What’s in the water? Creative solidarity action outside BHP AGM 2018

Threepenny Festival (3PF), London Mining Network (LMN) and allies have been working together since 2015. “What’s in the water?” was the second time we have collaborated on a performance based solidarity action outside the AGM of BHP Billiton, a multinational extractivist corporation. This action continued to draw on a popular education process which created a pool of ‘experts by experience’ in 2017 from whom the ideas were drawn. The creative process was informed at every stage by consultation with representatives of indigenous communities affected by BHP Billiton’s extractivist practices.

The chosen intervention for 2018 involved the creation of a spoof mineral water product, Agua Vida, which called into question BHP and associates’ claims to be safeguarding water supplies in areas of extractivist operations in Colombia and Brazil.

The short film above documents the action, and features interviews with the key campaigners. 3PF created a number of simultaneous elements to the action:

  • The Agua Vida stall, involving a large pop-up banner and two sales people offering bottles of water to the shareholders as they entered the private area outside QE2H.

  • The Cerrejon village map was displayed

  • A soundscape, calling attention to mining activities, was played back on a portable speaker

3PF also created a scratch performance for the evening event:

  • A semi-improvised playback of the day’s events in prose, poetry and music
  • A showing of a crash edit of the film of the action outside QE2H
  • A libation ceremony, passing around a bowl of water whilst singing a song (on the theme of the sacred nature of water).

For more information on the devastating impact of British mining in Latin America, you can read the War on Want’s report The Rivers are Bleeding.


The EXTRACT project was a two stage collaboration between the Threepenny Festival Association, Virtual Migrants, Rainbow Collective, Voices That Shake!, the London Mining Network and War On Want. The first stage took place on the 5th and 6th of October 2017, with a two day workshop that used popular education techniques to pilot new ways of linking activists, artists and NGOs with limited resources.

Facilitated by Jacqueline Contré, Aidan Jolly, Mogs Russell, and Tim Hollins, a group of twenty people met and shared experiences and knowledge on a number of topics, including the Spiral Model of popular education, and theories of social change. From this the group went on to design an artistic intervention for use in the London Mining Network/War on Want campaign against ‘extractivism’ (see below).

The workshop group was drawn from a diverse group of people with a range of experience and representing organisations including Collective Encounters, War On Want, The Racial Justice Network, Voices That Shake! Art Not Oil, Trade Unionists, disability rights and anti-fracking activists. There was a spread of ages within the group from 20 to 60+. For links to these groups click here.

The second stage was an artist led intervention in the protest outside the BHP-Billiton Annual General Meeting in London on October 19th. A map representing villages displaced by the Cerrejón open cast mine was created and rolled out in front of the entrance to the conference hall, leaving shareholders with the choice of confronting or dodging their complicity. The film (above) was made alongside this process, documenting the struggle of the WaYúu people, and calling for action.

We are grateful for funding from the Lipman-Miliband Trust for stage 1, and LUSH (via the London Mining Network) for stage 2.