Bill Burning Guide
Note: please read this as a guide and not a list of instructions! You can have a very successful event without many of the details in this guide, or by doing things differently. Though please do follow the safety tips.
Don’t Pay has called a Day of Action on October 1st. Mobilisations on this date will keep the pressure up on the government over energy bills, re-centre Don’t Pay in the national conversation, and build momentum for the strike.
Bill Burning will be the media-grabbing centrepiece of the day - demonstrating the anger and resolve of people to resist unaffordable energy bills. It can be the centrepiece to a bigger demonstration, or standalone.
Choosing a Location
Pick a location symbolic of the energy crisis we are in. Perhaps outside a government building, like a city hall, or an energy provider/supplier building.
Important: make sure that wherever you do it, the location is safe for this activity, look at the safety tips below.
- Energy bills, either real or fake - see below for an example [note: people should not burn a real bill if it’s the only copy, as it’s important to keep a record]
- Aluminium bin or steel drum with lid. Consider drilling or cutting holes around the bottom of the bin to make an air flow
- Matches will be enough to start a fire of dry paper
- Fire extinguisher
- Heat resistant gloves
- A few bricks to put under the bin
Fake bills for printing and taking to bill burning events - though feel free to make your own designs too!
Important: Safety Tips
- Make sure you have people specifically assigned to consider fire safety, at least one person per bin
- Consent! Make sure people nearby know the bill burning is about to happen, especially so anyone with breathing difficulties is aware. Announce with a megaphone or PA system.
- Do not touch the bin when it’s on fire without the heat resistant gloves
- Choose a location without any flammable things nearby
- Make sure that the public is not passing by the bin on fire
- For extra safety consider putting a few bricks under the bin so that the fire doesn’t damage the surface underneath
- Make sure that the flame and the smoke doesn’t get out of control, you don’t want the smoke to go onto the road and create a traffic risk. If the flame or the smoke is too big, put a lid on the bin to cut off the oxygen supply and choke the flames
- If you are planning a big event with more than one bin, it would be advisable to have a fire extinguisher
Getting the Word Out
Let people know about it in your local group chat or via social media. You can see an example of an event Brighton is holding above.
Please let us know about your event by emailing: Actions@dontpay.uk
We can promote the event on social media, send out targeted emails to signed-up people in your local area, and possibly provide funds.
We would also love to receive photos and videos from you after you’ve burnt your bills!
Of course, bill burning is only one element of a protest.
You could make it the centrepiece of a rally; with music, testimonies on the cost of living crisis, chants (check out the Glasgow video for inspiration) and more.
Check out this guide for some tips on how to organise a demonstration.
It is not illegal to carry out the bill burning in a manner described above. It is important for you to take certain precautions so as not to create an excuse for the police to harass you. These include: putting bricks under your bin; making sure the fire doesn’t spread; choking the flames if the smoke becomes dangerous to the road users or unhealthy for the people around. However, it is important to note that at the end of June 2022 The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act came into force. It is an act that gives police very broad powers to quash any and every protest. Under this act it is easy for police to make arrests at protests. Crucially, apart from one isolated case there hasn't been any broad use of the Act, so it is very hard to predict when it will be carried out.
Bottom line: it is not illegal for you to carry out bill burning, but no assurances can be made as to how the police will react.