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You might not get many nanas on Blackpool’s Big One but today a group of Blackpool nanas are heading down to join the Big One in London.

The Big One is is a four-day mass action by environmental groups calling for climate justice. Organised by protest movement Extinction Rebellion, over 30,000 people have committed to gathering in Westminster, representing campaign groups from across the country including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Blackpool’s own Nanas Against Fracking.

“Nanas stand in solidarity with the aims of Extinction Rebellion. We do it in a different way but we share those aims and it’s a really good opportunity to join others,” said Tina Rothery, an environmental activist and a key member of Nanas Against Fracking, who first came together to protest shale gas exploration and extraction by energy firm Cuadrilla on Peston New Road.

“Quite often a day’s protest doesn’t really change the situation but what it does do is helps us to feel our solidarity with others – to see we are many and not feel alone. Other people then, in seeing the diversity of people there, will recognise themselves and realise that they are part of it too.

“We can’t keep watching species go extinct. We can’t keep watching children be born with breathing difficulties. We can’t watch a child die of asthma purely because the pollution levels are too high. How much can we tolerate? How long do we go on?”

Along with other anti-frackers, the Nanas campaigned tirelessly between 2011 and 2019 when the government announced a moratorium, or temporary ban, on fracking which caused a series of earthquakes on the Fylde Coast.

“After years of fighting the government agreed we hadn’t lied about the earthquakes and that it was too unsafe to frack,” said Rothery. “Although we’d like a ban what’s really good about a moratorium is it includes the words that you can frack only when you prove it is safe – and we know that is impossible. So we’re not too worried at the moment but we fear that in the future there’s a chance. No one can put their tabard down just yet.”

Once a woman gets in and realises the mess that needs tidying they really don’t leave.

The women, who are all grandmothers, made peaceful protest the heart of their anti-fracking campaign and are known for wearing their signature yellow smocks while singing, dancing, knitting and serving tea at the Preston New Road protest site.

“I’m very proud of what we all achieved and I’m very proud of the Nana’s role in it because those women had nothing to do with protest before, but they never went home again afterwards,” said Rothery, who is travelling down to London today with a group of a dozen others and meeting more there.

Tina Rothery (left) decorating the gates of the fracking site on Preston New Road. Main image: Nanas Against Fracking

Since the moratorium on fracking the Nanas have protested at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool in 2022 and the UN climate conference, Cop 26, in Glasgow in 2021. In May they are heading to Whitehaven to protest the new Cumbrian coal mine.

“Once a woman gets in and realises the mess that needs tidying they really don’t leave,” said Rothery on the Nana’s ongoing environmental efforts. At the Big One they will be joining with other women’s groups under the slogan of ‘Women Care’.

They will be joined by other groups including the Global Women’s Strike, Disability Mothers’ Rights Campaign and Mothers’ Manifesto at 1pm outside Downing Street today to speak out on refusing poverty, the devaluing of caring, cuts in benefits and environmental concerns.

“The other groups asked us why the Nanas wear tabards and we said because our arms are free, you don’t have to hold a sign because all your messaging is on your body, and there’s a really handy pouch. They’ve all agreed that’s a jolly decent idea, so a lot of them are wearing tabards too and we’re hoping they’ll be yellow,” said Rothery, who is also standing for the Green Party in the Waterloo Ward in the forthcoming local election.

“There’s a real unity among the women for this XR action. I don’t believe in chopping society up under labels but sometimes it helps women to have a gentler door into activism and this is what the Nanas set up for.

“Once you’re in there you don’t necessarily stay gentle but activism is a scary place for a newcomer, so with a tabard on we limit our behaviour. When I wear it I’m a Nana and I don’t do anything I wouldn’t do when I’m in front of my grandchild. We are civil, and hopefully unarrestable because a lot of our nanas are key carers in their family and cannot afford to be away from home overnight or arrested for an indeterminate amount of time. This is a way of making it possible for them, rather than sitting at home shouting at the telly. You can raise your voice in a safer space.”

Follow Nanas Against Fracking on Twitter here

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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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