On the day that BAA started to buy up homes in readiness for a third runway,
a Heathrow villages resident decided to join Plane Stupid activists to highlight
the plight of residents.
Christine, whose 78-year old mother and sister live in the area that would be
demolished, said: “I have never done anything like this before but when I heard
that BAA were starting to buy up homes, even though they know a third runway is
unlikely to ever be built, I felt something had to be done to highlight what the
aviation industry is doing to our villages.
The group joined guests at the PR Week Awards at Grosvenor House in Park Lane
and took over the table allocated for Virgin Atlantic. Boss Richard Branson is
an outspoken advocate of a third runway.
While Paul Charles, Director of Communications at Virgin Atlantic, and his guests
got a small taste of what it feels like to be pushed out your place with nowhere
to go, Grosvenor House staff tried a variety of tactics to remove the smartly-dressed
activists who were determined to make their point.
Staff had a problem; It is hard to tell anyone from Sipson that they have no
right to sit at a Virgin Atlantic table in order to make a point, when Virgin
Atlantic believes BAA has the right to forcibly remove people from Sipson in order
to make a profit.
After security guards attempted to wrestle an activist off his seat, which simply
drew more attention to the protest, hotel staff started to dismantle the table
Meanwhile, various diners were interested to know what all the fuss was about.
There was considerable support for the protest and even the police, who arrived
to remove the protesters, were not unsympathetic.
About an hour later, as comedian Alexander Armstrong (from BBC’s Armstrong and
Miller) got into his act, he was interupted by cries of “No Third Runway!”.
Christine, who had found a vacant seat with an understanding group, had been
spotted by security and decided that rather than be hustled out she would move
purposefully towards the stage.
As a security guard rushed, with arms spread out, in front of her, Christine
clamped him in a “Strictly Come Dancing” hold and attempted to waltz with him
out of the room – but he was more John Sergeant than Anton du Beke, which thwarted
the attempt at a stylish exit.
Incidentally, the first award of the evening went to Joanna Lumley for her campaign
for the Gurkhas. She was in Burma but her co-campaigner’s acceptance speech highlighted
the power of individuals to make change happen and this received an enthusiastic
round of applause.
Ironic really since people campaigning to help the Heathrow villagers and those
people affected by climate change had just been ejected. Still, that’s the Public
Relations business for you.