27 Jul 2009

Cops ban Big Green Gathering so punters will go to Vestas on Isle of Wight

Why not go to the Isle of Wight instead?

For those of you not already heard, This weekend's Big Green Gathering
is cancelled due to 'Police intervention"

See excerpt from "SchNEWS" below:

The Big Green Gathering, a fi xture in the alternative calendar, was
due to return after two years this week. 15–20,000 people were
expected to turn up on Wednesday (29th) to the site near Cheddar,
Somerset, for Europe’s largest green event - a fi ve-day festival
promoting sustainability and renewable energy, with everything from
allotments to alternative media. Hundreds of staff and volunteers are
already on site, and its cancellation comes just days before gates
were due to open. Organisers, most of whom work for nothing, are
gutted. One told SchNEWS “We are so disappointed not to be having
this year’s gathering – it means so much to so many people”.A
last-minute injunction by Mendip Dis-trict Council, supported by Avon
and Somer-set Police, put the ki-bosh on the entire event - citing the
potential for ‘crime and disorder’ and safety concerns. This was
despite the fact that the festival had actually been granted a licence
on the 30th of June. According to Avon and Somerset police’s website
“[We] went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure this event
took place.” This is of course utter bollocks.The injunction was due
to be heard in the High Court in London on Monday (27th). However,
before that could happen the BGG organisers surrendered the festival
licence on Sunday morning. As soon as this was done a police commander
at the meeting was overheard saying into his radio “Operation
Fortress is go”. Police have already set up roadblocks and promised
to turn festival-goers back. Chief Inspector Paul Richards, festival
liaison, later confi rmed to one of the festival organisers that
“This is political”, adding that the decision had been made over
his head at county level. One of SchNEWS’ sources on site said that
the police were frank about the fact that the closure had been planned
for two weeks. “This was a blatant act of political sabotage – the
Big Green Gathering is now completely bankrupt, they knew that we were
going to be closed down and yet they carried on allowing us to spend
money hand over fi st on infrastructure”.The BGG collapsed fi
nancially in 2007 under the weight of increased security costs. The
new licensing act added an extra £120k to their costs, leaving them
with a loss of £80k. Security accounted for a third of their overall
overheads and the road marshalling bill rose from £5k to over £23k.
In spite of these setbacks, they managed to scrape them-selves back
off the fl oor with shareholder cash and some potentially dubious
corporate involvement. Every effort had been made by the gathering’s
organisers to accommodate the increasingly niggling demands of police
and licensing authorities. The procedure lasted over six months –
just check out www.mendip.gov.uk/CommitteeMeeting.asp?id=SX9452-
A782D404 for the minutes of meetings held between organisers and the
authorities. Demands included a steel fence, watchtowers and perimeter
patrols, having the horsedrawn fi eld inside a ‘secure com-pound’
and wristbands for twelve undercover police. At a multi-agency meeting
on Thursday, police took those wristbands in order to maintain the
pretence that the festival stood a chance of going ahead. A catalogue
of other obstacles were also continually placed in the organiser’s
path.All of the businesses associated with the BGG came under
scrutiny, licensing authori-ties contacted South West ambulances, the
Fire Brigade and the fencing contractors and asked them to get payment
up front from the BGG. Needless to say this caused huge problems.
Under the terms of the Licensing Act 2005, police can insist on
certain security fi rms being used by organisers. This of course leads
to a totally unhealthy hand-in-glove re-lationship, open to abuse.
Stuart Security were forced on the BGG by police, and on Wednes-day
last week, they suddenly announced that they wanted 60% of their fee
up front. Even though the BGG scraped the cash together, the company
still wanted out. So the BGG hired another fi rm – against police
wishes. The fact that Stuart Security rely on police approval for
lucrative contracts at Glastonbury Festival, the Royal Bath & West
Show, WOMAD, Reading Festival, and Glade Festival has, of course, no
bearing on the matter.

