Bristol’s first “warm up” action saw ten people demonstrate inside Cabot Circus to raise awareness of fuel poverty and campaigns fighting against it.
The action saw the small group hold a space inside the shopping centre, where they handed out flyers and spoke to the public, and to stay warm. It was organised by grassroots groups Fuel Poverty Action and Don’t Pay, with support from XR Bristol.
John Whitcher, of Fuel Poverty Action, said: ‘If we aren’t able to keep warm in our own homes then we’ll enter public spaces as a group to keep warm together.’
He said the action was intended to show solidarity with the millions of people who already can’t afford to pay their bills. ‘The more we come together the more we can build our alternate mutual aid networks,’ said John.
The action comes three days into the national energy bill strike led by Don’t Pay. A quarter of a million people have pledged to strike by cancelling their direct debit payments to energy suppliers.
One of the people participating in the warm up, who asked to remain anonymous, was a supporter of Don’t Pay. She cancelled her energy direct debit on December 1 and is now on strike. She said she works a low-paid job and is struggling to pay her energy bills.
Asked why she is striking, she said: ‘It’s to make energy companies and the government realise that people aren’t just going to sit back and tolerate these ridiculously high energy bills while the energy companies are still making huge profits.’
Speaking about the warm up, she said she hoped the action would empower others to know that they can take action against rising energy bills.
The Cabot Circus action coincided with warm ups across the country. In London, activists climbed into display beds in Harrods before being removed by security. In Glasgow, activists blockaded the entrance to Scottish Power.
Organisers said that Saturday’s warm up was intended as a trial of the tactic, and in the future they may look to be spicier in their choice of targets.
Fuel Poverty Action want the government to introduce a universal basic fuel allowance, whereby every household would receive an amount of free energy and only pay if they use above this amount. Under such a system, customers using small, everyday amounts of energy would be protected from rising energy costs and standing charges.