In September, we hosted this year’s Fossil Free Gathering – a weekend of talks, workshops and discussions – along with our colleagues from Divest UK. One of the attendees, Dylan, has written a blog about his experience.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend UK Divest’s Fossil Free Gathering in Staffordshire. The gathering was a weekend for campaigners from across the UK to come together to learn, network, and discuss all things divestment.

I’m still very new to divestment, and when I was asked if I’d like to attend on behalf of Friends of the Earth Falkirk, I was delighted. I was set to travel down to the gathering with three other divestment campaigners from across Scotland. Although travelling down with people I had never met was a bit of a daunting prospect, we quickly bonded while having to contend with a three-hour delay, a cancelled connection, and a lot of waiting around together.

Learning about divestment

The event was set up so each day we had a number of sessions that we could choose to attend, catering for both the new and veteran campaigners. Being new to divestment and climate campaigning generally, I decided to take the beginner sessions in the hope of building a strong foundational knowledge of divestment and the ideas around it.

The first workshop that I attended, run by Hope for the Future, introduced us to building strong relationships with our local councillors and how to use non-violent language to engage with them more effectively.

After a wonderful vegan lunch, the second session walked us through the key elements of setting up our own divestment campaigns from scratch. We looked at main players such as pension committees, council officers, and pension members as well as how to attract media attention through creative actions.

The final session of the day was about having persuasive conversations. The session took us through how to make emotional and personalised pleas to those we are talking to by making small connections and finding ways to relate to each other. After an intensive day of learning, we retired to a well-deserved meal.

In the evening, I had the opportunity to take part in an excellent tour of the historic Ingestre Hall in which we were staying. Ric took us around the hall visiting the many portraits of the characters which appeared in the history of the building. Ric took care to highlight the estate’s lesser-told history such as the Ingestre family’s accumulation of wealth through slavery and exploitation.

Building community

The next day we had another session before we all came together for a reflection and open discussion space. In the morning I attended a workshop on challenging common arguments. This incredibly useful session looked at how to combat the most common rebuttals to divestments arguments. We talked about things like the myths created by the fossil fuel industry, and legal and financial misconceptions around divestment. 

In the afternoon, we broke off into small groups to discuss how we’d found the sessions, and it was a great way to round off the weekend.

As I had hoped, the weekend gave me an excellent opportunity to get to grips with divestment and the confidence to get involved in discussions which I previously felt I couldn’t. 

The chance to meet a wonderful group of campaigners, especially other young people, has given me a wonderful sense of community, and I have already begun to run into those I met at the gathering again at various campaign meetings. I’ve returned to Falkirk with a new eagerness to continue the fight for divestment.