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Nettles and Webs

Grasping Nettles and Weaving Webs

Why I spent my New Years Eve in an old garage

 

Wearing red lipstick, a lot of glitter and comfy warm clothes we left the house shortly after a midnight toast for New Year’s Eve and walked down to the empty Iffley road garage. The door was open and we walked in and bolted the door behind us… It is now March.

That night, lying in my sleeping bag in a cold garage, I thought about how bonkers this might seem to most people I know. I wondered what my mum might think and what my community might say. It was freezing that night and it reminded me why we were doing this.

Homelessness has quadrupled in Oxford over the past 5 years. There are 102 people sleeping outside in our city and funding keeps getting cut and shelters are being closed. We are at a crisis point and we had to do something. I was brought up to enact change when I saw injustice and to challenge the systems of oppression that I saw. I am very lucky to have been taught this and I recognise that with that learning comes a responsibility to use the skills, rage and courage that I have. People are dying on our streets and so we had to do something.

Heading into our third month and we have 20 people sleeping in the space who would otherwise be on the streets. During our time together it has snowed, stormed and rained and the temperature has dropped below zero several times.

We have now been in court three times. First the Coop – who had the lease on the Iffley road site – agreed to an adjournment to negotiate a potential lease for the court date by a week. They then decided to do the right thing and ask for us to stay in the building until April 10th.

This may have changed things for Wadham somewhat as they then took us to court and asked for us to leave by 27th February. They have also however kept to their promise and advocated for us publically. 

In January after the court case we were looking at huge volunteer rotas for the next four months, coordinating donations of food, time, lamps, bedding, clothes, flip chart, language lessons, filmmakers… All the while still working our normal full time jobs and maintaining relationships, friendships and homes. Needless to say, we are all tired. I am also so over joyed. The amount of support we are getting is glorious and reminds me that we are living amongst wonderful people. Sometimes we just need to know how to offer ourselves. Sometimes a small group of people just need to make a crack in the fabric of normality for the light to shine through. For our real intentions to get through. An interruption in our everyday routines that allows us to sit down and have breakfast with a stranger who can become an unlikely friend in an unlikely place in a garage that has become a temporary home for an unlikely community of people.

osney.jpg.gallery

My mum has been delivering heaters and pallets, my community have been rallying all sorts of support – from cooking me lunch to doing my laundry – and I have messages of support from new and old friends and friends I have yet to meet.

We moved to our new home on the 26th February in a “military style operation” with a convoy of locals, volunteers and local press taking the building on a Sunday at 4pm in about 10 minutes. The new space is the Old Mill/Power Station on Osney near the train station. We have been there a week and we may have one more week. 

 

At this point anything could happen based on the decisions of a few. Please wish us luck from afar and come and help if you can.

 

Over the past months we have used the space to discover next paths in life and have found permanent housing situations for some people. What I have gained from this so far is far beyond anything I could have imagined. I have new friends, new skills and new hope. To all who have been involved so far, and to all who have donated, time and money and things and to those who will, to everyone who has sent messages of thanks, encouragement and ideas – THANK YOU! You are all the change I want to see in the world. Together we can choose to live the future we want to see.

 

With hope and love in these challenging times x  

 

 

Email: osneyopenhouse@gmail.com

Twitter: @iffleyopenhouse

Website: https://iffleyopenhouse.org/

 

Official Responses:

Coop: https://www.midcounties.coop/news/iffley-open-house/

Wadham: https://www.wadham.ox.ac.uk/news/2017/january/statment-regarding-iffley-road

Students: http://oxfordstudent.com/2017/02/28/ousu-protest-accompanies-iffley-open-house-move/

 

A few other press mentions –

 

http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/15023980.UPDATE__Homeless_squatters_could_be_allowed_to_stay_in_Iffley_Road_garage_until_April/?ref=mr&lp=15

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/02/27/forget-burning-20-note-oxbridges-attitudes-towards-homeless/

 

http://www.universityherald.com/articles/67094/20170228/squatters-oxford-leaving-university.htm

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-39115222

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/15124969.University_could_apply_for_homeless_group_eviction___39_within_days__39_/

 

http://www.cherwell.org/2017/02/28/university-responds-as-iffley-open-house-claim-former-power-station/

dinner

Featured post

Activist Guilt

So, this is a bit more difficult to write about. I am inspired to do so though by other people who inspire me to share the painful experiences, so that we might all learn and be able to change the ways we work. Reading this blog inspired me to be brave and write more about my experiences, thank you Nicole, you are quite brilliant.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of July…

