Since September 2018, photographer Rhiannon Adam has been documenting individuals on both sides of the fracking debate. For Adam, listening to an individual’s story dictates how she photographs them. Her ultimate aim: to redirect the narrative away from the singular news piece and give an identity to those involved.  

Located midway between Preston and Blackpool, Preston New Road became the focal point of the fracking debate after Cuadrilla Resources applied to drill at the site in 2014. The UK government gave the final go-ahead this summer and the first frack took place on 15 October 2018, midway through Adam’s project. This is the first time fracking has taken place in the UK since a moratorium on the practice was lifted in late 2012.

Adam centred her series on the activities at Preston New Road. Working at and around the site for four months to date, she immersed herself in the everyday lives of those on the frontline of the fracking resistance. Adam also photographed campaigners from elsewhere, high-profile anti-fracking spokespeople, and individuals in support of the practice. She captured each subject in a context different to that in which they might otherwise be shown.

Featured subjects include: the 87-year-old campaigner Anne Power; fashion designer and activist Vivienne Westwood; and Simon Roscoe Blevins – one of three campaigners who were briefly imprisoned in September 2018 for their part in an anti-fracking protest.  

All images copyright Rhiannon Adam. All text copyright Hannah Abel-Hirsch, Studio 1854.”

Kai and Callum

“When you do a 12 hour night shift at Gate Camp you have to keep yourself awake somehow; I try and read my books for university” 

Kai, 20, and Callum, 22, are a couple who met at Maple Farm Camp. “I was doing a photo project during the summer when I stumbled across this,” says Kai, gesturing to Callum. “I thought, ‘he is nice to take pictures of.’” The two now share a tent in Maple Farm’s backfield. 

Every Wednesday the couple take the night shift at Gate Camp; for 12 hours they sit and monitor Cuadrilla’s activities in and out of the main gate. Kai is studying a BA in Photography at Blackpool and the Fylde College and stays awake by reading. “When I was by myself I used to get panicky with my coursework: topics and big words that I did not understand,” she says. “But, living in this community, I can just ask someone and chat through it. I find it a lot easier.” Kai’s mum brought her to the site for the first time. “She wanted to come down, but she is quite ill and needs help walking. She was anxious so I was like I’ll come too,” says Kai. “The next week she didn’t come; she got really ill. So I came down by myself, and again the week after that, and I just never really left.” 

Both feel disillusioned with the preoccupations of many people their age. “When you are protesting something like this, a lot of conversation can seem quite pointless – talking about I’m a Celebrity, Love Island etc.” says Callum, whose mum, Katerina Lawrie, is also a resident of the Maple Farm Camp. “I got really passionate about it very quickly,” says Kai. “I had a big group of friends and none of them understood at all.”

John Tootill

“This industry is in its death throes — very soon it will cease. It cannot carry on as it has no future whatsoever” 

John Tootill has run Maple Farm Nursery, located just 800 metres from Preston New Road, for 34 years. He lives there with his family. “I started the business with my dad. We worked together as a team for many years until his death a couple of years ago,” he says. “My dad was extremely concerned by Cuadrilla’s proposals to carry out fracking so close to our nursery and feared the worst for his family home and business.” Tootill had no idea about fracking when Cuadrilla Resources first applied to drill near his home. After discovering what the process was, and the risks it posed, he was horrified: “I am just trying to defend my family, my community and all the things that I have been brought up to believe in.” 

One of Tootill’s concerns is the effect that the practice could have on his livelihood. “I want people to be able to visit the nursery without fearing for their health and their children’s health.” He donated a portion of his land to the protectors, on which they have set up Maple Farm Camp. “It is a big sacrifice because it is a site on the main road, which, from a business point of view, is an important location,” he says. “I am happy that it is being used to further the campaign against this harmful process.” The camp also provides a “safe haven” for protectors: “Maple Farm offers a refuge for people to feel secure because the policing can be very oppressive.”

ootill himself has had a number of run-ins with the police. On the gates of Maple Farm Camp, a collection of large signs denounce fracking and the myriad dangers associated with it. In 2016, Fylde Borough Council sought to prosecute Tootill for unauthorised advertising. The case was dropped by the Council once his barrister disclosed to the court that the decision to prosecute him was made by Fylde borough councillors who had received money from Cuadrilla. He has been arrested twice: once for obstructing the road, and again for obstructing a police officer during an anti-fracking protest. The charges were dropped for both cases. “One of the reasons I was targeted by the police is because I am a local businessman,” he says. “I am seen as the face of respectability; that is not the face that industry and the government want showing opposition to them. And I have made my opposition very, very clear.” 

Cuadrilla’s activities at Preston New Road have polarised the local community. “Cuadrilla has worked on this community for years: they have splashed money around, to all sorts of organisations: sports programmes, football and rugby clubs, schools, village halls, the list goes on,” says Tootill. “Many local people are frightened to show opposition to what is being imposed on them.” But, Tootill has remained dedicated to the fight. “The sooner that this dirty, reckless industry packs up and goes, the sooner I can get on with normal life,” he says. “Stopping it here will empower people to stand up for their communities in other places where the industry is trying to get a hold.”

Anne Power 

“I am very prone to get angry; that saves me from getting scared” 

“I did not realise that this was going to change my life so fully,” says Anne Power, 87, who made headlines when police dragged her across Preston New Road outside the fracking site after she refused to move from the entrance “I have got to 87 [she was 85 at the time] without ever being injured on the road; I know how to manage things for heaven’s sake.” Anne’s grandfather was a policeman. He died after sustaining injuries while saving children from an oncoming cyclist. “I had such a respect for the police,” she says. This is no longer the case.  

Anne has been demonstrating against fracking for five years. At least twice a week she drives back-and-forth, between the site and her home in Manchester. Often, she travels through the night to ferry people from site to site. Last summer, 2017, she spent four nights in her car on the roadside, just beside Preston New Road. A group of protectors built two towers at the gate. “I was watching while I was dozing; I couldn’t tell whether they had built it on the bonnet of my car or not.” 

 

“I have done things that I would have never expected,” says Anne, who originally, if not reluctantly, trained as a teacher. Disillusioned by the curriculum, she retrained as a personal counsellor and started her own practice in 1981 in a small cottage in the hills of Lancashire. That same year she joined the Green Party. “My life dovetailed in that way: I found a political philosophy for the first time and a personal philosophy that really suited me.” Today, Anne devotes the bottom floor of her house to the activities of Party members. “I got involved in the fracking resistance because it started at Barton Moss, very near to where I live.” she says. “I had just moved house and had the stair carpet laid. I went to an anti-fracking meeting in Eccles; the next day I went to the protest camp and from then I was just there every day, relentlessly. I never finished moving into my house.” This year, Anne has, in her own words: “focused on making more of a nest for herself.”

Produced by Studio 1854 & the British Journal of Photography.

Rhiannon Adam’s photo story – Fractured Stories – is a British Journal of Photography commission supported by Ecotricity.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates fromShades Of Grey Fine Art Photography Magazine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This