Tag Archives: protest

Stand By Tree: Protest Songs To Save The Trees

A guest blog by Steve Andrews

As a singer-songwriter who cares passionately about the natural world I use songs in my protests for environmental causes. I often change the lyrics of songs I cover, and so it was with Stand by Me, which became Stand by Tree!

Back in 2017, I joined the local demonstrators in the Cardiff suburb of Roath where trees along Roath Brook, which ran through some parkland, were under threat. The badly named Natural Resources Wales had approved the felling of trees along the stream as part of a flood defence plan, even though residents there had not had problems with flooding. Sadly by the time I got involved several of the trees were nothing more than stumps, and others marked for removal. Protestors had attached placards to some of the threatened trees calling for them to be spared. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the trees were being felled, Roath Brook is a haven for wildlife but Natural Resources Wales didn’t appear to care. Kingfishers were often seen there, the European Eel, a Critically Endangered species was known to live in the brook, and Water Voles were said to have been seen at the location. 

When I went along I took my guitar and sang some songs I thought were appropriate, including my own ditty entitled Kingfisher, and my amended Stand By Me cover.  Another well-known song I changed the lyrics for is Give Peace a Chance. My version goes: “All we are saying is give trees a chance.” One of my new verses has the lines: “Everybody’s talking about Jarvis Cocker, he’s a rocker, celebrities saving trees,” and then the chorus. The singer who came to fame fronting the band Pulp, had supported the campaign to save the trees in Sheffield, where thousands were felled. Even Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke out at the time, and was reported in the Yorkshire Post to have called the felling of thousands of street trees, a ‘“travesty” that should never be allowed to happen again.’

To my mind it is clearly insane to destroy perfectly healthy mature trees, which besides helping to keep the air of cities free from pollution, are also the homes of many species of wildlife, including many insects and birds. Nevertheless urban trees have been cut down in very many cities and towns throughout the UK, and many more are still under threat. I commented on this in The Nightingale, a song which also features vocals by award-winning poet Mab Jones: “They’ve killed the trees in Sheffield and it’s happening across the UK, big business doesn’t care about nature, despite what they may say, businessmen and councillors don’t care about a ‘Green City,’ they care about making targets, they care about big money.”  

The chorus for this song is a question and answer which goes: “Who will stop the destruction of so many trees, who will save the birds, the butterflies and bees? It comes down to the protestors, to people like you and I, we cannot let them kill our world, we cannot let it die.”

Ultimate yarn-bombing

Wool against weaponsThe boy and I set off from Stroud at half eight yesterday. There were two coaches from Stroud, and we knew many of the other people who were going. Plus we had Green MEP Molly Scott Cato on our coach, so we were feeling especially awesome. I spent much of the hour and a half or so of journey sewing. Final pieces of scarf had come in and needed attaching to each other, so many of us were doing just that.

Arriving at Aldermaston was intimidating – the double fences, the barbed wire, the large number of police officers, the large, uneasy-making buildings. Here, they make nuclear weapons, which was a sobering and unsettling thought. And there we were, standing up to nuclear weapons… with wool.

And such wool! Brightly coloured banners and scarf sections, with words of peace and hope worked into them. More than the needed 7 miles of wool, made by hands around the world. Knitting full of love and intention, and expression of our desire for a better, safer world. 5000 people knitted. Jaine (who organised) explained it worked out at 27 years of work. An incredible expression.

Huddled together outside the coaches, with a lot of police around, the fences to one side, traffic whizzing by… I felt very small and nervous. What we were up against seemed so enormous, this terrifying, slaughtering power backed by the state. Then the wool came out, and we started to unravel our first roll. The drumming and cheering started. People sang. Those of us with needles started running around to connect up pieces as required, and the whole atmosphere changed. We were making something, coming together as a community, armed with knitting needles and wool to challenge the most deadly weapons on the planet. As Theo and I were both on sewing up duty, we raced along the lines looking for gaps, needles held high like swords. It felt potent.

By 1pm, we had the seven miles of wool in place. We held it up, we made noise, we held silence, we made more noise, we rolled it up and took it back in pieces. There were speeches. Molly Scott Cato talked about the relationship between the arms industry and the nuclear industry. The relationship between arms manufacture and international slaughter. The need for peace.

