Dan Edelstyn’s evening with Just Stop Oil

Recently, we had the pleasure of hosting filmmaker Dan Edelstyn for a screening of his last documentary ‘Bank Job’. The film covers one couple’s efforts to challenge the unfairness that underlines the financial system, in part by selling their own banknotes and using the funds to purchase and forgive debt.

Now, artist Hilary Powell and her husband Dan have been fundraising and organising in their community to outfit their whole street with solar panels, provididing free energy for the people and kickstarting a DIY green new deal. Their project, POWER, solutions embraces the solar punk idea of infrastructure as art and resistance – bringing a community together to both recognise and generate collective power.

Dan wrote a touching and insightful blog about his experience, speaking about the theatre of civil resistance, the urgency of rapid transition to renewables, and everyone’s favourite JSO supporter Sam G. They are his own words and don’t necessarily reflect the official position of Just Stop Oil:


My good friend Sam has joined Just Stop Oil. I interviewed him in my kitchen about a month or so ago with my colleague Leonie.. & following on from that he invited us to screen Bank Job to members of the group at their office near Dalston..

As filmmakers, we usually ask for a screening fee and an appearance fee for doing these types of events – and our collaborator / distributor Christo is very strict in this, as it’s so hard to make films, so we like to demonstrate the important principle of asking organisations to recognise the embedded labour (over years) in making these types of projects.. 

But on this occasion, I wanted to wave our fee and just go and chat with them – after all, when you look at the work of Just Stop Oil, you see ordinary people standing up courageously to the establishment, and not only putting their bodies in the way of a hostile state that seems hell-bent on self-destruction – but also putting their livelihoods at stake.. of course their work is “unpaid”. And in many cases, they’re being chucked into prison and can’t work – all that to try and halt new fossil projects..

There’s something about the clarity of their message which is so elegant and dynamic, it’s a campaign we truly admire. One of our friends recently referred to Just Stop Oil as “the only show in town”.

I was aiming to get to the event around an hour after the film started, as I find it hard to watch Bank Job because I am very critical of it, and I just wanted to get to the bit where the lights went up and everyone asked the questions.

The event had been started later than anticipated though, so I had to sit through quite a lot of the film, and the whole era came back to me with a sudden Proustian rush.

This is the strange thing about filmmaking for me and Hilary- as we are in the films, watching them presents snapshots of our life with all the detail and emotion we felt at the time.. (one of the sharpest examples of this is seeing our children who looked so young) As we get older and the film becomes ever more remote, so will our relationship change with it.. just like if you see a snap of yourself as a child, and you wonder who that was..

But what I love about doing Q&A’s is the way in which the people in the room are seeing the film, reading the subject. And as the conversation began to flow, it became clear that Just Stop Oil wanted some help specifically with court debt, linked with injunctions.. Big private corporations / and our government or local councils get injunctions to stop them protesting on this road, or in this vicinity..

The injunctions are obtained by high-powered lawyers on eye-watering salaries – and all these costs are then passed on to those protestors who have been served with those injunctions.. 

So many of the people in the room had bills being sent to them in the multiple thousands..

Anyway we had a great discussion, lots of interesting questions – and then we began to chat about Power Station and many of the assembled audience were very interested in this project – some were from Fossil Free London who mainly target corporations which are greenwashing etc.. 

At the end I said to the room how much I respect and appreciate the courage it must take and all the costs of doing what they’re doing. My friend Sam said at the end of my short speech that “there was always a high vis for me, whenever I wanted it.”

Then we went to the pub..

One of the first things Sam said was “you talked about the costs of all we’re doing in Just Stop Oil – but what you haven’t seemed to understand is the rewards of it. The camaraderie we feel when we take action, the freedom from fear we feel when we put on the high vis jackets, and cross that invisible line, and walk into the street.”

Crossing the line.. 

One of the conversations that I remember most clearly was when Indi, one of founders of Just Stop Oil who was there – and really very bright and passionate person started to talk about their work in relation to theatre.. 

I think she was critiquing forms of radical street theatre as being a tactic that didn’t really work, removing itself from life to re-enact life on a stage.. 

And I began to see Just Stop Oil as a form of theatre. 

My friend Sam had spoken of this earlier – and he was right.. he was talking about the freedom that comes from taking action – becoming in a very real sense an “actor” – an active agent..

Here, he told me, things began to change – in the lives of those action-takers..

I had only seen the costs, the downside – but there was an upside, and for the conspirators around that table, the energy and excitement of their mission were palpable – and there was an excitement about it all. 

