Tuesday 28 July 2009

Big Green 2009 Cancelled - "A Premeditated Political Decision"?

The Big Green Gathering, which I wrote about a while ago here and which should have been on again this weekend, has been cancelled at the very last minute in what seem to be highly suspicious circumstances.

Police took out an injunction to stop the event going ahead, just days before the festival was due to open and while large numbers of people were already onsite building the massive infrastructure that a festival needs.

They'll have laid water pipes, put up marquees, made compost toilets, put up fences, built stages and bars, and generally spent a huge amount of time, effort and money already, and now won't see any revenue coming back in at all. There's no question that the festival will have done absolutely everything they could have done to satisfy the license conditions so it could all go ahead - the Big Green may well not survive the losses they will now suffer after cancellation.

On Sunday issues about security arrangements and traffic management apparently couldn't be resolved to the satisfaction of the council and the emergency services, and organisers had no choice but to surrender their licence for the event. Police have said "The event was not cancelled by the police or Mendip district council. The organisers voluntarily surrendered their licence yesterday; therefore it was their decision to cancel, not ours."

But it's obvious that such late cancellation was the last thing that festival organisers would have wanted to do, and the festival chairman Brig Oubridge has said that on the part of the police "It was a premeditated political decision made at least a week ago. There were going to be people from the Climate Camp here as well as Plane Stupid. It could be seen by police as a gathering ground of radicals."

The whole thing has started to smell an awful lot like what happened with the Smash EDO film. A campaign against an arms manufacturer in Brighton put out a film called "On The Verge" about their protests and the police harassment they'd suffered. Venues across the country which tried to show the film then suddenly had problems with their licenses from local councils, apparently after prompting from the police. Brig Oubridge's statement suggests that something very similar lies behind the cancellation of the Big Green.

It's highly sinister if local bureaucracy is being used by police, across forces, to disrupt activity that they dislike not for public order reasons but because it involves political opinions they disagree with. There's more at stake here than just this festival - John Vidal says in the Guardian that "Some observers believe the closure of the festival is part of a larger plan to crack down on all environmental protest." It's not just festival goers and stall holders who should be worried about how they spend their summers - political policing is everyone's problem.

As soon as the no doubt extremely stressed and worried festival organisers are able to tell their side of this story, a further statement will probably appear on the Big Green Gathering website. Until then, the one thing they’ll certainly need is as much solidarity in the form of cash as they can possibly get.

They’re asking for anyone who can afford it to consider donating the price of their ticket back to the festival rather than asking for a refund. I've just bought myself a BGG T-shirt from their online shop, which may become a kind of political statement depending on what emerge as the real reasons behind this year's cancellation, and which will bring them some much needed money in. You can also donate from their website if you have a credit or debit card, or cheques can be sent to:

Big Green Gathering Co Ltd
PO Box 3423

With much more of this story still to emerge, the London Climate Camp only a few weeks away and Ian Tomlinson still fresh in everyone's minds, it sure looks like it's going to be an interesting summer...

EDIT: Much more detail is now up in an article on SchNEWS here. It's absolutely astonishing.

ANOTHER EDIT: Bristol Indymedia is probably a good place to keep an eye on this story too.


Paul O' Connor said...

Great write up..The BGG has been fitted up by the Police and the more people we tell, the more that we can all do something about it.

Alice said...

Hey, Undercurrents is cool, check it out http://www.undercurrents.org/

Just waiting to get any more info on how we can help the BGG people...

James Higham said...

The organisers voluntarily surrendered their licence yesterday; therefore it was their decision to cancel, not ours."

What a baldfaced lie. They squeezed the organizers until they had no choice.