Local activists will plant a gingko tree in Birmingham’s City Centre Gardens to mark the location of the largest human chain to have taken place in the UK in the last 30 years.

70,000 people took part in the chain during the G8 meeting in the city in May 1998, influencing G8 leaders to initiate the cancellation of $130 billion of debt of lower income countries.

The tree, which will be planted tomorrow (Wednesday 24 January), will also celebrate the work of the Debt Justice Birmingham activist group that played a pivotal role in the human chain and has continued its activism to challenge lower income country debt for over two decades.

The ginkgo tree has been selected to commemorate the event as it has long been valued for its healing and medicinal properties, particularly in helping memory.

John Nightingale, chair of the Debt Justice Birmingham group, said:

“The memorial tree is to remind us of Birmingham’s part in a human chain of loving concern which did once break the shackles of debt, and to give us the hope for the future that, with our help, human and planetary values can triumph over merely financial ones.”

Heidi Chow, Executive Director of Debt Justice, said:

“This tree is a reminder that change can happen when people come together in solidarity to take collective action. It is also a celebration of the commitment and passion of the Debt Justice Birmingham group for playing a major role in the debt cancellation campaign in the 1990s and have continued their activism to this day as we continue to challenge unjust debt.”

A plaque accompanying the tree reads: “Debt Justice Birmingham group played a significant role in the global jubilee debt campaign that won $130bn debt relief for lower income countries. Here, on 16 May 1998, 70,000 people surrounded a global leader’s summit to create pressure for change.”

In attendance will be members of Debt Justice Birmingham group, including John Nightingale who was at the human chain in 1998, and Councillor John Cotton, Leader of Birmingham City Council.

Debt Justice, formerly Jubilee Debt Campaign, continues to campaign for debt cancellation for the 54 countries in the global South that are in debt crisis today. Countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Zambia have been forced to pay more on debt repayments than on vital public services.

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