I could see all the actors in their uniforms / costumes – from the Police to the judges, to the photographers. All of them solemnly carrying out their roles according to the prescribed scripts of our times, or else like the politicians, rewriting the rules of the play. But this Just Stop Oil thing is a form of subversive theatre that brings the themes to life, through the crucible of human action – and I guess at the main cost to the actors themselves…

Although – as Sam insisted – he has never felt more alive, and less in fear. His eyes are wide and luminous, I never saw him more thoroughly alive, more thoroughly liberated. It seems that the state can throw almost anything at Just Stop Oil – and they will appear again the next day – they describe it between themselves as a relay, one passing the batton of action to the next.. Some of them are in prison for longer periods – the ones who occupied the bridge for instance. Some are no doubt burned out but there seems to be no shortage of good people willing to take their place at the front lines.

It was one of those glorious summer evenings, and though it had gotten quite late, and it was dark, the air remained alive with possibility and it seemed electric.

Earlier that evening I’d talked to a local woman from the group, who had reminded me that early XR meetings had taken place in our Bank – and she sent her love to Hilary who wasn’t with me.. She said she used to work in IT but had had to stop a year or two ago, when she got too busy with XR..

My question was beginning to form: “how on earth do these people survive while doing the actions they do?” I didn’t want to put her on the spot and ask her directly though.. and strangely she was asking me the same question around Bank Job. How did we pull it off? There were so many people to chat to and I didn’t really respond properly to it – I didn’t have the time.

These questions worried me about my friend Sam too – he’s a very talented graphic designer and although he had felt very worried about the climate before, he had never been much of a protestor until around maybe six months ago, when he “crossed the line”… now it seemed to me that Just Stop Oil was everything he did.

He does have a family, presumably a mortgage too, a dog to walk.. but now into the mix, he’s managing a very busy “career” with Just Stop Oil – and has been arrested multiple times in the last few months. (I put the speech marks there because I presume everything he’s doing there is unpaid.”

And that was the thing with Just Stop Oil – the commitment.

They are doggedly pursuing a victory over the establishment and they are animated in this mission by a sense of time running out. And when you see the images of Greece, Spain and Italy on the TV -and when you look in the garden and wonder where all the bugs are.. you can’t help but agree.. they are right..

Sam passed me a high-vis jacket across the table – and I felt in a sense the whole conversation – or at least one part of it through the night, was him asking me why I haven’t yet donned the high vis and whether or not I too will cross the line.

And there’s a part of me that’s there with them – I can see the clarity of their demands, the beauty and power of their theatre – the simple orange high-vis costume; the high-stakes, conflict-driven story-telling that has propelled them into the mainstream imagination, and got their message out far and wide.. And the fact is that they have visibility – ministers are responding to them!

Grant Schapps attempts to get Labour to meet the cost of the damage to the building after Just Stop Oil sprayed its walls orange..

Keir Starmer replies.. the theatre has an audience, and its themes are being discussed

I looked across the table as Indi was saying “We have to up the tension” – and I began to see her as a genius political playwright. As the tensions escalate so does the excitement. The knuckles drain of their colour.. She was clearly thrilled to be effectively in direct conversation with Grant Shapps who is writing about them, trying to get Starmer to cough up the damages on the Department of Energy’s building.. although Schapps isn’t writing to them, they are on his radar, they are on his mind – and their demands are all over the tabloids.. They are as my friend writes “the only show in town”.

And their counterparts in Europe have been declared terrorist organisations..  But as Indy says – they may have their accounts frozen and be labelled as terrorists, but the next day fresh donations will pile in totalling three times what they had in their account the day before.

Ultimately I came away from the evening with the Just Stop Oil High Vis stuffed in my pocket, a moment of possibility for sure, but probably for me, it’s a mantel that will remain as a costume in a drawer, not one I will be putting on.

That’s not to say there’s any less respect for them – it’s just that I’m dedicated full time to Power Station – and I have a small team that I’m also dedicated to.. and if I were to start, then where would I stop? 

And the solution we are working for is harmonious with the goals of Just Stop Oil. 

We are saying : Just Start Power Stations – let’s do it street by street – everywhere, at speed

And this struggle we’re in also has power. And perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we all have unique strengths, unique capacities and unique roles to play – and that there will never be only one way to contribute to this movement.

Our next step is to figure out which streets to work with – we have so far had 31 people fill out our form, and we are fascinated by the streets we’re looking at. Everywhere from London to Bristol to Wales to Orkney! 

Before we start to raise the pot to help fund these streets, we will need to decide a shortlist to come and visit and make short films of each – and this will be the thing we need to do next. But for now the children are off school, and it seems a very difficult time to launch a new fundraiser – we need a bit of a break and to be there as parents for them. This too is important. This too needs time.

If you want to join in our street-by-street expansion – please visit this form and fill it out as the first step!


and if you can support us in our project by joining our membership / and getting artworks, please visit this page: