Before California Had Erin Brockovich, Newcastle Had Jennie Shearan
Imagine living without clean air.
For the people who lived on the doorstep of Monkton Coke Works, their daily reality was a horrendous nightmare of hazardous and acrid sulphur dioxide emissions, all-pervading soot, and clamorous tannoys. Over decades, the facility grew unflaggingly, converting ever-increasing quantities of coal into coke without concern for the residents’ well-being.
Geordie Gianfranco Rosolia returns to Newcastle to tell the story of Jennie Shearan and the formation of the Hebburn Residents’ Action Group. Jennie united and empowered the underrepresented residents of Monkton Lane Estate, and gave them a voice, igniting a national dialogue about the health risks from the pollution that her neighbourhood had to endure.
Much like the story of Erin Brockovich that would come afterwards in California, Jennie battled a negligent big energy firm that prioritised profit over people, governmental bodies that lacked accountability, and institutional sexism. Jennie put it all on the line and took on all levels of the establishment, from British Coal to Thatcher’s government, galvanising her underrepresented town and bringing her case all the way to the European Parliament. Their battle to secure environmental justice for their community was a true David & Goliath struggle.
A Chronicler of Geordie Activism
Gianfranco Rosolia was born and raised in the North East of England where he graduated from the Royal Grammar School Newcastle. He studied Literature at the University of Cambridge and has an MBA from Bayes Business School. He went on to work for Procter & Gamble and since 2011 has been part of Apple Inc. He’s now based in Austin, Texas.
In 2022, his first book, CLEAN AIR, was published receiving excellent reviews and media coverage.