I am packing to go away on holiday, moving house and packing for a festival at the end of the summer. I tend not to do things by halves. I am preparing to go away for 6 weeks, part holiday, part work. So I need different clothes, a tent for a part of it, books and a tablet and keyboard for others parts. What am I thinking as I pack for this very exciting holiday and work trip? I am feeling guilty, I am not going to Calais on the way to help at the Jungle even though we will be driving past there. I am not going to the ZAD even though we will be in the same country and lots of our friends will be there. I am not going to any european campaigns meetings or trainings even though I know that they are happening. I feel dreadful.

To put this into a context that makes it funny – I haven’t been on a holiday for more than a few days for quite a lot of years, maybe 5 years. I often take time “off” to go and protest and feel like that is time away. While I am away I am going to be helping run a peace conference and co-facilitate a course. But still the guilt! What is it about? This activist guilt? Why do I feel it even though I know that to be more sustainable and to take rests will allow me to continue for longer?

I guess it will take a long time to unpick and is part of why I am so keen to be working on sustainable activism projects, but I think there are a couple of things I would like to start to unpick here.

Urgency versus spaciousness.
The Urgency of climate change, the huge humanitarian crisis, deforestation, genocide in West Papua and many other countries, fracking, the list goes on and on and none of it is going away, yet I find myself just throwing more and more of me at it. Last year I was at the Eroles project and learnt about the concept of spaciousness and emergence and discovered in practice what I knew already, but hadn’t found solid proof of – that if you take things slowly and take the time to build solid foundations as a group, then everything is easier and quicker for the rest of the process. When I act from a place of urgency I make mistakes and don’t even have time to reflect on them so that I don’t make the same mistakes again. When I take the time that is needed for tasks I feel guilty for not doing the other things that I could be doing, but if I do it consciously then I can avoid mistakes and learn as I go.
If I constantly work, then I cannot take time to reflect and learn. How can I incorporate this into my life? We shall see. I think that part of the answer will be behaviour change, which requires long term thinking and a more intersectional approach to my activism.

At the end of my holiday, and work time, I have many more ideas to mull over as we head into the autumn, but I am no longer feeling guilty, I am feeling rested in my mind and my body, but the scary thing is that I still feel like I could do with more time to rest and the idea of getting back to work is daunting. Well, as my wonderful friend Eve says, – when talking about how she walked the length and breadth of the country – one step at a time and eventually you will get there.

A reflection on leg hair

I am sat on a beach in the south of France in a little town called Collioure. I came here a lot when I was younger and it is around 17 years since I was here first. The sea is perfectly clear and many shades of blue, the sun is shining and beach is stony. I am surrounded by people from many countries and of all shapes and sizes and shades. Some people are covered up a lot, others have just tiny speedos or bikini bottoms on. Toplessness for all is happily embraced here, which feels liberating. The big difference I am noticing of myself is that so far I am the only woman on this beach – or any beach I have been to so far – who has chosen to have hairy legs. Now some women have fair hair on their legs and I may not have noticed this, and some older women just don’t get hair on their legs anymore, but mine are covered in thick dark hair that is being very slowly bleached by the sun. I haven’t removed my leg hair in around 3 years. Partly as an experiment to love every part of me outside of what capitalism tells me I should look like as a women in England and partly because it always grows back and I used to get terrible in growing hairs and shaving rash. Also as a feminist I believe that for the most part i shouldn’t have to alter my body to please anyone apart from myself. I believe that every person should be allowed to do whatever they want with their body and the hair on it as long as it isn’t harming anyone. I happen to love my leg hair. 

So I am sitting here and observing myself and other people’s reactions to my leg hair. I have to regularly check myself and be extra kind and remind myself why they might be laughing or making rude comments and keep actively practicing compassion for myself and them. It’s not constant but it is regular. A side ways look and a shocked laugh, a comment to a friend followed by staring. These sorts of comments would in the past have crippled me and made me feel like I should be hidden from sight and that I was some how ruining people’s views by the presence of my body hair. Now I am able to notice it all and take a deep breath and continue to actively choose compassion. If I was very slim and beautiful by today’s magazine standards it would also probably be different. I do not fit into the normal boxes well and this will always bring stares. Understanding the deep brain washing of advertising and corporate control of this part of the world, is helpful and adds to the basket from which I draw compassion, but it is still hard and an active practice to go alongside the leg hair exposure, which I intend on continuing to practice. Alongside all of this, I am happy and happier in my body than I have ever been. All I intend to change about my body now is to be healthier and fitter so that I can be happier and enjoy life more. 

