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Main | July 2005 »

Diverging tracks

Morning all – or, if not all, Steven. I am one of Open Democracy's team of crack reporters (the one in the tent, by the way) heading for Gleneagles to cover the G8 summit and attendant protests.

Thankfully, I have had no need of dealings with Virgin to set up my trip north. Eschewing the ever-fragrant Branson, I have booked my ticket with the Thin Controller, the famished co-ordinator of Globalise Resistance’s train to Edinburgh. The chartered train will be slow, and, as Network Rail could not guarantee the buffet would be free of Coca-Cola and Nestle products, without refreshment. That, of course, is not a problem – if anything, it will leave less for the Scottish midges to feast upon (and, as several corpulent Ecuadorian mosquitoes will testify, that will be me).

Many of those who take their seat on the train on Friday were in evidence at the London School of Economics on Tuesday. At a Make the G8 History rally, the battle lines for the G8 protests were drawn. Not the battle lines between eight of the world’s best financially endowed leaders and the 5,999,999,992 whose lives their decisions will influence, but between competing visions of how civil society should position itself as it peeks upon the mighty from the long grass of the Gleneagles rough.

There will be myriad camps fashioned in and around Edinburgh, Glasgow and Gleneagles over the coming days. Some are already there – including the Dissent! rural convergence space, a microcosm of a utopian world of autonomous communities. Figuratively, there are two camps, roughly defined as those who think Richard Curtis is a good egg and those who consider him, Bono and Bob Geldof as the spangle veneers for the government’s We Love Africans, We Do PR blitz. At the LSE event, run by War on Want, Red Pepper and the World Development Movement, punters were largely of the latter persuasion. Oxfam, Curtis and the other big cheeses of Make Poverty History had drifted so close to Gordon Brown’s neo-liberal development agenda, they argued, that the movement had ceased to be a cry for justice and become a begging whimper.

So, are we to close the Group of Eight down or big it up? Is it the catalyst of hope for the global south or the cat o’ eight tails with which the planet’s poor are gratuitously scourged by the West? Will the feedback from Live 8 drown out the Africans, Latin Americans and Asians who say they are being co-opted in to Make Poverty History and all the conditionality and skewed trade it now appears to endorse? Will Steven escape his Welshian nightmare? We shall see.

June 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)



To Edinburgh!

Hello everyone,

Unless I'm looking at this wrong, it seems no-one else has yet found it in their hearts to try and bore you to death on this blog. I didn't want to be the first, but it seems I have no choice.

I guess an introduction is necessary, but I'll be damned if I can be bothered putting it into sentences.
Name: Steven Heywood
Age: Nineteen
Occupation: English student at Birmingham University
G8 Location: A campsite somewhere near Stirling
Politics: Green party member for almost a year

It was suggested that my planning for the G8 might throw up some 'amusing' anecdotes, which could be used to furnish this blog for the first few days. Depends on your definition of amusing, I suppose, but personally I find nothing funny about my transport arrangements to and from Scotland.

On the second of July I will be taking a coach up to Edinburgh from the Birmingham University Guild of Students. This is only about a seven hour journey, if the traffic's good (and who else is gonna be going to Edinburgh on that day, hm?). The coach leaves at 4AM. The Guild is approximately ten miles away from my house. So: I have to sleep on someone else's floor and get up no later than half three in the morning in order to give myself deep vein thrombosis on a coach full of Birmingham University students. These world leaders damn well better do something after this.

Of course, this would be so much easier by train (maybe I just don't catch the right ones, but I have never suffered a significant delay while waiting for a train. Truly I am blessed.), but as much as two weeks ago the cheapest return tickets between Birmingham and Edinburgh were £58, and as a student I was more inclined to take a long and torturous, but slightly cheaper, journey instead. And, after a nasty but thankfully not fatal experience with the Virgin Trains  ticket booking website (when the revolution takes place, Branson will be the first against the wall), I'm going both ways for a mere £35, so I think I'll be having the last laugh, although it does mean going to Glasgow so maybe the positives are balanced out by the negatives after all.

The return journey means making it from my campsite to Glasgow before 6:20PM on the eighth of July. I will almost certainly set out towards that hallowed city of rubbish football teams  at about half eight in the morning, "just to make sure". I will arrive six hours before my train does, and will spend the time drinking copious amounts of tea , which means when I visit the toilet at six I'll still be urinating as my train pulls out of the station. I will thus be stranded in Glasgow forever, and as my entire experience of the city comes from Trainspotting  I will probably curl up on the floor and mutter something about dead babies on the ceiling. I imagine nobody will notice.

June 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)



openDemocracy blogs the G8

Welcome to openDemocracy's G8 blog for news and views on the 2005 summit. As part of our debate on G8: power, protest, publicity, we host the voices of those who have trekked north to Scotland to observe the action firsthand. From student activists to charity lobbyists, kitchen porters to oD's own Tom Burgis, we will be hearing from people on the ground in Edinburgh, Auchterarder, and the Gleneagles estate itself.

Our bloggers will give their impressions of the summit and the fringe, the city, the country, the faces to watch and places to be, and maybe even provide a taster of what Tony Blair, George Bush et al will be having for their tea ...

This week sees what is fast turning into Edinburgh's first international festival of the summer really kick-off, with hundreds of demonstrations, carnivals, hikes, blockades, rallies, parades, protests and lectures taking place all over the city and its environs.

Scanning some of the venues and activities, one could be forgiven for thinking the fringe had started a month early: late night comedy in Potterow (Edinburgh University's student union bar) becomes late night "reson8" band night and Shakespeare makes way for "globalisation theatre" at the Royal Lyceum.

Also echoing Edinburgh's annual arts festival is a clear division between the core elite (have pre-booked tickets, stay in a plush hotel, always see the big US star of the year) and the "hard-corps" (sleep on mate's floor, blag their way into as many events as possible, not impressed by US star du jour).

But can it all really be just about the carnival atmosphere? The British government - and Tony Blair in particular - seem to have staked their political reputation on "saving" Africa - and then the planet. But with all the hype surrounding saint Bob and his pop saviours, white wristbands, and Making Poverty History, how much do we really know about the proposed aid deal to Africa (and is it enough), who is really driving the agenda (and can they be held accountable) and most importantly, is there any hope that anything concrete will be achieved by 8 men in 2 days in an exclusive hotel in Perthshire?

openDemocracy's authors find out ...

In the run-up to the summit, openDemocracy has run article debates on the "Politics of Climate Change", and "Africa & Democracy" that discussed many of these issues in more depth. In particular: Michael Holman on the role of NGOs, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe on arms sales to Africa, and Ian McEwan on the importance of addressing climate change.

June 28, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)



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