Spring in Lesvos

The olive presses have stopped rolling. Orange season is over.

Lesvos has not been suspended in time since I was wrenched away on New Year’s Eve.

At Skala Sykamineas seafront the scent is no longer sharp cold salt spray but gently decaying seaweed.

Poppies are everywhere, deepest velvet ruby. Also cornflowers, clover, lavender, chamomile and a particularly fine variety of stinging nettle.

The people of Lesvos were running full pelt for months, running on adrenaline, running into a surging tide of needy humanity, plucking people from the waves and holding them by force of love and determination above the waterline.

Then politics happened.

One pivotal moment was that New Year’s Eve. As I flew home from Lesvos via Brussels, rushing to be at my loved ones hospital bedside by midnight, young women in Cologne were being groped and robbed on the streets. This was the counterpoint to the picture of little Alan Kurdi drowned on a Turkish beach; the pendulum of public opinion swung once more, this time against refugees. It’s highly unlikely that the assaults were perpetrated by recently arrived Syrians or Afghanis – by far the largest groups to be seeking protection in Europe – but you wouldn’t know that from the media furore. The right-wing pounced and we all felt the backlash.

Austria was the first northern European country to bar its gates, with a knock on effect across Eastern Europe. Scandanavian countries said they’d done their bit; Germans lost faith in Merkel’s open door policy; FYROM (Macedonia) razor-wired its border and over 50,000 refugees were trapped in Greece.

The humanitarian corridor was closed by default not design, heads of state flapped and squabbled, people from war-torn countries who’d risked everything to reach supposed safety suffered. Young refugees sewed their lips together in protest. Desperate families forded a river on the Greek-Macedonian border and were tear-gassed. Navy boats patrolled the Aegean sea, but still smugglers managed to send dangerously full dinghies to Lesvos.

Then the “EU-Turkey deal”.

No more refugee boats.

The hurtling, adrenaline-fuelled folk of Lesvos ran on, fell over, hit the dirt, collapsed. Mentally, emotionally, physically and financially exhausted.

Now they’re picking themselves up.

Locals are prepping their businesses for what they hope will be a tourist season. But many tour operators have cancelled flights and packages to Lesvos, on the assumption that an island associated with drowning and a dump full of fake life jackets won’t appeal to their clients. Never mind that Lesvos is a stunning island of lush hiking trails, abundant wildlife, endless coastline, exquisite villages, fabulous food and friendly people with huge hearts who don’t deserve to be economically crippled and abandoned.

Volunteers are scaling back rescue and support operations, furious that we had organically created a system based on solidarity, dignity and common humanity, only to have it brutally squashed by undemocratic EU power. Grassroots organisations dare not pull out completely, uncertain whether those detained in Moria’s registration centre will be released and need refuge while their asylum claims are processed. Plus, while Turkey’s Erdogan plays brinkmanship with the EU, the deal is perceived as super shaky. We’re half expecting the flimsy dinghies to be launched en masse from the Turkish coast once more before the month of May is out.

In the meantime, volunteers laboriously clean the coastline. Tourist beaches were first to be cleared, now we work on the less accessible coves. We pull dozens of torn dinghies from the rocks, slice them with diving knives into manageable sections and stack them (“lovely flat piles, like lasagne!” repeats Mexican Isabel, our team leader). Later, using a reclaimed smuggler’s dinghy towing a self-built raft of pallet wood and blue barrels, we transport the ‘lasagne’ to Skala Sykamineas, where volunteers attempt to reuse as much material as possible, making bags and fixing old chairs in weekly upcycling sessions.

We hand pick smaller rubbish: life jackets; inflatable rubber rings and water wings; pieces of polystyrene loose or packed into five litre water bottles, intended to be used as floats if (when) a dinghy’s engine died; discarded clothes stiff with salt and ripped to rags on the rocks; bubble wrap parcels used to protect mobile phones during the crossing; water-logged snacks; a doll’s head. On one small beach I fill 12 bin bags. Three days later, after a storm, more rubbish has washed up and I fill two more.

So we clean the beaches, and we sort clothes. Winter piles and summer piles; men, women, children, babies. Bagged and labelled and provisionally going to Moria, or perhaps the mainland. Somewhere is probably desperate for baby slings; we have four huge bags filled with them at Lighthouse camp, and no babies. We feel guilty because the lack of needy people here doesn’t mean there are no needy people out there. The people we came to help are just across the water in Turkey, scattered across Europe in makeshift camps, guarded by the army in mainland Greece, hiding in bushes near borders, living in squalor in Lebanon or dodging bombs and bullets in their own countries. We feel guilty and tell each other that cleaning the beaches is important and that on days when the weather is against us or our towing dinghy needs repairing, that it’s ok to rest a bit and even to enjoy ourselves.

I explore hillside villages with cobbled streets wide enough only for a donkey. In old growth forest high above the coast road I find ancient trees with 12 foot girth, hot springs and cold mountain fountains, meandering paths through waist high ferns. I startle fat fast brown snakes, frogs, lizards, huge spiders in thin black and furry grey varieties, bronze-backed beetles and a segmented centipede. There are dragonflies, butterflies large and small, there’s birdsong everywhere. A wild tortoise in an oak grove startles me.

By coralling people in detention centres and military camps, giving them too little of everything – information, clothes, food, blankets, places to sleep, human warmth – the EU instils anxiety, desperation and deprivation. European politicians make the refugees fleeing war and persecution into exactly the poor, craven, dirty, unhealthy people that it fears them to be. Which they weren’t, when they stepped off the boats on the shore of Lesvos earlier this year, shrugging off the fear of drowning as they were warmed by campfires, tea, blankets, soup and friendly welcomes courtesy of grassroots’ volunteers.

Turning courageous, determined, resourceful people into frightened beggars seems not only needlessly cruel but ridiculously counterproductive to me.

On my spring holiday I walk six trails, clean five beaches, take part in four sessions of sorting donated clothes, swim three times in the Aegean, enjoy two slap up Greek taverna meals, do one window cleaning stint and spend a morning in Piraeus port chopping vegetables to feed a thousand.

I travelled overland from the UK to Greece by bus and train; but that’s another story.

I recommend a holiday on Lesvos to anyone with a heart.