The proposed new Trident project we are protesting against will cost somewhere around 100 billion pounds (government estimates 80 billion, other estimates are higher). What would you do with that much money? How many peacekeepers could you fund? How much diplomacy could you enable? How many refugees could you help? How many war criminals could you bring to justice? How many hungry people could you feed?

Trident will give us the means to kill 45 million people.

I think that stands reflecting on. Ask in what circumstances you would feel comfortable with the slaughter of 45 million people, and the consequences of using nuclear arms on that scale. You can find out more about anti-nuclear protest here – http://tridentploughshares.org/

With the protest over, the scarf is being re-worked to become many blankets that can be sent to places of need. Some of them, no doubt will go to refugees from war zones. I’ve brought a segment home and have started the task of undoing and remaking. However, getting those blankets to where they are needed, is going to cost, so if you can help out at all with that, go here, please, and do what you can. http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk/?page_id=1104

I’m very glad I was there, proud to have been a part of that, awed by the scale, by the love and labour that went in to making it all work. My parents were protesting against nuclear weapons before I was born. My son is getting involved. Maybe by the time he has children of an age to protest, we won’t be still having to stand up against this madness. I hope, his will be the last generation called upon to resist, and that we will see sense, and stop making insane weapons that cost the earth and that we could never use without damning ourselves in every way.

Wool against Weapons

I have gone off today on a coach from Stroud with other Wool Against Weapons folk, to protest through the medium of wool. So, rather than a usual blog pot, here are some photos – both taken by Chris Hastie at Druid Camp and are re-used here with permission.

10570428_850437411635632_6826475609340304292_nThis one was taken early on Saturday night, and as Talis Kimberly sang about Eleanor Roosevelt knitting, Sophie and I were sewing segments of scarf together. The scarf went up for a bit of a dance, which was fabulous as it stretched the length of the marquee!

That’s Tom sat next to me, looking serious.








1546048_850436044969102_47608862912746272_nThis one shows a section of scarf laid out in a morning meeting. After the protest, the pieces will be reassembled into blankets and sent to projects that need them. I’m hoping to be involved with that stage, too.

I’ve contributed some knitting (not a whole piece, but lots of bits of communal pieces) and a fair bit of sewing, and some emergency crotchet to fill in a narrow bit.

Wool against Weapons

c. Jaine Rose

c. Jaine Rose

I spent Sunday afternoon at beautiful Hawkwood, an amazing place on the edge of Stroud that does all manner of courses in a gothic venue. There were apparently about 60 of us there, sewing bits of wool to other bits of wool, and eating cake. This may strike you as an odd way to spend a Sunday…

Wool against Weapons is an incredible protest project. The aim is to create a seven mile long pink scarf, as a protest against renewing Trident. The scarf will join the Women’s Peace Camp at Aldermaston and the other Atomic Weapons Establishment at Burghfield, Berkshire on August 9th 2014. It’s a wild thing to be doing.

As a Druid, I am very much pro-peace. I appreciate there are, however, counterarguments. Mostly they go ‘evil, terrorist nations will get nuclear weapons and if we have no means to defend ourselves, they will blow us off the face of the planet.’ It is a consideration. However, the UK is not a superpower. Maybe it’s time we accepted that we are not a world-dominating giant and started thinking more realistically about our place in the world. If we are bombed to hell, as an island, we’re dust. Yes, some guys in a submarine can exact revenge, but so would every other nation on the planet. America is a much bigger consideration for rogue governments than our couple of submarines ever will be.

In terms of weapons stockpiles internationally, we are all holding far more than can possibly be justified by the rogue nations argument. I’m very conscious that making and storing weapons is not a risk free activity. Weapons that exist can wind up in the wrong hands. Things can go wrong with them and accidents happen. When you are playing with weapons of mass destruction, small mistakes are very dangerous indeed. Humans, being flawed, fallible, sometimes deluded creatures, would do well to consider the implications. We could do with being a lot less arrogant, and a lot less willing to stash great supplies of methods for slaughter. The thing about nuclear, is that it reliably kills a lot of civilians. It is not a targeted response to rogue leadership, it is a means for mass slaughter. There are better ways to defend ourselves.

