The 6 Tolpuddle Martyrs remembered

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with a wreath to lay at the grave of James Hammett

Thousands of trades unionists and their families descended on the tiny Dorset village of Tolpuddle, near Dorchester, in July, to celebrate the lives of the six famous farmworkers from the village. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported to Australia in 1834 for administering a secret oath amongst themsleves as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural

Unison members and band on the march through Tolpuddle

Labourers . An early form of a trade union, the Society was in fact legal, but in the eyes of the local landowners and of Squire James Frampton in particular, their real crime was to have formed a trade union to protest about their meagre pay of 6 shillings a week and to resist it being reduced even further.

With the Swing Rebellion fresh in their minds, the ruling classes were determined to stamp out any form of organised labour ,or sedition as they called it. Spies were employed to get information about the six and the local landowners even sought the advice of Lord Melbourne the Home Secretary in London. The martyrs were sentenced to be transported to Australia for 7 years.

Transportation was brutal, and few ever returned from such a sentence as the long harsh voyage in hulks and the rigours of slavery took their toll. But after the sentence, the working class rose up in support of the six. An 800,000-strong petition was handed in to Parliament and a huge demonstration marched through London. The new trade union movement sustained the families of the men with voluntary donations, and after three years, the government relented and the men returned home with free pardons as heroes.

All the big unions, Unite, Unison, GMB, RMT, NUT, NASWT, ASLEF had large delegations, led in many cases by bands, at the festival. And there were many other smaller delegations. There was also a big contingent from the Kurdish communities in Britain who came with banners, placards, flags and two giant balloons to join in the procession past the thatched cottages of the village. They were demanding freedom for Abdullah Ocalan, a Kurdish leader and one of the founding members of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party, that has been fighting for a separate Kurdish state. Ocalan, who was captured in Kenya in 1999 with the help of the CIA has been held in a Turkish jail since the turn of the century. He remains a leader and is currently putting forward a new initiative for a political solution.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, laid a wreath at the grave of James Hammett, who was the only one of the six to return and live in Tolpuddle. Corbyn gave the main speech in front of the Martyrs cottages, outlining the measures that a Labour government would take to reverse the years of Tory austerity.

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Hebden Bridge Land Justice Network camp 10-13 May 2019 Impressions of the action camp on the grouse moors

By Dave Dewhurst

Ever come back from an event, met someone who was there too, and it’s alternative reality?

For me it was brilliant, mostly.

Since 2017 LJN had quietly debated and researched where the best place was to have a land occupation and effectively show up the farce of English land control. A lot of explorers got muddy. Warley Moor rose out of the mists. Hebden Bridge locals said that its owner, with twenty-five square miles of grouse moor to their north, was regularly flooding them. The RSPB and others had already sued against burning the moor for the grouse (highland chickens) between their release from domestic pens and getting riddled with lead shot. Richard Banister, owner of the Boundary Mill discount store chain, had spent a million for a mob-handed team of barristers to defend himself – successfully.

Grouse moors are ecologically hazardous and problematic on many levels. They have an online reputation level with ocean plastic. If you worry about your blood pressure don’t search it.

The protestor’s problem with them is that they have poor public transport links and dropping a campsite there has ecological issues. So you really want a nearby grass field, and if you are going to supply over a hundred people for a Friday to Monday weekend you want heavy duty vehicles too – at least a minibus.
On the Thursday an advance team brought in big tents and supplies. I’d borrowed my mum’s Nissan Micra and met the minibus at the nearest car park (Hardcastle Crags – scenery ***** ). I followed the minibus with my cargo of banners, sphagnum moss and some boxes. Soon we passed the National Trust notice saying, ‘Authorised Vehicles Only.’ As a Member I decided to authorise myself.


I have often wondered how occupations like ‘Reclaim the Power’ might persuade a farmer that their field is just right for their purpose. Being there helps. I guess charm, clarity and a clear departure date contribute too. And you’re not going to choose a site where livestock and humans would threaten each another. But the tenant farmer will have a landowner who sees things more starkly. They seem to line up with Marx about inevitable class conflict. We have to choose who we upset least. Protesting about an inconvenient reality is inconvenient.

