This is our story of the Earth Centre, there are so many stories because so many people were involved and affected by its creation. A group of us spent a few years attempting to return the land to the community and expose the corruption beneath. There is much to be learnt from this tale and we would never have guessed how deep the rabbit hole actually went down in this little mining village.
Please enjoy our story,
The abandoned Earth Centre site was sold by Doncaster Council for an undisclosed sum to Kingswood Educational services company in 2011. The Council acquired the site after the Earth Centre project was driven into administration and closed in 2004. They left the space like a ghost ship for 6 years until local people started investigating strange goings on and began demanding that the land be returned to the community.
The original Earth Centre project began in 1994 as part of the flagship Millennium Project, millions of pounds in public funding was poured into landscaping and designing the then futuristic education centre on the former pit site. You can read all about it in this blog, how they shipped in the 'peace tree' all the way from Hiroshima and like the Earth Centre it didn't survive! They spent thousands flying in guru's and business types whilst promoting sustainability and green ethics. The local people poured their hopes and energies into a project that was mismanaged and eventually abandoned by the suits and left for the police, a war game company and the MOD to use as a playground.
Thing is the local people of Denaby knew very well how to live sustainably, they had endured the miners strikes and the closing of the pits which left thousands without work and many mouths hungry. It was the women of the village that took the initiative to reclaim the land that once was the pit and begin growing food for the local community.
The land was of great importance for beneath it lay hundreds of miles of tunnels and caves dug out by thousands of men and sometimes children who had lived and died in this area not to mention the valuable remaining coal deposits. This is why we think the Millennium Board was so keen to choose Denaby for its Earth Centre project and take the space back from the communities hands.
The local people were visited by representatives and duped into handing over their grassroots project to a bunch of business types promising all manner of wonderful things for the community. Jonathan Smales former head of Greenpeace was named as the brainchild of the earth centre project and work began transforming the site. It must be said that Jonathan Smales and his pals jumped ship as the earth centre was failing. The question is was it set up to fail in the first place? Because so much money over £114,000,000 of public funding was poured into the Earth Centre the local community was not allowed anymore funding for projects because the areas quota was used up by the earth centre.
After its closure many local people put forward suggestions for its use but none were entertained and it remained closed to the public. This huge site full of wildlife, trees, food and medicinal plants, climbing facilities, buildings, kitchens, living water filtration systems, geodomes, educational equipment, a milkfloat and a pirate ship was left to waste and the local people's original food project was no more! Access denied!
It was one day in 2009 that some of us decided we would visit the site and see about starting an eco village and new food project for the community. We found a way in and explored the wild and beautiful space, that after years of neglect had grown into a rich and diverse eco system. We munched on apples from the trees and could not believe that this place had been left to rot! Shortly into a our shambala experience an unmarked BMW pulled onto the site and two armed police officers got out of the vehicle, whilst one stayed in the car with what looked like a drone on his lap. They threatened to arrest us unless we left immediately but we stood our ground as we knew this to be our land! after much debate we decided to leave and begin work on the campaign to RECLAIM THE EARTH CENTRE!
If you consider the land, the neighbouring quarries and vast network of tunnels ancient and new, the interest of the MOD and many dubious companies in the site, the eerie episodes of 'Survivor' the apocalyptic drama filmed for the BBC on the derelict earth centre, the wargame company Cerebus (the three headed dog of war) Airsoft's use of the site, the history of the first corporate mine in the country and the hundreds of men, women and children that lost their lives there, the reluctance of the local council to share information with the local community or allow them access to the site they helped create, it can be said there remains many questions to be answered and many secrets will probably long remain beneath the Earth Centre.
We hope you enjoy our story, we did and we met met many wonderful people because if it. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the campaign, shared their stories, attended meetings, supported our efforts and took part in actions. Reclaim, reuse, resist and rise up!
To begin the story go to the beginning of our blog and the first post on October 26th 2009 - welcome to the story of the earth centre! If you have any questions regarding our story, research and actions please get in touch we'd love to hear your comments :)