Replacing Trident is going to cost some 80 billion ponds. We can’t afford to take care of our poor and vulnerable (allegedly) we can’t afford to maintain our flood defences, and we’ve cut funding for the arts, for tree planting, for libraries and leisure centres. 80 billion pounds is a lot of money. I wonder at our priorities when we are happy to accept an epidemic of malnutrition, but we can afford to replace weapons that we probably wouldn’t ever use. They’re a deterrent, to use them would be to plunge the world into mutually assured destruction. They are a bluff. An 80billion pound bluff, while the number of homeless children rises. This is insane.

So I went along and sewed, and I shall have a go at making a segment as well.

http://www.woolagainstweapons.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wool-Against-Weapons/570747079617581?fref=ts for more.

Sons and Daughters of Robin Hood

Robin Hood is one of archetypal British English myth figures. Outlawed by an unjust system, he and his men hung out in Sherwood Forest practicing wealth redistribution, by stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Let’s not get bogged down in any actual historical complexities here, of which there are many, or any of that ‘men in tights’ malarkey, either. Robin Hood is an icon of taking the law into your own hands to fight injustice.

Part of the point with Robin Hood, is that you only need to invoke him when the system is broken. When tyrants rule, when everything is bent to serve the few at the expense of the many, then you need to invoke Robin Hood. There comes a time when working with the system becomes impossible, and leaping out of the undergrowth in the kit of your choice for a bit of direct action is the only option left. Well, that or lie down in the mud and wait to be trampled over.

So here we are, warming up to cull badgers in spite of the total absence of scientific evidence to back it up as a solution to bovine TB. We’re getting ready to frack, despite all the science that suggests it could be dangerous, and assures us that a lot of harmful chemicals will be going into the atmosphere and a lot of water will be required. The economists who gave us the theory that austerity is the only answer to our problems, came back and acknowledged the maths was wrong. All around the world, economists are pointing out that austerity doesn’t actually do the job it is supposed to do. Our government puts its hands over its ears and carries on. We’re sending terminally ill people back to work because… no actually, I don’t even know what the justification is for this, and we’ve instituted a bedroom tax that further cripples the poor while manifestly costing the public purse even more money.


I have no problem with politics that are about differences of opinion and reasonable differences of interpretation. There are places where science isn’t clear (one glass of red wine a day? Or not?) There are times when preference, taste and ideals have a very important role to play in politics. But for all the stuff that is about the numbers, the bottom line, scientific realities and other such non-squishy, not-soft data, there is only one way to go in a reasonable society, and that is to be led by the evidence.

The evidence all goes one way, the government goes another.
I would like to live in a society where tolerance and reason predominate. I would like to live in a country that pays attention to evidence, basis policy on available information, and where politicians have the guts to deal with it when the best advise available, changes. Not a world in which we pay scientists to tell us what we wanted to hear. I also quite fancy living in a democracy. I’ve heard about them, and the idea looks really good on paper. You vote for people, and then you can communicate with them to express your views, and they represent you and a bunch of other people. Sounds really good. So, if, to pluck an example out of the air, a country was up in arms demanding that its wildlife not be slaughtered based on an irrational ignoring of all the science… in a democracy, that would be taken seriously. We should try that thing some time.

In the meantime, fighting trousers, or green tights, or whatever else it is you put on when there’s nothing sensible left to do. Here’s a link to Damh the Bard’s awesome anthem to non-cooperation, have a listen, and do not undertake to lie down in the mud to be trampled over just yet…

Then go and read the party political broadcast on behalf of the Bard party… http://www.paganmusic.co.uk/a-party-political-broadcast-on-behalf-of-the-bard-party/?fb_source=pubv1

It is, increasingly, a revolting situation.

Fracking Insanity

Green MP Caroline Lucas has been arrested whilst protesting against fracking. More here – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/green-mp-caroline-lucas-arrested-as-antifracking-protests-reach-fever-pitch-8774189.html

It seems, reading the article, that a ‘legal protest’ can now be defined as one that happens somewhere out of the way where no one is in any way inconvenienced by it. Which rather negates the value of protesting. If to be inconveniently in the way is to be illegal, gods help this country because we are in a lot of trouble just now.