The geography from Hardcastle Crags to two kilometres north is increasingly rugged. Ahead was a farmhouse with dogs and double gates across the path. I hid (I think) the transport behind a wall and continued with rucksack, pop-up tent, furled banners, a box and our eight metre New Putney Debates timeline trying to look legitimate. It worked with the dogs, and after quarter of a mile I found an abandoned wheelbarrow with some camp-like stuff in it. This implied I was on the right track and let me ferry my burden less like a Mr Bean tribute act.

Just short of the camp was an average one-in-two, rock-strewn slope probably designed to test camels, so I was impressed to see the main tents up, one big enough for a circus. Respect to everyone for just negotiating their own baggage there, even more to those with the energy to trundle in water, food and all the gear for over a hundred people over a long weekend. On Friday night there were already over sixty tents.

The first evening’s entertainments were the usual obscure (to me) and brilliant performers plus the famous Commoners’ Choir. (Yeah, this is meant to get you to search it.) As there was a no drugs policy and limited alcohol (I know) it is a tribute that they achieved the usual merging with humanity euphoria supposed otherwise to be exclusive to religion and football.

Most workshops ran in pairs throughout Saturday. – Land Reform in Scotland, Hunt Saboteuring, Farming and Food Sovereignty, Ending Public Land sell-offs, Political Parties’ statements on Land Reform, Greening Rojeva, art etc. When you’re performing it’s hard to remember or absorb which bits who in the rest of the line-up delivered, and it all merges into an unattributed revision of political ‘common sense’ and a collective high. Trawling our website & LJN’s gives you the gist. As Lao Tsu almost said, the best workshops have you thinking that you figured it out for yourself. I remember the NEF talk on the economics of housing complemented the joint session with David King and myself; we were working towards a consensus on necessary land reform legislation.

We billed it as ‘identifying priorities for action’ so as not to scare people who thought drafting parliamentary legislation wasn’t utterly joyful. Trouble is when you’ve got thirty-five bright committed people in a circus top – all ages, multinational–they’ll be on different squares and not all in the same game. To start with a vote on our menu of 18 reforms which we’d elicited (or inserted) in earlier consultations would be cargo-cult democracy.

Before you start a topic, teachers and trainers are told to find out what the group knows or believes already. The collective intelligence of the audience is more than the platform – but it can embrace more nonsense as well if you just add the lot up. It’s easier for the platform (actually David and I squatted on the ground too) if people feel faintly ignorant; it’s harder if they’ve already found magic bullets (Land Value Tax, land nationalisation, veganism ..) that you have nuances over (especially as they might be more right than you are).

So facilitators try to modify the control and teaching model of political education to something like ushering or herding but have the implicit fear of being stampeded. The full democracy feature is tricky. Equal air-time just doesn’t happen for groups over seven; the number of direct, one-to-one links between thirty-five people is 595 (for 1000 it’s 499,500). But hey, our tribes negotiated this for millennia before oligarchy set in; even Machiavelli said democracies work better, just about.

Tentatively we started with a ‘go-round’ giving people a sentence to introduce themselves and say why they were here. Next, we told people to get into groups of five with people they didn’t know already, and many of them did. We handed the seven groups our eighteen-point list to discuss, enlarge, ignore or prioritise. For twenty-five minutes David and I hovered, looking wise, and got ourselves tea.

The feedback was far too good to summarise neatly. The points were all affirmed pretty much. Land Reform from the Ground Up If we agree that we want to work towards a situation where land is used and managed for the common good what do we need to do?