This is the situation currently in Greece, it is dire and it is unnecessary: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/refugees-greece-we-did-not-expect-live-life-europe

Not Only a Refugee Crisis

Adapted from a blog written by Aphrodite Vati Mariola (hotel proprietor, Lesvos)

It’s about the impact on the island and people of Lesvos of the ‘refugee crisis’. They’ve got it good, compared with those fleeing war zones, but the story of the Lesvos locals still deserves to be heard.

Half a million men, women and children arrived on the island of Lesvos in the last year. By the time they reach my doorstep, these people have survived war and terrorism, exploitation by traffickers, and a perilous journey across the Aegean. No photographs can depict the emotional seesaw experienced each time a boat reaches land.

Expressions of fear and relief on the boat people’s faces as they step onto our rocky shore turn to shame for having ‘burdened’ us, mixed with hope, resolving into gratitude. We give what small practical assistance we can, we offer a few brief moments of humanity. The journey is still long ahead of them. Often, as they leave the shore to continue that journey, we hear “Thank you, thank you. Sorry. Good luck!” We wish them luck too. Often now, as it sinks in that this crisis may have no end, a knot tightens in my stomach as I watch the flow of people arrive and go. I can’t help but wonder, who will need that luck more – them or us?

The majority of people on Lesvos make a living from tourism, farming or fishing. We hear that the refugee crisis has had a positive impact on our economy, because shops and hotels that would usually be closed in the winter now have volunteer and refugee customers. In fact, the businesses flourishing in the crisis – a handful of car rental firms, taxis, restaurants – are clustered into just a few corners of our island. The hoteliers providing rooms to volunteers at cut-price rates this winter won’t be able to sustain themselves for long on those deals, and the refugees are on the conveyor belt to get registered and onto a ferry towards the mainland and northern Europe, so those who do have money aren’t spending it here.

Many local people are questioning whether they will be able to keep their small businesses afloat if the early warning signs of a tourism collapse prove true. Those small businesses support whole families, enable us to eat and put roofs over our heads and maintain a healthy, independent existence. Holiday bookings are down 80% for the coming summer season. Tour operators are cancelling packages to Lesvos, they tell us media coverage of refugee boats and people dying means tourists don’t want to come on holiday here any more. Our island is scrambling to deal with this refugee crisis, the local people are caring and giving and saving lives, but we’re afraid there’s going to be a devastating impact on our own lives.

Our fishing industry has been seriously affected by the migration from Turkey. Fishermen are often unable to lay out their nets, for fear they might capsize the refugees’ dinghies. They worry about how the sea will be affected by this tremendous increase in traffic; about the pollution caused by sunken boats; about the petroleum leaking from the ships and the debris caused by shipwrecks. Mountains of detritus, including tens of thousands of fake ‘life jackets’, have been left on our coastlines. This is not only detrimental to the future of tourism and fishing; it threatens our quality of life, our health, our eco-systems.

My family lives on the north coast of Lesvos. We enjoy gorgeous views of the sea and the Turkish coastline; misty mountains rise above the shimmering Aegean in picture postcard scenes. Our personal lives are dictated by the schedules of Turkish traffickers, by the flimsy, overladen boats they send across six miles of surprisingly capricious sea. We spend countless hours on the beach in front of our hotel, providing clothes, snacks, water, medical aid and transportation. Then we clean up the trail of debris left behind, and then we prepare for the next arrivals. We must always be prepared, lest a life be lost on our watch.

For the last few years we Greeks have been coping with difficult political and economic situations in our country, suffering under austerity measures imposed by richer EU nations, watching our public services suffer while youth unemployment rises. This is the backdrop on which we’ve seen sewn inadequate responses from the Greek government and the EU to a refugee crisis that has left islanders to deal as best we can with a situation none of us have adequate preparation or resources for.

In the void left by government, independent volunteers from around the globe began appearing in our ports and airports towards the end of 2015. These volunteers came with such a variety of skills, languages and expectations that at times we feared the lack of control and co-ordination would lead to carnage. The dedication and compassion of these volunteers has been invaluable to refugees and local people alike, and yet there have been occasions when the volunteer invasion has felt more intrusive than the flow of refugees. Increased traffic, and fast driving on country roads, has put our free range sheep and goats (and our free range children) at risk, affecting farmers and countryfolk far from the sea.

Meanwhile, our fishermen continue to rescue people from death by drowning and our villagers quietly give: digging into their own kid’s closets to offer clothes to the children pulled from the sea (according to UNHCR figures, over 30% of recent arrivals have been children); donating merchandise that went unsold in summer; driving refugees from the coast to transit camps inland. Simultaneously, we try to run our businesses, raise our children, take care of our households and relationships. We’re not here on a month-long stint, we won’t be packing up and leaving once we have completed our ‘mission’; our daily reality has changed, we’re coping with death on an almost daily basis while reeling from the impact of lost livelihoods and fears for the future.

I don’t want to complain – my family has so much compared with those fleeing terror – but I would like the voices of local people to be heard and for our government, and the EU, to do their jobs rather than ignore us. I would like everyone on Lesvos to respect each other – the refugees, volunteers, NGOs, locals, local authorities – and to respect our land, our environment and our humanity. I would like procedures to be established which apply to everyone, aimed at protecting the future, safety and integrity of the refugees, and of the locals who will be left to deal with the aftermath when this crisis dissolves or evolves.

I often think about the people who have passed by our beach and wonder how they have fared on their journeys, whether they have found hope and new homes, and I think about the souls unjustly claimed by the Aegean. I feel we will be failing the new arrivals, our children and ourselves if we cannot find a humane solution to this human migration. Intolerance, power and greed must not win this battle. When I voice a cry for help for local businesses, I worry that greed is what people will hear, when in fact it’s the survival of our communities, of our generous natures, of our compassion that’s at stake.

Many of these fleeing human beings who stop momentarily on my doorstep are leaving behind memories so awful as to be almost unimaginable to us; they never wanted to leave their homes and are now in a state of limbo, without a country, without a safe haven, as the domino effect of borders closing resonates like the clanging of cell doors along the trail. Yes, on Lesvos we are luckier than many, but this crisis affects every community through which the refugees are forced to pass and we are all yearning and hoping for the same things: freedom, peace, education, work, dignity, safety, a home, love.

Unless the causes of this crisis can be solved, I fear a tsunami of human pain will build and sweep our island away, leaving in its wake a trail of economic, psychological, environmental and sociological disarray. Fractures appear when families are torn between self-preservation and generosity, when one village appears to benefit from the crisis while another’s businesses fail, when a neighbour fears that your helping hand will be their downfall.