There is a video in the newspaper link. You can watch for yourself and judge how dangerous, antisocial and in need of arresting for public order and safety these people are. This is a peaceful protest. It should, therefore be considered a legitimate protest, as I see it, and to send in the police is a travesty.
Of course no one in power wants the general public thinking about fracking. They don’t want us talking about the very real dangers to land and water supply. Or the way in which they’re having to pour money into fracking to make it financially viable. There’s a working definition of ‘not financially viable’ if ever I saw one. Even if money is your god and you care nothing for the state of the planet, it’s hard to see how you’d look at this and think it’s clever.

We only have this one planet. We all need clean water, breathable air, and most of us have no desire to have our lives shattered by earthquakes, which apparently are a possible side-effect of fracking. And for what? To line someone’s pocket, to squeeze out a few last gasps of what we know to be a finite resource.

The smart money, and industry, is in green technology. It is a no brainer. Finite resources are not going to deliver long term results. Harnessing renewable sources of energy should keep us going for as long as we are here, if we get it right. Let’s not poison our children. Let’s not make our land uninhabitable.

In other scenarios, poisoning people is a criminal offence, and yet apparently the politicians are putting their weight behind the poisoners and locking up the protestors. This is not the reality I want to live in. I’d go so far as to suggest anyone who cares about living at all, about their quality of life, personal safety and long term prospects, really should be worried about this.

I salute those people with the courage and determination to put their bodies in the way and inconvenience the frackers. I hope there is justice, and that we as a country condemn poisoning the water, and uphold the rights of our own people to protest against total suicidal lunacy when the idiots in charge lose the plot, as they have so evidently done on this issue.

Peaceful protest

There’s a lot of talk on various Druid groups at the moment about both the warrior path, and the peace path. There are Druids who subscribe to both approaches. The Ancient Celts after all were not averse to a punch up, but the Druids could, it is said, step out between two armies and instruct them to stop.

I don’t think a modern Druid has much scope for stepping in front of the EDL, or other angry people, and making much progress by asking them to stop, but perhaps it would be worth a go anyway. Part of me suspects that’s a one way ticket to getting shouted at, if not thumped, but as I’ve not dealt directly with anyone from the EDL, I’m hardly in a position to comment.

I’m a rural Druid at the moment. About the closest we get to conflict within the community round here is when two tractors are trying to go in opposite directions down the same lane. This is a quiet place. No one is going to riot, or march, or do anything else. That has let me off the hook a bit, and not having a car I’m not well placed to travel to where there are problems.

What would I do if there was unrest on my doorstep? I think it would depend a lot on the nature of the unrest. There are plenty of things I think need protesting about and that I would march over, were there anyone around to influence. The sheep are pretty disinterested on this subject, although my local badgers are developing an unfortunately large degree of political awareness, I suspect.

I would not take arms, or go out expecting to fight. Partly because I am woefully out of practice, partly because a quarterstaff would draw all the wrong sort of attention in the first place, partly because I have no desire to hit anyone. I would like to think that if it came down to it, if people where I lived were marching with hatred and an intention to do violence, I would find in myself the courage to take my body into that space and simply put my flesh in their way. Not aggressively, but accepting the likelihood of violence in order to slow down, protect, discourage.

It’s one of those things. Until we are tested, all the ideas about what we *might* do are hypothetical. Would I have the courage to face being arrested if honour demanded that I put myself in opposition to the police? I think about activists who have gone to court, and sometimes won, standing up for the idea that powerful entities do not have the right to run roughshod over individuals. Would I be brave enough to do that? I think of the three women in Woolwich who tackled the psychos still holding weapons, who had killed Lee Rigby. Do I have what it takes to walk forward in such a situation?

I do not know.

We only find out whether we can truly walk our talk when we are tested to our limits and beyond. What I do know, is how grateful I am for the times when I am not being tested, when I am not overwhelmed by impossible choices or being asked to put my life on the line for honour or justice. Some people do that every day in their normal line of work, and I am deeply grateful to them for shouldering that weight for the sake of the rest of us.

Badger spirit

Here in the UK the government are planning the mass killing of a resident mammal. The badger. Now, if someone was talking about killing a third of all African elephants, a third of the wild lions, lemurs or anything else that iconic, the whole world would be up in arms. We don’t have much in the way of big, majestic wildlife here in the UK. This is because we already killed off the wolves, bears and giant, hairy cows.

