'Felling is always the last resort' - Sheffield City Council.
As a freelance film-maker living in Sheffield, UK, I was astonished to find this story unfolding, literally, on my doorstep.....
Coming to a street near you.....
Environmental activists are protesting the unnecessary destruction of 6,000 of their city's 36,000 mature street trees. Attempting to halt the ecocide, campaigners are battling an unsympathetic council and their secret £2.2bn 25-year PFI contract with multinational infrastructure company, Amey.
Sheffield used to be the greenest city in Europe - but as the trees have been destroyed, that status is now lost.
This is a journey of tenacity and creativity on the part of the protectors, experiencing the highs and lows, humour and tears, and ever-ingenious tactics of modern day peaceful protest. Weaving NVDA (Non Violent Direct Action) through a myriad of legal challenges, including arrests, court hearings, fines and threats of prison, verbal and physical assault, private ‘evidence gatherers’ and 'stewards' on the streets. It is a story of people from across the city and from all backgrounds, coming together, all bonding over the unnecessary felling of mature healthy street trees. We also see the lengths that officials will go to in order to continue with a highways contract that shows no transparency or accountability to the public.
Galvanised by pre-dawn felling raids and subsequent arrests on Rustlings Road in November 2016, I began documenting anything related to the Save Sheffield Trees Campaign. One year on, I'm still filming protests on the streets each day and am preparing for a busy 2018.
So far, I've been self-funding the project but now, in order to continue shooting daily, I need to replace faulty SD cards and exhausted camera batteries, service equipment, buy new hard drives for storing the copious amounts of footage, renew equipment and public liability insurances, and upgrade my laptop. And, as is often the case, it’s all needed at the same time - now. There are day-to-day costs such as travel and consumables, and next, I will need to hire an editor and a voiceover artist. I decided to look for patrons who believe in my project and thus enable me to continue filming for as long as necessary. I feel that this campaign to save trees is much more than it says on the tin. It's a social documentary of protest against PFI contracts, putting profit over people, and asset-stripping a city's heritage in 21st century neoliberal Britain.