  1. Community, co-operative, non-profit organisation Right to Buy, with Land Fund.
  2. Right to roam and access for non-motorised recreation in rural areas, limit private space in urban areas.
  3. Land in public hands: Stop sale of public land to developers and use this land for the common good, e.g. public housing, gardens, farms, co-operatives, end right to buy for individuals.
  4. Agricultural tenants’ right to buy? Or encourage co-operative farms?
  5. Food strategy for local authorities including the provision of more allotments.
  6. Challenge large landholdings: limit the amount a landowner can own, taxation to make it less viable to own large tracts of land.
  7. Establish a Land Commission with an aim to promote land reform and develop a land use strategy.
  8. Democratise land decision-making, e.g. landowner engagement and community planning. Make it easier for communities to participate in planning and to challenge decisions.
  9. Reform subsidy system so that it encourages smaller farms.
  10. Tax incentives or penalties to deliver public environmental benefits on all land, e.g. agriculture based on agro-ecology principles, preservation of wild land, peat bog restoration, afforestation, limit grouse moors.
  11. Stabilise the price of land by limiting speculation or investment demand, e.g. land banking, hoarding and taking up options, buy to leave, buy to let, higher taxes on investment properties and second homes, change inheritance tax in agriculture so that it is not exempt
  12. Decriminalise squatting.
  13.  Rent controls and tenants’ rights.
  14.  Land value tax on empty, derelict or unused buildings, e.g. empty homes and land to discourage unproductive land use.
  15. Taxation to capture increases in land value.
  16. Free and easy to use land registry so that anyone can see who owns or has a controlling interest in land.
  17. Tax incentives and subsidies to promote land use that benefits the wider community, e.g. get rid of any subsidies or exemptions for sporting estates
    Residency requirement for ownership of land and/or banning ownership of land by companies based (and or beneficially owned) in tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions
  18. Other?

Unusually, nobody had a strop for or against Land Value Tax. The most memorable ‘Other’ was ‘Massive Rewilding’. Different clusters of points got prioritised. One group hardened the language. Some began to unpack the details. One reminded us of the waterways in ‘right to roam’. Another reminded us that instilling and protecting legislative changes was a mass cultural enterprise and that who actually sat on the Land Commission was crucial. No dukes wanted.

People were gratifyingly enthusiastic and stayed talking at the end even though the hail had stopped. In one promo draft I had written, ‘Expect to leave both clearer and more confused’ – which I bottled and changed to ‘critical’. Either way I reckon we all did. If you’ve really got the grit to get in the water now check the joint LJN/Monbiot document commissioned by John McDonnell and hopefully to be endorsed by other parties. It’s good stuff but more to think through.

Then there was Sunday, and it was. This was mostly a walk on the moors. We’d hoped to elevate the ecosystem by planting the sphagnum moss but technical questions, like the right time of year, suspended this. We toured the grouse moor noting the amazing number of traps around designed to kill anything else that might kill grouse apart from humans. What the moral response is when encountering usually painful instruments of death you can imagine.

Basically I had a lovely walk, except that at some remote promontory two of the group broke into an argument about transgender rights. As it looked like this could go on for hours my fell-walker safety training internally cried out, ‘For God’s sake get the group somewhere safe; then sort it.’

You listen. You hope you’re learning. You wonder if you could intervene to get a more constructive tone. I shut up….and walked on. Eventually the group moved. Different people later evidenced various stress,– or anger? Certainly uncertainty.

There are only so many competing narratives where you’ve time to think it through yourself. Earlier discussions and decisions had preceded the outbreak. There was brief debate at the last morning assembly on Monday, with I suspect, more people concerned about the logistics of getting away. Mostly we await the contemporary consensus. I can say nothing dispositive (good word, check it). You can glean perspectives on line if it’s actually going to change your stance. Human rights and responsibilities are crucial; land rights are part of that. There’s no consensus without all parties feeling they are really heard. Otherwise oligarchy wins. Figure what you will do best.

What other realities were there? Austerity seems to be making the police a threatened species but there were sightings. People were assigned to talk to them. They went away. They came back and no one wanted to talk. They went away. I don’t know. I guess deploying hordes to a moor is down to the landowners following the privatisation agenda.

The entertainments schedule diverged a little due to a social media squall, but most of us were oblivious, conserving our batteries. A row arose about the plight of the tenant farmer whose field we used. People claimed that the land owner was some peer, not Mr. Bannister. As the ownership is still not publicly registered you can only make your best guess. Various people saw it as unfair on the farmer. My feeling is that it was a lot less hassle than being a tenant and having to comply with your boss. How would you make effective protest convenient?

