There’s a famous piece of graffiti on a wall in Ceredigion that says ‘Remember Tryweryn’
The Welsh history I was taught at school didn’t wander as far as what happened when the Tryweryn Valley was flooded to provide a reservoir to serve Liverpool: But it’s a history lesson that’s been invoked often by people campaigning against the massive windfarm, power hub and pylon plans for upland Montgomeryshire, another power plan from outside Wales which would change the balance of the countryside..
On Wednesday, I stood in front of a camera and behind a crowd of 1500 people (a man with a special clicker counted them all in) – and probably fifteen hundred banners too – as they gathered to hear probably the most listened to council meeting in Powys history.
Two hours later, the council backed the motion: a call for a moratorium on large scale windfarm development.
And that, if you are a protestor, really was the easy bit. Because the target now – as the old war films used to say, is London. And the argument will have to be as strong as possible because it’ll have to sway the Department of Energy against their deadline – by 2020 we’re committed to providing a fifth of our energy from renewable sources.
The relationships have shifted in the past few months. This started out as a series of village hall meetings. It grew. After the protest in Cardiff Bay, it echoed down across the whole of Wales – not just a regional but now a national issue. On Wednesday, what the protestors banners read was played out in official form by a council who’ve now shifted the power game again. They say – think again, back to Cardiff.
But one warning about perspective. A protest with say 2000 people looks huge in Welshpool; and impressive enough to echo through Cardiff Bay.
In Westminster, you need to shout to get your voice heard above the traffic. With the protests from the anti-Iraq campaign to the May Day skirmishes – it isn’t an uncommon sight.
The grass roots movement that’s built in Powys in the last few months is an amazing example of how one issue can galvanize a series of communities.
Social media from Facebook to the humble e mail can turn a flash mob into a protest that resonates through the airwaves. But you can’t just turn up in London and tell people that you live somewhere that’s achingly beautiful and would you mind leaving it alone please. It can’t just become a battle of country versus town.
The momentum from Montgomeryshire is building: from what I’ve seen – humour works better than anger….so far, the protests have all been pleasant, good humoured, making a forceful point but not in a forceful way.
You can’t attack the rationale that the Department of Energy face with force: but maybe an outbreak of charm might swing people who’ve never heard of Montgomeryshire onside……as the man said, ‘Be kind, because we all face our battles’