The last issue at stake was road closures. Mendip District Council had
insisted on road closures as part of the licensing requirements. A
festival organiser contacted the highways agency to process this
fairly routine request. The decision was passed to junior manage-ment
who reportedly came under intense pressure not to grant the closure.
As the road closures were not secured, the council were able to claim
that the BGG was in breach of licence. A nice little legal stitch-up
that according to one QC meant the BGG stood fuck-all chance of fi
ghting the injunction. Of course, now that “Operation Fortress” is
in full swing, there are road-blocks throughout the area. The BGG is
itself a limited company and could have fought the injunction -
risking no more than bankruptcy - but in a nasty twist two individuals
were also named, meaning that should proceedings have gone ahead
against the festival then Mendip Council would have had a claim on
their assets to settle court costs. Police also threatened to place
the farmer on the injunction, risking his entire livelihood.Anyone who
has ever been to the Big Green will know that the atmosphere is more
like a village fete than any of the mainstream events. There is
virtually no aggro. It’s more about chai and gong-massages than
Stella and fi sticuffs. All power is 12V solar and the amplifi cation
is correspondingly quiet. Music stops at midnight. Compare that to the
24 hr Technomuntfucks that go on with state blessing across the
country. Of course it would be cynical to suggest that the BGG
represents an alternative that the authorities fear. It’s a gathering
place for eco-activists, where the likes of Plane Stupid and No-
Borders hang out and exchange ideas while trying to avoid being button-
holed by 9-11 truthers. It’s clear now that the state views events
like the Big Green in the same light as Climate Camp and the anti-G20
protests. The BGG saga is showing that there may no longer be any
‘safe’ legal spaces for us to gather. The third way of quasi-legal
free-ish festivals is looking like a dead-end.

It’s clear that the Big Green has been singled out – and any
gathering promoting those values or trying to organise in a grass-
roots way will probably suffer the same fate once they get to a
certain size. As corpo-rate-branded Glasto has become a fi xture on
the mainstream calendar, like Ascot or Wimbledon, many have turned
towards smaller more ‘grass-roots’ festivals. Niche festivals have
bloomed across the British landscape. No matter what your bent, be it
faerie wings or S&M, there’s probably a muddy weekend in a fi eld
for you. Of course this isn’t the fi rst time that Britain’s had a
thriving festival scene. See previous SchNEWS’ for how the free
festival scene came under ruthless attack from the forces of Babylon
(or just skin up for an old hippy and listen to them bang on about the
glories of the White Goddess Fayre or Torpedo Town). Some have tried
to go down the quasi-THE HIPPY, HIPPY SHAKEDOWN continued...BIG GREEN
GATHERING SHUT DOWNlegal route, such as Strawberry Fair and even
Glastonbury, until the aptly named Mean Fiddler intervened in 2002.
Unfortunately the corporate dollar is never far behind. Witness how
Glastonbury went from a fence-jump-ing free-for-all where the festival
organisers built the infrastructure, but the fl y-pitchers, buskers
and random naked lunatics made it a real festie rather than a fenced
in, heavily policed corporate theme park.The Big Green was an
exceptional fes-tival, which managed to leap through the legal process
while being crew-heavy and retaining a lot of the free-festival
atmosphere (Not all of course - we still had to put up with plod
wandering around site). It was a unique gathering place for fringe
movements, from eco-activists to crop-circle nutters. We’re not just
banging on about festivals being free because we miss the good ‘ol
days – there’s a huge difference between being a punter who has a
whole experience laid on for them (e.g. Glasto’s themed areas with
helpful stewards pointing you in the direction of the consumer
delights), and being part of a fes-tival/free party where everyone’s
responsible for the entertainment, and even infrastructure like
welfare. A crowd that feels it owns an event behaves differently to
one that feels it has paid to have an experience. The fact that
undercover police now feel free to operate and arrest people, without
any back-up, for cannabis use or nudity (See SchNEWS 684 and 603) at
festivals has a lot do with the sheep-like behaviour of punters - a
mentality that our masters are keen to see enforced.In the SchNEWS
offi ce we’re hearing rumours that people aren’t going to be put
off – alternative sites are being looked at and people are heading to
the West Country anyway. In the words of one participant “Things are
just getting interesting”. Time for the Big Black Barney?

16 comments:

OpenG said...

