Manchester’s anti-fracking campaigners are hosting a Gig at the Rig music festival – at the proposed Barton Moss fracking site where protesters have been clashing with police.
The event is scheduled to take place on Sunday February 23 and promises to be ‘a solidarity day with a difference’.
Northern Gas Gala, the main organisers, strive to protect the local community against the threat they claim the fracking industry poses to people’s health and the environment.
The ‘carnival of resistance’ will feature DJs, singing and dancing. Among the acts is legendary Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam.
Protesters against the fracking proposals have been camping at the site since around November – and clashes with police have increased in frequency and intensity.
The protesters could potentially face eviction after solicitors for Peel Holdings produced high-court documents at the site in Eccles, Salford, on Monday.
Mr Haslam said: “Music does bring people together. I think the other important thing for me is that I really don’t like the way that the mainstream media portray the anti-fracking protesters as ‘unwashed’ or ‘rent a mob’ or whatever.
“But they’re not at all; they’re ordinary people like you and me.
“I know that on Sunday there will be people who will come down to see what is going on and to come and enjoy the tunes. They will be ordinary people like all of the other protesters.
“People will realise that it is not about a few people causing trouble for iGas or causing trouble for the police.
“This is an issue which is something that worries the wider community.”
Mr Haslam shares the concerns of the protesters with regards to the safety and security of the fracking process.
He explained: “I think we are a long, long way from being able to say that fracking is safe.
“Until we can say that fracking is safe I don’t understand why we are taking risks with the environment and we are potentially disrupting communities and poisoning the water supply.
“I think that the onus is on the frackers to prove that what they are doing is safe and the only option. I don’t think that either is the case yet.
“Until that is proven, I think we have every right to be suspicious of what is going on.”
The campaigners believe that the money-making capabilities of fracking are the only driving factor in the proposals, with safety and environment trampled underfoot – something with which Mr Haslam agreed.
“I think the people at Barton Moss are right to be suspicious of it,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the fracking companies, the energy companies and the way that the government are supporting and manipulating the situation is about money.
“It’s about money. It isn’t about people. It isn’t about the environment. It isn’t about the future. It’s purely about exploitation and money.
“The odds are stacked against us as ordinary people in situations like this. The landowners, Peel (Holdings), they’ve got mega millions to spend. The energy companies have got mega millions to spend. They’ve also been promised loads of tax breaks by the government.
“The government want fracking to go ahead. Greater Manchester Police have allowed themselves to be allied with all those big business interests.
“But what have ordinary men and women got? We haven’t got millions of pounds to spend on PR campaigns. We haven’t got that power. All that we have is the power of resistance.
“It’s not the campaigners who are looking to make a quick buck out of anything.”
In the light of recent negative media portrayal, Mr Haslam believes that the people have a right to stand up and voice their opinions.
He was quick to defend claims that the protesters are ‘anti-everything’ from those who support the scheme.
He said: “I think that it is worth remembering the positive dream that protesters have in this sort of situation, which is that we don’t have to bend over backwards to big business and we don’t have to let other people make all the decisions that affect our lives.
“That idea of resistance isn’t always about negative things; it’s a positive thing as well. It’s the right to say ‘no’ and I think that as a DJ, I’ve spent my whole life watching dance floors of strangers come together and enjoy music and feel part of a community.
“For me, there’s a political element to that. I think that taking that vibe over to Barton Moss is maybe a good thing.
“I read somewhere that people were saying ‘Oh, these protesters they’re all anti-everything’. They’re not ‘anti-everything’. They’re pro-environment, they’re pro-community, they’re pro-decisions about our lives and about the wider community.”
But what can Manchester expect at the gig? Haslam told MM: “We can’t predict exactly. You can never predict a DJ gig exactly. But on this occasion, I don’t know. All I know is that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“It is different. I think that it is always good to try and bring a little bit more of a celebratory, communal vibe to protests.
“I mean obviously there’s also time for antagonism and sometimes there is conflict at protests,” he continued.
“But the point of this is to kind of show solidarity with the protesters and also to be just a bit more positive about why we’re all here on Earth.”
The Gig at the Rig takes place on Sunday February 23 and kicks off at 1.30pm.
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