History of Tidal

Jubilee 2000 and Trade Justice Movement logosIn 2002, Leeds’ Jubilee Debt Campaign and Trade Justice Movement groups made an unprecedented move; they merged. After six years of leading action on the Jubilee 2000 campaign, Leeds debt campaigners were looking for a new direction. With international trade rocketing up the development community’s agenda, the Trade Justice Movement group was growing in strength and looking for even more support for the cause. After much discussion and debate the two groups agreed they had more to gain by working together than apart, and out of this union Tidal was born.

Back then Tidal stood for Trade Injustice and Debt Action Leeds. The fledgling group spent a great deal of time just getting set up as an organisation, but they did find time to squeeze in a lobby of parliament, a benefit concert for the Jubilee Debt Campaign and a publicity stunt for access to water in Dortmund Square.

Scale up for trade justice, 28 June 2003By 2003 Tidal was in full flow. With a campaign focus on GATS, events included two public meetings on the issue, a street theatre action with WDM, and a lobby and publicity stunt with 4 Leeds MPs and a giant set of scales! Members of the legendary Leeds cycling crews the Freedom Rickshaw Riders and Speedy Cyclists rode to the G8 summit in Evian, France. Also, remembering that a revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having, TIDAL threw a party to celebrate 5 years since the human chain surrounded the G8 in Birmingham.

This was also the year Tidal launched arguably its most successful campaign ever – the campaign to make Leeds a Fairtrade City. Starting by asking our supporters to send a tear-off slip included in the Tidal newsletter to their councillors, campaigners lobbied the council hard to adopt the new standard. Amazingly, less than a year after the campaign had been launched, Leeds was declared a Fairtrade City launch, 5th March 2004Fairtrade City on the 5th March 2004. At the time the award made Leeds the largest Fairtrade City in the country.

2004 was by no means a quiet year – we organised a Fairtrade Fiesta at the Civic Hall, a meeting on the Tobin Tax, a World Debt Day penalty shoot-out stunt, lobbied Hilary Benn and held Cloth, a Fairtrade fashion show – yet it seemed tame in comparison with the following one…

2005 was the year of Make Poverty History. An exciting and exhausting year for development campaigners, Tidal led the charge in promoting the campaign in Leeds. The movement was on fire that year, pulling out all the stops to promote the highest-profile development campaign since Jubilee 2000.

Events organised ranged from lobbying Hilary Benn in February, a Fairtrade Fun Day at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the ‘Stay Up for Trade Justice‘ vigil in Holy Trinity Church, to a winter vigil outside the hotel housing the EU’s Development Ministers.

Make Poverty History march in EdinburghThe centrepiece of the year had to be the massive summer march in Edinburgh. Not only did some campaigners cycle from Leeds to Edinburgh – some via Tanzania! – to get there, the rest of Leeds’ activists took one of Tidal’s two specially chartered trains. In total we transported over 1,500 people to the march!

As if all that wasn’t enough, Leeds was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Fairtrade Foundation for its 2005 Fairtrade Fortnight, and the Surge speaker’s project was launched. Surge was a three-year project funded by DfID to allow Tidal to recruit, train and support speakers on international development issues. As you can imagine, our volunteers were in high demand that year…

In 2006 the movement took a collective break as it rested from the madness of Make Poverty History, took stock of its position and planned for the future. A rally in the summer and Tea Party in the winter kept the Make Poverty History flame burning, but increasingly energy was being poured into tackling the hot new development issue; climate change.

Keen to broaden our knowledge, we invited the Director of the newly formed Stop Climate Chaos Coalition to come up to Leeds and talk to us about the links between poverty and climate change. Inspired by what we heard, we founded Stop Climate Chaos Leeds, and that year held a public meeting on the issue and took 40 campaigners to November’s iCount rally in London.

2007 saw Tidal organise everything from an EPA day of action and lobby of a local MEP to supporting Christian Aid’s Cut the Carbon march and organising Cloth 07, a Fairtrade fashion show. Stop Climate Chaos Leeds became increasingly active, organising a vigil on Briggate, holding a fundraising gig at the Brudenell Social Club, and even finding funding for a one day a week member of staff.

Cutting Nelson Mandela's Birthday CakeBy 2008 both trade and debt were low on the agenda for most national development agencies, but Tidal kept working to make sure the issues were not forgotten in Leeds. We had a packed World Debt Week with a publicity stunt, talk by a campaigner from the global south, and took a coachload of people to Journey to Justice, the Jubilee Debt Campaign’s conference on debt relief. Whilst we also organised a party to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday in The Light and hosted a session in the Schumacher North Conference, 2008 really belonged to Stop Climate Chaos Leeds.

Kicking off with a stunt on the Millennium Square ice rink, SCCL went on to encourage dozens of responses to the Leeds City Council Climate Change Strategy consultation, hold a fundraising ‘Play in a Day’, host two cafés on climate change, flashmob Briggate with the Leeds Freeze, and cap off the year with taking a coachload of people to the National Climate March in London.

2009 was shaping up to be a similar year, but when we heard that Leeds Bradford Airport had submitted proposals to expand its terminal we threw all other plans out the window. With Friends of the Earth, Leeds World Development Movement and dozens of grassroots campaigners we launched the No Leeds Bradford Airport Expansion campaign. Though the expansion itself ultimately went ahead, we won important concessions on curbing the growth of the airport and came within a single vote of total success, an incredible feat given the vested interests we were up against.