There can be a tendency in nature conservation to support the cute, the memorable and the iconic. Getting people to save tigers is always going to be easier than trying to interest them in some ugly bug.

Badgers are lovely. They are very communal, living in big, extended families. Nocturnal, they roam around at night, mostly rooting up earthworms. They eat most things though, they are slow moving, wide arsed opportunists and they adore peanuts. Seeing their cute, stripy faces appear out of the darkness is a joy. Watching them play and feed together is delightful. I’ll say it again: Badgers are lovely.

However, badgers suffer from tuberculosis, and are probably implicated in giving TB to cows. I‘m not convinced it’s just the badgers, I think a closer look at the frequency with which we move livestock about in the UK needs considering. But, badgers have long borne the brunt of the blame. For all of my life, farmers have been trying to get badgers killed. My grandmother used to go out to try and prevent the then popular solution of filling in most of the holes into the set, and gassing the trapped badgers.

If we were talking about a really careful, well organised system of putting to sleep those badgers who are suffering from TB, I could see the point. We aren’t. We’re talking shooting badgers wherever there is a lot of TB, on the assumption that this will help. If the science said that yes, a badger cull would be bound to reduce TB in cows, and overall reduce animal suffering, then that might be tolerable. The science says it probably won’t help, and there’s evidence it could make things worse. So that’s a lose for the badgers, the cows and the farmers. This is madness.

The solution is to vaccinate badgers. If we eradicate TB in the badger population, they can’t spread it, the cows are fine. There are vaccines available, there are test studies. It will take time and cost money, but the key thing is, it stands a fighting chance of working. It will work for the badgers, who get to carry on their badger business, neither being shot at, nor getting a horrible disease. If the badgers really are causing the problem, it will work for the cows, and if it doesn’t, it might get us closer to nailing the sources of the problem. Solving the problem is what the farmers need here. Actions that do not solve the problem, do not help the farming community. Gassing the badgers did not solve the TB problem when I was a child. Shooting them now will not solve it either.

Please help. Go to www.teambadger.org/ to see where you can get involved. Make noise. This shameful act should not go ignored and uncommented on. If we were talking about lions, there would be international outrage. I move that badgers are just as alive, just as lovely and just as important as any other, more iconic creature out there. Let’s not send a message to the world that government sponsored wildlife massacres are ok.

An uneasy life

There are some potent words here http://www.vulpine.cc/Blog/health/make-life-harder  about being alive and not being seduced into mindlessness by an excess of ease.

Not that I’m a high risk of that just now. I’d love the opportunity to be seduced a bit into lethargy. By lunch time I was crying out of sheer exhaustion. Today, 2 hours of set painting, then settling down to work, and there was an article to write – one that, if I get it right, might help thousands of people whose homes and rights are under threat. No pressure. And a request to read through the evil document related to this, to feedback what I can. We’re talking the Canal & River Trust constitution http://www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/media/documents/legal/CRT-Articles-Adopted-27-Mar-2012.pdf which does not even recognise that boat dwellers exist, much less offer them any kind of protection. I care about human rights, and I worry that once the rot sets in, it’s in. And for so many people this will be a shrug issue, they don’t live on a boat or know anyone who does.

First they came for the communists, but I did not speak out, because I was not a communist.

Another request for help in the email today as the Alex hospital in Redditch is once again hit with the threat of losing services, including accident and emergency. My son was born at the Alex, they were threatening cuts even then. But I’m not in Redditch any more, it’s not my hospital.

When they came for the socialists, I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.

There are a thousand and one other things I should be doing. This is not the blog I meant to write today – it will have to wait until tomorrow. I need to sort accommodation in Lincoln (seriously, if you live in Lincoln and could take us in for a weekend, now would be a good time to mention it). I have to think about doing the things that make money. I’ll be honest, I hate having to think about money. I hate having to work out what might sell, and where the pennies are coming from. It’s not that I’m profligate, but there are bills to pay, and all that. But what I want to do is throw most of my time and energy at work that doesn’t pay. Protest work. Voluntary work. Things that make the world just a little bit better. I hate having to turn away from anything that needs doing. But every day, I say ‘no’ to more issues than I sometimes know how to bear. Much of the most important work that needs doing in the world, no one will pay you for. What on earth does that say about the state of our culture? We drive the best people to exhaustion and despair – let’s mention teachers, and nurses for a couple of easy examples. We pay bankers more money than any human being could possibly need. And today is one of those days when it just makes me want to scream.