While governments try to find solutions military and political, on Lesvos we say to the rest of Europe – don’t abandon us. We have an extraordinarily beautiful island with a remarkably long coastline; there’s room here for refugees to pass through, for volunteers to aid our rescue efforts, and for holidaymakers to support our economy while enjoying themselves too. We need everyone to recognise the precariousness of the situation and act accordingly.

A journalist asked me, soon after the attacks in Paris, whether I was afraid I might be helping terrorists. My answer: “If a person with hatred in their hearts steps from one of these boats, the only thing I can do to change their mind is show them kindness.”

If we can find a way to survive through this crisis, we can bring up our next generation as humanitarians rather than racists. If we are given the chance to keep being kind, we can avoid stoking terror.

I invite you to support our island.

A few notes from me:

On days when the weather is wild and few refugees arrive on Lesvos, local people, volunteers and NGO groups are busy cleaning the seas and beaches. Beauty is abundant on the island. You can sunbathe, hike, cycle, marvel at the petrified forest, feast in seaside tavernas, bathe in hot springs, visit the women’s co-operative in Molyvos, explore hill top castles and churches, buy local produce and have a laugh in friendly bars and coffee shops.

Lesvos is a really good place for a holiday.

You could holiday there without seeing anything of the refugee crisis if you chose, especially in the south-west of the island. Or you could combine your relaxation with joining an environmental team to help clean some hidden rocky coves where boat debris has washed ashore, and go home knowing you’ve left the place in better condition than when you arrived. Either way, you’ll have helped the local economy, which means helping local families and communities.

More about Lesvos, the holiday island: The Other Aegean

UNHCR reports and statistics

Greek Island to Halifax Hospital

A week ago I was working with the Dirty Girls of Lesvos Island, laundering refugees’ discarded clothes for redistribution.

Now I’m sitting in the back of a van in a hospital carpark in Yorkshire, UK. My breath is steam. There’s ice on the inside of the windows. The cold woke me frequently last night, even though I was wrapped in two sleeping bags. In fitful bouts of sleep I dreamed of the refugees in camp Moria on Lesvos, outside with barely a blanket per family as temperatures there also dropped below freezing.

I was in Lesvos when the text came. Someone I love is ill, very ill. How ill? Hospital ill. Hospital doesn’t know what’s wrong with them and starts a battery of scary tests – that kind of ill.

I wasn’t due back in the UK for a week. I don’t usually fly. For environmental reasons, I skip across Europe overland. Coach from Manchester to Budapest, sleeper trains across eastern Europe to Greece, then ferry to the islands. It costs £150-£250, Leeds to Lesvos; not bad for five days travel including ‘accommodation’ on board.

But someone I love is ill. How rigid are my principles? At 8pm I text back: “Let’s see what the doctor says tomorrow. I’ll decide then.” I receive no response. At 10pm I text again: “Shall I just book a flight?” I receive no response. At midnight: “I’ve booked a flight. I’ll be there 11pm tomorrow.”

‘Tomorrow’ is New Year’s Eve. It’s not a direct flight – I have to change planes in Brussels. My UK family tells me a terrorist attack is expected in Brussels on New Year’s Eve.

Opposite the airport in Mytilene in the south of Lesvos there’s a tiny church on the shore. I take a stroll while waiting to board, and try the church door. It opens. There are candles burning and candles unlit by the door. I put a couple of euros in the donation box, light a candle for my loved one, light another for Marwas and all the refugees fleeing war and terror.

As I board, the air stewardess hands me a pomegranate wrapped in cellophane. “Happy New Year,” she says. “In Greece, pomegranate, for luck.”

Good. I need luck.

In the airport in Brussels everyone has to take off their shoes to get through passport control.

I’m in the hospital in Yorkshire by the time fireworks explode to mark the turning of the year. I’ve never been that big on New Year’s Eve and right now it feels like a farce. What does it matter what numbers are on the calendar, if I’m going to lose the person I love? I can’t see the fireworks through the hospital window from where I’m sitting beside his bed, I can only hear them; they could be distant gunfire.

I think it was the right decision, to fly here. Sitting beside this bed is a bit like standing on the beach at Skala Sykamineas. I’m here to pour love and negate fear, and nothing feels more important than that right now.

I know the NHS is desperately strapped for cash, starved by politics, degraded by the Tories, short of staff. I know nurses are undervalued and underpaid, junior doctors are exhausted and ready to strike, hospitals are rundown.

I’m expecting unkempt wards, neglected patients, uncaring staff, skimpy inedible food.

I’m shocked.

This National Health Service, despite the battering it’s been given, is miraculous. The nurses are efficient yet gentle, and genuinely care about their patients. The food is reasonable, and regular. Every patient has a water jug, frequently replenished, and orange juice with meals; a tea trolley circulates several times a day. Each bed has a buzzer, and when a patient buzzes, a nurse nearly always appears within a minute.

All this is free, for every person rich or poor.

In a nearby bed lies a 93 year old Latvian who arrived in the UK as a refugee when he was a young man, having walked across Europe. He thanks the nurses profusely in a weak voice with a trace of eastern European accent, every time they take his blood pressure, stick a needle in his arm to test his blood or hold the urine bottle for him.

We must fight for this miraculous NHS. Don’t be conned into believing it’s so broken that only privatisation can save it.

If our health service wasn’t free, the person whose bed I’m sitting beside probably wouldn’t be here responding to treatment; they’d be dying at home instead.

Sometimes it’s obvious there aren’t enough staff, and for sure with a bit more investment the wards could be cleaner and the care even better and the staff could get properly rewarded for the truly amazing work they do. Surely this is where we want our taxes spent, not on bombs to Syria, not subsidising Parliament’s bar?

The sweet Latvian man died last night, but without the NHS he’d likely have died more suddenly, without chance to say goodbye to his daughter, in agony, alone. This way he was provided with end of life care, pain relief, dignity, and a nurse to tell him “everyone loves you, you know” as he slipped away at dawn.

If you are a nurse – thankyou, thankyou.

CHRISTMAS IN LESVOS

Skala Sykamineas hugs a tiny harbour. Aquamarine water laps the rocky shore and fishermen tend their nets watched by curious cats. Inland, it’s harvest time in the olive groves and orange orchards. Free range sheep lazily graze, waiting to be milked. The village shop sells fresh yogurt in unglazed terracotta pots.

