Helen Savage is a Balcombe resident and a member of the Frack Free Balcombe Residents Association. She has small children and runs a baby group. She gave evidence for the defence at the trial of an anti-fracking campaigner arrested at Balcombe.
The past year
The past 12 months have been bonkers. There were so many things I was going to do this year that I haven’t done because I’ve spent most of it doing anti-fracking work and being at the protest site. You always think: “I have just got to stay up late these next few nights because of this coming up and to let people know and you send an email round, petition people or other friends”. It does feel like it never finishes.
On a personal level, I think my family suffered, my husband suffered, my children suffered.
I suffered, personally physically, because I haven’t had enough sleep. It’s been physically and emotionally exhausting.
My children weren’t sleeping when this campaign started and then they just started sleeping through and I replaced the time I was not sleeping with them with work on fracking. So in some ways that’s how I coped. But I’m actually getting to the point now where I’m really struggling. I am now trying to give myself some time off.
It’s been a whole lot different from what I was thinking of doing this year. There were lots of things to do with looking for employment that I haven’t done which I should have been doing. Just time with my house, which is an absolute tip and I don’t have time to tidy up.
I went along feeling so naively supportive of the police and I started off thinking the police were lovely people. I’ve got friends that are police. There are people in the campaign who are police. At the end of it my attitude has changed completely.
The police were trying to stay neutral I suppose but they said one thing to us and completely the opposite to the other side. You think they are there supporting you but they are telling the other side that they are supporting them.
The reason I was happy to go to court was because I didn’t feel that, on the whole, the police were facilitating a protest. They weren’t. They were facilitating Cuadrilla and the government.
The police were not judging the right level of force for what was going on. They weren’t reading the situation. We did not merit the force that they were putting in.
There were so many people taking part in the protest who were local to Balcombe and Handcross. We know that because they signed the petition and the petition was mostly at the protest site or at the odd event. I know well over 250 people from Balcombe went down to that site because there had only been one or two other meetings in the centre of the village and most of the people who went to those meetings went down to the site as well.
Changing attitude to fracking
I was always quite anti because I’ve always been quite green in my sensibilities. I wasn’t as anti as I am now because I kept thinking it couldn’t be that bad. The thing that really shocked me was that when people were talking about the impacts they talked about roads and things like that. The human health impact questions weren’t coming up and I was thinking why are people not asking the question about health? That got me researching into it and I started reading about all these health impacts, particularly for the young and the elderly.
It has pushed me further and further against it and that’s what driven me to continue. Because fracking is clearly not the answer. It is so wrong.