‘Fracking the imagination’: Towards a cultural strategy for Frack Free Wales
Project proposal (draft 17 November 2014)
Fracking: the political context
The UK government is ‘going all out for fracking’, doubling to 100% the amount Councils keep in business rates from shale gas sites. Defying public opinion, trespass laws are being changed to permit fracking under people’s land and homes. More than 60% of the land area of the UK can be licensed for fracking. Exponents dub shale gas the ‘transition fuel’ to a low carbon future, but Environmentalists fear that there is no plan for transition and that policy is dictated by short-term corporate profit-making. They contend that fracking perpetuates reliance on fossil fuels and makes reducing carbon emissions to mitigate global climate change impossible. Moreover, the ‘dash for gas’ discourages investment in renewable energy. The Extreme Energy Action Network (Frack Off) lists other valid concerns, including water contamination, methane leakage, earthquakes and industrialisation of landscape. Locally, people experience fracking as disempowerment, vulnerability and displacement with impacts on their prosperity, way of life and legacy.
Despite this range of concerns and widespread public opposition, the Welsh government refuses to consider a petition for a moratorium, claiming that is beyond its devolved powers but citing no legal opinion in this regard. It lists gas a constituent of its energy policy and declares itself happy with industry regulation. In late October 2014 the first anti-fracking protest camp in Wales was set up at Commonwood Farm, Borras near Wrexham after the Welsh government overturned a Council decision on test drilling. Wrexham Council had rejected the application stating environmental concerns and the prospect of desecrating the de facto graves of some 255 miners killed in the Gresford Colliery disaster in 1934 whose bodies were not recovered. On 27th November Borras and Holt Community Protection Camp was demolished and protesters forcibly evicted. The impact of coal-bed methane extraction on the site of previous mines is unknown. In the near future, other camps are expected, especially in the Vale of Glamorgan where deposits of coal-bed methane are numerous.
A cultural strategy for Frack Free Wales
Frack Free Wales is a coalition of concerned groups and individuals which aims to establish the facts and take action on ‘fracking’ which we understand as encompassing various extreme energy or unconventional fossil fuel extraction methods that threaten Wales. We are a grassroots, publishing, lobbying and direct action group which is not affiliated to any political party or corporation. Coalition members include Friends Of The Earth Cymru, Safe Energy Wales, Oxfam Cymru, Lush Campaigns, Greenpeace (Cardiff/South Wales), and The Vale Says No!
Through ‘Fracking the imagination’, we seek direct engagements that contribute to a cultural strategy for Frack Free Wales, to raise public awareness of the issues, challenge government policy and broaden support for threatened local communities and protest camps. We are interested in fracking the imagination to re-imagine fracking, its associated values, cultures and politics, particularly as expressed through resistance and protest camps, landscape, strata, materiality, technology, community and shifting relations in space and time. We especially but not exclusively encourage ecoventions as ‘intentionally activist works that weave their way into the fabric of society to intervene in situations in unexpected ways’ (Spaid, 2002)
Phase 1: Mini-exhibition of extant work and knowledge sharing seminar
Bringing artists together with anti-fracking activists, natural and social scientists, planners and legal practitioners. The exhibition and seminar will be both a physical and virtual event, providing content for a dedicated page on the Frack Free Wales website as well as for social media. We will also produce a cultural database around fracking in Wales, as well as documenting the event and capturing visitor feedback.
Timing: February/March 2015
Invitees to include: Arts Council Wales (ACW), g39; Chapter; Swansea (Mission Gallery); CCANW (http://www.ccanw.co.uk/soil-culture-forum.htm), Llandudno (Oriel Mostyn), Newtown (Oriel Davies), MOMA Wales, FoE Cymru, WWF Cymru, Centre for Alternative Technology; Climate Change Consortium for Wales…
Phase 2: Commissioning new works
Based on success of the mini-exhibition and seminar, we will apply for funding for research and development of new ideas and proposals from, say, 6 artists, musicians, writers etc. We work towards digital art/web/social media outputs, artist residencies and a larger touring exhibition.
If funding bid is successful, we anticipate a call out to artists in May/June 2015 with further funding applications to follow later in the year.
Frack Free Wales http://www.frackfreewales.org/ (NB site has links to local groups)
Borras and Holt Community Protection Camp https://www.facebook.com/groups/855723537795460/
FoE information on fracking, including FAQs http://www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/climate/issues/fracking_information_resources_41838
Brigitta Varadi http://brigittavaradi.squarespace.com/talk-about-fracking
Artists say ‘frack you’ http://uk.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1015321/artists-say-frack-you-to-government-with-anti-fracking
Artists Against Fracking http://www.mca.com.au/events/artists-against-fracking/
Expressions of interest/contact
Kelvin Mason & Adrian Plant, Banc Y Mor, Blaenplwyf, Aberystwyth SY23 4DW
Tel: 01970 610 185, Mobile 07817 596 285
adrianjamesplant at hotmail.co.uk
kelvin.john.mason at gmail.com