We're grassroots Heathrow residents proving that communities less dependent on oil can be more resilient, stronger and happier. We take direct action on climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy by transitioning to a post-oil, community-led future for the Heathrow villages.
Come to Grow Heathrow this Friday at 7pm for a talk and film screening about La ZAD!
La ZAD (Zone A Défendre) is Europe’s largest postcapitalist protest camp & anti-airport occupation, and is situated near Nantes in France. If you want to find out more before Friday, read this amazing blog!!
A yellow forklift truck leads the way; walking close behind is a block of Zadists carrying a fortified banner declaring: No to the airport and its world.
Behind them 20 tractors pull huge agricultural trailers filled with building materials: piles of pallets, straw bales, tyres, doors, windows, prefabricated wooden walls, hundreds of planks, corrugated iron roofing, tools – pretty much anything you can think of, including kitchen sinks.
We sit on top of one of the trailers. The affinity group from our local village has decided to build one of the constructions for today’s reoccupation action – we have named it the Black Bloc Sanitaire – it’s a shower block and bank of compost loos. The pile of building materials that we sit on is much more messy than the trailer behind us which carries the wood for a group of young architects. The architects have a super neat stack of carefully numbered pallets and the rumour is that they have already practiced setting up their dormitory building in the main hall of the Nantes school of architecture. Our construction doesn’t even have plans that are to scale, but we are hoping that the collective energy of the day and a dose of spontaneity will see something rise from the pile of rubbish we are sitting on. This is the opportunity of a life time for anyone who has ever dreamt of building their own cabin, rebel palace or fortress: A free plot of land, no planning permissions or building regulations and hundreds of people keen to help build.
None of us know where we are heading, the location has been kept a secret. From high up we see the river of human being flowing behind us, snaking through the country lanes as far as the eye can see. As always, we have Radio Klaxon on in the background, they have just announced that the mainstream media think that there are 40,000 people are on the action and over 400 tractors! We are all here on an illegal demonstration whose aim is to build a rebel settlement together on the land earmarked for the airport (see part 1). Last night the president interrupted a state visit of Poland to make a statement about the protest, reminding the French public of the “power of the law.”
A year ago, when I first saw the flyer for this action, with its floating date to reoccupy 4 weeks after the first eviction, I thought it was a great idea but that it would be a handful of tired traumatised post eviction activists symbolically rebuilding a couple of huts. Little did I imagine I would be taking part in one of the largest act of mass disobedience I’ve ever experienced and that we would have enough material to build a hamlet. The fact that there is not a single police officer in sight, however, not even a helicopter watching above, is strangely disconcerting.
We are delighted to announce the UK premiere of a photography exhibition of the ZAD, an anarchist anti-airport collective in France. Like Grow Heathrow, the ZAD is a post-capitalist protest site in the proposed site of an airport. breathtaking photos that have never been seen before tell the story of the tens of thousands of everyday people who are resisting eviction and fighting for climate justice and the right to stay on their land, in their homes.
1 December – 5 January
For Bristol-based brizzlers, we are delighted to announce that the highly recommended exhibition will be available on Sat 15 and Sun 16 December in Bristol. More information is available from the curators, the Cut The Crap Collective.
Isn’t the countryside noisy? The life which reverberates all around you in Notre Dame des Landes is astounding, a reminder of the world we have to save. The crickets never stop singing, every time you sit still some weird and wonderful new bug crawls across your leg, and the sides of the roads are packed with wild roses, bluebells, and forget-me-nots. But it’s all under threat.
The government of France is locked into an unholy alliance that is depressingly familiar. Here, as in Sipson, Hasty Lane, Essex and Edinburgh, the aviation industry has coaxed our “representatives” with its oily tendrils into a belief that the destruction of lives, habitats and the planet for profit is in the best interests of all.
The plan? Concrete over 2000 hectares of some of the most pristine biodiversity in France, taking away homes and communities, condemning local residents to a future of poor health and sleepless nights.
The aim? Two runways and two motorways, making Notre Dames des Landes into Europe’s most westerly hub, taking over some of Heathrow’s stopover capacity. All this, even as smaller airports around France and the UK are being forced to close due to a lack of demand. The hell-bent determination of the industry fixated in growth is not only morally criminal, its economically nonsensical.