When they come for me, there probably won’t be a heck of a lot of point bothering, I shall be too tired to put up any resistance, by the looks of it. It might come as a bit of a relief. But that’s the tiredness talking, and tomorrow I will pull on a fresh pair of fighting trousers and try to do something meaningful, whilst trying to make ends meet. No, I won’t be seeking out anything to make life harder today, but thanks for the thought.

Enemies of the druids

Roman imperialisms pushed historical Druidry underground a few thousand years ago, and changed it at the very least, perhaps destroyed it. I’m no historian. Modern druids do not find themselves battling the armed forced of an expansionist state. We belong to no specific country, and can find ourselves on both sides, and none, in all manner of political arguments. It doesn’t look like anyone will be marching on us any time soon. When enmity is that clear cut, working out how to respond may be easier. Fight or acquiesce. You also know who to fight, and to whom you might surrender. These days we’re not in the same fights and there is much less clarity.

Modern Druids do not tend to fight such battles. Our enmity may be private. We may have taken up pens, rather than swords, to fight human rights abuses, animal cruelty, environmental vandalism or any one of the many issues besetting modern culture. When we do this, in practice what it means is that we are fighting a lot of the people around us. I talk about television dependence, battery raised children, car impact, consumerism. I’m not talking about a distant foe, I’m talking about the people in my village. These are not people I want to start a fight with. They are often people I like.

And then other times I’m talking about banks, politicians, corporations, government bodies, laws, habits of culture and systems. Trying to fight that is not unlike trying to fight fog. It’s there, I can see it, but it offers me very few actual targets I can hit. And again, all these things are made up of people, and many of them are going to be basically decent people who are only doing their job, or who have a different value system to me, or who have just never considered the consequences.

Now and then there’s a genuine nasty, some individual whose behaviour, actions, words make it clear they aren’t basically a nice person with whom I might not see eye to eye. Those who use and abuse, those who are deliberately cruel for their own amusement or gain and who do not care who they trample on during their struggle for success.

Even if I could go out with a sword and twat them, I wouldn’t, because that’s a response that reinforces the idea that might is right, and that’s not the culture I want to live in. I find myself banging my head against unfair systems, closed minded officials, and the general apathy of people who don’t want to know, on quite a regular basis. Truth be told, I anticipate this will be the way of it for the rest of my life, because it’s something I’m choosing to do.

There are times when offering a different example, responding with compassion and patience, or just working it through logically will shift something that had been a problem into something that can be worked with. It’s great when that happens, and if there’s just the faintest suggestion it can, then I don’t mind putting in the time. But there are plenty of people and structures that refuse to listen, much less see. There are places where the ‘norm’ is unassailable, to deviate is to be wrong, and there is no room for discussion. There are minds where only one explanation can exist, and there is no room to consider others. This is where the biggest, and the most interesting challenges lie. The measure of our Druidry is not what we do on the good days when all is happy and straightforward. The true measure of our ethics, our values, or characters even, is what we do when we’re up to the eyeballs in crap, with nowhere to go, no one who will listen, no obvious way to fight… then you see what a person is made of.

I’ve met some immovable objects in my time. Some instances that sounded a lot like ‘you can’t get there from here.’ I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing to do is totally refuse to accept this. There is always another way, so long as you’re breathing. Always another button to push, ear to bend, letter to write. Always a way to protest and raise awareness. And it is possible to go after the wrong without trying to destroy the people involved in it. That’s a tricky one, and there are going to be exceptions (I think I’ve found one, but, who knows?) It’s not what we achieve that defines us as Druids, it’s how we go about it. Doing the right things, for the right reasons. Not the expedient things. Not the things that serve us, but the things that need doing. All of us, in our lives, will find battles we can’t win, enemies we cannot talk round. But merely the trying can create change, and the more people are out there living their druidry, and trying, the more difference it’s going to make.