Dolphins frolic around a small boat as it heads towards the narrow beach. The dinghy rides low in the water beneath the weight of 40 people seeking new, safe lives. A full moon illuminates the whitewashed Mermaid-Madonna church and Christmas tree lights twinkle in the village square.

Three nights ago a boy child lay blue-white and unconscious a hundred metres from the Christmas tree. He was brought ashore, half-drowned and hypothermic, stretchered to a cabin nearby and revived by volunteer medics. He lived.

Lesvos has seen tens of thousands of people arrive on boats barely seaworthy in recent years. This month, over a thousand people have been arriving almost every day – cold and wet, frightened and relieved, exuberant or distraught. Many of the people in these boats have travelled from Syria and Afghanistan. Others started their journeys in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan or Africa.

For many the dangerous journey has been a feat of physical and mental endurance, has cost their life savings, has cost the lives of travelling companions. For many, the journey was made because staying at home meant being terrorised on a daily basis – facing bombs and guns, being repressed by dictators and attacked by militias, fearing imprisonment, torture and death. People don’t leave their homes to risk their lives, and the lives of their children, unless staying at home is no choice at all.

A few months ago people making this journey were referred to as migrants. Media and politicians competed to give migrants a bad name. Compassion came late; so many had died, of all ages and nationalities, before a three year old Syrian boy was drowned off the Turkish coast and the western world woke up. People began to speak of refugees rather than migrants. Even newspapers made the switch. This was good… but ‘refugee’ conjures sympathy rather than empathy.

I’d rather call the new arrivals heroes. If I’d done what they did to get here, I’d consider myself a hero. Wouldn’t you? Escaping a war zone, sneaking across borders, walking through mountains and crossing a perilous sea to land on a strange continent – the people who do this are victims of war, politics and injustice but they’re not helpless. Admiration, solidarity and friendship seem more appropriate than pity.

From the north shore of Lesvos Turkey looks so close; I could jump on a passenger ferry and be there in an hour. It’s ludicrous that people fleeing persecution should have to risk their lives at great expense, making millionaires of people-traffickers in the process, to travel these few miles because of politics. Politics means safe passage is a dream, means fear instead of friendship. Politics reinforces borders with razor wire and tear gas. Politics means some people are free and others are not and bombs fall on people just like us and their children drown because they were born there not here.

I want to break down the borders.

An elderly Syrian man stumbles on the steep rocky footpath leading up from the beach. His shoes have fallen off and he can’t bend to put them back on. I steady him and kneel at his feet, lifting his cold swollen feet back into his shoes. He is pale and frightened and fragile, whispering “Tsank you, tsank you”.

On Lesvos, the local people are heroes too. Fishermen save lives when they should be casting their nets. Amalia, proprietor at Cafe Traverso on the waterfront, dispenses blankets, shoes and handwarmers. Restaurants, travel agents and minimarts in Mytilene have added Arabic to signs and menus. A journalist asks local hotelier Aphrodite Vati “aren’t you worried you might be helping terrorists?” She points out that if a person with a terrorist mission gets off a boat here, the only thing that could change his mind is kindness.

A young Afghan man shivers uncontrollably, his thin clothes soaked, hypothermia and shock setting in. His name is Marwas. One of his travelling companions has collapsed and he’s desperately worried about the child who fell into the water. While medics breathe life into the child, I wrap Marwas in emergency blankets with woollen blankets on top. Another volunteer hands him a cup of hot, sweet tea. I sit beside him, put my arm around him, reassure him, hold him until the shaking subsides as he tells me about his home town of Kunduz, his house that has been destroyed, his parents who’ve been killed and his two brothers who are missing. The Taliban took control of Kunduz in September this year. A friend said to Marwas “let’s go” and over 23 days they journeyed to Izmir in Turkey, then the friend decided to go back to Afghanistan and Marwas got on the boat alone. He has no passport. He wants to go to England but knows that’s probably a pipe dream. I apologise for my country.

I want to break down the borders.

What I actually do is pick up sea-soaked clothing, sort it and bag it and send it to the laundrette, then once it’s clean and dry, redistribute it. I’m working with The Dirty Girls of Lesvos Island, to stop tons of perfectly good clothing ending up littering beaches or in landfill. We spend up to 800 crowdfunded euros a day getting appropriate clean warm clothes to those in need, in the fastest and most ecologically-sound way possible.

The Dirty Girls spend Christmas Day sorting through 6000 discarded socks, pinning pairs and bagging by size. Socks with reindeer on, Santa Claus socks, socks sporting the stars and stripes of the American flag, socks embroidered with the French tricolor, Union Jack socks, small socks with frilly lace tops, tiny baby bootees and hand-knitted socks of thick, coarse wool. Every sock has a story to tell.

Skala Sykamineas has a co-operatively run olive press. The scent of freshly pressed olives is subtle and divine and helps neutralise the smell of socks worn on the march across the Middle East. Oil oozes from the olive press onto the cobbled street, where fake life jackets are stacked awaiting collection by the next garbage truck. We save some of these ‘life jackets’ to insulate the floor of the Dirty Girls HQ tent, stuffing pallets with them before laying a plank floor.

History is happening. There’s a huge human migration occurring.

I wonder where Marwas is now, on Christmas night; whether he managed to negotiate Moria, the inland camp where thousands of refugees wait, often for days outside in the cold and mud, to be registered. Registration papers are needed to travel, book a room or buy a ferry ticket. Without registration papers no more borders can be crossed.

Moria is sprawling and confused, dirty and in constant flux. People lie beside the road, wrapped in blankets if they’re lucky. Volunteers collect cardboard and offer it to refugees in place of mattresses. There are a few ‘dormitories’ in unheated, unfurnished concrete rooms behind barbed wire fences in what was once a detention centre. In the dormitories more than a hundred people may have to share a filthy bathroom. Only the most vulnerable can access the dormitories; everyone else is outside, with even less provision. Oxfam is belatedly building toilets but most of the assistance here is pure grassroots. There are tents, but not enough tents. Food is provided by humanitarian organisations, but there’s never enough for everyone. When it rains, it’s hell. Self-organised collectives such as Better Days for Moria offer information and compassion but can barely scrape the surface of the need.