A bomb factory blockaded for a month

Within the environmental movement in England, we don’t often have month long active blockades. We have seen long term anti fracking camps and these have been very successful in blocking fracking thus far. What I think is quite amazing, is a highly organised month long blockade of a weapons factory. AWE Burghfield – home of the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Burghfield in Berkshire, where Trident warheads are manufactured – which has been shut down with the construction gate blocked – for a full month on Thursday 30th June 2016. This month of action has been coordinated by Trident Ploughshares and people have come from all of the world and from many varied groups to take part. 

I started my activist journey aged 9 with a copy of Peace News gripped in my hands, asking my dad for a cheque so I could become a member of CND. After the age of 16, I didn’t get very involved in anti nuclear activism, but headed more towards human rights and then towards the environmental movement after learning about fracking. So it was strange and interesting to be driving to Burghfield almost a month ago, for the start of a month of action with a woman who has known me my whole life from a peace group near where I grew up.

I felt a strong sense of coming back to my roots in activism and was also interested to notice the differences and similarities between what I have seen of the environmental movement and the anti nuclear movement. More on this another time, I feel there is much cross over of reasons for stopping fracking and for stopping nuclear and we have much to learn from each other.

A story of a month long blockade:

A call to action and a press release: 1st May 2016

“UK Nuclear Weapon Assembly Plant to Face Month of Disruption

In June people from across the UK and beyond will join in a month of

peaceful disruption of the nuclear bomb assembly plant at AWE Burghfield

in Berkshire.Trident Ploughshares is being joined by a number of groups and the aim

is to make it as difficult as possible for the plant to continue its

ongoing work – the assembly, refurbishment and upgrading of the atomic

warheads for Britain’s submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic

Missiles.”

Some projection: Feral X joins the protest and projects “Trident is a war crime” and “Stop Trident Replacement” on the Ministry of Defence and Houses of Parliament on 6th June, as fifty Trident Ploughshares activists continued to blockade the gates. This was to highlight the responsibilities of the MoD and Parliament, due to vote in 2016 on whether to spend up to £205 billion on a new nuclear weapon system to replace Trident. Yes, billion… Makes me really wonder, every time I hear that number how the government can make us believe in austerity. (more here and here)

Drawing a #redline and a link between the climate movement’s month of action in May with the anti military and anti nuclear movements. It begins (video here) and I arrive with my friend. It is a beautiful and very hot day, roads are closed and there are around 5 people locked to each other with arm tubes. They are being fed cold grapes by supporters who are also making them a sun shelter out of red fabric. That day there are 3 groups, with 2 road blockades and an umbrella block at one gate. While I am there, I meet people from Finland at the main gate who have driven for 3 days in a hot minibus to join the blockade for a few days before heading back. We connect over some songs and share some snacks before I drive off to the other gate to pick up a friend and head back to Oxford.

Red lines

It continues over night and for a second night…

Day three appears in the Guardian with very little other mainstream media attention, which is truly bizarre considering the number of arrests and the length of the blockade and number of people. International activists come to support and to blockade as nuclear weapons are a global threat. (more here)

It becomes the longest continuous blockade of Burghfield ever with people taking it in turns to keep the blockade going!

“Protesters resolute as they prepare for a third night sleeping on the tarmac.

Campaigners from a number of countries are co-operating to keep a round the clock occupation of the entrance to the construction site at AWE Burghfield. The blockade was set up when groups arrived on Monday morning and locked themselves across the road either side of the gate moving into the actual gateway later in the afternoon and are still there.”

Day 4 arrives and“Police have been removing protesters banners and notices from the fence and have given 2 protesters notices of summons for breach of Byelaws in place at the factory.” By this point everyone was very tired and needed some relief as the blockade went into day 5 and there was a call out for support. 

On day 7 of the blockade “An inside source has informed the protesters that their action has halted all building work within the base and large trucks have been turned away by police. As these are unable to enter via other gates this has given the protesters huge encouragement.”

The blockade continues into day 9 and local groups join in. To get some context there is a video here.

