A few weeks ago, Brain remembered something. Brain wasn’t quite sure what it was remembering, but Brain was sure that – at some point during recent years – it had read something about an eco village in the heart of London. Brain wanted to know more; Brain was quite insistent. A search ensued, and it transpired that what Brain was remembering was Kew Bridge Eco Village.
On 6 July 2009 activists occupied a long-derelict site on the opposite side of the Thames to Kew Gardens, with the declared intent of demonstrating the practicality of permaculture principles, by living in simple bender structures, growing vegetables and recycling waste. The community thrived for nearly a year, before being evicted by police on 27 May 2010.
It’s an interesting story, and one which no doubt bears further investigation, but during the search I came across a reminder of something else I had entirely forgotten, from the same period. At the beginning of 2009, the spectre of a third runway at Heathrow loomed, and Greenpeace came up with a groundbreaking campaign against it, which they called the Airplot. The idea was to purchase a piece of land in the middle of the proposed runway site, and recruit an army of people to be co-owners, which would make a compulsory purchase of the land extremely difficult.
I signed up as a ‘beneficial owner’, and encouraged other people to do the same. The campaign caught the public imagination, and over the course of a year we followed its progress, as Greenpeace and other environmental organisations and interested parties planted an orchard, and started a community allotment on the land. A surprising raft of celebrities and public figures were onboard, from Richard Briers to David Cameron.
And then… the threat of a third runway retreated, and the Airplot faded from view. I wanted to know what happened, and to remember more about the story, and so I went on a quest into some musty old digital archives.
What I found inspired me to write my second zine. The Airplot Files is a retelling of the Airplot story, in the words of the people who supported it. It follows the campaign from the first news stories to the steps of Downing Street, and watches as an orchard of apple trees is adopted by the great and the good, the allotment is planted with beans and carrots, and an army of regular folk sign up to stop the historic village of Sipson being swallowed by airport expansion.
At a time when public consciousness of the Climate Emergency is rising, but the threat of a third runway at Heathrow (and the corresponding increase in polluting air traffic) is closer than ever, it felt like a good time to revisit the Airplot, and a community campaign that put a spanner in the works of thoughtless development.
The result is a labour of love. The Airplot Files is an A5 printed zine, designed as a dossier, complete with treasury tag binding. It contains profiles of prominent Airplotters, and their reasons for joining the campaign. It looks at the trees that were planted in the orchard, and the individuals and groups who sponsored them. It’s there when the first crops are planted on the allotment, and when the title deeds – naming nearly 100,000 ‘beneficial owners’ are delivered to 10 Downing Street.
It comes complete with recreated ‘ephemera’ from the time – a newspaper clipping, press photographs and an Airplot owners certificate – and is delivered in a Kraft paper envelope with a string binding. If that sounds like something you’d like to flip through, you can order your copy now from my Etsy shop.