Two of us had a brilliant swim towards the end of the fell walk, doubtless made more brilliant by its stress cure virtue. I hope we’ve brought the world closer to land justice but the vibe that stays strongest is the great human beings (and occasional dog) you encounter, agree to contact and do things later, and sometimes actually do.

My appreciation to the farmer (and possibly sheep) who shared their field. He probably didn’t need us to say we would leave more fluently if the blockades were shifted. The clear-up was meticulous. I’d planned an extra night to help clear up but it was fast enough to leave it to the core crew, for whom also mega appreciation.

They made a wicked omelette.

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Austerity, ‘Banner Theatre’ Group

October 15th 7:30pm: Austerity, ‘Banner Theatre’ Group (performance & discussion)

The Banner Theatre was established some 40 years ago and tours the country with shows about political issues and this event is about Austerity, the Cuts and the dismantling of the NHS. Agitating, Educating and Propagating has been a most successful tactic for change but, in recent years, we have forgotten this. The Banner Theatre is agit-prop at its best and after the performance there will be a lively debate.

Waltham Forest Town Hall, Forest Rd, Walthamstow, Greater London E17 4JF

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Trade Treaties

This event took place on Saturday November 1st at friend’s house Euston Road. Videos from this event can be found below…

TTIP: A shot in the arm for the global economy or the destruction of the NHS and the end to Democracy?

Date & Time: Saturday November 1st, 4.30pm.

Venue: Bloomsbury Suite, Ground Floor, Friends House, 173 Euston Road NW1 2BJ.

Amongst the questions to be discussed by the eminent panel are:

What is TTIP? How does it affect democracy? What is the trade agenda of the EU? How did we get to this point? What’s the role of the financial services industry in EU trade deals?
How about our public services and the NHS? What about the environment?
How can we act defend to ourselves?


Glyn Moody is a technology writer. He is best known for his book Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution (2001). It describes the evolution and significance of the free software and open source movements with many interviews of all the notable hackers.He works in London and his writings have appeared in Wired, Computer Weekly, LinuxJournal, The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, The Economist and Financial Times, among others

Sam Lowe works for Friends of the Earth (Land Use, Food and Water Security programme). He Campaigns on issues surrounding financial sector investment in land as well as spearheading Friends of the Earth’s work on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Occasional economics.

Dr Lucy Reynolds is an academic in health policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health Her interests include the way healthcare system structure, financing and health outcomes interact.She previously worked in the City as an accountant and has first hand knowledge of privatisation.

Linda Kaucher is a long-time researcher on international trade. With Masters degrees in Journalism and in Human Geography, from Australia and the London School of Economics, and a broad background as an educator, she campaigns to take the lid off trade secrecy. She has written articles for the Morning Star and submissions to government consultations. She was invited by the EU Trade Commission to make a presentation to its civil society dialogue on services trade. She founded StopTTIP (UK)


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Finale event – Re-making Democracy

This  event was held on Sunday 16 November, 1pm, St Mary’s Church, High Street, Putney, SW15 1SN,  A video of this event is below…

Ultimate participative event exploring how can we re-constitute a society to create a real democracy. With speakers setting the scene from the Scottish Radical Independence Campaign, Iceland’s pots & pans revolution, Spanish Podemos party for democracy , and Kurdish self government, followed by a participative discussion using Open Space Technology. Held in the same venue as the original debates in 1647 when soldiers and officers of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, including civilian representatives of the Levellers, held discussions on the constitution and future of England.Speakers:

Sirio Canos, Podemos Party. Podemos is now topping the polls in Spain . Sirio, based in the London Branch, will talk about citizen in involvement in Podemos.

Neil Davidson, Radical Independence Campaign & lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow will talk about the incredible mobilisation of citizens in the recent Scottish independence campaign.

Memed Aksoy, Kurdish People’s Assembly, will talk about the Rojava Revolution and Radical Democracy.

Gunner Grimsson, Better Reykjavik, will talk about Direct Democracy , the Icelandic Pots & Pans revolution and crowd sourcing a constitution.

