I’ve been involved with the struggle against HS2 for a while now, and spent a year living on and off protest camps in woodlands that Hs2 have now destroyed/cut off access to, in between community organising in my hometown, Hull. Being part of this movement has shown me the importance of building a resillient community that can rely less and less on govermental systems (we need to create alternatives, not just ‘smash the system’!). Our government is willing to spend Billions on destructive megaprojects that harm us on so many levels, when people are suffering from lack of access to good food, mental health servies, shelter, land, meaningingful work, etc. We need to find ways to look after each other, share skills and knowledge and learn and develop alternatives to systems and practices that harm us.
I draw a lot – whatever’s going on around me – including snippets of conversations that are happening. I draw to document what’s going on (people’s lives, the funny/mundane moments and the devastation and inequality that we’re confronted with regularly), to try to create a platform for unheard voices. I like to work in fabric, collecting old clothes, bedsheets, curtains ect, making collages of drawings i’ve done. I stitch these together on a machine and add paint.
The 3 collections of artworks are from my time living on protest camps and travelling up the line talking to people affected by Hs2 in their homes, between April 2020 and June 2021.
Since then i have made a comic called ‘GRAB LAND BACK’ which looks at HS2, the resistance against it, and puts it in the context of the history of land privatisation, class oppression, and the justice system.
You can have a look HERE
Sketches of the HS2 Protest Camps
May 2020-June 2021
These camps are made up of people that reject society’s norms/ have been failed by the system, want something different, better, more loving and fair. How can we create the sort of living that allows people to really love and nurture those wild spaces and each other, whilst facing and fighting these megaprojects?
There have been countless meaningful moments, where we have dipped our toes into this possibility.
There is playfulness and freedom in the spaces we sleep and eat; treehouses, shacks and barns- higgledy piggleydy or measured and straight, bodged, bashed, weaved together from pallets, skipped windows, donated bits and bobs. To build your own home out of nothing is a wonderful thing! Meals cooked around a fire from skipped and donated bits, songs shared, rewrote, sang like anthems. Ideas & skills shared, carving, strategy, climbing, wrestling, abolition, land law, self defence, consent, building, drawing; lets build a school, a tower, a curry.
The same faces popping up and down the line, people from different places, backgrounds & movements, mostly getting along. These camps are a lot of peoples first experience of community living. They’re far from perfect but they can be good.
It’s proved pretty hard to create alternative, nourishing (for people AND land) and ‘long-term thinking’ ways of living when the bailiffs are on your back and the laws are against you; how can we think long term when too much is happening ‘right now!’? You don’t have much extra energy for public engagement and community building while trying to stay warm/rebuild a home. There’s little capacity to address and understand your own/or others trauma when your full-up trying to understand the legal and convoluted language of the justice system. Living on these camps can feels like a game of cat and mouse, being chased up the line.
Thankfully, creativity and joy persist despite extractivism, and bonds made outlive the camps. The same faces in different places. Opinions mature/change, different tactics, slowing down, learning from others. Understanding what doesn’t work and what may. A little wiser. Setting up spaces in new places. I have about 20 more numbers in my phone.
Sketches of those who live along the HS2 route in houses, fighting for their communities and futures.
May 2020- June 2021
It’s not just forests that will be damaged/destroyed, its people’s homes, livelihoods, and communities too! During the autumn and winter of 2020 a couple of us went to find people along the line who were affected by HS2 works. We didn’t actually manage to speak to anyone who had had their homes compulsory purchased by, most of those people signed non disclosure agreements, aka ‘gagging orders’, refusal to do so would mean no compensation!
Those we did meet had their own set of problems; dust and noise pollution, cracking walls, losing neighbours and landscapes and being left in the dark by HS2. Despite this, we found people organising in their communities, growing closer despite their struggles. We found determination, anger, humor, sadness and warmth.
AFTER THE NIGHT SHIFT (2021)
‘After the night shift’- a portrait of a friend at Jones Hill protection camp, asleep in a chair after a night on bailiff lookout. This person was a massive part of the community of Jones Hill woods, and did a lot of washing up after people and night shifts on look out- thank you! The police took out a personal injunction against him meaning he couldn’t go within 25 meters of HS2 work, which included his home! Why are the police spending masses of money doing the work of HS2?
BE MORE CAREFUL (2021)
‘Be more careful’ – a portrait of Sarah Green who co-started the first protection camp – Harvil road – where she lived for over a year. Along with many others, Sarah’s livelihood suffered at the hands of HS2- she used to take people up and down the stunning canal on her boat. Sarah has campaigned tirelessly for years against HS2, specifically the contamination by HS2 of London’s drinking water!
OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE (2021)
‘Other side of the fence’- a HS2 worker explains his relationship to his job, “…we’ve seen shit to get here, hella things, this is the only job I can get right now, I need this job…”. In the heat of conflict there can be a tendency to see the workers as ‘baddies’. It’s understandable when you consider the devastation and loss of homes caused by Hs2, but their frontline workers are suffering the same racist, classist oppression and economic pressures that people are protesting against.