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UK: Report from Norwich Smokey Bear's Picnic

Alun Buffry

Alun Buffry's Blog

Saturday 07 Sep 2013

It was just two weeks notice but when the idea was posted on Facebook some of us jumped to action. As well as spreading word through social media, I told the two local papers, the Norwich Evening News and the EDP and Radio Norfolk.

Within a few days, I had a letter through my letterbox asking me to urgently phone the police. So I phoned them and agreed for them to visit my house within an hour.

Two chief constables turned up an sat in my kitchen for almost an hour reading out a series of questions they had prepared.

"Are you the organiser?" one asked.

"No," I said, "I am a publisher, I publish events and news."

"Well if you publish it you are the organiser."

"Oh, if that's the case, I should be getting paid because I published the Leonard Cohen tour too - but I did not organise it!"

Other questions were "how many do you expect to turn up?"

"I don't know, I am not an organiser"

"Will you be having marshals?"

"I don't know, I am not an organiser. I keep telling you that."

"What about young people or children?"

""I don't know, I am not an organiser. But I think young people will be asked to stay away from anyone smoking, and children are the responsibility of parents and police, we can hardly drag them away!"

"Will you be smoking cannabis"

"Personally, you won't see me smoking anything and what other people do is their choice, they all know they could be arrested. Anyway, people smoke cannabis in parks in Norwich every sunny day, don't they?"

Yes," said the Constable, "but will they be smoking in your picnic?" "I don't know, I am not an organiser"

"What if somebody thinks, these people may have some drugs or cash and tries to rob people on their way into the park?" he asked.

"Well that would be up to the police to handle and I would call you.

Otherwise I would probably give him my money, I don't carry a lot"

"yes, I would too," he said.

With that they said they did not want the picnic to go ahead.

"I am not surprised," I said, "I guess police don't want any demonstrations or protests unless it's their own!"

"Have you got permission from the Council?" he asked.

"I don't need permission to have a picnic in the park and in any case, I am not an organiser; and if somebody did ask for permission, the Council would say no."

"Do you have public liability insurance?"

"Me, no. For a picnic? I don't know, I am not an organiser".

Two days later there were articles in the local press, one headed "Police want picnic nipped in the bud!"

I told the police that I would go on Facebook and suggest we get some hi-vis jackets and marshals in case thousands turned up, but I expected 50 to 100, based on the picnics we had attended in Chapelfield Gardens ten years or so ago; that we would deal with our own litter and if there was any trouble we would call the police.

When they day came, I went down to the Park expecting to be searched on the way in, but was approached by two bobbies who asked if I was the organiser!

"I am not the organiser, I am just a publisher"

"How many do you expect to turn up?"

"I don't know, I am not an organiser"

"The lady PC asked "Will people be taking drugs?"

"I don't know, I am not an organiser. People may smoke tobacco or cannabis, they know the risk, some are quite prepared to be arrested.!"

"but this is a public park with children and families."

"I know that, I am a member of the public, we all are. Tell us where else to go and we can think about it. You have to do your job and we have to protest."

Then I was approached by Radio Norfolk: "Are you the organiser?"

"No I am not, there is no organiser. It is an idea - let's have a picnic and then people invite friends".

The interview lasted about half an hour and then they took some quotes from a few others, Tina Girling, Don Barnard, Chris Philbin, Kevin Deadman ... on Monday morning many of us were heard on the early morning radio show.

Interviews with the local rags went much the same way and we saw two quite good articles on Monday Morning. You can read the press at

The day went quietly, the only trouble was when police told Don, our liaison officer, that they could smell "skunk" by the park gates (a couple of hundred yards away)

Police pulled a couple of people from the group nearest them and did some pocket searches that produced nothing, whilst we just sat on the grass on the grass!

Several amongst us just wandered across the park for a toke and a cup of tea, and several smaller groups were spotted picnicking and toking around the park.

I felt like a decoy, a member of the public eating crisps and drinking orange juice, whilst around the park, across the city, county, country and world, people were peacefully toking as normal.

I wrote a letter to the press, which was published under a heading "The Big debate: Should Cannabis Users Be Given Somewhere Safe to Smoke?" - in it I said that we wanted the Council to ask the Government to allow them a temporary license where we could go and safely smoke and associate without fear of arrest and away from people that did not want to inhale the smoke.

Until then, we would continue to picnic in the parks.

With the estimated 2 dozen police earning double or more money on a Sunday, how much did that all cost?

Multiply that by 8 or 9 times next year, multiply that by ALL the other picnics and protests across the country - it will cost the taxpayer millions.


Personally I felt the day was a success with good publicity for the cause, and everybody seems to have had a good day. And it was sunny!Thanks to Kevin Bear, Don Bearnard, Jack Koala Bear and all the Bushbabies




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