Monday, 27 July 2009

They Killed The Big Green Gathering

The Big Green Gathering, a fixture in the alternative calendar, was due to return after two years this week. 15–20,000 people were expected to turn up on Wednesday the 29th to the site near Cheddar, Somerset, for Europe’s largest green event - a five-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 said “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 District Council, supported by Avon and Somerset Police, killed the event - citing the potential for ‘crime and disorder’ and safety concerns. The festival had already been granted a licence on the 30th of June.

Chief Inspector Paul Richards, festival liaison, later confirmed to one of the festival organisers that “This is political”, adding that the decision had been made over his head at county level. According to SchNEWS’ 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 fist on infrastructure”.

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 management 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 no chance of fighting the injunction.

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 massages than Stella and fisticuffs.

Dear Friends,
following threatened injunction proceedings in High Court by Mendip District Council supported by Somerset & Avon Police and having taken extensive advice from a prominent QC and other eminent lawyers, the directors of the Big Green Gathering have been left with no other option than to voluntarily surrender the license for the Big Green Gathering 2009.

The event will now not take place and the directors' advice and request is that no one intending to attend the event should attempt to do so, as the site is now closed and they are likely to be turned away by Somerset Police.

It is our intention to avoid any form of confrontation or public disorder in regard to this and it is our earnest hope that all those involved will follow this advice.
It is with great sadness that we have been forced into this position and we express our profound apologies to all those concerned.

The Directors of The Big Green Gathering

"It was a premeditated political decision made at least a week ago. There were going to be people from the Climate Camp here as well as Plane Stupid. It could be seen by police as gathering ground of radicals," said festival chairman Brig Oubridge . Climate Camp demonstrated in London during the G20 meeting and at Kingsnorth last year, while Plane Stupid have taken direct action at Stansted and Aberdeen airports.

"What the police have done is put more and more pressure on us over all our arrangements. It was a deliberate attempt to make it impossible to go ahead. We got in exactly the same paperwork as in other years. We know the officers were under pressure to close us down. This is a step backwards to the days of Margaret Thatcher," he said.

The Big Green Gathering has been running in its present form since 1994 without complaints about public safety or crime. It features music, debates and practical green living demonstrations

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