But the resistance is growing. Since Plane Stupid last visited the ZAD (Zone a Defendre – the proposed site of the airport), the number of occupied spaces has rocketed from one to about 16. In fact, no one seems entirely sure how many people are now living here, preparing for battle: all that is certain is that it is growing constantly and people are prepared to put up a big fight. Together with those set to lose their homes and land, activists from across France and the world have been taking over sites bought up by the council to make way for the airport, and transforming them into living examples of the world they want to live in. There’s a bakery, which turns out enough bread twice a week to feed the whole ZAD, a bicycle workshop, a skipped supermarket which seems never to run out, a kitchens collective, an internet cafe, loads of chickens, herb gardens, treehouses, and, of course, vegetables.
This weekend we came to help open a new site, where our friend from Reclaim the Fields are reclaiming the runway. At 9 a.m. we gathered at Les Planchettes, the HQ of the ZAD where the main meetings and info point are based in a beautiful old farmhouse. The spectacle was extraordinary: about 350 people carrying machetes, pitchforks, scythes and spades, riding in tractors and trucks or walking alongside, many with masks on to hide their identities from the skulking gendarme (French Military) who accompanied us at a distance. The sound system and the samba band competed for airtime, as banners were hoisted up between trees across the roads we walked down proclaiming the resistance.
Finally we reached the soon-to-be site – a seemingly impenetrable wall of brambles – and while some of us grabbed a quick glass of 30cent vin rouge from the rapidly assembled bar, the tractors belonging to local farmers rolled onto the field, crushing the brambles top to make way for our machetes. Like an army of ants, the people fanned out across the area, some hacking back the undergrowth, some trimming the trees, others turning the soil and pulling up the roots, and others scraping everything together into huge mounds ready for burning. Then almost as quickly as they had descended. the swarm pulled back, leaving the 8 people who will live there with a large plot of cultivable land ready for planting. Resistance is fertile.
So many lives and hopes are embedded in this beautiful area. Our hosts, Paul and Elizabeth, have been fighting the coming of the airport for decades. They will not sell their home, with their chickens and horse and amazing rhubarb jam, to be flattened for profit. Paul sends his solidarity to Sipson, which he visited in 2009 and describes as “une belle quartier” of which he’s got many fond memories – especially the pub. From the people living 15 metres up in their beautiful fortified tree camp, to those who stand to lose generations of history on the land, the communities here stand side by side in their struggle and in ours.
The governments and corporations complicit in this campaign of demolition and disappropriation must be stopped. We will continue to strengthen our grassroots links with the people here, and will not let the bulldozers roll. BTP (Battiments Travaux Publiques) and Vinci, the key players in this ransack, have operations across Europe – including numerous subsidiaries in the UK. Vinci reckons they are “convinced of the need to adopt a responsible attitude to climate change” – their plans for the ZAD are so far from “responsible” it’s hard even to laugh. Both groups should be targeted wherever they try to establish themselves, and made to realise that their involvement in the attempts to destroy Notre Dame des Landes will make them an enemy of the global resistance.
Today Le Monde reports that an incredible 25,000 activists took direct action to reoccupy the site of a proposed airport in Nantes, France. Some protesters had been evicted from their squats. The amazing reoccupation united local farmers who risk losing their land with climate activists and thousands of protesters concerned about cost, pollution and noise.
We have been inspired by the passionate grassroots support for local people’s struggle to take their lives into their own hands and say, “no” to an unaffordable, polluting airport being built on their homes and farms. Check out these beautiful photos of the ZAD and you’ll wish you were there too.
As the autumn starts to blow in, the jewels of the hedgerow start to catch the eye and here at Grow Heathrow we keep a very close eye on the abundance of wild food which grows around the Heathrow villages.
Our weekly Foraging Friday event has been a huge success and a wonderful way to regularly observe, harvest, make preserves, fresh meals and medicinal remedies from the plants growing around us – from dandelions in early spring this year to the dark elder and black berries which grow in masses around us this autumn. Its time to take advantage of autumns bounty and get as many people as possible skilled up with a a fortnight of foraging!
Please come and join us for one or more of the events taking place at Grow Heathrow, whether your an experienced wild food gatherer or completely new to it all come down to share, learn and hopefully take away something from the harvest as well as plenty of knowledge of what grows around us.
