"I was planning to go to Green Monday at Preston New Road on Monday 18 September. I’d even worked out how to get there by train and bus. Back pain kept me at home and I listened to a programme on Radio 4 about choirs. It included reference to Greenham Common and the importance of music in peaceful protest. “I could do that” I thought and for the rest of the week I worked on writing frack free lyrics for songs I was already familiar with. By the end of the week, when I first arrived at the gates of the fracking well site at Kirkby Misperton (KM8) on Friday 22 September, I had written lyrics to four songs.
"I was familiar with the idea of using well-known tunes (the American campaigner Joe Hill is a notable example of someone who has done this) and started with “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes”. The refrain “there’ll be no more fracking anymore”, popped into my head and I wondered if I’d heard it before. I hadn’t: it was just that the tune was so familiar, as it is to lots of folk. What’s more, it is quite easy to pick up. There are five verses, all about the positive alternatives to fracking: [We’ll be] siting our wind turbines off the shore, getting power from sunshine evermore, using tidal power from now on, [And we’ll] insulate our houses so they’re warm, [We’ll be] re-using our plastic: stop the waste. It has become something of an anthem at the gate and I always sing it as a police escorted convoy of delivery lorries goes past. Protectors of all ages have sung it, from children to elders, sometimes in very fraught situations. Police officers have told me it has become an earworm for some in North Yorkshire Police!
"Pete Seeger is a particular inspiration for my generation and another song we sing at Minster Ukes is “Where have all the flowers gone”. So I’ve written four verses of frack free lyrics about what we will lose if the frackers have their way : clean air, fresh water, farm land, tourists.
"The ukulele group I play with (Minster Ukes) often sings “Don’t fence me in” so I had a go at writing frack free lyrics to this Cole Porter classic. I have to admit that, though somewhat more difficult to pick up than the others, it is the one I am most pleased with. The lyrics reflect the love I have for the county of my birth, Yorkshire (and they could just as easily be applied to the county of Lancashire: no War of the Roses here). “There’ll be no more fracking (anywhere)” to the tune of Frere Jacques is always popular with activists at KM8 and is of course lovely sung as a round (a police officer once asked for it as a request). I’m delighted to say it has often been sung when I haven’t been at the gates, helping people to keep going in the face of the inexorable progress of the lorries and the disproportionate and frequently heavy-handed police presence.
"I have visited the site every Tuesday since September 26 to sing, come what may. I hoped that making this a regular date (between 1100 and 1545) would encourage others to come along too and though this has not been as successful as I had hoped, there are always other activists who join in. The availability of a “Frack free songbook”, including laminated versions, certainly helps.
"Most people value the presence of singing at the gate and during slow walking. They refer to its ability to raise morale and keep the situation calm, all-important in maintaining the spirit of peaceful, non-violent protest that matters so much to us all."