convenience. The camp became a space of learning; many protestors discovered what their rights were during the slow walks through meeting legal advisors at the camp. 

 

As an observer, it was quite clear that the community needed the camp for this protest to succeed. It acted like a crutch for many, enabling their protest to be more effective. Moreover, having a physical space meant that the local community was able to show their solidarity and support by providing the camp with donations of food, water, clothing, medicine and skills (such as construction, media and law) creating a large community of activists. 

 

One protestor, for whom the anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss was their first protest and yet ended up living there, spoke about the camps significance. “The most important thing that the camp gives to the local community is that it is a visual of the issue. Once something appears the media comes down because it is new news and they want to know what is going on. Then you get it on your local TV news. Plus, if you look, all the community places are shut so people haven’t got a place to gather any more… I’ve now been on the front line for a while and I can read each campaign. I am looking for ways to change public perception of issues and the only way to do that is making the issues visible. You have to make it visible for people to start moving.”[1]

Out of the camp grew a network that has galvanised the activist community in Greater Manchester. An organiser from Frack Free Greater Manchester[2] explained. “The success of the anti-fracking movement has sucked in experienced campaigners from Greenpeace, Reclaim the Power, FOE and so on but also, and this is what makes it unique as an environmental protest in my experience, the Trade Unions and other left wing political groups. These people didn't always get along, but I still don't think the big NGOs realise how important the links we have made in Manchester are. Non-hierarchical Direct Action people, Green NGOs and Trade Unions working together is very rare, and I think a huge innovation by Greater Manchester, all thanks to Barton Moss.”[3] 

Notes

[1]Taken from telephone interview on January 19th 2015 with a protester who stayed on the camp at Barton Moss and is from Liverpool 

[2]Frack Free Greater Manchester are a group of people from Greater Manchester, opposing any attempts to explore or undertake any High Volume slickwater Hydraulic Fracturing for extracting Coal Bed Methane, shale gas, or Underground Coal Gasification - http://frackfreegtrmanchester.org.uk

[3]Taken from telephone interview on May 19th 2014 with an organiser from Frack Free Greater Manchester