I'm upset that this festy was closed down, it displays such a gulf between the rhetoric coming out of people's mouths right now (sure we have to live within our means) and the reality (any real alternative will not be tolerated).
My best wishes to all of the people that worked so hard with patience and love to put this on, just think how boring life would be without a few hurdles eh :0)
Dom

Anonymous said...

If only many of the small businesses that were supporting BG and the traders were facing challenging hurdles; unfortunately many have hit the financial wall over this. This was a deliberate and malicious attempt by the police and the authorities to attack and undermine the climate camps and other forms of green protest, in doing so finacially crippling many other 'hippies' and greens. Thank god we live in free and democratic society eh?

Anonymous said...

The question is; what the fuck do we do about it?

blahme said...

The unelected "Powers That Be" are afraid of your power, because your cause is 180 degrees out of phase with theirs.

Our so called representative do not represent you, but represent corporations and big money. But be of good cheer because their power is ebbing away and there is nothing they can do about it.

We the people will take back our power peacefully, all governments will fail, all leaders who work only for themselves and big money will fall, good people will take their place.

In their hearts the PTB know it and they are scared stiff that their deception will be become known by the population, and it will, we must forgive them and give them a chance to change their ways, but never allow them power again.

2012 is all about integrity and the coming together of humanity to change this present paradigm into a new sustainable paradigm that will last for thousands of years.

Be joyful, thank the dark for the contrast for without it you can not see what is wrong, so thank the Police for showing you, for now you know your way.

Please join us on the 28/29th of July to Fire The Grid that will heal the Earth and humanity, bring a halt to the wars, bring into being a new world which we the people will create, they may control our physical but they do not control our minds, they must go with the flow or perish.

The Police, and the governing powers must choose either the path to darkness of the path to light and their time is fast running out.

Fire The Grid

Anonymous said...

OK I am really sorry for the BGG organisers, and those tickets represented a huge amount of money for me and my family, and I am utterly gutted; the kids are too.

Where do we go from here, people?

Anonymous said...

The problem with the ideas that 'the good will out' and 'rely on hope' is that the powers that be don't ever ever rely on hope and justice to get what they want...and if we do we end up being sitting ducks, too busy dancing around a camp fire and communing with nature to see what's being taken away from us..
where do we, indeed, go from here? Sometimes I'm sad I had my awareness raised because attempts to change things feel too futile...
Amy

Anonymous said...

We'll probably never know the truth. Was it a basic failure of the BGG organisers or was it a determined effort by government (local or national) or police to stop the BGG? Looks like the organisers may well have made some mistakes, but the government put a mountain of red tape and expensive/difficult hoops to jump through. Not surprising that it was possible to find requirements which hadn't been fulfilled and then use that to stop the BGG rather than helping BGG to meet the requirements. We'll never know what happened in the case of BGG, but for sure the establishment doesn't want anybody stiring up support or fiunding for environmental movements, climate camps, people power or activism, and for sure they've put in place complex and expensive laws and requirements that will enable them to cancel virtually any event, and to do so at the last minute when there's no time to respond and when the financial consqenences will cripple the oganisers.

I hope the BGG will live on but I suspect that it will be bancrupt and it will loose too much good will of creditors and traders and ticket holders.

What happens next? Try again to organise an event within the rules, or organise something that's a legal protest rather than a licensable event (is that the basis on which Climate Camp exists?)

It's up to us to decide...

Anonymous said...

I was gutted too and expect to be out of pocket but accept that politics and unsustainable growth of the BGG has killed it for good.

Is this a bad thing, beyond the loss of all the enormous amount of effort and love that was poured into this fantastic but now historical event.

The lesson for me is to organise locally, stay below the radar and make better use of time and money to help the transitition to a more sustainable future. World events will dictate this so build local and weave the network so it is flexible and resilient to the anxieties and paranoia of the state. The future is ours, not theirs so be ready and don't get hung up on the conspiracy to put this event on, as the prize is more important.

Huge respect to the people that have given up their money and time to build the BGG but this is now an ending, accept it and start the next phase, a whole new leap to the future to take the control bsck in our streets, neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities.
Seriously, if we consent to parliamentary democracy and the courts we will fail each other and the future for the kids, animals and environment.
Game on, with new rules
Nous somme le pouvoir

Anonymous said...

