Rhiannon Adam: Fracking in the UK

  • Beth Edwards
  • Harry Rose
  • Ameena Rojee
  • Beth Edwards
  • Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Photographer Rhiannon Adam spent four months immersed in the UK fracking debate. Her ultimate aim: to redirect the narrative away from the singular news piece and give an identity to those involved. Adam corrupted selected images with a constituent chemical of frack-fluid, alluding to the potential environmental impacts of the practice. Commissioned by Studio 1854, with the support of Ecotricity, the resulting series, titled The Rift: Preston New Road, explores the narratives behind fracking in the UK.

The Commission

The commission took place at a critical time for fracking in the UK. On 15 October 2018, midway through Adam's project, Cuadrilla Resources fracked at a well in Preston New Road, Lancashire – this was the first time fracking has taken place in the UK since a moratorium was lifted in 2012.
Adam centred her series on the activities at Preston New Road. Working at and around the site for over four months, although the project is ongoing, she immersed herself in the everyday lives of those on the frontline of the fracking resistance. Adam also photographed campaigners from elsewhere, high-profile anti-fracking spokespeople, and individuals in support of the practice. She captured each subject in a context different to that in which they might otherwise be shown; accompanying interviews shed light on the stories of those pictured.
Studio 1854 managed the commisson from conception to completion. Read an introduction to the project on British Journal of Photography here and excerpts from selected interviews below.

Simon Roscoe Blevins

“We are out of prison, in part, because we are outspoken, educated, middle-class, white-people. If we were not, then the media and the general public might not have taken so kindly. This is not just or fair”
Simon Roscoe Blevins, 26, has lived in a housing co-op in Sheffield for the past two years. He studied an MSci in Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, where he now works as a research technician. “My MSci was a significant turning point,” he says, “through your research you are aware of what is at stake and you feel the need to start putting yourself on the line for it.” The development of a number of proposed sites near his hometown, including one at Tinker Lane, also spurred Roscoe into action.
Roscoe did not plan to climb on top of the lorry, delivering equipment to Preston New Road, which saw him and two others sentenced to 16 months in prison. He was later released after the Lord Chief Justice ruled the sentence was “manifestly excessive”. “It was a split-second decision,” says Roscoe, “I climbed up expecting to be taken down within one or two hours by the police. No one came so I stayed. Still, no one came, so I stayed.” He remained on the lorry for 73 hours.
Read the full editorial here.

Gina Dowding

“It is as if we have been left with no choice because the democratic process is not working”
Gina Dowding has lived in Lancaster for more than 30 years and is a Green Party Lancashire County Councillor for Lancaster Central. She got involved in politics out of concern for the environment before fracking was even on the agenda. In November 2017, Dowding engaged in a direct action that saw her convicted at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court. She was one of 12 people, including two other councillors, who engaged in a lock-on to barrels and pipes outside of the Preston New Road site. 
“In the past, I never felt that comfortable about taking direct action,” she says, “that is one of the reasons that I got involved in local council politics; I felt that it was important to be part of the system in order to try and change it.” Dowding lost faith in this approach when the Lancashire County Council rejected Cuadrilla’s bid to drill at Preston New Road in 2014, but Sajid Javid, then secretary of state for the Department of Communities and Local Government, overruled the decision.
Read the full editorial here.

Jag

“They could frack with unicorn piss and what came out would still be toxic”
“What got me involved in this was the fact that I realised it was a clear and present danger to my kids – I would sooner die than let anything happen to them,” explains Jag, an ex-soldier from Preston. A resident of New Hope, Jag has been involved in the fracking resistance for 18 months, since March 2017. “They are trying to bully us into submission. You can’t negotiate with bullies, you have to face them head on,” he says.
Jag was cycling around the country when he first became aware of the situation at Preston New Road. “This is Cuadrilla’s finest hour, this is as good as it is going to get for them, and they are a good ten months late and millions over budget,” he says. “It has taken them damn near two years to get this far because we have been delaying it.”
Jag is currently preparing to defend himself in court for three separate charges lifted against him for engaging in protest activities, including a lock-on that lasted 41 hours.
“It seems strange to me that a corporation’s right to pollute trumps my right for them not to pollute. And that the planet they are choosing to pollute has no rights whatsoever,” he says. He has spent weeks compiling research for his defense from his cabin in a secluded corner of New Hope, one of the two permanent protest camps that sit alongside the Preston New Road fracking site. For Jag, the court cases provide a further opportunity to raise awareness around the issues he locked-on to protest against:  “I am defending myself because the law can’t do it, so I might as well call attention to that fact.”
Read the full editorial here.
Find out more about the project here.