Nicholson, Patrick

Nicholson, Patrick

Patrick Nicholson

1 October 2016Feature

Looking back at a book that sowed seedbombs

Illustration by Clifford Harper from Radical Technology

In my early teens I picked up a book from my sister´s shelves and quickly appropriated it as my own. Unknown to me then, it was to become a profound influence on diverse aspects of my life.

At that age I was already very interested in how things worked, and in dismantling and rebuilding anything that fell into my hands, from televisions to music boxes to steam engines. The book was all about alternative technology,…

1 December 2012Review

Verso, 2012; 344pp; £16.99

Platform is a unique organisation combining art, activism, research, and education. Based in London, for over a decade it has been exploring the multi-dimensional reach of the oil industry into society, a ‘Carbon Web’ that encompasses governments, giant oil companies, banks, and a myriad other organisations, from law firms to universities, NGOs to cultural institutions. Written by two members of Platform, The Oil Road is an important component of this project, focussing on the story of how…

17 October 2012Feature

A warning of things to come: a temporary anti-road camp on the South Coast

At the end of September, a new local campaigning group calling itself 'Combe Haven Defenders' staged a weekend camp on the site of the proposed Bexhill-Hastings Link Road on England's South Coast. The temporary camp brought together 200 people with a shared concern for saving the valley and a willingness to explore the possibilities for action.

It also attracted a lot of media attention, including the Sunday…

31 March 2012Review

Directed by Nicholas Kent; Tricycle Theatre, London,9 February – 1 April;

The Tricycle Theatre, ‘Britain’s leading political playhouse’ according to The Times, is running a packed season of events examining nuclear weapons and the nuclear debate.

A centrepiece of this season is an ambitious two-part, five-hour sequence of 10 new short plays exploring nuclear issues, the performances punctuated and complemented by verbatim readings, archive footage and images.

The 10 plays explore nuclear weapons from a refreshingly diverse range of…

1 March 2012Blog

Patrick Nicholson reviews the new play at the Tricycle on nuclear weapons.

The Bomb: a partial history, in two parts. Directed by Nicholas Kent. Tricycle Theatre, London, 9th February – 1st April 2012.

Reviewed by Patrick Nicholson

The Tricycle Theatre, “Britain’s leading political playhouse” according to the Times, is running a season of events examining nuclear weapons and the nuclear debate. A centrepiece of this season is…

7 January 2012Review

Translated from the French, Depleted Uranium: Deadly, Dangerous & Indiscriminate: The Full Picture attempts to bridge the gap between campaigning polemic and scientific argument in the area of depleted uranium (DU). One of the strengths of the book is that the authors generally make take the difficult, but correct, decision to leave open questions on which hard evidence is simply absent. This is a welcome contrast to the tendency amongst some anti-DU activists to talk up…

1 December 2011Review

DVD 90 mins . Available for £10 + £2.50 p&p from

Emily James spent a year embedded in the environmental direct action movement with groups like Plane Stupid, Climate Camp, Bike Block and others, gaining their confidence and trying to capture the passion, commitment, and excitement of putting direct action into practice.

The resulting film is a dense, fascinating, fast-moving work in which we meet and follow a variety of individuals, and hear stories from their lives as activists. We see them in action at the Vestas wind turbine…

1 October 2011Review

2011, 90 mins plus extras. Produced in collaboration with Roehampton University, London, and New Statesman. Available for £6 via  

Filmed between December 2010 and March 2011, Michael Chanan’s documentary is a collage of video and music capturing the excitement, spontaneity and power of the grassroots movement that exploded into existence as a response to government spending cuts in the universities and beyond.

As well as the video diary elements filmed by Chanan himself, there is interspersed found and borrowed footage, reminding us of how this was a movement interacting with the public sphere, and drawing in…

24 September 2011Blog

Patrick Nicholson gives a view behind the barricades of organising resistance to the Dale Farm eviction

After much dithering, we ended up driving North on Sunday night heading for Dale Farm, ducking under the Thames at Dartford, and emerging in Essex, new and alien ground for us. Breaking right towards Basildon and then onto back roads, we were anticipating blocked roads and searches, and parked discreetly some distance from the site. We needn’t have worried. Walking in, there was an extraordinary air of calm, with a few quiet words of welcome and thanks from Travellers as we walked in the…

1 September 2011Review

HACAN, 2011; 52pp; available from

The third runway campaign is one of the seminal success stories of recent years. A coalition that encompassed local authorities, direct action groups, local resid-ents associations, and others, took on the entwined might of government and aviation industry and won a famous victory.

This booklet outlines the history of that campaign from its beginnings in 1997 to the decision in 2010 to scrap plans for a third runway. It explains the strategy and tactics that worked, the problems that…

1 July 2011Review

PM Press, 2011; 128pp; £10.99  

I suspect many activists struggle with the bigger political context outside their immediate areas of concern and engagement – I know I do. An insidious feature of current mainstream political culture is that sense of “this is how it is; this is the only way things can be”; that capitalism, of a neoliberal variety, is the only game in town. Hence for activists the choice can feel like either doing single-issue politics, or none at all. This book can change all that.

Moments of Excess…

1 June 2011Review

Meat: A benign extravagance (Permanent Publications, 2010; 322pp; £19.95); The Vegetarian Myth: Food, justice and sustainability (Flashpoint Books, 2009, 312pp, pbk, £14.99); Vegan Freak: Being vegan in a non-vegan world (PM Press, 2010; 222pp; £10.99).

These books offer three very different perspectives on the exploitation of animals for food by humans: one from a land activist (Fairlie), one from an angry ex-vegan (Keith), and one written by passionate animal rights advocates (Torres and Torres).

Putting my cards as reviewer on the table, I’m philosophically an omnivore though practically a near-vegetarian; my agricultural experience is limited to growing up in Somerset and tending an under-producing allotment for 10 years; and…

1 May 2011Review

Zed Books, 2010; 182pp; £14.99

This book argues that global warming and bulging human waistlines are products of the same global problems. In Western societies, the car and the television have curtailed human physical activity to unprecedented levels, while a rampant food industry pushes more and more energy-dense foods. The developing world follows our oil-addicted lead, whether it wants to or not.

Fatness is not a personal problem: it is a political problem, as is climate change. Effective, essential action on…

1 March 2011Review

Print copy of the website; produced by independent volunteer researchers; 94pp

In late January this year there was a very well-organised and dynamic anti-GM meeting in London called Gathering Momentum which attracted well over 100 participants, including farmers, scientists and activists, from all over Britain and Ireland. This very useful little booklet, distributed at the meeting, is essentially a print copy of the Stop GM website, but it reads very well in its own right. It provides a very clear and grounded rationale for opposition to GM and brings the reader…

1 December 2010Review

Verbal Burlesque Records, 2010; 63 mins; downloadable from ITunes for £7.99

Wobegone is the third solo album by former Chumbawamba member Danbert Nobacon. Chumbawamba were (indeed still are, in their current acoustic incarnation) unique in UK popular music in combining a radical anarchist analysis and action with a creative trajectory that showed the same integrity as their politics.

Never afraid to experiment, their music was, at times, hit-and-miss but some of it was astonishingly, ecstatically good – all the more impressive when you think of the band’s…