School witness project

During our phoneCycle workshop collaboration with the Columbans in Spring 2018, we developed an idea for students to move outside the classroom and witness community resistance to mining companies.

Our pilot project with the Columbans involved a Catholic school in Lancaster for a small number of students to witness mining giant BHP’s annual shareholder meeting on 17 October.

Seven sixth form students participated in an introduction workshop in Lancaster exploring the issues around mining, focusing on the countries where community representatives were travelling from to attend the AGM: Chile, USA, Colombia, and Brazil. They also thought about the differences between campaigning and protesting.

The next week, four students and their teacher travelled to London to witness a demonstration outside the AGM, attend a photography exhibition and part of a public meeting with the community representatives in the evening. The students had the opportunity to meet many actors involved in the demonstration: the overseas visitors, workers and volunteers from LMN, War on Want and Coal Action Network, as well as people from creative arts group Three Penny Festival.

There was a follow-up workshop a fortnight later in Lancaster where students learnt about different ways to respond to issues of social and environmental justice. Different responses included: faith/prayer, media and communications, fundraising and donating, political lobbying and policy, protest and direct action, and lifestyle changes.  The students discussed how the trip was for them and how it had been from the visitors’ perspectives. They also analysed media coverage of the event.

The four then brainstormed what action they would like to take in response, including a week’s worth of assemblies they were planning to do to other students. They also decided to write an article for Catholic news websites and the local newspaper.

Three Penny Festival actors giving out free water to wary shareholders outside BHP’s AGM

The students gave feedback on the trip and how they would like to respond:

“I now have an awareness of how issues affect people and if I see these things happening on TV in the future, it will mean more to me”.

“I liked talking to people, hearing different perspectives on different matters”.

“I want to do a sponsored 24 trampoline jump to raise money and because people have to work in the mines for 24 hours at a time”.

“We should do a dramatic piece, maybe involving the GCSE drama class”.