The turn of the century, the dawn of a new millennium and a time of aggressive wind farm planning.
Seasoned Wind Farm protester, Dan Shankley, recounts to us here one of his first experiences on the picket line…
“My Father was livid that day.
Perhaps it was his stubborn vitriol, a look that I’d never seen on him before, or maybe it was simply the grim determination with which we set about every single task that led to us spending 7 hours on the side of a busy Welsh A-road. It still sticks out in my memory – that long, hot summer’s day – almost 17 years ago now.
I’d never thought of my Father as much of an activist.
There were clues, of course, little signs that fly over the head of a child, but start to merge into a cohesive meaning as I get older. Small things like a faded red sticker, emblazoned with a sickle and hammer, stuck to the boot of his car. Oddly stylised portraits on the walls of his study, of serious looking bearded men in military dress. The clues were always there.
Of all these little memories – that summer’s day in Wales is the one that remains the most potent.
We’d heard about the protest through an old University pal of Dad’s. That Friday, he picked me up from Mum’s, with the back of the car packed full of camping gear. He told my Mum we were going fishing and she seemed happy. As soon as he shut the car door and started the car, he turned to me and whispered:
‘We’re not going fishing, son. We’re going to save Wales.’
It was as simple as that.
It was a sweltering hot, English Summer’s day, the kind that only exists in memory and never seems to occur anymore. I remember my legs sticking to the leather interior of my Dad’s beaten up Anglia. We set off from Leeds, stopping off at Sheffield to pick up a man-cooling fan from Beatson Industrial Fans (a company that still operates to this day).
‘We’ll need this if we’re going to survive the day. Today, son, we’ll make History.”
That’s how he said it. As if that day and only this Father/Son team could possibly ‘save Wales’. I was 10 years old and had very little scope of the world at that point, so that day felt important. In fact – it felt compulsory.
When we arrived at the designated car park, selected by Dad’s old friends, it became clear what kind of group we were joining.
Craggy beards in familiar looking military suits tottered around beneath picket signs, simply drawn crosses through the symbol of a tripod-like fan, much like the one that we’d brought with us. The sickle and hammer that had always puzzled me was stitched on badges and slapped on satchels, the air was alive with, what I thought at the time was passion, but what I realise now was outrage.
We set up position next to the road side and protested the building of a 28-unit wind farm that promised to blight the countryside and fill the peaceful quiet with a constant drone.
That day, we disrupted the tranquillity of that land, for the greater good. And were we successful? It depends on how we judge success. In a time before social media and the sharing of events, we amassed a small crowd and made people aware of the changes that were about to take place in their local area.
The wind farm was still built. But, after our day of protesting, the company in charge of construction decided to cut the number of turbines down to 26 and reduce the height of all of those built by 10m.