No Leeds Bradford Airport Expansion campaign

As well as supporting the Leeds premier of climate change docu-drama The Age of Stupid and helping run the Engage + Change day of action, we also collaborated with CAFOD, Christian Aid and Leeds Justice and Peace Commission to charter and fill a train with 700 activists to The Wave climate march.

In between all of this campaigning, an enormous amount of work was going on behind the scenes to determine the futures of Tidal and Stop Climate Chaos Leeds. We realised that we shared the same values and could be more effective if we shared our resources, so mimicking the Leeds Jubilee 2000 and Trade Justice groups’ decision almost a decade ago we decided to merge the two groups. We also realised that the issues of trade, debt and climate change were impossible to solve without addressing other issues of global justice like biodiversity, peak oil, and sustainability, so we broadened the remit of our work accordingly.

Finally, we realised that by ourselves it would be impossible to achieve the change we wanted in Leeds. But if we enabled activists to work together, to work more effectively, and we helped more people become activists in the first place, then together we might just be able to create the change we need.

Leeds climate activists

And so in 2010 we changed our name to simply ‘Tidal’, and gave ourselves a new mission: to coordinate, support and grow global justice activism in Leeds. That year we developed this website and started to publish an e-update to keep Leeds activists connected to one another. We also helped groups work together strategically on the general election with our Fair Ten Challenge. But perhaps our most important area of work for 2010 was beginning to create a plan for Tidal and the Leeds global justice movement. We held ‘Tidal’s Big Conversation’ in the Autumn to get loads of activists involved in what we need in Leeds to grow and connect the movement, build flourishing groups and engage activists. You can read the notes from those conversations online.

In 2011 we used all that thinking and soul-searching to start working towards a plan for what Tidal could do to help us reach this goal. We continued planning and researching and welcomed a new Coordinator half way through the year. But we didn’t stop campaigning! We also held a lobby of Leeds MPs in the Big Climate Connection in the Spring, and launched Leeds Fuel Poverty Action in the Autumn with 4C, SURE-Energy, Friends of the Earth and lots of other grassroots groups and activists. We held a Harvest Party to celebrate all our wonderful supporters (and eat lots of tasty homemade soup and bread) and welcomed Tidal’s first official volunteers. Tidal was one of the partners putting on Leeds Summat in November which attracted around 1000 activists from across the city! We used this to launch our mapping project which we’ve been working on with TINWOLF and others. It aims to start linking groups together and provide easier access to public and shared resources.


The mapping project continued into 2012, when we finally signed off our new plan which you can read all about here! We got some money from the wonderful people of Leeds RAG to get someone to do some research on meeting spaces in Leeds and put them onto the online map. We’re still working on how the website will look and working out the technical glitches, but you can have a cheeky sneak preview here if you like. As part of this plan to link together activist groups and make it easier for new people to join in the fun, we’ve joined together with Together for Peace and Taking Soundings to develop a new ‘hub website’ – potentially called Radical Leeds (let us know what you think of the name!). Once completed, the map will form part of this site. We’re hoping to raise the rest of the money we need and complete the research in first half of 2013 so that it can be done by the end of next year.

This past year has also seen the launch of Leeds Citizens (formally Leeds Community Organising), a project Tidal has been part of from its conception. Our involvement in the project is helping bring global justice issues to new parts of Leeds, and we hope will link up global and local in the heart of communities in our city. We are now working on bringing in larger civil society institutions so that by the end of next year we can employ a full time organiser.

Leeds Fuel Poverty Action has been busy too, going to London for a national demo, the Big Six Energy Bash, publishing a manual on retrofitting, organising more actions in Leeds, and also mini-conference in September. Phew! Now we’re working on a photography exhibition to show the impact of fuel poverty on people’s lives in East Leeds and also showing the solutions, from practical action such as insulating your house to campaigning for change. We’re also working with Friends of the Earth on the Energy Bill Revolution and will hold an event targeting Ed Balls in February with our snazzy new exhibition.

With supporting and connecting the movement in Leeds as our new(ish!) mission, we decided to dedicate our 2012 annual conference to the theme: Crisis Opportunity? It examined how we can thrive in a time of crisis and searched for opportunities for resistance. If you like numbers, you’ll be happy to hear we had a total of 13 workshops, 22 contributors and 86 participants on the day! We heard from inspiring speakers and linked up a number of different groups for collaborative action. One focus was questioning what Leeds wants to do when the UK hosts the G8 summit in June 2013, and subsequently groups have met up and are making collaborative plans to bring campaigning together. We also provided training by the Rhizome Co-op that was so popular they are going to come back and do a whole day session on the secrets to a healthy group.

Last but by no means least, 2012 has been a year of fundraising, which we’re continuing in 2013. We organised a sponsored walk across the Dales Way – with a peak of 33 people walking almost 100 miles from Lake Windermere to Ilkley. These incredible walkers raised over £3000 and are the reason we’re still here! Combined with one off appeals through localgiving.com, that money is keeping us going until October 2013. That’s where the money gets a bit thin, so we’ve been working on attracting new supporters so that we are secure in our core costs so that we can apply to grant making bodies to fund all these exciting new projects. If you’d like to help us become financially secure and keep our independence then check out our supporter pages. We’d be ever so grateful.

So here it is, ten years of Tidal on one page. We prepared this to satisfy curious onlookers, to reflect on where we’ve been, and to record for posterity our story. Thanks for reading. Oh, and after all that if you’re still hungry for more detail, click here to view eight years’ worth of newsletters.