Venue – St Mary’s Church, High Street, Putney, SW15 1SN

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Charter of the Forest, Rewilding & For the love of trees

This event took place on 6th November 7pm at event Space, white building, Queens Yard, whitepost lane, London, E9 5EN. A video of this event can be found below…

Saturday 6th November, 7pm – Thursday 6 November Charter of the Forest
A celebration of the anniversary of The Charter of the Forest, which was first issued on 6 November 1217 as a complementary charter to the Magna Carta. This gave commoning rights to common people in England’s forest, heaths and chases. The evening will start with a talk by Ben Cowell, Regional Director , National Trust & trustee of  Our Democratic Heritage , on The Charter of the Forests, the Magna Carta, and the New Commons, followed by : Rewilding, a performance workshop by The FLOCK/ Grow Art Collective and end with For the love of trees: a short dramatic monologue by Natasha Langridge
Attendance is free but signing up for a ticket here will give the organisers an idea of audience numbers


Ben Cowell on The Charter of the Forest: Then and Now

Henry III’s Charter of the Forest was issued on 6 November 1217, as an adjunct to the reissued Great Charter of Liberties. Indeed, it was in order to differentiate the Charter of the Forest from the Charter of Liberties that the latter gained the name ‘Magna Carta’, being the longer of the two documents. Several of the liberties reaffirmed in the Charter of the Forest dated from the first version of Magna Carta, sealed by Henry’s father King John in June 1215. The Charter of the Forest, however, dealt exclusively with the rights and liberties that the king’s subjects held over land, in particular the open forests, heaths, commons and wastes that had multiple uses in the medieval economy.The Charter of the Forest therefore disclosed a customary relationship with the natural world, which by and large was extinguished in the centuries that followed as a consequence of enclosure, urbanisation and industrialisation. What lessons might we learn today from the Charter of the Forest, and the reassertion of a more communal and collaborative approach to the custodianship of our precious natural resources?Ben Cowell is Regional Director for the National Trust in the East of England, and a trustee of Our Democratic Heritage and The Heritage Alliance.

Rewilding – a performance workshop by The FLOCK/ Grow Art collective. 

Re-wilding – a workshop/performance on the dynamic between the space of a city and the space of nature. Through a combination of intuitive and guided movements, this workshop will explore the inherent dynamics of the two spaces and how they are felt through the individual body as well as the body of the group. The exploration is done at a primal and intuitive level and all participants are welcome, there is no requirement of previous movement/theatre experience.

Grow Art Collective

Natasha Langridge will give a reading from an extract of her monologue – For the Love of Trees:

If I look outside my window to the left cranes and drills are in my face. I could touch the builders if I stretched out far enough. I don’t. I look to my right. And down. Into the little park. A Cherry tree is just beneath me. And beneath that a bench. Where city lovers steal a kiss in the chaos of London mornings, where Moroccan elders meet their sons to light up a Tagine for lunch, where a Granny hands out the best supermarket deals of the day as birds sing of other day to day stuff. I am still writing about my lost lover. Until one day at half past three. The bulldozers thunder into the green.  Men in orange jackets section the park into three. The Mayor of London logo blazes.  In the space of one hour eight trees are chopped to stumps. Diggers turn the grass to rubble. A black bird sings wildly. A crane moves stealthily towards the cherry tree…

One woman’s personal experience of regeneration.    

Venue: Event space (upstairs), The White Building, Queens Yard, White Post Lane, London, E9 5EN.
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Debt resistance

This event was held on Tuesday 4th November, 7pm at the Brunei Building, SOAS, Russell Square London WC1H 0XG. A video of this event is below…

PUTNEY DEBATE: Unsettling Debt: What does Debt Resistance mean in the UK

From PFI contracts that make hospitals three times as expensive as public funding would, to the bubble in the housing sector, from graduates’ average debt burdens of £44,000, to unpayable energy bills …debt affects all aspects of our lives.

Be it private, national or local government, debt is one of the neoliberal system’s most powerful tools to discipline us.

But together, we can overcome the shame attached and the idea that you need to be an expert to understand what is happening.

Together we can start building strategies for resistance.

As part of Occupy London’s New Putney Debates, Debt Resistance UK is inviting you to an evening of discussion to hear more, share your stories on debt and explore possibilities for collective action.