If you can only make one event we are having a big scrumping apple day on Friday 5th October exploring and havesting Harmondsworth barn’s old orchard and other apple and pear trees in the area. On Saturday 6th October we will will sort the apples, pressing some into juice for drinking and cider making and keeping the best for winter stores, apple rings, chutney and jams with a harvest soup for lunch, bring your whole family to this one – was a massive success 2 years ago – we want to make it bigger and better this year with as many kids as possible!
Heathrow village apple havest 2010
Below is the an outline of the timetable for the fortnight – all changeable depending on who comes and what they want to forage, all free events.
The whole family can learn to make seed bombs, nettle soup, rosehip syrup, pickled spicy seeds and horseradish sauce for free. And what a delicious dinner those ingredients would make together! Take home a free nettle bracelet you’ll have made yourself; it’s softer than cotton and harder-wearing. I promise it won’t sting! (Gloves are provided.)
If you wish to stay over night at Grow Heathrow or for a few days we have limited indoor sleeping places so let us know before hand or bring a tent as there’s plenty of room for camping! The forages will always start from the Grow Heathrow site, if you need directions to us you can find them here
Elderflowers and red clover
2pm – 5pm
Wild food walk around Grow Heathrow, discussion of foraging law and safety, and make and taste nettle soup
2pm – 5pm
10am – 12pm. 12pm: join bike tour
Seed bombs. At 12pm, join CAAT’s bike tour (see below)
10am – 5pm
Nettle bracelets and nettle soup
2pm – 5pm
2pm – 5pm
Guelder rose jelly
5pm – 7pm
Dried fruit: hawthorn berry leather
2pm – 5pm
Apple and pear scrumping with trailers and panniers
10am – 5pm
10am – 5pm
2pm – 5pm
Preservation including pickling
2pm – 5pm
Wild food cycle to Cranford Park
2pm – 5pm
Rosehip syrup and dried rosehip tea
No need to book – just drop by.
On the second day of Harvest Heathrow, and we cried and cried. We wailed and sobbed, tears streamed endlessly, unstoppably like the Ganges. We were grating horseradish for horseradish sauce, and we now have a vat that could feed 100 people purely on horseradish. This experience put us off biological warfare, and also conflict in general.
So on Saturday 29th, we will be joining CAAT’s cycle ride. At 10am, we’ll make seed “bombs”. Seed bombs are a mix of clay and useful seeds, which can be thrown onto barren land to plant marigolds or nasturtiums. Then at 12pm we’ll get the train into Paddington and cycle to 11 Strand, WC2N 5RJ, where the bike tour begins!
More and more people are becoming interested in growing their own food. But our ability to take this essential step towards a sustainable future is being stifled by the radical inequalities of land distribution, in a country where patterns of land-ownership have changed little since feudal times, and the access to land of those who don’t own it has actually diminished. We will not be able to succeed in our Transition aims without challenging these inequalities and improving access to land for the many.
At a recent Transition discussion I was at, there was much talk of the value and importance of local food growing to a sustainable future. The merits of small-scale organic farming are many – reducing the oil-dependency of our food-chains, and reducing our own dependence on systems which destroy biodiversity and alienate us from our environment. Rising food prices are a direct result of climate change and decreasing oil supplies, and are a key aspect of the social injustices embedded within these twin crises as the poorest suffer most – both globally and in our own country. For these reasons, and for many others (perhaps mostly just because it’s fun), more and more people are starting to grow their own food, which is a fantastic thing.
But there is a problem: there doesn’t seem to be enough land. Allotment waiting lists have been rising rapidly across the country, in some places as much as 15 years long, and the price of land is also on the rise. More of us than ever live in apartments, without any garden to dig, and those who vision the future of our cities seem determined that this trend should continue.
There are some really useful initiatives going on to mitigate this situation. Some Transition Town run garden-sharing projects, to match up those who want to grow with those who haven’t got the time to keep up their garden; and there’s an interesting project originating in Manchester called Allotment Finder, which is trying to get the data about the different waiting lists for different sites and inform people who are searching for space where they might be able to find it more quickly.