The BGG has had money issues in past years, this one is no different. At the end of the day if you don’t pay people especially with a poor track record what do you expect.
As I understand it there were many organisations which were not paid up front, or agreements not formalised. In some case we are talking thousands why shouldn’t they be paid up front.
The grounds for stopping the festival given are all issues which should have been dealt with a long time ago by BBG, who claim to be experienced at this.
The expectations placed on the festival are the same across the UK, organising road closures, medical cover, security these are standard thing.
If the council were planning to go to the high court there must have been a strong case, otherwise BGG would have contested it. BGG state their legal team felt they had no option, which speak volumes.
It’s too easy to come up with conspiracies. At the end of the day if they are serious about the cause maybe they should be serious about organising the event.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 7.09, I don't think you've actually been following the story. It's easy to gloss over these things when you don't actually look at the facts.

Suppliers not being paid up front? You mean the security firm handpicked by police (and having a very cosy relationship with them) who suddenly decided they wanted money up front a few days ago and then pulled out anyway.

Routine issues that should have been dealt with a long time ago? And they were. But routine applications have been stalled for months and new hoops thrown into their path. Officials have said they were pressured from above to block these applications. In the end it was these things that meant there was no chance of winning in court. Even the local police inspector has said it was a political decision taken over his head. And the BGG have been told that talking to the media could threaten any event next year.

So please don't gloss over these things and then accuse the organisers of not being serious. The authorities have clearly decided to put the boot into the BGG - don't you join in!

Anonymous said...

In fact many routine issues were not dealt with at all. The organisation this year has for various reasons been even more of a complete shambles than ever before,and more importantly only about 4000 tickets had been sold, leaving the company financially and practically incapable of complying with the licence conditions, and playing into the hands of the authorities who were, it's true, only too pleased to force a ruinous last-minute cancellation.

There was a point about a month ago where it could and should have been cancelled while this could be done safely and sensibly.

Mike

Mark D said...

Dear Another Green World,
I'm a 'veteran' of 5 BGGs - it was always a good, cool festival just keeping a balance between the peoples festive spirit and a future green political economy.
Its screaming shame that the police and Mendip bureaucrats have shut down the BGG this year.
I am very sorry for all the BGG workers and participants and I hope we can all recover and plan ahead.
Most of the truth is in the Schnews story because I have an
inside knowledge of how licensing works in several parts of England. The state and its functionaries are not here to facilitate popular power which BGG represents and the truth is that the green movement has become a threat to the establishment and the police now hate all Green opposition -it stacks up.
Mendip Council is clearly corrupt and the Somerset police must become accountable to us -the people. We must devise new plans to continue the tradition of BGG
Good luck to the BGG.
MARK, N16 6SW

NB. Please no more 'anonymous' on this site. State real names.

GMPSA said...

What really really gets me about the big green gathering is that it's in the middle of nowhere with no public transport links. The biggest impact of any event is audience travel; this increases dramatically when you stick it out in the sticks. Yes, it's a beautiful location but you should take the message to the cities rather than the cities to the message. As for the licence, BGG organisers need to get better at getting licences - two sides to every coin. Oh, and nice to see ticket holders get an off of an alternative festy. Hopefully the stallholders will get their cash back too?

baron said...

unfortuantly schneews is not known for its unbiased objective veiwpoint.
there are many issues at stake here that so far the BGG organisers have omitted to mention.
Im a sharholders in the company a nd have contacted both mendip & stuart security to confirm various things that went on. I will ask the BGG folk at their stall at the big chill.
you gotta understand that ive been to all but BGG exept the second (or 3rd).Its without do8bt the best festi in the country. I will miss it sorely . And that it whiy i want to know the FACTS of what cuased the cancellation.
cheers jake

twistedglobe said...

www.biju.tk

paperwork said...

good morning - please see my Big Green World - partnership working for a Greener World proposal on my blog here http://paperworkfairy.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/bgw2029/ and let me know what you think - please? thank you fairy much >;<