No eviction yet...
The 7th Rossport solidarity camp June bank holiday weekend was great! :)
Moving in the caravan
I arrived at the camp on the Wednesday before the gathering weekend, I had wanted to get up a week or two earlier to help set up the new camp but couldn't make it until then.
I'd last been at the camp about a month earlier and at that stage we were only taking down the winter camp a couple of fields down the road and had set up just one bender in the new summer camp.
I was really impressed by the camp when I got back. It was really bright inside the new white kitchen marquee and two of the old army marquees were set up on the other side of the field for workshops and gig venues. Behind the kitchen marquee they had built a rustic outdoor washing up structure and a spot for boiling water with "Kelly Kettles". Behind that was a tool shed. Further back again was a solar shower, cosy yurt with a burner, the 2 communal sleeping "benders", compost toilets and at the very top the camping area, wind turbines and solar PV panels. Despite moving fields, we had retained all the basics that allow us to sustain ourselves with as low a footprint as possible.
The field is very well sheltered for North West Mayo, and relatively well drained with a drains running across the top, both sides and bottom of the field. Even so all the structures have pallet floors with pallet pathways running around the field to minimise our damaging it in wet weather.
(I didn't make it to everything so this isn't a full account!)
The theme of the gathering was "linking community struggles", so the camp had invited people from campaigns around the country to come up to share experiences and learn from each other. People came to talk from groups including Donegal Action Against Austerity, The campaign against the household tax in Cork, Occupy Galway and local people who have been campaigning against Shell here for so many years.
There was also a talk on the future of the camp & campaign and what do we mean by solidarity. It was great to have people who had been involved at different periods of the camp there to draw a picture of how relationships between people at the camp and people from the local area had evolved over the years. As with such discussions this one ended as more of a beginning point for further discussion in the future.
There was also the sustainable activism workshop that I was too wrecked to go to... Other topics covered were how to deal with the media, and various ones on austerity, and how Ireland's natural resources are being handed over to private companies.
All the while Merovee was facilitating community weaving in one of the marquees. She was teaching us to weave informally the tapestry of the campaign so far - it went down really well with people drifting in and out to her all weekend.
On Friday night there were tunes around the camp fire - with some amazing musicians and singers we hadn't heard before.
On Saturday night we had live music in the marquee - led by guitar hero Eric with Tommy on the drums. They were missing a microphone amp and one of the band members but Eric was in his element and nothing could stop them firing out the music. Half ways through the set we moved some of the seats and everyone had a mad dance (or so it seemed from my perspective). After we carried Eric out shoulder high into the light of the full moon - it was a lovely homecoming kind of experience.
After a while two camp new comers took to the stage with brilliant accordion and vocals making us even more sure it would have been a bad decision to drive one of the vans into the field to use its sound system.
The next night all sound issues had been resolved and DJs took turns keeping people dancing through the night. It was hard to turn off the power at the pre-agreed time, and I think there may have been attempts to turn it back on, but eventually we all got to bed.
While people had been dancing away the night before a rumour came in that Mayo County Council were going to come and evict us from the field early Tuesday morning. We had planned to talk about possible actions against Shell but instead discussed the potential eviction and what we could do about it. A few weeks earlier Gerry Bourke - who owns the field we are using for the camp - got an enforcement letter from Mayo County Council basically saying that the camp was unauthorised and if we didn't pack up by the 17th of May then they could come in and take it all down. The letter stated that the potential penalties for the land owner was of a fine of over €12,000, two years in prison.and the bill for the eviction.
Gerry spoke in that meeting and told us how he felt about the campaign and the people who had come to the camp that weekend and over the years. After 5 minutes we were all pretty inspired - it felt like real solidarity - Gerry was sticking by us and we were going to fight the eviction if it came. We organised into different work groups to get as ready as we could be for the next day. The midgies were killing us but by nightfall the camp was looking pretty invulnerable. It was great - everyone just got on with the many different jobs that needed to be done, pulling together without complaint. The camp was filled with the noise of hammering and sawing and determined people. A number of locals came down and together we worked into the night rebuilding the entrance to the field. By the end, we had moat and drawbridge among other features. It made me feel proud to see how much support we were getting, to know that the community was willing to defend us as well.
No eviction has come yet and the camp lives on. But Gerry wasn't too worried even if they did try to evict us: "Suppose they do get into the field and knock down all the tents we have up here - the best thing we could do is come back in the next day and start to set it up again from scratch. They can try to destroy physical structures - but they can't destroy people. The sooner they understand that the better it'll be for everyone."
Fighting the midgies with smoke
moate and drawbridge
Shell to Sea Switzerland sailed into Broadhaven Bay
The banner on camp on the Monday evening after the gathering
Community weaving went on throughout the weekend
11 June 2012