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Kettle Survival Tips

How to deal with police "kettling" tactics

I’m currently in training for the London Marathon (more details here), a slightly mad endeavour which means putting myself through increasing long runs in and around Oxford. I tend to find I do a lot of musing as I run, and it crossed my mind the other week that my experience actually might be be of use in the event of getting caught in a kettle. Since there’s a rather big protest coming up this weekend with kettling chances high, I thought it might help to share.

1. Toilet facilities. One of the things that is pretty grim about kettling is the lack of toilet facilities. Apparently the police are preparing humane kettles with portaloos and everything, but just in case you get caught in an inhumane kettle, this might help. I’ve managed to run for nearly 4.5 hours without a loo break, which is quite an achievement for me. The trick has been to control my fluid intake. So, I stop drinking at least an hour before my run. I then go to the toilet as many times as I can before I start. I carry water and a sports drink with me, and I drink them sparingly, sips at a time, just to keep my mouth from getting too dry. So on Saturday, I’ll use the same principle & make sure I use the loo at every available opportunity – just in case I reach a place when I can’t.

2. Food. The longer you are kettled, the hungrier you are likely to get. Your body will cope better if you have eaten well before. So carbo-load – eat lots of pasta/rice/potatoes in the next couple of days. This will keep sugar levels up in your body and help keep your spirits high.  Porridge is an excellent slow digesting breakfast that can maintain you well into the day. Grab a high protein sandwich at lunchtime (chicken if not veggie/vegan, peanut butter if you are) You probably won’t want to carry round huge bags of food with you, so carry foods that are light and easily digestible – energy bars, nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, raisins and jelly babies. These are all  foods that take time to go through your body slowly, maintaining a good level of carbohydrate and protein in your system, without making you feel bloated. It’s also worth having a sports drink as these are a great pick-me-up when you begin to flag. (Drink sparingly, though, they are very sweet and sickly if you have too much, and you also don’t want to go to the loo!). Lots of long distance runners also use carbohydrate gels as these give an instant boost.

3. Distract your mind.  The frustration of being stuck in a kettle, is that the police are in control and you can’t get out. Sometimes, on long runs, I find it gets tough when I let the situation get on top of me, for example, when I  miss a turn, think I’m further along. I have learnt to settle myself  with a number of techniques. These include : mantras to get me in a running rhythm (eg Love not Cuts, Stop the Cuts, Cut the Cuts), planning something I’m going to do in the week ahead; solving a complex maths problem; singing my favourite songs; counting; imagining my face when I get home etc. Obviously,  in a kettle, you don’t have the advantage of the scenery changing, but, you can let your brain take you elsewhere for a bit. Of course, you have company which can also help. So, also try some mutual distraction, playing word games, cards etc with your neighbours.And, unlike running, you can always take a book to read.

4. Clothing. It looks like Saturday will be quite warm, which means it’s tempting to turn out in light summer clothing. This will be fine in the middle of the day, but as the sun sets, not such a bright idea. Again, running has taught me that light layering is the best solution to this. Gaps between the layers provide insulation and increased warmth, so two thin jumpers can be better than one thick one. And if you bring several items of thin clothing, there’s also less to carry around when it’s hot.

Finally, if you have small children, here’s a few things I learnt not from Marathon training but on the one, very nasty, experience I had of kettling. Pack plenty of nappies (and plastic bags to dispose of them), a potty, lots of food, changes of clothing, books, crayons, pads, blankets and a couple of cushions. You will have a very heavy bag, but if you can hang it round your buggy (or place it underneath) it will mean you have everything necessary to keep your children fed, watered, rested and entertained for as long as necessary. Unfortunately, in my experience, police officers in a kettle lose their humanity when faced with a mother with small children desperate to leave. You  may be lucky enough to find yourself a negotiator as I did (the very wonderful PN Editor, Mil Rai), who helps you escape. But if you aren’t so fortunate, hopefully, you and the children will survive and suffer the minimum discomfort while you wait for your release.

Of course, if you are canny & have the up to date Apps on your phone, you’ll be able to avoid being penned in anyway. But if you are one of the unlucky ones, I hope this helps.

See you on the Streets!