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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Climate Camp 2010: Twitter Backfires… or does it?

This year the Camp for Climate Action received a grilling from the Guardian Environment Blog on the basis of a few trolls who found our hashtag feed. This is my version of what happened.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Climate Camp 2010-serving dinner
Climate Camp 2010-nature doesnt
All photography by Amelia Gregory unless otherwise stated.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly embedded in the process of Climate Camp, web so I am well aware that the run up to this year’s Climate Camp has been more fraught with difficulties than ever – but as a spectacularly open grassroots non-heirarchical direct action organisation we would be the first to acknowledge this fact. We argued long and hard about whether RBS was an appropriate target for this year’s activities, case and we picked our spot without really checking in with Scottish activists who were not present at the meeting, website like this thereby alienating some of our allies… so it’s a testament to the movement we’ve created that I left the Edinburgh camp feeling that Climate Camp, whatever nebulous thing that might be, is stronger than ever. We may not have grown in numbers but there has been a definite increase in the quality of active participation and we are slowly becoming more diverse too – there was a notable improvement in our age, class and racial make up this year, though we still have a long way to go.

Climate Camp 2010-camp life
Climate Camp 2010-scene

And we were successful – we didn’t for one moment imagine that we would make the same kind of splash in the national media as we have in other more southern based years (journalists are notoriously bad at travelling for any kind of story: witness the lack of press surrounding our extremely successful Ratcliffe on Soar action in October 2009) but we certainly made big news in the Scottish press, we did loads of outreach and best of all WE GOT IN THE WAY. We shut shit down and generally made a nuisance of ourselves that served to highlight climate and community wrecking investments in tar sands, open cast coal and biofuels. We’ve cost RBS and the companies it funds a certain amount of money and reputation, and we’ve got people talking.

Climate Camp 2010-welcome
Climate Camp 2010-setting up site
Setting up site.

So, back to the beginning. I was part of the initial Land Grab on Wednesday evening…. which meant taking two days to get up to Scotland and not at any point giving away our whereabouts. On arrival at our destination we scrambled through fields in search of the huge seven tonne truck that transports our big marquee poles, already parked in the middle of the manicured lands that belong to the RBS HQ. From there I walked into the adjoining field and marvelled at our audacity, for we’ve never been this close to our target before. There it was, the HQ lit up like a giant christmas tree well into the night, rumoured to be so large that it supports its very own supermarket. It seemed almost impossible that with only a hundred people we might take this second field too, but take it we did because soon people were trundling around with wheelbarrows full of tat (an all encompassing word to describe all the stuff we need to run a camp). From the top of the man made mound we could see right into the glass walled HQ, where bored workers were no doubt entertained by us for a few days before RBS decreed they should work from home.

YouTube Preview Image

By the time I got up the next morning the site was already humming with activity and new campers who had joined us over the course of the night when they heard about our location via text and twitter. This year’s site, as well as being the cheekiest we have ever taken was also the most beautiful, and abundant with wildlife: mice, frogs and lots and lots of slugs. It’s long layout did however put paid to the permaculture plans we have adhered to in previous years, and necessitated a long walk from one end to the other.

Climate Camp 2010-set up

My role at Climate Camp has settled into a bit of a routine – taking photos, video and twittering. It leaves precious little time for physical work around site and I’m usually to be found in the media tent or rushing around on an action. We had incredibly bad reception on this site, and I soon became friendly with the Comms tent which was sited on the top of the hill and had a better 3G signal. For those of you who don’t know what I’m wittering on about, Comms refers to our defence and communications system which works by collating information from people on all the gates around site. It’s a 24 hour a day job and this year it was skill shared in a most impressive way for the first time.

Climate Camp 2010-media team
Some of the media team.

I think we’d all been fearful that this camp would be much less well attended than previous ones, but by Friday I estimate that there were almost 1000 people on site, and it felt as though they were all there for a purpose. At Blackheath last year we really focused on outreach and both that and our location ensured rather a lot of sightseeing which unfortunately meant that direct action took a major back seat to workshops. This time the workshops timetable was slimmer, and from early on there was a notable amount of small affinity groups planning direct action in the tall grass. This I think is a good development. And take direct action we did – every day. Here are some of the best actions I took part in:

Climate Camp 2010-refugee camp

1. Taking the land, obviously.
The biggest direct action of them all – it’s hard not to be nervous with an action like this on which the rest of Climate Camp depends. We stopped in at some charity shops for entertaining cut price CDs on our way northwards, and as we drove towards our swooping point we played the Star Wars theme tune at top volume. Despite our huge truck and noisy scrambling it took the police at least half an hour to arrive, by which time we were able to hold the space and had started erecting tents by torchlight. It did, however, mean that the advertised swoop the next day was a bit of a damp squib, and some of the participants must have felt a bit left out of all the excitement.

Climate Camp 2010-site take
Erecting the first marquees on site by torchlight.

2. Raising a Ruckus
On Friday we held a merry little dance parade around the RBS offices, culminating in an incursion into a conveniently open entrance where we jumped up and down in the doorway whilst security looked bemused and staff gazed down from the floors above. At the same time, unbeknownst to us, a lone activist had infiltrated the offices as a banker and stuck herself to a reception desk, where she berated RBS for agreeing to fund Vedanta’s mining activities on the sacred lands of the Dongria Kondh tribe in India. We later learnt that she had changed her name to Dongria Kondh by deed poll the week before, declaring that she would only change it back if RBS retracted funding. Fortunately it was announced this week that India has blocked the mining operation. Though I quite like Dongria Kondh as a name….

Climate Camp rouser
Climate Camp rouser door
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3. A Lady Gaga tribute: the Dirty Oil dance action
Conscious of Climate Camp’s decision to descend on Scotland without much forethought about how we could support local struggles I volunteered to attend the solidarity demo against a new coal mine at Cousland, but then I was reminded that I had also promised to document my Green Kite Midnight friends’ musical action. Lady Gaga won out in the end. Standing inside a small candy striped marquee we learnt new lyrics to Poker Face, featuring the immortal lines:

It’s getting hot, the planet’s nearly shot
We’ll make them stop, we’re putting up a block

Tar sands is dirty oil
Can’t use my, can’t use my taxes no
To invest in dirty oil

Climate Camp 2010-gaga rehearsal
Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil
Rehearsing dance moves and getting ready to leave.

By midday we were ready to take our act to the streets of Edinburgh. With black bin bag bows in hair and fluorescent waistcoats we marched with resolve towards the biggest branch of RBS on St Andrews Square…. to find it already closed. Closed by the threat of song and dance. Score! We then set off on a tour through the town centre, jumping an RBS fringe stage for a special ten minute non-sponsored rendition. You can watch this here. We taught some onlookers the dance moves, bumped into the Greenwash Guerillas en route and handed out loads of leaflets.

Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil Gaga
Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil Gaga-on steps
Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil Gaga-fringe stage
Crowds watch us at the Fringe
Climate Camp 2010-fringe audience
and the Greenwash Guerillas…
Climate Camp 2010-Greenwash Guerillas

4. Sunday site incursion
I knew there were plans afoot but I wasn’t quite prepared for the huge mass of people dancing towards me in white paper boiler suits. And then they carried on dancing their way over the bridge to RBS, pushing the police back with ease and racing around the corner towards an unguarded part of the RBS HQ. When I got there it became apparent that they had completely taken the police by surprise and several windows had been smashed as the morass propelled forward. For a short moment chaos reigned as the police tried and failed to contain the seething crowd (who needs Black Bloc when you’ve got White Bloc, as one twitterer noted) and they were successfully able to de-arrest several people.

RBS site incursion march
RBS site incursion
RBS site invasion tussle
RBS Sunday invasion

Unfortunately this short point of panic enabled the police to gain the upper hand, and if the intention had been to get in and hold the building we had lost the head start. After two arrests there was a brief stand off with police at the bridge and the action petered out, the white garbed frontline on the bridge replaced by a large white fluffy bunny. I kid thee not.

Climate Camp 2010-white bunny

At our evening plenary a dampener was put on the situation almost immediately. Unfortunately the action had been badly timed to coincide with a speech from our visiting tar sands activists, who had felt seriously disrespected by the disruption to their workshop. They were also uncomfortable with the apparent violence of smashing windows, as were a few others. Through skilful facilitation we were able to talk through these issues, with many good points being made that Climate Camp comprises a diverse range of people who use different tactics, and whilst we would never ever condone physical violence against people, corporate property is another matter altogether. All successful direct action campaigns have attacked physical infrastructure, from the Suffragettes to the 1990s road protest movement. Causing infrastructure damage hits a company where it hurts: their pockets.

Climate Camp 2010-meeting
An early site-wide meeting.

We’ve always been very careful with our language, although the media often insists on referring to us as “peaceful” or NVDA (Non Violent Direct Action). In another twist seasoned activists have levelled many criticisms at us over the past few years with regards to us being too media friendly. For many this action proved that we really are capable of doing more than the media stunts and banner drops of recent times. It was also acknowledged that whilst we could sympathise with the feelings of First Nations activists it could not dictate the way that Climate Camp works, and indeed whilst we should work hard at international bonds we should not deify indigenous peoples above our local communities. We finished the meeting with a euphoric group hug that seemed to express: Yes! We are powerful together! We can break through police lines and inflict serious physical damage to a building! With a bit more intent we could have got into the HQ and dug in for the duration: of that I have no doubt.

5. The RBS Trojan Pig leaking molasses outside Cairn Energy offices
At just past 9am I dropped my half drunk tea and ran full tilt out of the cafe where I had been sitting on Lothian Road. Ahead of me a group of people in black ceremoniously carried a large pink pig – eyes painted with the RBS logo – up the impressive granite steps of the offices for Cairn Energy, who received £117 million in loans from RBS last year, some of which helped them to start drilling for oil off the coast of Greenland. Two activists sprayed molasses against the side of the building in decorative swirls as more molasses seeped out of the pig and down the steps. A security guard briefly looked on, but never moved the large pink carcass which was reported later that day as forlornly pushed aside on the steps. Ironically it is only because of climate change and melting ice that Cairn Energy are able to drill in the polar regions as new oil reserves are revealed. By coincidence a Greenpeace ship reached the drill rig on our day of action, where it was met by a Danish warship. It is hoped that lots of activists will join Crude Awakening, a day of mass action against oil supported by Climate Camp on Saturday October 16th in London.

Cairn Trojan Pig parade
Cairn Trojan Pig molasses
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6. Shutting down Nicolson Street branch of RBS
The weather was not kind to us on our main day of action, and getting lost en route to my next destination didn’t help. By just after 10am I was soaked through to the skin. Across the entrance to Nicolson Street RBS three of my friends glued themselves together with green posters pinned to their fronts that said “Ask me why I won’t bank with RBS“. As customers arrived they engaged them in conversation and then let them duck under their arms. With musicians and a small gaggle of Lady Gaga impersonators I went inside to be greeted by an old man grumbling bad-temperedly at the counter. He then proceeded to watch several reprises of the Dirty Oil song and dance routine, by now familiar to all. Next up was a reinvigorated version of the Gloria Gaynor classic I Will Survive, and as we moved outside the police finally arrived. I went to upload some tweets and when I returned journalists and photographers were out in force and the branch had been closed. Later that day another bunch of activists dressed in bin bags and dripping in molasses closed down the same branch.

Climate Camp 2010-Nicholson-RBS
Climate Camp 2010-Nicholson-RBS 2

7. We’ve built a Rhino Siege Tower!
Yes really. At the top of the hill above RBS what looked like a watch tower had risen during the course of the camp, gaining painted corrugated metal sides and a roof. And perhaps best of all a huge paper mache Rhino head attached to it’s derriere. I got back from the mornings actions to find a huge gaggle of people surrounding the tower, all dressed in wonderful outfits, inspired by medieval battle, clowns, animals and pagan dress. And then we waited…. and waited… and joked about slow action being the new slow food movement. Finally, we were ready to roll. The siege tower was on wheels. And with people guiding it via a series of ropes and pulleys it began to inch it’s way around the wind break and down the hill as we all held our breath and prayed that it didn’t topple into the bank of photographers waiting below. This process took about four hours, by which time I’d long since stopped worrying that I would miss anything crucial every time I went to recharge my damn iphone again. Over at the bridge a series of mollassapaults were fired onto the HQ by black clad activists. And then as we finally crawled towards the gate the rain really set in. Dancing animals met lines of riot police and squirted silly string over their heads as the Siege Tower finally cleared a low hanging branch and the rhino headbutted a police van.

Climate Camp Rhino Seige Tower
Climate Camp 2010-scary clown
Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino-hits van

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line of riot cops so bemused. What the hell were we doing? On the side of the tower There Is No Planet B had been painted over at some point during the long journey to say There Is No Plan. My camera decided to complain about the incessant rain. It packed up. I decided to call it a day, and soon so did many soggy others. The Guardian’s live blog had long since stopped reporting on our actions of the day since most of them were done in the morning – including a very brilliant banner drop off the roof of Forth Energy in Leith in protest of a new and huge biomass scheme that would require the mass importation of vast quantities of wood chip.

Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino-frontline
Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino-sillystring
mollassapault tim morozzo
The mollassapault. Photography by Tim Morozzo.

And so, we didn’t give the mainstream media the huge action they might have liked. Instead we gave them lots of small and effective affinity group actions across Edinburgh and beyond, as planned. Topped off with the most surreal action of them all – a Rhino Siege Tower that effectively closed down the RBS HQ merely through creative farce and the power of suggestion. Sometimes my heart is so full of love for the thing that is Climate Camp that it feels fit to burst.

Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino

Other highlights of this years’ camp included a storming ceilidh (apologies to the Scottish for making this word our own) with my band Green Kite Midnight, spoken word from Harry Giles, visits from Fringe comedians Albie Philbin Bowman and Josie Long, and dancing long into the night after our day of action. Despite all the trials and tribulations of being so involved with Climate Camp I can’t wait to see what we come up with next. Even if we didn’t Break the Banks you’ve got to admit it was a damn good slogan, and we’ve successfully managed to highlight the investment of our money in fossil fuels to a far wider public. Now we just need to change the system that encourages wanton consumption of fossil fuels to the wide scale detriment of the only planet we have to live on. Who’s up for helping out?

You can watch lots more of the videos that I took on my Qik channel here.

Climate Camp 2010-Albie Philbin Bowman
Albie Philbin Bowman performs for us.

Many other inspiring actions happened across the course of the camp, but these did not include the supposed oil spill on the A8 on Monday morning, as press released by the police. Our targets have always been corporations and the government not innocent people, but isn’t it somehow predictable that the press picked up on the “oil spill” so relentlessly – happy to reel it off as fact without adequate research or proof. More on how the press have related to this year’s Climate Camp in my next blog post.

Climate Camp 2010-compost loos
A beautiful painted compost loo.
Climate Camp 2010-anarchist baby
Climate Camp 2010-RBS bridge
Climate Camp 2010-bunny

Back in 2007, approved experimental hip hop pioneer Flying Lotus released the Reset EP, remedy which was met with critical acclaim largely due to the outstanding track Tea Leaf Dancers. The stunning fusion of glitchy hip hop and progressive soul remains the LA producer’s most popular song to date, thanks in no small part to a stunning vocal accompaniment that gave the track a melancholy, love-ridden feel. Those sultry, elegiac vocals were provided by London born singer-songwriter Andreya Triana and this year marks the release of her exceptional debut album Lost Where I Belong.
Triana began her musical journey at the age of fourteen when her family moved from south east London to the West Midlands, a move that that left her feeling cut off from society. “I grew up in Brixton,” begins the singer. “It was so culturally diverse, and then I moved to a predominantly white, middle class area so I felt quite isolated. I just started spending a lot of time in my room, writing poetry and making songs.”
After years of honing her song writing abilities, good fortune shone down on Triana when she was selected from thousands of applicants to attend the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy. “I became obsessed with getting in,” says Triana, with wide eyed excitement that suggests she is still in mild disbelief that she was chosen. “When I found out I got in I screamed the house down!”

It was here that Triana met up with Flying Lotus and the duo created what would become Tea Leaf Dancers, even though she had no idea who she was actually working with at the time. “I didn’t really know anything about his music,” admits Triana. “It’s crazy thinking about it all of these years later. There were about thirty of us collaborating and that was only one of hundreds of collaborations.”
Despite the success of Tea Leaf Dancers, Triana would not get the opportunity to prove her worth as a solo artist until several years later when a chance meeting with downtempo trip hop artist Bonobo changed her life forever. “Bonobo and I had a lot of mutual friends,” says the singer, now residing in Brighton. “I heard that he needed a singer for one of his tracks, I came on board and it just developed from there. I wasn’t really that familiar with his music.”
The result was The Keeper, a beautifully laid back soul classic that is reminiscent of Jill Scott at her most poignant. This collaboration would develop into a beautiful working relationship where the pair would bounce ideas off one another until each lovingly-crafted track on Triana’s debut album was complete. “I wrote the songs with a guitar and I would come up with the harmonies,” she advises. “With Bonobo, it’s like I brought the bare bones and he brought them to life. It was really fun.”
Even though Triana has been fortunate enough to work with two of the world’s leading electronic music producers, she is adamant that both happened as a result of good luck. “None of it was pre-determined,” states Triana. “I didn’t work with Bonobo because he is a massive producer. It was because he was a good friend and I feel really comfortable with him.”

In person, Triana is every bit as captivating and endearing as the music she creates. Taking a break from signing promotional copies of Lost Where I Belong in the Ninja Tune headquarters, the singer advises: “The whole time I was doing the album, I was just praying that it would touch people. It’s nice when people come up to me and tell me that they really felt a certain song.”
Triana’s breathtaking brand of neo soul seems destined to captivate audiences in dimly lit, basement jazz bars throughout the world and her abstract lyricism means that her music has the ability to take on many different meanings. With over nine thousand followers on Myspace, Triana has over double the amount of fans as label mate and 2009 Mercury Prize winner Speech Debelle, and this is before her album has even been released. This beautiful lady seems to be on the verge of a cult phenomenon.
Lost Where I Belong is out now via Ninja Tune.

Climate Camp 2010-nature doesnt
All photography by Amelia Gregory unless otherwise stated.

Over the past few years I have become increasingly embedded in the process of Climate Camp, page so I am well aware that the run up to this year’s Climate Camp has been more fraught with difficulties than ever – but as a spectacularly open grassroots non-heirarchical direct action organisation we would be the first to acknowledge this fact. We argued long and hard about whether RBS was an appropriate target for this year’s activities, pharmacy and we picked our spot without really checking in with Scottish activists who were not present at the meeting, nurse thereby alienating some of our allies… so it’s a testament to the movement we’ve created that I left the Edinburgh camp feeling that Climate Camp, whatever nebulous thing that might be, is stronger than ever. We may not have grown in numbers but there has been a definite increase in the quality of active participation and we are slowly becoming more diverse too – there was a notable improvement in our age, class and racial make up this year, though we still have a long way to go.

Climate Camp 2010-camp life
Climate Camp 2010-scene

And we were successful – we didn’t for one moment imagine that we would make the same kind of splash in the national media as we have in other more southern based years (journalists are notoriously bad at travelling for any kind of story: witness the lack of press surrounding our extremely successful Ratcliffe on Soar action in October 2009) but we certainly made big news in the Scottish press, we did loads of outreach and best of all WE GOT IN THE WAY. We shut shit down and generally made a nuisance of ourselves that served to highlight climate and community wrecking investments in tar sands, open cast coal and biofuels. We’ve cost RBS and the companies it funds a certain amount of money and reputation, and we’ve got people talking.

Climate Camp 2010-welcome
Climate Camp 2010-setting up site
Setting up site.

So, back to the beginning. I was part of the initial Land Grab on Wednesday evening…. which meant taking two days to get up to Scotland and not at any point giving away our whereabouts. On arrival at our destination we scrambled through fields in search of the huge seven tonne truck that transports our big marquee poles, already parked in the middle of the manicured lands that belong to the RBS HQ. From there I walked into the adjoining field and marvelled at our audacity, for we’ve never been this close to our target before. There it was, the HQ lit up like a giant christmas tree well into the night, rumoured to be so large that it supports its very own supermarket. It seemed almost impossible that with only a hundred people we might take this second field too, but take it we did because soon people were trundling around with wheelbarrows full of tat (an all encompassing word to describe all the stuff we need to run a camp). From the top of the man made mound we could see right into the glass walled HQ, where bored workers were no doubt entertained by us for a few days before RBS decreed they should work from home.

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By the time I got up the next morning the site was already humming with activity and new campers who had joined us over the course of the night when they heard about our location via text and twitter. This year’s site, as well as being the cheekiest we have ever taken was also the most beautiful, and abundant with wildlife: mice, frogs and lots and lots of slugs. It’s long layout did however put paid to the permaculture plans we have adhered to in previous years, and necessitated a long walk from one end to the other.

Climate Camp 2010-set up

My role at Climate Camp has settled into a bit of a routine – taking photos, video and twittering. It leaves precious little time for physical work around site and I’m usually to be found in the media tent or rushing around on an action. We had incredibly bad reception on this site, and I soon became friendly with the Comms tent which was sited on the top of the hill and had a better 3G signal. For those of you who don’t know what I’m wittering on about, Comms refers to our defence and communications system which works by collating information from people on all the gates around site. It’s a 24 hour a day job and this year it was skill shared in a most impressive way for the first time.

Climate Camp 2010-media team
Some of the media team.

I think we’d all been fearful that this camp would be much less well attended than previous ones, but by Friday I estimate that there were almost 1000 people on site, and it felt as though they were all there for a purpose. At Blackheath last year we really focused on outreach and both that and our location ensured rather a lot of sightseeing which unfortunately meant that direct action took a major back seat to workshops. This time the workshops timetable was slimmer, and from early on there was a notable amount of small affinity groups planning direct action in the tall grass. This I think is a good development. And take direct action we did – every day. Here are some of the best actions I took part in:

Climate Camp 2010-refugee camp

1. Taking the land, obviously.
The biggest direct action of them all – it’s hard not to be nervous with an action like this on which the rest of Climate Camp depends. We stopped in at some charity shops for entertaining cut price CDs on our way northwards, and as we drove towards our swooping point we played the Star Wars theme tune at top volume. Despite our huge truck and noisy scrambling it took the police at least half an hour to arrive, by which time we were able to hold the space and had started erecting tents by torchlight. It did, however, mean that the advertised swoop the next day was a bit of a damp squib, and some of the participants must have felt a bit left out of all the excitement.

Climate Camp 2010-site take
Erecting the first marquees on site by torchlight.

2. Raising a Ruckus
On Friday we held a merry little dance parade around the RBS offices, culminating in an incursion into a conveniently open entrance where we jumped up and down in the doorway whilst security looked bemused and staff gazed down from the floors above. At the same time, unbeknownst to us, a lone activist had infiltrated the offices as a banker and stuck herself to a reception desk, where she berated RBS for agreeing to fund Vedanta’s mining activities on the sacred lands of the Dongria Kondh tribe in India. We later learnt that she had changed her name to Dongria Kondh by deed poll the week before, declaring that she would only change it back if RBS retracted funding. Fortunately it was announced this week that India has blocked the mining operation. Though I quite like Dongria Kondh as a name….

Climate Camp rouser
Climate Camp rouser door
YouTube Preview Image

3. A Lady Gaga tribute: the Dirty Oil dance action
Conscious of Climate Camp’s decision to descend on Scotland without much forethought about how we could support local struggles I volunteered to attend the solidarity demo against a new coal mine at Cousland, but then I was reminded that I had also promised to document my Green Kite Midnight friends’ musical action. Lady Gaga won out in the end. Standing inside a small candy striped marquee we learnt new lyrics to Poker Face, featuring the immortal lines:

It’s getting hot, the planet’s nearly shot
We’ll make them stop, we’re putting up a block

Tar sands is dirty oil
Can’t use my, can’t use my taxes no
To invest in dirty oil

Climate Camp 2010-gaga rehearsal
Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil
Rehearsing dance moves and getting ready to leave.

By midday we were ready to take our act to the streets of Edinburgh. With black bin bag bows in hair and fluorescent waistcoats we marched with resolve towards the biggest branch of RBS on St Andrews Square…. to find it already closed. Closed by the threat of song and dance. Score! We then set off on a tour through the town centre, jumping an RBS fringe stage for a special ten minute non-sponsored rendition. You can watch this here. We taught some onlookers the dance moves, bumped into the Greenwash Guerillas en route and handed out loads of leaflets.

Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil Gaga
Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil Gaga-on steps
Climate Camp 2010-Dirty Oil Gaga-fringe stage
Crowds watch us at the Fringe
Climate Camp 2010-fringe audience
and the Greenwash Guerillas…
Climate Camp 2010-Greenwash Guerillas

4. Sunday site incursion
I knew there were plans afoot but I wasn’t quite prepared for the huge mass of people dancing towards me in white paper boiler suits. And then they carried on dancing their way over the bridge to RBS, pushing the police back with ease and racing around the corner towards an unguarded part of the RBS HQ. When I got there it became apparent that they had completely taken the police by surprise and several windows had been smashed as the morass propelled forward. For a short moment chaos reigned as the police tried and failed to contain the seething crowd (who needs Black Bloc when you’ve got White Bloc, as one twitterer noted) and they were successfully able to de-arrest several people.

RBS site incursion march
RBS site incursion
RBS site invasion tussle
RBS Sunday invasion

Unfortunately this short point of panic enabled the police to gain the upper hand, and if the intention had been to get in and hold the building we had lost the head start. After two arrests there was a brief stand off with police at the bridge and the action petered out, the white garbed frontline on the bridge replaced by a large white fluffy bunny. I kid thee not.

Climate Camp 2010-white bunny

At our evening plenary a dampener was put on the situation almost immediately. Unfortunately the action had been badly timed to coincide with a speech from our visiting tar sands activists, who had felt seriously disrespected by the disruption to their workshop. They were also uncomfortable with the apparent violence of smashing windows, as were a few others. Through skilful facilitation we were able to talk through these issues, with many good points being made that Climate Camp comprises a diverse range of people who use different tactics, and whilst we would never ever condone physical violence against people, corporate property is another matter altogether. All successful direct action campaigns have attacked physical infrastructure, from the Suffragettes to the 1990s road protest movement. Causing infrastructure damage hits a company where it hurts: their pockets.

Climate Camp 2010-meeting
An early site-wide meeting.

We’ve always been very careful with our language, although the media often insists on referring to us as “peaceful” or NVDA (Non Violent Direct Action). In another twist seasoned activists have levelled many criticisms at us over the past few years with regards to us being too media friendly. For many this action proved that we really are capable of doing more than the media stunts and banner drops of recent times. It was also acknowledged that whilst we could sympathise with the feelings of First Nations activists it could not dictate the way that Climate Camp works, and indeed whilst we should work hard at international bonds we should not deify indigenous peoples above our local communities. We finished the meeting with a euphoric group hug that seemed to express: Yes! We are powerful together! We can break through police lines and inflict serious physical damage to a building! With a bit more intent we could have got into the HQ and dug in for the duration: of that I have no doubt.

