Earth First Gathering is a grassroots camp that attracts people involved in
direct action from all over the country and beyond.
This year it was held in a farm in Hertfordshire and I was lucky enough to attend.
It is run by all: everyone is crew, which made us like one big happy family.
From Thursday to Sunday 10th-14th August I was involved in numerous workshops ranging from talks about Fracking to a Red Tent women's circle.
Here are some of my highlights:
~~~ Arriving to a 'So you want to Change the World' workshop was a great way to meet people and get stuck right in. We discussed how we feel about the state of the world today, and discovered a range of emotions from deep despair to wondrous love. We lined up along a 'agree-disagree' scale, and decided where to stand on believing we can change the world, and believing a Utopia is possible. The discussions that came out of it were fascinating. I would love to hear any readers' thoughts on this... discuss below!
~~~ I met three lovely people at the '25 Years since Twyford Down' talk... I was fascinated by it because I recently watched a documentary about the Battle of the Newbury Bypass (link below). All three people who turned up to that talk were there at Twyford Down, the first direct action protest against road building in 1992. I just had to thank them... I was 6 years old and they stood up and fought for my countryside. They were delighted to tell me all about it, what a story!
~~~ I loved the talk by an independent midwife, who described how she went from NHS to private midwife. Her passion for allowing the miracle of pregnancy and birth unfold as nature intended was palpable. After listening to her I would definitely consider hiring an independent midwife for my own births. The thing she emphasised was that it is always the mothers' choice about what happens, you can always ask for more information before making any decision, and you always have time. She did not completely condemn the NHS way of working: she has been present at home-births where it was necessary to take the mother to hospital. The woman who's story she told was not disappointed at not getting her dream birth at home, because she felt informed, involved and in control as much as possible the whole way through: because of the support of the independent midwife. A wonderful talk, I may write more at a later date!
~~~ The workshop on using your menstrual cycle for activism was also fantastic, run by the lady who did the Red Tent circle. We discussed how different weeks of the cycle have different energies attached because of the hormones coming to the surface at that time. So if we get used to how we usually feel every day throughout the month, we can plan what activities we do those days accordingly. For example, when ovulating, we have a lot of energy so can use that time to be sociable, network or go to events. During menstruation we feel more inward and reflective, so can use that time to process what's happened in the last month, and decide what needs to be done the following month. Simple stuff really: all about listening to our own bodies and not being so 'man' about it, ploughing through being 'productive' whatever the time of month.
~~~ One of my absolute favourite moments was climbing a tree with a harness, just like I'd seen on the Newbury Bypass documentary. Great fun and the instructor told be I came down like a pro! Would love to do that again! I really enjoyed being in nature and outside all the time. I put my tent up in the woods, and loved waking up to the sunlight streaming through the trees every morning. What a delight!
~~~ In the evenings we had multiple entertainments: the environmentally outspoken band Seize the Day played one night. Another night we had a ceilidh band and dancing. And there was a play/storytelling/old-song-singing performance called '3 Acres and a Cow', which was just a man and lady telling all about the history of the people of England: their riots, protests and sufferings right up until the present day. It was encouraging, as many of the stories did have a positive outcome for the people, but also a little discouraging as we realise that the people have not 'owned' their own land really since 1066 and the Norman conquest, and so the struggle continues.
~~~ This is one thing that came up for me loud and clear during the gathering: that all our issues could be solved if the people owned the land. At the moment the statistics are something like 98% of Britain is owned by 0.6% of the population. Meaning that we blaming the banks or economy for rising house prices is not entirely accurate: the landowners have the last word in everything. And so atrocities such as fracking, badger culls, abuse of animals in farming are allowed to continue. I went to a talk about Land Rights, and I came to realise that this is our biggest problem in the UK, and it is what we should all be focussing our energies on.
So yes, a wonderful weekend full of beautiful, if somewhat traumatised and suffering, people. But people who are ready to stand up and do something for what they believe in.
I do think there could be room for more love in this camp, more spirituality,
more hugs, but I do have a great empathy for the people there.
I am so grateful to be included in that circle for a little while, and this by no means the end.
I made some great contacts and will be continuing this journey.
If not for me, for my future babies. Maybe one day they will thank me,
like I thanked those brave activists at Twyford Down.