A million refugees have arrived in Europe and politicians have no plan other than to keep bombing the countries people are fleeing from. NGOs and aid agencies seem hamstrung by bureaucracy. On the Croatian border, razor wire has been decorated with Christmas baubles by local activists. On the Macedonian border a pregnant woman is beaten because she hasn’t got the right papers.

Thanks to the crews at Lighthouse and Platanos, the No Borders Kitchen in Mytilene, Caring Lesvos, the Wild Lemon Tea Tent, Bristol Skipchen and like-minded collectives we have small oases of warmth and dignity on Lesvos. Without these groups, without the volunteer lifeguards and medics, without the generosity of the local people, the humanitarian crisis here would be unimaginably worse. I wish the world would replicate what’s happening in these oases on Lesvos.

There are beautiful moments of hope and relief here, when the weary travellers first set foot on European soil and are greeted as welcome guests. I hope that hope doesn’t get extinguished on the cold journey north.

I hope Marwas makes it to England.

pics by Alison Terry Evans

More stories from Lesvos:

Kim’s story, from the Lighthouse beach camp:
https://www.inverse.com/article/9564-these-groups-are-saving-refugee-lives-for-christmas-and-you-can-help

Brendan’s story, from Korakas: https://www.facebook.com/brendan.woodhouse.18/posts/10153329236677916

Thanks to my friends and family who answered the call and donated to The Dirty Girls to help us keep the washing machines turning. You raised over £400, which is enough to wash a lot of socks, and several bags of trousers and jackets too. Our crowdfund is here – https://www.youcaring.com/cold-hungry-and-wet-syrian-refugees-many-young-children-449591#.VkZnewI6seZ.mailto – or contact me directly to do a bank transfer and avoid the commission charges.

What part of NO don’t they understand?

There’s so many things to be outraged by at the moment, I’ve almost got outrage-fatigue (is that what the Tories are banking on?). This little story is a long, long way from being the worst of what’s going on in these speeded-up, hopefully end-days of corporate capitalism…

[I’m not sure what the worst is, the people drowning in overloaded boats in the Med, desperate men clinging to the underside of trucks to try and escape the migrant ghettoes of Calais, the subjugation of Gaza, horrific war and violence in Africa and the Middle East, greed-fuelled violation of planetary boundaries by frackers and chemical companies, native peoples being forced from their tribal lands, bankers still flying high while austerity bites and communities are broken up by the bedroom tax and gentrification, the brutal bullying of Greece by well-off European politicians and bureaucrats, or or or —]

So many stories, but this tiny little story is playing out in my own backyard, and feels like a microcosm of the whole.

Hebden Bridge.

This small town relies on its reputation of being one of the most un-cloned towns in Britain, a reputation that keeps its local economy strong and its streets vibrant. It has won plaudits “4th funkiest town in the world”; awards “most independent little shops”; and quirky labels “lesbian capital of Britain”. The town is full of smallscale entrepreneurs, people managing to scrape a living from what they love, people who don’t use many resources, who respect their environment and each other. People like the butcher, the baker, the grocer and the newsagent, as well as the artists and cafe proprietors and guesthouse owners and market traders.

We all spend money with each other, and the tourists come and spend money with us too, because our town is a bit special; it’s different from all those towns filled with chainstores and supermarkets. We have a Co-op. And a One-Stop shop. And an off licence that sells groceries. And that’s enough ‘convenience’ stores.

It works.

Despite local objections, Sainsbury’s put in a planning application. They were turned down by the town council and then by the borough council. They lodged an appeal. They were turned down by the planning inspectorate at government level. Now they want a judicial review…

I don’t like linking to facebook, but have a look at the #SOSHebdenBridge film on this page for a bit of guerilla community graffitti.

Of course, whether our lucky little town gets a supermarket forced onto it isn’t a deal in the big scheme of things. In other little towns across the world people are being forced out of their homes by poverty, or climate change, or people who will enslave or kill them.

But if ordinary people don’t begin to stand up to bullies, this planet may not be around much longer. If we let ourselves be walked over, so that the corporate bosses and elites can increase their profits by a magnitude that is really just noughts on a bank balance… Well, what then?

We have to stand up to the bullies.

UPDATE: We did stand up to Sainsbury’s and WE WON!!! This time, justice was on our side…

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Paul Mobbs attempts citizen’s arrest of the UK government

Today, at around 3pm, the inimitable Paul Mobbs attempted a citizen’s arrest of four key members of the UK government at 10 Downing Street, for Misconduct in Public Office (in relation to fracking) and after three hours was arrested.

Mobbs was carrying on his person two years’ worth of research that he had meticulously illustrated in a densely rich “Frackogram” infograph. The research contained in this image alone points at serious misconduct in office – and because it was on his person when he was arrested, it will – according to press releases sent out by supporters, on which this account is based –  be admissible in court as evidence. Mobbs wants everyone to share this information, and his Frackogram, as widely as possible… so much so that it can’t be ignored. It could be invaluable for the anti-fracking cause.

Film of Paul’s attempt to arrest government ministers, with explanation why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc1ESFg4fkA

Download the Frackogram:
http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/archive/fracktured_accountability/frackogram_2015-A3.pdf

Read the full story and see the pictures of him getting arrested:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/370275796336658/permalink/920674021296830/

Paul’s research website:
http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/current/extreme_energy.shtml

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Gone Green

I’ve offered to help raise £800 for the Calderdale Green Party.

In this blog, I’ll have a go at explaining why. If you haven’t time to read it all, have a quick peek at the indiegogo site where I’ve summarised the situation… And please, throw a few coins, a couple of quid, or a kindly folded note into the hat.

The first time I was old enough to vote in a General Election was in 1992. I didn’t vote. I wasn’t registered. If you registered to vote, the poll tax collectors knew where you were. Or maybe it was the bailiffs. I wasn’t quite sure, I just knew that everyone who wanted to change the system was defying the poll tax… and most of us weren’t registered and didn’t vote.

Still, I lay half-awake all night, squished next to my boyfriend in his single bed, listening to the radio between half-dreams. We were sure Labour would win. Everyone hated the Tories so much. Maggie Thatcher had snatched children’s milk and trashed the miners and smashed the peace convoy, and the poll tax was the last straw. Thatcher was gone, this John Major just needed a gentle boot and all would be well.

The next day our dreams were shattered. It was a Conservative win. We couldn’t believe it. But then, we hadn’t voted. Almost everyone we knew hadn’t voted. It was our fault!!!

