Every month we publish an interview with a local activist in the print edition of Manchester Climate Monthly. Here’s a sneak preview of the March edition, with Cassie Nolan, one of the many people who have been involved in the campaign to “Save Alexandra Park Trees.”
What is your campaign trying to achieve?
We are trying to stop the unnecessary felling of trees and the destruction of a cherished natural wildlife habitat within Alexandra Park, Manchester, a park regularly used and loved by locals. The park is undergoing a major renovation since receiving funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and MCC. At what should be a time for celebration and togetherness in the community, we have division, anger and upset because of an incredibly poor ‘consultation’ process. As the public who own the park, we want to be included and actively involved in the plans so that we can ensure all of the park users needs are met. Ultimately, we want MCC and the HLF to hold their hands up, admit that they have made a mistake, to put it right and ensure that moving forward, they seriously review their consultation processes which has failed the public gravely.
Why did you get involved?
I was so surprised and angered with the senseless destruction that I saw at the park and the lack of local consultation. Almost everyone I have spoken to about the park renovations knew nothing about them. How could this be? I was so moved by my emotions and the urgency with which the felling was taking place, that before I knew it, I had organised my first ever protest for the next day.
What sustains you?
The sheer momentum of the campaign and the contagious positivity from all involved has kept me driven and focussed. The feedback from the public has been brilliant – really motivating and encouraging. When times get tough, the sight of the destruction in the park and the feeling of injustice at what has happened spurs me on to take action. A desire to see change, coupled with a positive mindset is all you need!
What was the last big success your campaign had?
There has been overwhelming support for the protests and the petition from the local community and people of Manchester. On Saturday 09/02/13 we held our 2nd protest at the park, this time covered by the BBC news, ITV and other media. The sense of togetherness and positivity in the face of adversity was really inspiring. The media presence supported us to evidence the sheer numbers of locals attending – we have previously been referred to as a ‘handful of noisy protesters’ by MCC – now with the petition almost at 4000 signatures and the fantastic turn out at the protests, it is getting harder by the day for them to deny our numbers!
If people got involved in your group/campaign, what sorts of things would they end up doing?
The campaign has grown very organically, with several groups of locals initially starting campaigning on their own and later coming together as a strong collective.
People support in a variety of different ways, playing to their individual strengths. Anyone can get involved in any way that they feel they are able to contribute positively. We have people investigating the adherence to legal requirements and regulations in all aspects of the work being done, from planning and environmental, to ecological and wildlife issues. Gathering evidence to challenge any breeches we find and letter writing to MPs, Councillors, MCC and HLF plays a crucial part. There is a permanent protest camp at the site with people camping out and in tree houses. We have people in the park finding evidence of bird nesting behaviour in the trees to be felled. Others are managing the savealexandraparkstrees website, organising protests, creating leaflets and distributing them to raise awareness of the campaign and the petition.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in the world, what would it be?
If I could wave a magic wand to bring a heightened sense of awareness, compassion and respect to every human being at all times, I’d hope we could all genuinely work together for the first time to make the world a truly beautiful and equal place for every living thing.
What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
None at all. All of the lessons I have learnt and everything that has happened has made me who I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.