Climate Camp 2010-serving dinner
Serving dinner at the South Coast neighbourhood.

5. The RBS Trojan Pig leaking molasses outside Cairn Energy offices
At just past 9am I dropped my half drunk tea and ran full tilt out of the cafe where I had been sitting on Lothian Road. Ahead of me a group of people in black ceremoniously carried a large pink pig – eyes painted with the RBS logo – up the impressive granite steps of the offices for Cairn Energy, who received £117 million in loans from RBS last year, some of which helped them to start drilling for oil off the coast of Greenland. Two activists sprayed molasses against the side of the building in decorative swirls as more molasses seeped out of the pig and down the steps. A security guard briefly looked on, but never moved the large pink carcass which was reported later that day as forlornly pushed aside on the steps. Ironically it is only because of climate change and melting ice that Cairn Energy are able to drill in the polar regions as new oil reserves are revealed. By coincidence a Greenpeace ship reached the drill rig on our day of action, where it was met by a Danish warship. It is hoped that lots of activists will join Crude Awakening, a day of mass action against oil supported by Climate Camp on Saturday October 16th in London.

Cairn Trojan Pig parade
Cairn Trojan Pig molasses
YouTube Preview Image

6. Shutting down Nicolson Street branch of RBS
The weather was not kind to us on our main day of action, and getting lost en route to my next destination didn’t help. By just after 10am I was soaked through to the skin. Across the entrance to Nicolson Street RBS three of my friends glued themselves together with green posters pinned to their fronts that said “Ask me why I won’t bank with RBS“. As customers arrived they engaged them in conversation and then let them duck under their arms. With musicians and a small gaggle of Lady Gaga impersonators I went inside to be greeted by an old man grumbling bad-temperedly at the counter. He then proceeded to watch several reprises of the Dirty Oil song and dance routine, by now familiar to all. Next up was a reinvigorated version of the Gloria Gaynor classic I Will Survive, and as we moved outside the police finally arrived. I went to upload some tweets and when I returned journalists and photographers were out in force and the branch had been closed. Later that day another bunch of activists dressed in bin bags and dripping in molasses closed down the same branch.

Climate Camp 2010-Nicholson-RBS
Climate Camp 2010-Nicholson-RBS 2

7. We’ve built a Rhino Siege Tower!
Yes really. At the top of the hill above RBS what looked like a watch tower had risen during the course of the camp, gaining painted corrugated metal sides and a roof. And perhaps best of all a huge paper mache Rhino head attached to it’s derriere. I got back from the mornings actions to find a huge gaggle of people surrounding the tower, all dressed in wonderful outfits, inspired by medieval battle, clowns, animals and pagan dress. And then we waited…. and waited… and joked about slow action being the new slow food movement. Finally, we were ready to roll. The siege tower was on wheels. And with people guiding it via a series of ropes and pulleys it began to inch it’s way around the wind break and down the hill as we all held our breath and prayed that it didn’t topple into the bank of photographers waiting below. This process took about four hours, by which time I’d long since stopped worrying that I would miss anything crucial every time I went to recharge my damn iphone again. Over at the bridge a series of mollassapaults were fired onto the HQ by black clad activists. And then as we finally crawled towards the gate the rain really set in. Dancing animals met lines of riot police and squirted silly string over their heads as the Siege Tower finally cleared a low hanging branch and the rhino headbutted a police van.

Climate Camp Rhino Seige Tower
Climate Camp 2010-scary clown
Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino-hits van

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a line of riot cops so bemused. What the hell were we doing? On the side of the tower There Is No Planet B had been painted over at some point during the long journey to say There Is No Plan. My camera decided to complain about the incessant rain. It packed up. I decided to call it a day, and soon so did many soggy others. The Guardian’s live blog had long since stopped reporting on our actions of the day since most of them were done in the morning – including a very brilliant banner drop off the roof of Forth Energy in Leith in protest of a new and huge biomass scheme that would require the mass importation of vast quantities of wood chip.

Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino-frontline
Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino-sillystring
mollassapault tim morozzo
The mollassapault. Photography by Tim Morozzo.

And so, we didn’t give the mainstream media the huge action they might have liked. Instead we gave them lots of small and effective affinity group actions across Edinburgh and beyond, as planned. Topped off with the most surreal action of them all – a Rhino Siege Tower that effectively closed down the RBS HQ merely through creative farce and the power of suggestion. Sometimes my heart is so full of love for the thing that is Climate Camp that it feels fit to burst.

Climate Camp 2010-Seige Rhino

Other highlights of this years’ camp included a storming ceilidh (apologies to the Scottish for making this word our own) with my band Green Kite Midnight, spoken word from Harry Giles, visits from Fringe comedians Albie Philbin Bowman and Josie Long, and dancing long into the night after our day of action. Despite all the trials and tribulations of being so involved with Climate Camp I can’t wait to see what we come up with next. Even if we didn’t Break the Banks you’ve got to admit it was a damn good slogan, and we’ve successfully managed to highlight the investment of our money in fossil fuels to a far wider public. Now we just need to change the system that encourages wanton consumption of fossil fuels to the wide scale detriment of the only planet we have to live on. Who’s up for helping out?

You can watch lots more of the videos that I took on my Qik channel here.

Climate Camp 2010-Albie Philbin Bowman
Albie Philbin Bowman performs for us.

