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SOUTHERN WATER : NOT ECO, NOT FAIR PROTEST

Report by boycotter Carol Mills from Eastbourne Eco Fair



Southern Water had a stall at the Eco Fair which was part of the 10 day long Spring Water Festival. But some of us felt their presence at the Fair legitimised them in ways they did not deserve - namely, the opportunity for public relations greenwashing. 

 

We'd expressed our concerns to the organisers beforehand. There were plenty of discussions. We were told what a great opportunity it was for everyone to engage positively with Southern Water, to ask them questions, and to hear about the good ecological stuff Southern Water were offering: advice about wet wipe disposal included. We were not convinced. 

 

So we accepted the invitation of this great opportunity. We prepared our questions, and our placards, and our banners, and our protest songs. 

 

On the day, 20 plus protesters arrived at the Eco Fair singing "The sewage flows into the rivers, the sewage flows into the sea" to the tune of "My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean". (This song came courtesy of Extinction Rebellion Suffolk Sunrise, who some of us met on the DEFRA People's Picket at The Big One in Westminster last April). 

 

There was a wonderful array of creative banners. And, Unite Community joined us with their huge banner as part of their "We Want Our Water Back" campaign. 

 

At the Southern Water stall, we read out 10 questions addressed to Lawrence Gosden CEO. Questions about: becoming ill after swimming, the pollution of the sea, testing and monotoring, rising bills, profiteering, company debt et al. We then handed the questions, as a letter, to the staff for them to take to the CEO.

 

Then, chanting, more singing. It was all very amicable. Peaceful. Non violent, yes, of course. Yet. Please. The aftermath. The consternation our protest caused locally, amongst some in the environmental movement, was so disproportionate. Anyone would think the objectors owned Southern Water or were shareholders, or were sponsored by them or something.

 

Thank you so much to those who came from Brighton and Bexhill and Hastings to join Eastbourne for this protest. If we receive any answers to those questions, we will let you know. But we are not holding our breath. We've all been raising our questions to Southern Water for a long time. We all know that greenwashed answers are insufficient. Water is a common good. No profiteering from water. 


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