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Brummies Build Boat in Bonn

The Journey

On Friday the 20th of July, members of Birmingham FOE travelled to Bonn for the COP6 climate negotiations.

We caught the train to London, and made our way to FOE headquarters at Underwood Street. From here, three coaches set off, full of FOE volunteers and staff from around the UK. Catching the ferry at Dover, we arrived in France at about 6pm local time. Unfortunately I missed both the food and the "duty free" shops, and so had a hungry and thirsty journey across France, Belgium and Germany where we stopped at services about 4 hours later.


We arrived in Bonn at about 1am, to find the "HomeBase" lively, with good food available from Rampen Plan - a dutch group who cater at festivals and protests. After a couple of hours of socialising, off we went to "bed" - sleeping on the floor of a gym.


On Saturday morning, we got up at between 7 and 8 then breakfasted on great fresh bread, cheese, jam and coffee. Then we caught the tram into the centre of Bonn (which seems to have a great public transport system).

The square in which the starting rally was held three giant skeletons for the prow, centre and stern of the lifeboat which we were to build. Some people set about painting planks with slogans and attaching them to the boat, while many people painted blue designs on their faces, or even their entire upper body. Many people were dressed in blue, to form a "sea" for the boat, others wore fish heads. One woman was dressed as "The Statue of Taking Liberties" whilest another was a characture of a pro-nuclear lobbiest.

A group of American student got the crown shouting with their cheerleading, and two samba bands also entertained people. Speeches were given by FOE representatives from Europe, the US, Japan and Africa, as well as by the dutch Rising Tide group. Everybody was having a great time, the weather was sunny and the people friendly.

The March

Once the lifeboat had been assembled from thousands of painted planks, we set off for the conference centre where the talks were being held.

Unfortunately, the weight of our argument - or rather the weight of the planks - was too much for the tyres of the "boat" - and the march had to stop a number of times for them to be repaired or replaced. Finally, the police came to the rescue by providing solid rubber tyres.

Throughout, the march was peaceful, friendly and good natured. Music was provided by various groups, including the fantabulous Rinky Dink cycle and solar powered sound system.

At one point I made my way to the front of the march, then watched then entire procession pass. More than 4000 people had come from all over Europe - and beyond. There was a carnival atmosphere with many people wearing costumes and dancing to music. Even the motorists who were delayed didn't seem to mind too much.

There was a slight delay before we were allowed access to the conference centre - the police were worried that the march had been inflitrated by "anarchists" who might cause trouble. Once we entered the square, the lifeboat was manouvered into position and Rinky Dink entertained the crown again. There where speeches from FOE international, and some of the delegates even came out and wandered through the crowd.

Party Time

We returned to "HomeBase" by U-Bahn (underground) and tram, where we tried to grab 40 winks - unfortunately, a lone trumpeter was practicing close to our sleeping quarters. Some of us now have the trumpet versions of "By the Rivers of Babylon" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" permenantly engraved on their consciousness.

Rampen Plan provided more excellent food, after which we headed off to the "Boat Builder's Party". A Bretton band from the march played, filling the dance floor. This was followed by DJs who played a wide variety of music - the finale was a version of "DownTown" (auf deutch).

Sunday morning we got up early - as our coaches left at 7am! We stopped at a service station for breakfast, then on to Calais for a booze stop and onto the Ferry. We were back in London about 5pm, tired, but happy that an agreement had been reached on Kyoto by almost every country in the world... except the USA.

See also:

-- Andy Pryke - 25 Jul 2001
Topic revision: r2 - 31 Jul 2001, andyp
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