Carl Packman – Payday Loans
Claire Welton – Fuel Poverty
Mary Robertson – Housing Debt
Joel Benjamin – Local Government Debt
Jonathan Stevenson – National Debt
Fanny Malinen – Student Debt

We are a London-based group dedicated to challenging the narrative of debt injustice as inevitable and apolitical.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Room B102, Brunei Building, SOAS
Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG

Invite people on Facebook:


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Basic income, Democratising money & Social Security

This  event was held on  Thursday 30th October, 7pm, at Institute of Education students union, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL. A video of this event is below…

Basic income, Democratising money & Social Security

Barb Jacobson (Basic Income UK), Duncan McCann (NEF) and Ben Baumberg (Kent University)

Barb Jacobsen

Coordinator of the European Citizens’ Initiative in the UK. And author of Basic Income UK a group promoting an unconditional basic income as a progressive policy towards an emancipatory welfare state for the UK and beyond.

“Unconditional basic income, a regular payment to each individual without work or other requirements, is an old idea which has come back into prominence this past year. Not just about technological unemployment, it affirms everyone’s right to exist, to participate in society and to do work the market doesn’t pay for.”

Duncan McCann

Duncan works as a researcher at NEF working on issues of monetary reform, complementary currencies and financial system innovation.

“Money should be created as a public utility with all the benefits of that process accruing to the people rather than commercial banks who currently create about 97% of the money that we use in the economy. Returning money to a public utility would have a number of benefits including reducing asset price bubbles, improve economic stability, reduce overall debt, reduce pressures on constant economic growth and eliminate banks runs and bank subsidies.”

Please click here for more information.

Ben Baumberg: “Social Security: towards a ‘real utopia'”

Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Kent. Ben also helped set up the collaborative research blog Inequalities, where he regularly writes articles and short blog posts. He has a wide range of research interests, currently focusing on disability, the workplace, inequality, deservingness and the future of the benefits system, and the relationship between evidence and policy.

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Extreme Energy and Sustainable Alternatives

This event was held on Saturday, November 8th, The Elizabeth Fry Suite, Friends House, Euston Road, London. A video of this event is below…

Occupy London Putney Debates 2014  present an afternoon seminar on extreme energy and sustainable and equitable alternatives on Saturday, November 8th from 12.00 to 5.00 p.m. in The Elizabeth Fry Suite, Friends House, Euston Road, London

Commencing with the recent report by Corporatewatch entitled To The Ends of The Earth, we will examine the desperate and harmful lengths that governments and mining and energy companies will go to, to extract fuel, both fossil and organic, so that they can maintain their profits and support our wasteful and reckless habits.

We will then move on to examine community resistance and socially viable alternatives to the lethal neo-liberal model of energy provision.

12.00 – 1.30 p.m.
Chris Kitchen, Director of Corporatewatch, will lead a workshop based on the recent Corporatewatch report, To The Ends of The Earth: A Guide to Unconventional Fossil Fuels

1.30 – 1.45 p.m.
Break for refreshments

1.45 – 1.50 p.m.

Pete Deane from Biofuelwatch will present a film entitled Biomass Emergency and will talk about the scourge of biomass energy generation and biofuels.
1.50  – 2.15 p.m.
Film – Biomass Emergency
2.15 – 2.30 p.m.
Suzanne Dhaliwal, co-founder of UK Tar Sands Network will present a talk on tar sands extraction and issues around climate justice.
2.30 – 2.45 p.m.
Questions and comments from the floor

2.45 – 3.00 p.m.

Break for refreshments

3.00 – 3.05 p.m.

Philip Davidson will present his film Autumn Diary, about the Balcombe community resistance to Cuadrilla’s local fracking operation last year.
3.05 – 3.35 p.m.
Film – An Autumn Diary
3.35 – 3.50 p.m.
Tisha Brown from Frack Off London will talk about resistance to fracking in the U.K.
3.50 – 4.05 p.m.
Campaign Against Climate Change will speak about the Million Climate Jobs booklet and the Time To Act campaign
4.05 – 4.20 p.m.
Fuel Poverty Action will make a presentation about the Energy Bill of Rights
4.20 – 5.00 p.m.
Questions from the floor
Ends 5.00

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