We have met some truly incredible women during our Common Ground events so far this year. Here, Julie Hutchison writes about why she came to see us on the Isle of Wight – and about her fantastic textile art based protest against fossil fuel money sponsoring culture at the Isle of Wight Festival – thank you so much for coming to find us Julie and power to your ongoing activism!
It’s been almost 5 years now that I have volunteered my time to climate activism. Always concerned about pollution, OilTar Sands and the Fukushima disaster started the journey. When news of Extinction Rebellion broke in October 2018, it was what I’d been waiting for. XR had collected the signatures of 200 climate scientists and handed the letter into Government demanding immediate action on the climate and ecological emergency.
I’d seen a Greenpeace protest a few years previous to that where an enormous polar bear puppet was walked past Parliament. I knew ice in the arctic was melting, but had no clue about what that was doing to Earth’s weather systems. I had no idea that greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere are so dire. After watching ‘Heading for extinction and what to do about it’ I felt morally compelled to act. Once you learn how bad it is, it changes everything.
I’m from Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Some women in my community have a Greenham Common history, I’m incredibly proud of them. When I saw that Scary Little Girls were coming to Ventnor Exchange, as part of their Common Ground event series, I had to visit, to meet like minded people. My intention was to spend some time chatting and embroidering – knowing it was going to be a safe space to work in. I ended up chatting and gelli printing which was lots of fun. It was the last day of working on my embroidery piece before it was due to be photographed. This was an embroidered action that I’d been planning for 4 months against Barclaycard sponsorship of the Isle of Wight Festival.
The Isle of Wight Festival has been 75% owned by Live Nation since 2017. In 2019, Barclaycard started becoming payment sponsors for the Festival. Barclays are the biggest funders of fossil fuel companies in Europe since 2016, and the 7th largest globally. HMRC bank with Barclays. Activists have been campaigning about it for years and few people know about it because we’re silenced by mainstream media.
I’ve carried out actions about Isle of Wight Festival sponsorship before, written open letters to bring it up.. nothing has happened. This year I thought I’d go bigger. Isle of Wight Festival posters used to be beautiful pieces of artwork, in recent years they have gone downhill. I wanted to present a women’s reaction to the sponsorship. So, the plan became to hand embroider beautiful Isle of Wight Festival posters. My friend came up with the tag line ‘Stitched up by Barclays’. I had been following The Subversive Stitcher (Holly Searle) on instagram for a while and had contacted her last year to see if she was interested in a collaborative project. I reached out to Holly, who helped find three other embroiderers who were interested in the project.
We all got together at a friend’s house in London. I brought all my Rock Poster books, we spent a day talking and getting our ideas together. At the end of the day, we all went our separate ways back home. We communicated almost daily whilst working on our respective pieces. The plan was to take photographs of each individual piece and to get them enlarged into bus stop posters and have them put up all over the Isle of Wight. I’m completely in awe of Brandalism and had spent time with Ad-Free Cities, who are actively campaigning to reduce advertising on our high streets and billboards. Advertising sucks – so why not use the space for better use than promoting jobs at Parkhurst Prison?
We called ourselves The Rainy Day Women – as a nod to Bob Dylan, since his was the performance in 1969 that heralded the Isle of Wight Festival as world famous. This was as a reminder to the Isle of Wight Festival about where their roots originally lay.
The day of the action was Friday 16th June – the first full day of the festival. That morning, all of the bus stop posters were mounted across the whole Island. The embroideries had also been printed up onto fabric banners and suspended from the only flyover that exists on the Island, which happens to be a busy pedestrian walkway towards the festival site from the town. From there we handed out leaflets telling people about Barclays and the sponsorship. I had many interesting conversations over that weekend, Barclays were apparently all over the site this year. Many people were switched off by the heavy corporate sponsorship. This increase in sponsorship is happening at a frightening pace – more and more at festivals, owned by Live Nation, and this year we saw Wimbledon being sponsored – you may have seen this in the news because celebrities spoke up.
I felt safe and invigorated coming along to meet organisers at the Common Ground event. It’s such an important project in keeping the voices and experiences of Greenham Common Women alive – and in inspiring a new generation of women to become activists. The latest census results have shown that more women are concerned about the climate crisis. In my experience, women are very active in this movement. The women I met on the day were interested in getting active locally.
70% of all emissions are caused by 100 polluting companies, many of which banks fund. Many High Street banks are funding oil companies. Here’s the thing – when people switch their banks and pensions, it can be up to 21 more times effective than going vegetarian for the environment. It makes sense to find out what your bank is doing and switch to a more ethical one. When ethical banks are more dominant in the market place, they can do more good things. Our Linktree has all the resources to help you.
Huge thanks to Julie for sharing this with us – do check out the gallery below, containing images of The Rainy Day Women’s incredible work.