Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Runway of dreams

Justine Hammond reports on five years of resistance to airport expansion

April 1, 2015
3 min read

grow-heathrowThe Grow Heathrow squat on the site identified for a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport celebrated its fifth birthday at the end of February. A weekend of activities around the theme of ‘past and present struggles’ ranged from seed sowing and swapping to ‘umbrella upcycling’ and political theatre. There were also cakes and speeches and live music into the early hours.

The longevity of Grow Heathrow is due to the remarkable efforts of a dedicated local, national and global community. Its roots lie in the climate camps. Climate Camp 2007 drew attention to the Heathrow villages struggling to defend themselves from the tarmac tsunami of the airport’s proposed third runway. Touched by the local community’s campaign, six friends moved into the village of Harlington in 2009 and joined the fight to save the villages from airport expansion.

Grow Heathrow has developed over time to also stand up against society’s experiences of disempowerment – for example, by offering short-term respite for homeless people who pass through the area, or caring for burnt-out activists who have been brutalised by bailiffs. As with any other squatted community, we know that no matter how much love and labour we put into the land we live on to heal a history of neglect, someone else owns our homes. Indeed, the white noise of court cases has long mingled with the drone of the surrounding motorways and aeroplanes churning the sky. The legal arguments culminated in a possession order issued through the Court of Appeal in 2013. This was followed with an eviction notice that was due to be enforced in August 2014 but hasn’t yet.

Since then, Grow Heathrow has entered a new era of activism, filling the autumn and winter with exciting workshops in our multi‑themed education and activity‑centred ‘Shazzam’ programme. The sheer energy and diversity of Shazzam allowed us to refocus on promoting a positive message about sustainable living. Whether it was web design, constructing things from hemp, building a bike‑powered washing machine or lessons in permaculture, visitors were able to learn about sustainable living and attend otherwise unaffordable courses for free, with the cost of materials as an optional donation if we are unable to upcycle materials.

Grow Heathrow’s gate opens for any friendly visitor. We enjoy the magic that each new person brings. Innovative buildings pop up like blossoms reflecting the initiative taken by new people moving onto the site. The ingenious ways people build give an artistic flair to the spontaneous designs. Grow Heathrow did not begin life so pleasing to the eye; the community cleared all the pollution and litter to make the space clean for humans and nature. Now, preserving the natural habitat is a priority and building plans are carefully implemented to respect this.

Our fifth birthday party was a celebration of our own work and an expression of gratitude to the historic struggles that have contributed to the freedoms we enjoy today. We will continue to fight to save the land, our home, and this place of peace and education as a tribute to them.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced