Report of the Fuel Poverty Action Warm-Ups Weekend across the UK
Friday 27th – Monday 30th January saw hundreds of people in cities across the country come out of their cold homes to Warm-up together at the buildings and offices that house those responsible for fuel poverty and have left millions with a choice between heating and eating. The Warm-ups are just the beginning. Fuel Poverty Action will becontinuing to challenge the energy companies monopoly and the government’s complicity, and keeping up the push for an energy system that works for people’s needs, not corporate greed. For more information and updates about Fuel Poverty Action, check our website ( fuelpovertyaction.wordpress.com), follow us on Twitter @FuelPovAction and find us on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/v8pXT0). *LEWISHAM, LONDON: TOWN HALL* 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. After the peoples’ forum, people moved outside and got even more toasty around a bonfire of burning energy bills! LEEDS: COUNCIL OFFICES A group of a dozen activists from Leeds Fuel Poverty Action and local residents staged a Winter Warm Up protest 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. 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. SWINDON: NPOWER HQ A group of fuel poverty activists from Oxford played a game of giant-sized Corporate Monopoly right outside Npower Headquarters. Puzzled employees and passers-by received a flyer that outlined why they were there. The game demonstrated that we could all have a better, fairer energy system by managing affordable fuel for ourselves. On the other hand, 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 public interest and not for private gain. MANCHESTER: BILLBOARDS Billboards in Manchester were transformed in protest over the Big Six energy companies’ pricing and climate policies. LONDON: EDF HQ Anti-nuclear campaign group, Boycott EDF (http://boycottedf.org.uk/), targeted the UK headquarters of EDF Energy. 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 saying ‘EDF Energy: exploiting the poor, polluting the planet’. LONDON: RBS A dozen activists from the Energy, Equity and Environment group of Occupy London made themselves at home in a carpeted Fleet St branch of RBS, enjoying its leather chairs and even an open fire. They held an 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 also the biggest financial investor in fossil fuels. Death from fuel poverty and death from climate change were two sides of the same filthy RBS coin. CAMBRIDGE Anti-poverty campaigners from Cambridge performed a street theatre protest to call attention to the 5000 Cambridge households suffering from fuel poverty. The campaigners performed a short improvised sketch in which those dressed as large energy companies ‘beat up’ other campaigners dressed as the Earth and as local residents. They highlighted the predicted deaths of 2,700 people in the UK due to fuel poverty this winter, as well as the five-year record profit of over 700% per customer of the Big Six energy companies. HARINGEY: WOOD GREEN SHOPPING CITY Fifteen Haringey residents take part in the Warm Up action in Wood Green Shopping City mall. The Warm-up was organised by Haringey Solidarity Group, supported by Haringey Housing Action Group and the Haringey Alliance for Public Services. The activists set up an advice stall on the first floor, held banners reading ‘No More Deaths From Cold’ and ‘Gas Bills Kill – Fuel Poverty Action’, distributed 500 leaflets and created a friendly space to encourage people to come and sit and share free hot drinks and snacks. HACKNEY, LONDON: TOWN HALL Hackney residents warmed up at the Hackney Town Hall. Protestors gathered with their sleeping bags and duvets, joining thousands of other people nationwide accusing the government and energy companies of a “deadly obsession with making money.” STAINES: BRITISH GAS HQ Six activists barricaded themselves into meeting rooms on two floors of British Gas offices in Staines, Middlesex. For a short time they streamed the occupation live on the internet, with a ‘Heat or Eat’ comedy quiz played by the occupiers, and audience participation over Twitter. The Warm-ups brought a glimpse of the community action that will be needed to tackle the Big Six’s monopoly and the government’s complicity. The weekend came as part of a growing movement for energy democracy and energy justice, emerging across the world from Nigeria to Russia to Greece. As corporations continue their drive to extract profit at all costs and governments sit comfortably in their pockets, people are becoming ever more cold and ever more angry. Together, we will Warm-up and fight back!