All too often in activist life you sacrifice any enjoyment of free time for ‘the cause’ – but on rare occasions leisure and activism can go hand in hand.
Last August I took part in one such instance of ‘holidarity’: a four-day cycle ride from Blackpool to Hull visiting communities on the front line of the struggle against fracking. Aptly named ‘Le Tour de Frack’, the ride started on the last day of the Reclaim the Power protest camp in the Fylde and proceeded west in an almost horizontal line, across Lancashire, the Pennines (where the line got decidedly squiggly) and South Yorkshire, ending at a demonstration in Hull. A significant portion of the course taken by the Tour de France in Yorkshire earlier this year was covered by the ride.
Along the route, our eleven-strong team had the pleasure to liaise with diverse campaign groups resisting fracking in their local area and the country as a whole. From the lovely campaigners of Frack Free Lancashire in Longridge, the hospitable activists at the Nutclough housing co-op in Hebden Bridge, the friendly Green Party councillors and members in York, and the die-hard protesters living on road verges at the fracking sites of Crawberry Hill and West Newton in Yorkshire, we were humbled by the commitment and perseverance of those we met.
The dizzying succession of people and places visited in this very brief period of time gave us a fascinating overview of the state fracking and the movement against it. By coincidence, our route happened to go past many windfarms, which in all their monumental glory – and often within view of some of the North’s biggest coal-fired power stations – reminded us in a near-symbolic way of the crossroads the country finds itself at when it comes to the future of energy generation. It was an exhilarating experience where the stunning landscapes we crossed played a perfect backdrop to the individual stories of local resistance against the reckless forays of the fracking industry.
Yet the most moving part was how grateful those we visited were for our two-wheel-based expression of solidarity. While on our journey, it was easy to get into the thrill of cycling – or get bogged down by the technical difficulties of countless punctures, bits of bike falling off, nearly insurmountable hills, or simply trying not to get lost. The heartfelt thanks we got from our fellow campaigners was a great way to be reminded of the real reason our small team committed to go on the ride. In the end, we all came out with a conviction of having achieved something truly worthwhile, and promised ourselves to organise an even bigger, better Tour de Frack next year!