2009 – The Year the Earthmoved

5th November 2009

In August 2009, Manchester Friends of the Earth received an unexpected email. It was from national Friends of the Earth, nominating us for an Earthmover award. The Earthmover awards are given out by national FoE to recognize the most outstanding campaigners and groups of the year. We were nominated for Group of the Year, and so when we sat down to discuss what to put in our nomination form, many of us thought, “Well, we didnʼt do that much…”

After the meeting, we looked at our notes of all the things we had done… and realized we had totally underestimated ourselves. Maybe we did deserve that nomination after all. In the end, we would like to congratulate the Leeds group who deservedly won the Group of the Year award. But thatʼs not all, because we also nominated ourselves and… [drum roll] we won CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR… This was for our tireless work in 2008 as part of the YES campaign in the Greater Manchester Transport Innovation Fund referendum so, as we look back over the year, weʼll start with that.

Transport Referendum We like challenging campaigns, and what bigger challenge than to take on some of Manchesterʼs biggest players in a battle over the future of the cityʼs transport? Some ingenious campaigning, like “World Toilet Day” posters and the “Let Me Breathe” video, having speakers in many public debates, and hours spent on the streets handing out leaflets, won us the Earthmover for Best Campaign. Ali, Dave and Graeme accepted the award on our behalf at the Local Groups Conference.

Innovative Campaigns Following on from the successful Love Your Bike campaign, the Bike Friday campaigns have encouraged many people in Manchester to get wheely serious about biking to work. We got impressive media coverage when we took a cardboard bike on a tram – to prove that bikes can fit on trams! In our Carbon Clinic campaign we created a great survey to ask “How big is your carbon footprint?” and got our campaigners dressed up as doctors and nurses to give an eco-examination the public will not forget (really – who could forget Ben in a nurseʼs dress?). We took on the Marinet campaign, getting a long article published in the Big Issue, and hundreds of postcards signed at stalls around Manchester.

More active members and a great atmosphere Our group has only been able to take on so many campaigns because we have more people along at our meetings, and more people are involved than ever before. It is great to go to meetings when there are such enthusiastic, passionate and fun people in the group. So thank you to everyone who has helped our campaigns be successful and enjoyable – you all deserve credit for our nomination!

Events and Stalls We have had some great events, such as the talk we hosted with the Co-op about the destructive Alberta Tar Sands operation and its damaging impact both on climate change and on the welfare of indigenous people. We got around 200 people to attend despite only having a week or so to organize it! We have helped run swap shops, sung at festivals, performed theatre on the streets, smashed piñatas, and talked at the “Age of Stupid” screening. We have run more stalls than ever, in many different areas of Manchester, in total getting a huge amount of postcards signed for the Get Serious, Marinet, Food Chain and Biofuels campaigns.

Improved Campaigning We have improved our campaigning a great deal in the last 12 months. There are now regular meetings with groups across Greater Manchester to co-ordinate campaigns, and to target MPs together. We have the advantage of new technology, setting up new websites, communicating through Facebook and Twitter (@mcrfoe), and creating a wiki, which has enabled us to share information better than ever!

Now after thinking back through the year, I realize it has been a crazy year – there have been highs and lows, but I really feel that, with some great new members active in the group, we can achieve even more next year. As a new co-ordinator of the group, itʼs definitely a very exciting time to be involved!