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.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Free Acid!

There are hundreds of different products for getting limescale off toilets, sinks and kettles, and they all basically involve acid, which dissolves limescale if you leave it to soak for long enough.

There are also a lot of people, like me, growing hundreds of times more rhubarb than they can really handle because the plants get very very big and there's a limit to the amount of rhubarb crumble one can eat in a year.

Rhubarb is incredibly acidic.

Can anyone think of any reason I shouldn't boil up a load of rhubarb and use it as an organic, eco-friendly and incredibly cheap kettle, sink and toilet cleaner?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Fabulous Wrecked Tent Project

On the last night of Glastonbury I fell asleep in Merrick's tent, with a trickle of rainwater falling on me right in the middle and a small pond growing at my feet. I was warm and tired enough to fall asleep/pass out quite quickly, but instead of counting sheep I drifted off dreaming about groundsheet patches and reinforced seams.

It's a lovely tent - a modern dome design which is easy to put up, flexes in the wind and is strong and sturdy, but made almost entirely of cotton rather than nylon so it breathes and shades like cotton bed sheets. It was bought for Glastonbury 1995 and has been well used since then, but it needs some serious repair work to keep it in service much longer.

As I recently ranted, I hate the way so many people throw things away and buy new replacements rather than repairing and maintaining what they already have, and this tent is such a nice object in itself that I just couldn't resist making a project of it. I thought I'd post my progress here in case it helps anyone else not have to buy a new tent, and in case anyone has any tips as I go along.

I took the tent home with me, but instead of drying it out the whole thing was so grubby that I threw it straight in the bath to wash it first. I started off by handwashing the fly sheet, which is about the thickness of good quality bedsheets and tough enough to scrub with a scrubbing brush. The water coming out of it was only a very pale shade of brown after about the sixth rinse, so I wrapped it in a sheet to keep the fittings safe and put it in the washing machine to spin it halfway dry before I hung it up.

The previously clean white sheet came out so dirty that I changed my mind and put it back in for a proper 40 degree wash with soap.

With the fly sheet drying outside on the line I started cautiously prodding the inner to see if I could get away with not washing that. The inner is awkward because it's stitched onto the groundsheet, but 14 years of mud, sweat, mildew, squashed insects and ...whatever that is... really did need to come out of it before I could do anything else.

Although it will look great (and breathe better) after a wash, cleaning it isn't just for aesthetic reasons. Tiny particles of grit stuck between fibres will eventually wear and break them - some of the smaller holes in the inner look as though they might have been caused this way - and patches of dirt will affect the tension and flexibility of the fabric, making it impossible to sew it straight or with a consistent tension. Wonky or badly tensioned sewing pulls in some places more than others which causes further rips, and the inner fabric is so fine that a little will make a lot of difference.

So into the bathtub it all went, the groundsheet bundled up out of the way making it look like I had a dead body in there, and out came blackish water and 14 years worth of Glastonbury mud. The fabric was too thin to withstand the scrubbing brush so there ensued much energetic squishing, and the rips meant I didn't dare lift any of it out of the water as the weight of it wet was likely to tear it even more.

After 11 or 12 changes of water I concluded that the really black bits were a permanent feature, they'd probably look better when it dried and they add character anyway, so I left it to drip in the bath for a while and then spread the groundsheet out in my bedroom, with a chair inside it to lift the inner up to dry as best I could.

I just love how doing things like this doesn't seem to strike cats as particularly unusual - Mizzy walked right past this enormous thing she'd never seen before which was taking up almost the entire room, and paused only for about half a second to determine that it was wet and therefore not interesting.

By morning it was dry enough to get it outside, and when I put the poles in to spread it out properly it dried out in ten minutes flat in the baking hot sun. The next job will involve either waterproofing it or taking revenge on it for soaking me at Glastonbury. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Mizzy Has Adventures

A neighbour was looking after Mizzy for me while I was away at Glastonbury, and he said that the first time he came round, when he opened the door and she realised it wasn't me, she "did the cat equivalent of bursting into tears." I'm sure she settled down after that, but since I've been back she's been super-cuddly, wanting to sit on me and lick me all the time which is very sweet and makes me feel we're nicely bonded now.

The weather is really hot and I've got a few days of wellie washing and drying out the tent to do at home, so today I put a collar on her with a bell and a tag for my phone number, and let her out of the flat.

Everything was methodically sniffed, the back doorstep was peed on, she tried out some paving stones for rolling around on and she let me catch her again at the bottom of the garden when I started getting nervous.

Having a little sleep now after all that excitement.