Edinburgh P&P: Freshers Week Frenzy

21 Sep 2007

A few dedicated P&Pers from across the UK have agreed to blog during their Freshers Week, giving us an insight into how they are going about kicking off the new year.

Ben from Edinburgh P&P is our first blogger. Read his blog below.

Saturday 15th September

2007 fresher with dodgy briefcase at Edinburgh P&P's intro day

Edinburgh P&P lifts the lid on bad loans at their introductory day for freshers

By this point most freshers are in the early stages of freshers’ flu and would secretly like to sleep until Monday. However, we managed to get a really good turnout to our ‘Intro Day’ that we had been plugging all week.

Fuelled by plenty of tea and biscuits we launched into a full day of games, campaign introductions, short films and lots of generally inspiring stuff. Our main morning speaker was Joss Garman, the co-founder of Plane Stupid (bringing the aviation industry back down to earth) and campaigner extraordinaire. The very rough theme for the day was intended to be ‘creative campaigning’ and Joss certainly gave us a flavour of all the options!

Our Union wouldn’t let us bring our own food to the event so we shuttled everyone out to the nearest piece of grass for a truly wholesome lunch. The food was so good I don’t believe a single fresher actually noticed we were picnicking in an old graveyard!

Friday 14th September

Friday lunchtime saw the welcome return of the Fair Trade Café. This is a bit of a P&P spin-off society but involves many of the same people. They cook wonderful Friday feasts using largely local, organic and Fairtrade ingredients. The small profit made every week has accumulated over the years into a surprisingly large amount and so a system is being set up whereby campaigning societies on campus can apply to the café for a grant or loan for specific projects/expenses. Today it was free for freshers.

In the afternoon there was a screening of the film ‘Blood Diamond’ in a big theatre. The thinking behind this was that it has a theme vaguely relevant to the Trade Justice campaign but it might also lots of Leo DiCaprio fans to P&P…

Thursday 13th September

With slightly less enthusiasm than Wednesday we dragged ourselves back to the second day of the Societies Fair. The pace was considerably slower but this meant we had more time to chat to people and still signed up another 100 folk. We also had a chance to meet similar societies (Amnesty, Stop AIDS etc.) and discuss what we might work on together in the coming semester.

Wednesday 12th September

Edinburgh P&P's freshers fair stall, 2007

Edinburgh P&P signing up freshers at the Societies Fair

Societies Fair is a mad event. Over 200 societies have stalls around one of our Union buildings, all desperate to attract new members. Thousands of freshers stream through the rooms, laden with flyers, bags, freebies and sweets. At best, you probably have one or two minutes to sell your society before they are whisked away by someone offering free condoms or a summer project in Namibia. Our P&P stall is a colourful affair, with a vast range of issues covered by displays, postcards and other campaign materials. We have photos from actions and socials as well as Fairtrade sweets, and put a lot of effort into promoting our main event on Saturday where we need a good turnout… We also have a raffle of Fairtrade hampers and hope to raise a bit of money for the society.

By the end of today we had about 130 people signed up to email. Even if just 25% of these folk ever take a further interest that will be a good start to the year. One guy claimed to be the son of the Shadow Environment Minister!

Tuesday 11th September

Edinburgh P&P protest against the Royal Bank of Scotland - with banner reading 'The Oil Bank of Scotland: funding climate chaos'

Edinburgh P&P protest against ‘The Oil Bank of Scotland’ as the bank tries to sign up freshers

Today we took a bunch of freshers on a two hour city tour. There are loads of these running throughout the week (the lazy/hungover can even go by coach!) but ours was a wee bit different and included lots of the social and political bits that usually get left out (this doesn’t mean that we avoided crucial areas like the ‘Harry Potter birthplace’ coffee shop). For instance, one of our Union buildings, built in the late 19th century, was a novel social enterprise in its time - housing hairdressers, laundry and many other services. Now it’s all been converted to bars…

To the envy of others, we also managed to get Ben & Jerry’s to donate 50 tubs of Fairtrade ice cream to hand out during the tour! We ended up at Edinburgh Mosque kitchen for lunch, renowned for its giant portions of curry and had lots of P&P discussion with the freshers.

In the afternoon we morphed from city guides into suited ‘Oil Bank of Scotland’ employees for an action right in the centre of campus. The Royal Bank of Scotland has a huge profile around the city at this time of year. Arrivals at the station are greeted with huge billboards advertising their student accounts and their staff flood the central university area signing people up. As RBS is based in Edinburgh, we took a great deal of interest in the report by P&P and PLATFORM highlighting their appalling reluctance to stop funding oil and gas extraction across the world. RBS are responsible for more carbon emissions than the whole of Scotland!

Ten of us dressed up smart and talked to people around the RBS temporary bank that they set up especially for freshers in our main square. We handed out money bags full of coppers as well as information about their record on climate change. The RBS staff weren’t best pleased with us, or our banner, and called University security and the police. However, both said we were free to continue our protest… We probably talked to over 200 people between us and the coverage in our student newspaper next week means we hope to get thousands of students thinking more about who they bank with.

After this exhausting day we spent the evening preparing for Societies Fair!

Monday 10th September

Edinburgh P&P playing games at their Freshers Week fairtrade picnic

Fun, games and fouls at Edinburgh P&P’s fairtrade picnic

Following a weekend influx of thousands of bewildered newbies, Freshers Week 2007 kicks off in earnest! Many of our group only got back in the last few days so a number one priority was to get everyone together for a massive Fairtrade picnic to catch up. Edinburgh has been grey for pretty much every day of August but amazingly the sun has arrived just in time for the new semester!

There is loads of enthusiasm for activism and so many things we want to do! The key is to get our membership up so we can really take on anything we want - we are going all out for P&P this week. We discussed the events ahead, as well as everyone’s summer adventures, and then narrowly avoided breaking regional rep Adam’s back in a game of tag-rugby…