First person: 'I was one of the Kingsnorth Six'

Ben Stewart, 34

In October 2007, Ben Stewart and five of his Greenpeace colleagues scaled the 650ft chimney stack at Kingsnorth Power Station in Kent to stage a protest at proposals to build a new "super-polluting" plant on the site. Last month a jury found them not guilty of causing £30,000 worth of criminal damage.

After nine hours scaling a ladder with the equivalent weight of a small adult on your back, you should be able to sleep. But not when you're squatting on top of the 200-metre chimney stack of a power station. That's where I found myself, this time last year, following days of preparation. Using Google Earth, myself and eight fellow Greenpeace campaigners had scoped the grounds of Kent's Kingsnorth power station. An informer had been inside of the building, so we knew what to expect.

Nine of us set out at 5.30am on a cold October morning. Dressed in black, we crawled across a dark field, carefully avoiding the overhead lights; the silhouette of the power station loomed ahead. The tower is so high it seemed as if we crawled for ages without getting any closer. Finally we reached the foot of the tower, and found a small entrance door. We had 50kg worth of kit each, including tools to prise open the door and lock it firmly behind us, and other provisions. Once that was done, we knew we had a few hours.

Our intelligence had told us there'd be a staircase leading to the top of the tower. In fact there was just a thin service ladder. We took turns climbing the ladder and heaving the kit behind us. This included water, food, paint and communications equipment. We were dressed in warm outdoor gear, and with CO2 rising [in the core of the tower] at 220C – and at 120mph – it was like scaling the inside of a giant oven. Good friendships were forged that night; we reached a level of pain none of us could have imagined.

Finally, we reached the top and the last passage – a small door to the outside where a rusty ladder completed the final 10 metres. Police cars weaved through the village towards us. And as we stuck our heads out of top of the stack, after nine hours in the tower, we knew we'd made the right choice. The fresh air hit us, as we took in the view, with the four flues behind us, pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. It was a haunting moment.

We rested before running ropes over the side of the power station, and set about painting the words "Gordon Bin It" down the tower. This was a protest against Brown's bid to build more power stations. Hovering police helicopters served us an injunction from the High Court, as we painted. We were charged with criminal damage, and later pleaded not guilty in court. The jury decided the impact of the [proposed] power station on the environment was more damaging than our impact on Kingsnorth Tower. The wrong people had stood in the dock.

Do you have an interesting story to tell? E-mail us at magazine@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all