An exciting start to the Fuel Poverty Action Weekend of Winter Warm-ups…Hundreds of people across the country came out of their cold homes to get warm at the buildings of institutions that have a hand in creating fuel poverty, to challenge the Big Six’s monopoly and the government’s complicity.
Here’s a round-up of some of today’s actions – there will be more updates throughout the weekend. If you participated in a warm-up, or couldn’t come but have related experiences to share, please tell us your story in the comments!
The Lewisham Town Hall Winter Warm-up
30-40 activists and residents from Lewisham occupied and Warmed-up inside Lewisham Town Hall. They staged a peoples’ forum inside, where people shared their experiences of unaffordable energy bills and expressed their anger at the profiteering energy companies and complicit government. People discussed the many examples of community controlled renewable energy projects across the country and how we might transition Lewisham and, more broadly, the UK, to a democratic energy system that works for people’s needs, not for corporate greed.
After the peoples’ forum, people moved outside and got even more toasty around a bonfire of burning energy bills!
Leeds residents warm up outside council offices
A group of a dozen activists from Leeds Fuel Poverty Action and local residents staged a Winter Warm Up protest today at Leeds City Council’s Leonardo Building which houses the Sustainable Development Unit. The group used the morning to discuss how to achieve a fair and more equitable energy economy that no longer forces bill payers to choose between ‘eating or heating’. The group later moved to the Merrion Centre where they handed out leaflets and talked to members of the public, but were forcibly removed within minutes.
Activists attempted to occupy the foyer of the building with thermoses of tea and coffee, an array of biscuits and snacks, as well as the more traditional protest signs and banners, but were prevented from entering by security personnel. The protestors claimed that they wanted to ‘warm up’ together in the office of civic organisations and energy companies which are “putting profits and cuts before people’s welfare”. In addition, the Leeds Fuel Poverty Action campaign has linked up with church, resident and community groups across the city to involve those who are most affected by the issue.
Laura McFarlane-Shopes of Tidal and Leeds Fuel Poverty Action said:
“Warmth seems to be becoming a privilege available only to those who have the ability to pay. Fuel poverty is social problem stemming from greedy energy companies, cowardly politicians and burgeoning inequality. It’s time to stop sitting at home, shivering and grumbling about extortionate bills. We need to come together to say enough is enough: we can’t pay, shouldn’t pay, and won’t pay.”
Npower plays Monopoly
A game of giant-sized Corporate Monopoly was played right outside Npower Headquarters in Swindon. The puzzled employees and passers-by received a flyer that read:
Hello! We are a group of friendly energy customers from Oxford who are feeling the cold because we can’t afford our energy bills – so we have come in here to warm up!
We say Npower is hiking prices whilst failing to invest enough in green energy. Through community action we can all get out of the cold and create an energy system that works for people’s need, not for corporate greed.
Come and play!
Whilst we are here we hope to entertain ourselves by reconstructing the game “Monopoly” to demonstrate that we could all have a better, fairer energy system by managing affordable fuel for ourselves. There are examples across the country of renewables that are owned and controlled by towns and neighbourhoods designed for public interest and not for private gain. Npower is playing Monopoly with our homes! …
Manchester billboards tell it like it is
Billboards in Manchester were transformed today in protest over the Big Six energy companies’ pricing and climate policies.
Jane Simpson, 34, from Manchester Climate Action group: “I just wanted to come out and say it. The energy companies are ripping us off big time and making a fat buck off it. But it’s about much more than prices. It’s about big corporations dominating our energy supply. We need democratic community control over how we heat our homes.”
James Terry, 26: “It’s not just people in the UK who are dying because of the energy companies selfish obsession with profits – people around the world are dying from climate change resulting from the government and energy companies refusing to make the change to renewable energy.”
Anti-nuclear Warm-up at EDF hq
Anti-nuclear campaign group, Boycott EDF (http://boycottedf.org.uk/), today targeted the UK headquarters of EDF Energy in central London. French energy giant EDF Energy are making record profits from pushing up our energy bills while spearheading the government’s drive to build eight new nuclear power stations around England, starting with Hinkley Point in Somerset. Activists grouped outside EDF’s HQ with banners and leaflets entitled: EDF Energy: exploiting the poor, polluting the planet.
Boycott EDF spokesperson Nancy Birch said:
“We need a new model of energy production that provides for people’s needs without costing the earth, economically or environmentally. This can be done. Countries like Germany are starting to move in the right direction. The UK must move quickly to mobilise against the tyranny of the Big Six if we are to prevent further suffering and environmental destruction.”
Occupy-ers warm up at RBS
At 1pm, in the first of the London warm-ups, a dozen cold occupiers made themselves at home in a carpeted Fleet St branch of RBS, enjoying its leather chairs and even an open fire. The event was organised by the Energy, Equity and Environment group of Occupy LSX and most participants were occupiers. Equipped with blankets and hot water bottles, they held an impromptu assembly in the bank, pointing out that while RBS, bailed out with billions of pounds of public money, was handing over a million in a bonus to their chief executive, thousands of people were dying of cold because they couldn’t afford to heat their homes — or couldn’t afford a home in the first place! RBS is the biggest financial investor in fossil fuels, including the notorious Tar Sands project which is devastating vast areas of Canada. Death from fuel poverty and death from climate change were two sides of the same filthy RBS coin. When warmed up, the occupiers left for a photo-call on the steps, chanting, “Don’t let the old die of cold”. They were standing right opposite the Royal Courts of Justice where a week ago, Judge Lindblom ruled that the nuisance of having tents at St Paul’s outweighed any need for Occupy London to remain there. They returned to the camp, where an aggressive police presence and the threat of eviction had earlier made some occupiers nervous to leave their tents and join the fuel poverty protest. Many said they were sorry to have missed it — and hope to be involved next time!