Beautiful, creative, well thought out and time consuming designs keep coming

Dragoniistas-Trident-subx

Women’s groups, a group from the South East, a mad hatter’s tea party, faith groups, Academics, musicians, students, and many others have joined the month of action…

Mad-Hatters-tea-partyx

 

And today, the 30th June 2016, a month of action will be complete  with hopefully lovely sun shine like the beginning of the month. The bomb factory will have been prevented from work as usual for a month. Can you get there today? What will happen next? Where are your red lines and where are we all willing to go to stop them from being crossed.

We are living in a time when it is more important than ever to keep asking ourselves what we are willing to do to save lives from nuclear weapons being used or accidents happening. And then, how I can do that from a place of joy and love.

Pictures:

Week 1 in pictures

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.280095452338921.1073741834.100010154050298&type=1&l=6731c9334e

 

Week 2 in pictures

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.281497642198702.1073741835.100010154050298&type=1&l=d36fb4084c

 

Week Three in pictures

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.284133821935084.1073741836.100010154050298&type=1&l=d2c7b1b530

 

It’s all about the money

Funding people and projects…

Inspired by this – thanks Robert – I am going to shamelessly tell you all about some projects that are looking for money!

As we still live in a system that uses money, sometimes we need more money than we have as individuals and families (chosen and blood), and as we haven’t brought down this system yet, it is helpful to share the load as far and wide as possible. Like mycelium we are all connected to many people, so let’s use our networks to strengthen and widen our communities and our capacity to do good in the world. 

Here are some projects that I know about at the moment and how I know them or am involved. Have a look, get involved and share it!  

Peace

Please support the Creators of Peace send delegates to the peace makers conference this August. We are hoping to support women from Romania and the UK to go to the conference.

I am going as a conference assistant and I am very excited about connecting with women from 42 countries to talk about Living Peace. This is a very exciting and worthwhile thing to fund, as we are seeding peace in communities and learning collectively in a beautiful small and global setting.

Target: £3000.00

Raised so far: £2111.00 (offline)

https://www.generosity.com/fundraising/send-delegates-to-global-peacemaking-conference

 

Housing

I am part of a group setting up a housing co-op and we were challenged by friends recently when we informed them that the minimum amount to pledge as loan stock is £5000, so we have set up a crowd funder as they asked for it. It will help us to spread the message and to help us buy the first of the Kindling Coop houses and build a housing co-op movement in Oxford.

Target £10,000.00

Raised so far: £740.00

End Date: End of June

https://hubbub.org/p/Kindling-Housing-coop

 

My Best Friend is training

Please support my best friend to become an interfaith minister! It is an exciting and important journey that has and will benefit many wonderful humans.

Target: £6,000 (Over £2000 so far with a flexible end date)

https://www.gofundme.com/reverendrowan

 

A different area of money: Fancy investing locally and ethically?

Kindling Housing Co-op Ltd. – of which I am a member – is looking for investors. If you happen to have £5000 or more and wish to invest, then please get in touch and check out our website here. If not, then there are still many things you can do to support the housing co-op movement in Oxford: see the crowd funder here, pass on our details to rich friends and relatives, or get in touch to start up another coop!

Target: £550,000 (around 3/4 of the way there!)

Our Investor Pack and Business Plan.

Email: info@kindlincoop.org

 

Talking Shop in Sandford is looking for start-up investment so that they can throw open the doors to the community hub 6 days a week.

Target: £60,000 (40% raised so far)

End date: 4th July

Summary  http://www.microgenius.org.uk/project/sandford-talking-shop-ltd-41

Invest  http://www.microgenius.org.uk/project-updates/sandford-talking-shop-ltd-41

 

Picture credit – Francesca Shaw – Instagram – @Frankenshawberry

 

A dyslexic blog of webs and nettles

Hello! I have decided that it is time to start writing…

As a woman, I have often felt that what I have to say is not as important, valid or necessary, but as a feminist I have discovered that I do have something to say and that often if is helpful to others. So, I will use this space to share ideas and experiences that I have had. I will probably discuss current issues at times, and other times I may share my favourite vegan recipes. I hope to keep ‘grasping the nettle’ as the old saying goes, to shed light on things we prefer not to talk about, to be brave and go there. I will also weave a web of connection through ideas and movements, sharing my thoughts and musings.

As someone who is dyslexic I also hope to challenge my own perceptions of what I can achieve through writing this and start to acknowledge my different abilities as a gift.

Keep spreading light in the darkness, embrace the fear and give it a hug. Keep calling out hatred and racism wherever you see it.

 

 

Picture credit – Francesca Shaw – Instagram @Frankenshawberry

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