On Saturday 21st May Shetland Film Club will be screening The Pipe at the Shetland Museum and Archive at 7.30pm. Currently being screened at festivals around the world, where it is gathering a great deal of critical acclaim, this is a documentary about a small community being torn apart by the advent of a large energy project – something that may have resonance with Shetland as we continue to debate the pros and cons of the proposed wind farm.
On 29th June, 2005, five men from the township of Rossport, Co. Mayo, were imprisoned for 94 days for defying a court injunction allowing Shell Oil workers to enter their land to lay a high pressure, raw gas pipeline close to their homes. It was their contention that the Irish state had subverted the constitutional rights of its citizens in order to facilitate Shell to ‘grab’ tracts of farmland against the wishes of the landowners. In a land where the memory of British landlords survives in the psyche, Shell’s attempt to force through the pipe evoked huge emotion. The community reacted against what they saw as an aggressive ‘invasion’ from outside by blockading Shell’s multi-billion euro refinery and pipeline, bringing the project to a complete halt. The saga proved to be a public relations disaster for Shell around the world.
Within a year the Irish government sent a force of over 200 police to this tiny community to break the blockade and facilitate the resumption of work on the project. In an area which previously had only one policeman, this forced removal of local people from the gates of the refinery set in train a cycle of conflict which goes on to this day.
The Pipe follows three members of this small community from a quiet rural life to the arrival of Shell into their community, and the fear and anxiety which the impending project brings. Not only are they flung into a tumultuous struggle with Shell and the state, but they are also forced to battle with elements within their own campaign who seek to divide and control, as their community is torn apart by the stresses of choosing to support or oppose the oil company. Yet, despite the seriousness of the events surrounding them, their resilience and humanity never wanes, and even in their darkest moments their wit and humour has an uncanny ability to counter the despair.
The film carries a ‘15’ certificate and tickets are available from Shetland Box Office, online at www.shetlandboxoffice.org , or by telephone on 01595 745555. Alternatively tickets can be bought in person at Shetland Box Office at Islesburgh Community Centre, online at www.shetlandboxoffice.org, by telephone on 01595 745555, or on the door on Saturday at the Museum.