Many other inspiring actions happened across the course of the camp, but these did not include the supposed oil spill on the A8 on Monday morning, as press released by the police. Our targets have always been corporations and the government not innocent people, but isn’t it somehow predictable that the press picked up on the “oil spill” so relentlessly – happy to reel it off as fact without adequate research or proof. More on how the press have related to this year’s Climate Camp in my next blog post.

Climate Camp 2010-compost loos
A beautiful painted compost loo.
Climate Camp 2010-anarchist baby
Climate Camp 2010-RBS bridge
Climate Camp 2010-bunny

Climate Camp 2010-media
Our best 3G signal for getting onto the internet was found at the top of the rise. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

Since I’ve returned from Climate Camp in Edinburgh the media backlash against us has began. Perhaps we have grown complacent about our cosy relationship with the mainstream media over the past few years? Thwarted in their desire for juicy riot porn the Guardian instead turned to the trouble I had been experiencing on twitter since the start of camp, buy information pills when one troll turned into two, which then turned into a whole host of the little critters. Because trolls always have friends and they know how to find each other. And once they do they like to have a feeding frenzy.

Climate Camp 2010-mediateam
The media team: small but very hard working.

So how did this all start? Well, unfortunately I feel very much to blame and I’ve learnt my lesson. At the start of this year I went on an anti EDL march in London, and whilst there I picked up a follower of the EDL sympathising persuasion. Now, I’ve never followed him, but we did engage in conversation every now and again on twitter. He’s a very persistent sort of chap, and I thought “ow, bless, he’s sadly misguided but essentially a sweet man despite his extreme right wing nationalistic views – maybe he’ll learn something if he follows me.” He even offered to help out with my website. Well, that was my biggest mistake: EDL sympathisers are not for the turning. So, he knew about the #climatecamp hashtag from me, and he made it his personal business to stalk me on it throughout Climate Camp – describing me as his #twittercrush and Climate Camp Vamp on @replies to my personal twitter feed, loitering on the perimeter of the campsite and offering me lifts home from Edinburgh in his “gun metal Aston” when I tweeted about waiting for the bus… and posting offensive tweets to all and sundry through the #climatecamp hashtag which only served to attract even more horrible little trolls from far and wide. Anthropogenic global warming denialists, fascists, homophobes, racists, sexists – you name it, they all came running.

Climate Camp 2010-all ages
People of all ages come to Climate Camp.

I managed to ignore these trolls – because what else can you do? Like a greedy little pug, if you feed them they just keep coming back for more. It looked like things might die down as the camp started to wind up. And then. James Randerson on the Guardian environment blog saw fit to publish an article featuring some tweets from these trolls – “Twitter Backfires” screeched the headline. As if a few trolls would stop interested people and Climate Camp supporters from going straight to the Climate Camp twitter feed (wow, what a novel idea!) or reading through to the interesting and relevant tweets in the #climatecamp stream rather than fatuous fake retweets reinforcing every known stereotype of “hippy activist”. We are all posh, anarchist, crybaby, smelly, student, lentil chomping, yurt dwelling, marxists. Wow! I’d really love to meet someone who embodies all of those things in one person!

Climate Camp 2010-child
Climate Camp 2010-girl
Just some of the very happy well-adjusted children on Climate Camp.

The outcome of the Guardian blog? It fed the trolls a huge amount of publicity and unwittingly condoned their actions… and by default their opinions. This on the environment blog of a left leaning newspaper – which supposedly supports our actions. And here it was saying our protest was a failure purely because we didn’t “own” the twittersphere. Sour grapes because we didn’t provide them with the exciting coverage the mainstream media demands of us? Seems like it to me. And utter bullshit. Because at the end of the day most people on Climate Camp don’t use twitter – and have no idea of this storm on a Tweetdeck. They couldn’t care less – they were on camp, taking direct action together, on the site of the HQ, in an RBS branch in Edinburgh, handing out leaflets about tarsands, marching with locals on the proposed site of a huge new open cast coal mine or teaching subversive lyrics at an impromptu performance on a Fringe stage. There are so many other ways to reach people, and twitter is but one tool in the outreach box.

Climate Camp 2010-compost loos change
Changing the straw bales in the loos.

Suddenly the trolls were back in business. And so I’ve spent the past few days doing my best blocking irrelevant trolls and aborting the #climatecamp hashtag amongst supportive followers. It’s been a swift learning curve. But one big thing I’ve realised is this: you can’t change some people. I should have blocked my troll the minute he started following me. I still think he’s a sad misguided individual – one with an awful lot of lonely time on his hands to spend a whole week trolling on the #climatecamp hashtag – but he’s also a massive arse to take such pleasure out of petty nastiness. The fact that he claims to care about the environment “I plant trees” – big woop-de-doo – makes his actions particularly noxious. What’s more he’s a passive aggressive EDL sympathiser with far right leanings who rather scarily knows an awful lot about me and The Guardian has given him and his ilk a legitimacy that is far from worthy. But to equate a problem on twitter with a wholesale failure of the camp is just ridiculous; whilst this whole episode may personally have made my life quite unpleasant, none of this will affect those who are committed to taking direct action as part of Climate Camp. So in the end a big old #fail for the trolls. I’d like to believe they are even now scuttling back into their little troll homes… but I doubt they will be able to stop their fingers from itching towards the keyboard.

Climate Camp 2010-set up boards
Now, where do these go?
Climate Camp 2010-wheelchair
Climate Camp is accessible to all.

Trolls: a few words. This blog is moderated and you aren’t welcome on here. I wholly reserve the right to delete you. You’ve been warned.

You can read about all the actions we took on Climate Camp at the RBS HQ in Edinburgh on my blog here.

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11 Responses to “Climate Camp 2010: Twitter Backfires… or does it?”

  1. tim says:

    Great article amelia. Don’t get down. You did great. Climate camp would be in a far worse place without you

  2. Lee Delta says:

    “Because trolls always have friends and they know how to find each other”

    Interestingly, if you do bother to look at these trolls you might notice that actually quite often the noisiest ones have very few friends, if their count of ‘followers’ on Twitter is anything to go by.

  3. Amelia says:

    Hi Lee thanks for your comment: I am well aware that most of them aren’t that popular when it comes to followers, but they’re able to flock together very readily. And I can assure you that I do my research very thoroughly compared with some bastions of the media, mentioning no names.

  4. Amelia says:

    Thanks Tim, much appreciated!

  5. Sam says:

    As one of the people commenting on the hashtag for parts of Sunday and Monday, there’s one thing missing from the coverage.

    It was far more even than the Guardian suggest. Throughout the day, there were people interjecting facts and references to the hashtag, as well as comment on both sides.

    What those supporters of @climatecamp weren’t able to do, was come up with the witty fact-free one liners, that OldHoborn and WeAreTheBritish managed to do so well.

    In many ways, it’s the @SarahPalinUSA equivalent – tossing out some comment which is utterly deranged, and repeating it enough until the media pick it up 3 days later. At which point, what was actually said and discussed during the action – when any media attention was being made – doesn’t matter any more. Had the twitter article been written on Monday evening, the Guardian article should have been very different – but that doesn’t make as good a story (still on the guardian eco front page 3 days later). As it was, published when most people were finishing tat-down or travelling home, or had been home for a day and were spending time on other things, the only people around were the hecklers who didn’t do anything at all and so can just repeat previous tweets.

    On monday, various tweeters at Camp in Edinburgh did tweet a bit; but was their time really best spent tweeting, or helping out with the action. As pithy as the ClimateCamp name is, the actual name is the Camp for Climate Action. The last bit is, in many ways, the important part.

    It’s far easier for two people – principal ongoing heckling only came from @WeAreTheBritish and @OldHoborn, with @BillyBlofeld showing up later – but their ability to tweet fact-free faster, and simply retweet anything mildly critical – than anyone helped them. There’s only a small number of times that the many wider friends of @climatecamp could keep repeating the same facts before we got bored of the game and went to do something productive.

    Some of @OldHoborn’s jokes were funny; but that’s when he’s taken as a joke. One of the issues ClimateCamp seems to show, once again, is that soundbites win over facts in the short term. @ClimateCamp may be only armed with peer-reviewed science; but it’s up against passionate hecklers armed only with non-peer-reviewed jokes and an active disdain for science, fact or reason.

    One thing this has proved, yet again, is that Lies can get an article in The Guardian before Truth can google for a fact.

    But James Randerson is right about one thing: http://twitter.com/james_randerson/status/22099585230

  6. M says:

    Well put and i thought as i was on line through a good secure network idd counter the fools just for a moment mind, but hay feed them they come back and this has been proven by the media and there actions.

    You know that i never trust the media, having friends who was former workers for said newspaper and others, some years in direct action i know never to trust them and we all learn lessons some times the hard way.

    You know this i love respect you as a human and was well happy at the choice of RBS (THERE SCUM) at last Climate Camp was moving.

    Just a note the said scum was feeding Indymedia the twitter feed (articles now hidden) it was non news, this said you had to reply and the right thing to have done to show we have no fear of such people, ha so there was some Middle Class giving a shit makes a change if you ask me, shame the self proclaimed vanguard of The Working Class are not doing the same..

    If only it was not for double glazed windows i feel this would be a whole lot different.

    Love Rage Anarchy

    M.

  7. jamesh says:

    i don’t think you should be concerned about attracting the trolls – they need no encouragement, and personally i believe that their sheer ubiquity tends to lead people to ignore them – does anyone read the comments on Comment is Free anymore?

    but i’m most disappointed by the guardian – no need to get out there and do journalism when you can make second hand comment about how we chose to ignore rather than feed idiotic, puerile ranting from the comfort of your warm office.

  8. D says:

    Sam gives a very good account of how the hashtag panned out over several days. I weighed in on Monday (rather infrequently) and RT’d some of the good points I saw made, but it’s fair to say that it only took a small number of people tweeting every 5 minutes, or even every 2, and retweeting each other’s nonsense, to flood the feed with negative comments. Most of which were essentially content-free and extremely repetitive.

    It’s a pretty powerful feedback loop, particularly if more than one person is able to commit several full days(!!!!!) to it. Anyone who both cared enough about climate camp and had the free days would have been there.

    jamesh is totally right, you can ignore the trolls but you have to be disappointed with The Guardian interpreting this as a story.

    It’s also incredibly creepy if you post a comment and 3 people immediately both flame you and start to follow you simultaneously, yuck.

  9. [...] Climate Camp 2010: Twitter Backfires… or does it? [...]

  10. [...] the response from Climate Camp to the Guardian articles here, here and here. This entry was posted in Climate Change, Police, Protests, UK Politics, freedom of [...]

  11. nova says:

    Hi the things with trolls is that they do tend to speak so much crap, but unfortunatly if their comments go unchallenged then people tend to beleive them, sad as it is no matter where or what medium we use trolls will be part of it. Hence why i like to keep a close eye on my trolls, as you never know what they are up to. Its true they don’t need followers they just need hash string

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