At the next General Election, I was out of the country. I didn’t manage to do a postal vote, but this time the Tories’ time really was up. Hallelujah! Labour won. Everything would be ok now.

I’ll never forgive them for bombing Afghanistan and then, the Iraq war. I shouted at the TV, shouted at them not to do it, not to be so BLOODY STUPID. Not to be so cruel; and didn’t they know it would only make everything worse?

Not everything they did was awful – tax credits were quite helpful – but they let stupid things happen with the economy, dazzled by the mirage of perpetual growth (how bloody stupid?). They were charmed by the corporations and just loved being best mates with America. They privatised things and forgot to look after the planet, and the people.

In 2005 I didn’t vote. I’d given up on politics. No point, no one to vote for. Labour was a soul-destroying disappointment. I may have written None of The Above or scribbled on my ballot in protest. I can’t remember, it was all despondency.

By the last General Election, Labour was so unpopular it began to look as though the Tories might get in. They had to be stopped, but no way was I voting Labour, so what to vote? Green? Everyone said that’d be a wasted vote. Anyway, the Greens were a bit of a joke – sandal-wearing, yogurt-weaving, lentil-eating… They might have some very sound ideas about the environment but they didn’t have foreign or economic policies, did they?

In the end I voted Lib Dem, a friend I trusted told me it was the tactical thing to do, and I hadn’t a better idea.

Hah! Wrong again! Lib Dems shacked up with the Tories, threw away the chance to have a referendum on proportional representation, screwed over the students… and it was my fault!!!

This year, I’m not voting tactically. I’m voting Green. Caroline Lucas’ arrest at the Balcombe anti-fracking camp made me sit up and take notice, then I went to the Vote for Policies website and was impressed. (Check it out – Vote for Policies.)

The Green Party opposes austerity for the masses while the rich just get richer; opposes kamikaze fracking; and cares about the wonderful things that used to belong to and serve us all – like the NHS, the post office, public spaces and the railways.

The Green Party says it will put people and planet before profit. I’ll vote for that, even though I don’t think the current parliamentary system is fit for purpose. What I’d really like is a bloodless revolution; or to build the compassionate, consensual, co-operative world I want in the cracks of this system, until the cracks are so full of life and love and rich compost that they burst open and… Well, that might take a while, so I’ll adopt diversity of tactics.

If the Greens can get enough votes to influence the way things are run for the next five years, that’s something. Now they’ve teamed up with Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party, even a few MPs in parliament will give them the chance to make a difference. That’s something that feels achievable, and I can help to make it happen without giving up on the bigger picture and more radical dreams.

Which brings me to indiegogo.

Calderdale’s Green Party needs to raise £800 so that we can put a leaflet through every door in my area.

Without those leaflets, people may not know they have a Green candidate, may not know that the Green Party is proposing real alternatives to five more years of austerity, may not know that the yogurt-weaving stereotype is old hat and Green is the humanitarian future that most of us want.

Please, even if you don’t live in Calderdale, help me out if you can. All the parties have a chance to get their leaflets freeposted but there’s a tight deadline and we need to raise this money really fast. The big parties have rich backers; the Greens seek support from ordinary people. Every pound will help.

Thanks.

indiegogo

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Midwinter in Parliament Square with Occupy Democracy

#OccupyDemocracy returned to Parliament Square as planned this mid-winter weekend, with a focus on housing and homelessness.

The turnout wasn’t huge – it was cold, it was just a few days before Christmas – but the quality of debate, entertainment, knowledge-sharing, solidarity-building and the sense of an emerging community of creative and determined change-makers was… inspiring.

Contributors to a full programme of events in and around the Square included:

  • Speakers from the New Era Housing Estate (who this week won a huge victory over the US development firm which had planned to make them homeless), Focus E15 Mum’s housing campaign, Occupy Barnet and Our West Hendon, plus Phoenix Rainbow on squatters’ rights.
  • ‘Dying for Heat’ activists who stripped off outside Downing Street to protest the scandal of deaths due to fuel poverty.
  • Deputy leader of the Green Party Shahrar Ali, speaking about the UK’s democratic deficit.
  • A ‘Fossil Free Nativity Play’ and Shell Out Sounds choir.
  • Green & Black Cross with activist legal advice.
  • Fran Boait from Positive Money, Samir from Stop The War coalition, and Occupy activist George Barda on compassionate revolution.

The  schedule was interspersed with participative assemblies and debates, poetry, carol singing, sharing of food – and a blissfully warming impromptu late night ceilidh dance!

With the high heras fencing around Parliament Square replaced by less robust crowd barriers, an opportunity arose on Saturday evening for occupiers to move through a gap in the barrier and to occupy the centre of  the Square – for the first time since being dragged from the grass two months ago in the infamous Battle of the Tarpaulin.

Displaying a ‘Real Democracy Now!’ banner before continuing a discussion about how much interaction Occupy Democracy should have with party politics, occupiers continued to demonstrate genuine participatory debate and decision making as police vans made haste to the scene, disgorging columns of officers who proceeded to kettle those assembled. Police outnumbered activists and Occupy supporters approximately 4:1. Or maybe more.

Confusion ensued as to whether those in the Square were committing civil trespass, or were breaching a byelaw, or were somehow committing a crime by talking about politics and economics on the lawn outside Parliament.

The Occupy Democracy assembly wound up and a young woman began to talk about Positive Money, a non-profit initiative to make money work for people rather than enslaving us.

Eventually the unjust and draconian Criminal Justice Act was invoked, and those assembled were threatened with mass arrest on the basis that a cable tie on the fence had been broken, and someone had – allegedly – been rude to a Heritage Warden. For these ‘crimes’ the police were prepared to arrest thirty or so peaceful, politically-engaged citizens.

The dreadful absurdity of young people volunteering to listen to a lecture about economics on the Saturday night before Christmas, sitting stone cold sober on cold damp ground to do so, and being forced to move or face arrest… What kind of country, what kind of law, what kind of system, what kind of justice is this?

There was a stand-off during which occupiers asked the police to think again, to think of genuine justice, to uphold the right to peaceful protest and assembly. During this period Donnachadh McCarthy was arrested for peacefully holding a banner.

As the police closed in on the Positive Money discussion, occupiers reached consensus to withdraw from the central lawn of the Square and reconvene on the pavement at its edge. Sometimes the image of mass arrests can be powerful; other times arrests simply serve the purpose of the police in dispersing people and disrupting planned activities.

We chose to take control of events and be free for the night; the cells that had been made ready for us remained empty, save for Donnachadh, who returned to us around 1am.

After a long, cold mid-Winter night on the pavement, dawn saw Occupy Democracy supporters bleary-eyed but unbeaten, continuing to refine a unique but widely appealing list of ‘demands’ that put people, democracy and planet before profit.

Meanwhile, on Charing Cross Road near Trafalgar Square, a squat was opened in an old Nat West bank. On December 25th, Christmas dinner will be served for homeless and hungry people. Until then, it’s an activist networking and skillshare space.

Livestream of some of Saturday evening’s events: http://bambuser.com/channel/Bencavanna

More at occupydemocracy.org.uk

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Police were not doing their duty at Barton Moss

At Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court on the morning of 9th May, PC Genge was on the stand. We watched video footage of him and other officers pushing people along Barton Moss Road. At one point Genge’s fist was in the small of a protector’s back. The day before, an officer two ranks above Genge said a fist in the back would constitute unreasonable force under the circumstances. Genge disagreed.

The circumstances were that protectors from Barton Moss camp, other anti-fracking activists and local people were doing the usual slow walk ahead of a convoy of trucks on their way to the IGas exploratory drilling site at the end of Barton Moss Road. On this occasion, unusually, the Tactical Aid Unit (TAU) and their ‘robust’ policing methods were unleashed on us almost immediately.

Within just a couple of minutes two arrests had been made – Rosie and Bear, both of whom had said they didn’t intend to do anything that would warrant arrest. Rosie was arrested by Genge; Bear by PC Sullivan. Fifteen minutes later I was arrested (perhaps because I didn’t follow an order to “walk through” the person in front of me). A few minutes later, Kate was on the floor in the mud being handcuffed by two officers (one of whom was Genge – he seemed to be everywhere that day).

That was 27th January. Fast forward to 8th May and the four of us arrested that morning were in court on charges of obstructing a highway and obstructing an officer in the course of their duty.

My arresting officer, Williamson, didn’t turn up – he was on holiday. So, my charges were dropped. Three months of traipsing to court, talking to lawyers, applying for legal aid, appealing against the decision not to give me legal aid, getting legal aid, making witness statements, searching through video footage, identifying and tracking down potential witnesses, swotting up on legal terminology, wasting time and energy… and then he goes on holiday and the prosecution drops the case.

For Rosie, Bear and Kate the charges of obstruct highway were dropped but obstruct PC was retained; and in each case the named PC was Genge. Not only did he seem to be everywhere, but he kept getting himself obstructed.

During cross examination Genge wouldn’t make eye contact with Rosie, who was defending herself and so had chance to question his actions. When she asked him to demonstrate how to walk forwards while pushing backwards, even the judge cracked a smile. When we watched footage of him violently grabbing and pushing Kate to the ground, a murmur rippled through the court. Rosie’s penultimate question was about Genge’s facebook post referring to “shoving protesters down Barton Moss Road” (he denied having made any such post), and her closing question was “Do you know that you’re widely considered to be a thug?” (I think that one was rhetorical, though entirely true – over the last six months, Genge had become notorious amongst Barton Moss protectors for his aggression.)

Bear’s barrister (Richard Brigden) and Kate’s solicitor (Emily Lloyd) clarified a few points and it became clear that despite paying lip-service to the facilitation of peaceful protest, Genge thought his primary purpose on 27th January was to get the trucks to the IGas site as quickly as possible. The judge reprimanded him for trying to evade questions. Despite this, he seemed confident. Over- confident.

The next witness was PC Sullivan, Bear’s arresting officer. We watched film of Bear attempting to de-arrest Rosie before being grabbed around the collar, hauled off and handcuffed. Sullivan – in stark contrast to Genge – made eye contact, smiled, thought about his answers and made a point of saying that Bear was not aggressive or hostile towards him. Sullivan was not kept on the stand for long.

Film: morning of 27th Jan including all four arrests

Next came barrister Richard’s half-time ‘surprise’. This sounded complex and convoluted, but in essence was exactly what we’d been saying all along. It went something like this:

  • We now know that Barton Moss Road is not designated a highway but a public footpath and private road. On 27th Jan this was suspected but hadn’t yet been tested in court, so the police were still acting as though it was a highway.
  • As it wasn’t a highway, we can’t have been obstructing it.
  • Both Genge and Sullivan said they were arresting people for obstructing the highway, and that their use of force (pushing) was lawful because they had a duty to prevent obstruction of the highway.
  • If there was no highway there could be no obstruction, so there could be no duty to prevent obstruction, so there could be no lawful use of force.
  • If the police were unlawful in their pushing us down the road, then they were outside the remit of their duty, so we could not be obstructing them in the course of their duty.
  • If we weren’t obstructing them in the course of their duty then there were no grounds for arrest.
  • And if Rosie was being first pushed and then grabbed and arrested unlawfully (ie assaulted), then Bear was entitled to intervene (this latter part about the right to intervene depended on relatively recent case law – ‘Cumberbatch’ – which Richard presented to the judge).
  • If all of the above, then there’s no case to answer for any of the defendants.

Both prosecutor and judge needed a little time to check the lawbooks and case law at this point, so we had an hour of hanging around on tenterhooks before being called back to court. The prosecutor then requested an adjournment, on the grounds that no submission regarding this argument had been put to him in advance. An inaudible, invisible wave of despair washed around the room. No, no, let’s get on with it and get this over! We don’t want to be back here again next week…

Richard argued that little of what he’d said was genuinely new; that just as he’d worked it out for himself, so too could the prosecutor have done.

The room held its breath. Barton Moss Protectors are usually a rowdy crew but the eight or so crammed into the tiny public gallery were pin-droppingly quiet.

The judge said no. No adjournment.

The room breathed out.

The prosecutor turned on his smoothest, most melodious tone of voice. In that case, he would do his best with what he had.

He tried to make out that the use of force was reasonable, because regardless of the highway issue, we were in the way. He referred to the back-up of traffic on the A57, the dangers involved in allowing these heavy vehicles to back up, and the rights of the truck drivers to drive and deliver.

The judge said no.

I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right.

He said no, the force used was not necessary, not justified, not reasonable. The protesters were moving, albeit slowly. The protest was peaceful. No breach of the peace was imminent. There is a right to peacefully protest. There is no minimum speed limit for walking. Fracking is a contentious issue, protested against wherever it happens. The convoy was only delayed, not stopped for good. The obstruction on the A57 could have been dealt with by usual police procedures for such matters (and perhaps it was). Barton Moss Road was not a highway (though the officers may have thought in all good faith thought that it was). The TAU officers were not acting lawfully, they had no duty or right to push us, they were in fact assaulting us. We were not obstructing the highway, nor the officers in the course of any lawful duty. Case dismissed.

We were right all along.

We were ALL free.

What this means for future trials we’re not yet sure. The barrister was quick to point out that this isn’t a legal precedent that means all other cases will be dropped. Additionally, once it was confirmed in law that Barton Moss Road is not a highway, the police began arresting for Aggravated Trespass. Still, things are looking good for protectors so far.

The Salford Star has more reports of trials, cases dismissed and protectors found to be innocent. Plus, the possibility of an enquiry.

court

Barton Moss Protectors outside Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court after the verdict

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The Green Gathering: a festival beyond hedonism | STIR mag

The Green Gathering: 31 July-3 August 2014, Chepstow

I’m helping to organise The Green Gathering this year.

Why put energy into a festival – something temporary, trivial and hedonistic? Well, because… festivals can be so much more. They can be literally transformative; opening eyes, changing lives. I know people who’ve packed in their unsatisfying, exploitative jobs after a festival; at the Northern Green Gathering, a friend was inspired to set up a radical housing co-operative which is going strong over a decade later. Festivals give us space to experiment with alternative forms of community, energy and infrastructure. They’re also good practice for setting up activist camps – festival people tend to know how to set up a kitchen and compost loos in a field, how to pitch a marquee and keep a campfire going. ‘Networking’ sounds too corporate, ‘tribal gathering’ too hippy-dippy… but having a meeting of minds, rediscovering old friends and making new ones, exchanging contact details and sharing information while drinking scrumpy cider, bouncing about to a band or warming up in a wood-fired sauna – this is the joy of festival, and it has repercussions beyond festival.

Here’s a blog, published a few days ago by STIR magazine (well worth a read and subscription), explaining why The Green Gathering is the festival I’ve chosen to put my life and soul into this year.

Beyond Hedonism

More than three decades after the first Green Gathering was held on Glastonbury’s Worthy Farm, this solar and wind powered festival has forged alliances with the Off Grid College – a free education initiative organised by young thinkers and activists involved with the latest wave of eco-festivals. Radical Routes, a network of housing and workers’ co-operatives, will be hosting a Co-operators’ Camp alongside the College.

The Green Gathering is held annually over the first weekend in August, on a wooded former estate near Chepstow, on the South Wales border just 18 miles from Bristol. An award-winning, family friendly camping event, it combines festival entertainment with speakers, skillshares and networking. Themes of community resilience and creative alternatives to both consumerism and austerity pepper the programme.

Following in the footsteps of the Occupy movement’s Tent City University, the Off Grid College takes education out of stuffy establishment buildings into open spaces. As students rail against fee increases and the marketisation of universities, free education becomes ever more radical – and popular. Providing skills and knowledge in a festival environment is a winner. The Green Gathering has always hosted craft and permaculture workshops, debates with key Green speakers and campaign group info-exchange, and will now be hosting Off Grid College courses in low impact development, wild food foraging and renewable techno-wizardry too.

Kaplick b&wDespite the lurid woes of the Co-operative Bank, co-operatives continue to capture the imagination of students, activists and workers across the UK. According to the United Nations, co-ops “improve livelihoods and strengthen the economy”, and provide “a sustainable business model for youth…” . In light of this, The Green Gathering has invited Radical Routes to co-ordinate a Co-ops’ Camp where festival-goers can learn how to enjoy “…housing without landlords, work without bosses, organising without hierarchy and taking financial control away from the banks”.

With spectacular views across the Severn Estuary and Wye Valley, spacious camping fields, eclectic music, solar cinema, organic gardens and ethical markets, The Green Gathering bills itself as a festival “beyond hedonism – where performance meets permaculture”.

The live music line-up includes: Seize The Day, 3 Daft Monkeys, Tarantism, Nik Turner, Billy Rowan, Pagan Love Cult, Rory McLeod and Pikey Beatz. Conscious DJs Libby Lawes and Gary Clail will be on the decks; and there’ll be spoken word performances from John Hegley, Salena Godden, Pete The Temp, Marcus Moore and many more. Activists, campaigners, Green economists and writers – including Molly Scott Cato, Jeremy Leggett, Ewa Jasiewicz, Simon Fairlie and Jamie Kelsey Fry – will be on hand to debate, create and share experiences.

muddy kidThe Green Gathering at Chepstow is the latest incarnation in a long line of Green Gatherings stretching back to early Ecology Party meetings on the Glastonbury Festival site, the Molesworth Peace Camp of 1984, and the Big Green Gatherings of 1994-2007. The BGG grew into a five day event attended by 20,000 people before being unexpectedly cancelled in 2009 after local authorities threatened an injunction – many considered this to be a political act designed to cut funding to activist groups such as Climate Camp, which ran a ‘Last Chance Saloon’ bar at the festival. When police spy Mark Kennedy was outed, Big Green Gathering organisers realised he’d been embedded in the 2009 set-up crew; shocking to discover, and yet perhaps a sign that they were doing something right – that their festival genuinely was raising consciousness, transforming lives and making those in power nervous about what a skilled-up, collaborative bunch of co-creators could do.

In 2011, a Green Gathering phoenix rose, demonstrating the kind of resilience that activists know and need. A Green Gathering Charity was established in 2013, with a remit to promote education for sustainability.

The Green Gathering 2014 runs from Thursday 31st July-Sunday 3rd August.

Festival tickets cost £90 (adults), £50 (youth). Children under 11 years go free. Tickets are available through the GG website (www.greengathering.org.uk) or Bristol Ticket Shop (www.bristolticketshop.co.uk). Booking fees apply.

If you read this far, use this code – EWGG14 – to get a discount of £10 per ticket on up to 6 adult tickets bought through The Green Gathering ticket shop.

For more information about The Green Gathering: www.greengathing.org.uk

Like, Share, Follow: www.facebook.com/GreenGathering.org.uk and @Gathering_Green

email: info@greengathering.org.uk

Photos: I think these were taken by Stone (Kaplick Stage) and Stefan Handy (kid in puddle).

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