Group News: Dec 1996 - Apr 1997

Summary of 1996

Although the Environment centre was a central  meeting point and a good place to store our property it was sadly cold, very depressing and noisy. It was probably because of this that we had very few members turning up to meetings. However, all this changed once we started meeting in the Red Deer pub - it was warm, quite, still centrally located and most importantly it served beer.

On reflection, the general impression is that the new meeting venue has encouraged more members to attend and as a result they have become more involved with the group’s activities. Without these extra people much of this year’s campaigning wouldn't have been possible. For instance, we've been protesting in London and Newbury, smog-busting on the streets of Sheffield, organising public meetings, taking part in fun events such as the Lord Mayor’s parade, giving talks to groups of concerned residents, organising quizzes and much more.

Local Groups' Conference 1996
Rebecca, Shaun, Mike and Liz were all present at this year’s local groups' conference in Leeds. As usual there were lots of talks from local and national campaigners on a wide range of issues such as opencast mining, airport extensions and rebecca’s “campaigning in the real world”. There were also two very funny pantomimes (one of them was a Costain version of Cinderella).

Whilst at conference our four members attended workshops covering areas such as jobs and the environment, energy campaigning and sustainable food production. It was more interesting than normal because FoE international delegates were with us.

Tim Sander Libel Action
As you may know the managing director of Fitzwise Ltd has issued a writ against Tim Sander (White Peak FoE) for £20,000 in damages resulting from an alleged libel. This case relates to the long running campaign by local communities and individuals to resist the opencast of Avenue coke works and surrounding countryside.

The core allegation is that Tim Sander wrote a leaflet in which it was alleged that Mr Wilson moved house in order to get away from one of his company’s own opencast sites. In order to avoid this prosecution Mr Wilson, through his solicitors Glossops, demanded that Tim Sander publicly apologise. The apology was to include the names of Huge Ellis, Jonathan Lee and Cllr Betty Hill. Tim has quite rightly decided to fight this bizarre action by Mr Wilson and will represent himself. He denies the allegations made against him and believes that the action being taken against him is intended to intimidate all those who challenge the immense political and financial muscle of the opencast industry.

We believe that the action taken by Mr Wilson is a challenge to all of those who wish to see an environmentally safe and prosperous coalfield. We further believe that Tim Sander has been singled out almost at random and that similar action could have been taken against many other ordinary people who wish to protest their concern about opencast. It is therefore vital that we make every possible effort to support Tim through what is an extremely difficult period both for his own welfare, and for the immense contribution he has made in investigating and exposing the multiple environmental impacts of opencast.

In order to achieve this a fighting fund has been founded which will need to raise £3,000 to buy legal support (legal aid is not available for libel action) and it is planned to publish a charter of names condemning the use of civil law to suppress the protest at opencast. If you wish to donate money or place your name on the register please write to or phone:

Legal Support Fighting Fund
148 Cavendish Road
01246 236039

To campaign effectively we realised that we need active members to do the work and non-active members to keep subscribing to pay for the campaigns. As our membership base has declined over the past few years we produced a new colour membership leaflet which we will actively distribute during this and next year to attract more members.

Membership Leaflets
We have already produced our new membership leaflet on the computer but we have decided not to print it in black and white. Instead, we have chosen to use full colour as this should attract more members and make us look very professional. We intend to produce at least 500 leaflets and may even print 1000. So we really need as much help as possible to distribute them around Sheffield. If you can help please phone a co-ordinator.

Sheffield FoE have designed standard letters for general enquires, membership enquires and to welcome new members. The benefits of these letters are that they give the group a professional image and anyone from the group can respond immediately whereas before people had to spend time writing individual letters.

The main reason for the healthy bank account is that we only spend £120 a year booking rooms for meetings rather than the huge sum we used to pay to rent the environment centre. The main expenditure this year was for the membership leaflet and the props used during the car campaigning.

Clock Work Radio Campaign
Can you help us to promote the star attraction of Friends of the Earth’s Christmas catalogue?

FoE has been given the UK NGO distribution rights for this fantastic battery-free radio which won the overall prize in the prestigious BBC Design Awards 1996. Friends of the Earth  needs a number of local group members to promote the radio’s environmental benefits to key regional media.  At the moment Rebecca has been supplied with straight forward information about the radio and has agreed to help promote the device. If you are interested in helping Rebecca with this venture then please phone her. However, if you simply want to buy one then phone FoE on 01225 442288 quoting REF FOE025. They are priced at £59.95.

The Green Fair
On 7th September 1996 Sheffield Friends of the Earth attended the Green Fair at Nether Edge and raised over £50.00 by selling merchandise such as recycled paper, T-shirts and badges. Sadly we were later informed that one of the cheques for a large sum of money had bounced.

Although it’s depressing to learn that  some people will steal from an organisation that’s fighting for clean air, uncontaminated food and water that’s fit to drink; on a positive note we did manage to distribute quite a few membership leaflets explaining what the group does and how to join.

At the time of writing it is too early to say whether we've managed to increase our membership but we intend to use the money raised to help print our new colour membership leaflets which are designed to attract active members.

Thank you to all the people who helped make this event possible.

Peace Fair Stall 
On Saturday 16 November 1996 Sheffield Friends of The Earth organised another stall - this time at the Peace Fair in the Town Hall. Besides raising approximately £50, we helped to raise the group’s profile by displaying our newsletter and membership leaflets.

FoE Pictures
To produce our new membership leaflet we had to scan in to the computer some of our most recent photographs. At the moment we have got lots of  “smog-busting” photographs, a few of the monster car at the Lord Mayor’s parade, one of the Shell picket and one from a packaging day of action.

If anyone has a  PC and an art package capable of reading bit-mapped graphics (.bmp files) we can send you a copy of the colour photographs. You can simply look at the photographs or use them as wall paper for your Windows background.

To obtain a copy please send a 3.5” PC formatted disk and a SAE to our postal address with the envelope marked “PC PICTURES”.

I would certainly recommend looking at the colour photographs of our monster car as the picture in the last newsletter didn’t do it justice.

New Northern Local Groups' Development Officer
Deborah Bell has been appointed as the new Local Groups Development Officer. She has a background of conservation, community work and environmental education. Deborah will be working from Leeds where she already lives. Welcome to FOE Deborah, we hope to meet you soon!

No Opencast
A conference on campaigning against opencast mining, covering a whole range of issues, and involving people out there doing it. All welcome, cost £5 including lunch. Saturday 7/12/96, 12 noon start, in Chesterfield. Phone Tim Sanders 01246 201719 for more details.

Did You Know?
One in three (19 million people) regularly breathe air that fails WHO and EC health guidelines and nearly one in ten (5.3 million people) have lead levels in their drinking water five times higher than WHO safety standards. (Taken from FoE’s Prescription for Change book)

A European wide opinion survey shows that nearly 3 out of 4 people (73%) are in favour of more taxes on products which harm the environment. (Warmer Bulletin)

It takes nearly 10 gallons of water to make a single computer chip. A typical factory can make about 24 million chips each year consuming more than 200 million gallons of water - which must be treated as waste.
(Warmer Bulletin)

All general meetings unless otherwise stated, will be held at 8pm in the upstairs meeting room at the Red Deer pub, 18 Pitt Street. This is near to the university off West Street (between Mappin Street and Regent street).  Phone a co-ordinator for more details.