But fundamentally, these are just sticking plasters for a crippling disease. In the UK, 0.3% of people own 67% of all the land in the country. It’s no wonder that the other 99.7% struggle to share out the remainder between us: to find enough space for our lettuces or for our community spaces. Not only is the ownership of land centralised in the hands of a tiny group of aristocrats, little changed over hundreds of years, but large swathes of land are desperately under-used and ill-managed. The UK consists of about 60 million acres. Admittedly not all of this is cultivable, but we do not lack in fertile land on this island. Even in an inner-city borough, a little walk around your neighbourhood will probably reveal numerous empty plots and scraps, going to waste. Without enabling people to access this land, there is no way that they can start to transition to a more sustainable way of life.
When the MST visited Grow Heathrow
It is not a coincidence that access to land is a core issue in the achievement of our aims: the removal of access was a core element in the onward march of capitalism which has brought us into the unsustainable present. As land was gradually claimed and enclosed from the commons, those who were left without land had to find other means to earn money, in order to buy food and to rent back the space to live in from the landowners who had taken it all. In some parts of the world, this process is happening right now, igniting resistance from indigenous groups such as the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) in Brazil, the Landless Workers’ Movement.
The ZAD, in Nantes, France
Internationally, many groups are struggling on this issue. Reclaim the Fields, for example, is a Europe-wide network of community food growers who are very concerned about access to land, and Grow Heathrow – the squatted market garden where I live – is part of this network. In May last year I joined a RtF event in France, where about 200 people took over and cleared an abandoned field that lies in the path of another proposed airport near Nantes – you can read more about it HERE. The current government’s attempts to criminalise squatting will make it even more difficult for people to reclaim land to grow and live on, reinforcing the existing injustices at a time when a radical rethink is more necessary than ever.
On the weekend of the 20th and 21st March P.E.D.A.L. began its journey at Grow Heathrow in Sipson. The weekend saw two days of workshops on art & permaculture, environmental justice, storytelling, and discussions with Palestinian and Israeli activists. They then set off on Monday 21st March with a critical mass of cyclists starting at Grow Heathrow. The cycle procession went through significant sites in London of those involved in perpetrating oppression and those in resistance.
P.E.D.A.L. is a group of food growers, artists, community organisers, cyclists, and journalists, cycling from London to Palestine in 100 days in Spring 2011.
The living, breathing, cycling tool-kit leaves for the West Bank to support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, and share stories, skills and strategies for resistance from the UK to Palestine. The bicycle caravan will be cycling in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli popular resistance movements- responding to the call-out from Palestinian civil society in 2005 to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign. The ride will trace a trail of corporations complicit in the occupation, pollinate information about the campaign and support activists on trial for BDS actions. The group aim to join the dots of counter-cultures resisting injustice through Europe to the Middle East sharing stories, skills and strategies of resistance to create a cultural document for those working to end the illegal Occupation and the wider Global Justice movement.
Speakers along the way on the critical mass included Mortaza Sahibzada, the managing editor of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) eBook Series and Naomi Wimborne Idrisssi, the Secretary of Jews for boycotting Israeli goods. Presentations included stories of struggle and hope in the UK relating to the Palestine struggle outside the Israeli embassy, outside beauty product store Ahava in central London who sell Israeli goods on illegally occupied territories and then at Cable Street – the scene of historic anti-fascist and anti-racist riots back in the 1930s.
The final destination is Palestine and along the way they will stop at many locations across Europe and the Middle East. The purpose of PEDAL is to highlight the link between social and environmental injustices and how people across borders are responding to them in creative and innovative ways. This will be seen along the route they as they visit different communities where resistance takes positive forms. The choice of the bicycle as an empowering tool is designed to show the need for a life without dependency on fossil fuels and unsustainable transport.
PEDALler Andy Grange said:
“In 2011 we have seen explosions of people power across the Middle East. Across the world communities are fighting battles against economic, environmental and political injustice. Nowhere more do we see this than with the Palestinian people struggling for self-reliance, political rights, and liberation. PEDAL begins at an exciting time for popular movements fighting back.”
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Grow Heathrow is under threat of eviction. Bailiffs arrive at 8am on Fri 15 Aug and possibly at any time afterwards. What's the Latest?
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Statements of Support
“This inspirational project has not only dramatically improved this derelict site but it has lifted the morale of the whole local community in the campaign against the third runway and in planning a sustainable future for our area. We cannot lose this inititiave and I will do all I can to enable it to continue.” by JOHN MCDONNELL, MP