Highlights from The Big One

From Friday 21st April to Monday 24th April, thousands came together in Central London for The Big One. Many individuals from across the North East and Cumbria travelled down to join in with the weekend’s activities, some from XR, some from other organisations, some individuals who’d never been to anything like this before: all with a common goal – to stand together and declare ‘Enough is enough. We must unite to survive.’

Extinction Rebellion UK announced that “Across the weekend, 100,000 people descended on Parliament to demand the UK Government create Emergency Citizens’ Assemblies and End the Fossil Fuel Era. We gave them a week to agree to negotiate with us on our demands, and they missed this deadline.”

Although the events of the weekend were not well covered in the national media, those returning from London to the region are brimming with enthusiasm, full of stories to tell about their experiences in the capital.

On Friday and Monday, People’s Pickets were set up at government departments across Whitehall. The March for Biodiversity on Saturday was an all age event, colourful and vibrant and full of life. Outreach took place at the London Marathon on Sunday. People stood in solidarity against the government’s Illegal Migration Bill, took part in Big DIY Assemblies and marched to End the Fossil Fuel Era…alongside so much more!

We thought it would be good to hear from individuals from the region about their highlights from the weekend to give us all a flavour of what was achieved…

Carol: For the Big One, I decided to volunteer to steward. I wanted to help the event become a success, but also I thought I would make good connections with rebels I hadn’t met before and more importantly… it removed all the indecision about what to go to at the weekend, as the programme was jam packed! On Friday I helped to keep the road safe at 55 Tufton St for Writers Rebel, on Saturday I helped to hold the march back whilst the stage was set up, on Sunday I did outreach along the marathon route and Monday I helped steward the amazing fossil fuel march. I met people from all over the UK and learnt a thing or 2 about stewarding for our NE events.

Jack: I’ll remember the sights, sounds, emotions and conversations I experienced at The Big One for the rest of my days. It’ll take a long period of reflection to fully absorb. At times, it was overwhelming — invariably the moments when we were faced with humanity’s greatness in full flow. This is surely just the beginning of a new chapter in the climate discussion.

Karen: The highlight for me was the Biodiversity March – the joy being expressed by the crowds standing up for what they believe in and involving all the kids!

Zosia: My highlight of the weekend was leading the chants during the March for Biodiversity on Earth Day. I really felt in my element and it felt amazing to lift the energy and spirits of those around me. My voice is still recovering from it now though!

Ruth: I was really glad to be with 60,000 committed, creative people on the Earth Day Biodiversity March calling the government to stick to its commitments too.

Bill: I’ll always remember the jaw-dropping moment when I turned into Parliament Square and knew that I was in the place I wanted to be. So many smiles, so much love and so much hope.  I will never forget the teachers who brought a school party to the picket line at the DFES and let them write their thoughts in chalk on the pavement. “We should not have to protest.”

Anne: Some lasting memories -4 days, 60,000 + steps, pickets supported, marches joined and food served. Eucharist outside the Supreme Court with the sound of the London Marathon in the background. 4 days full of love, tears and laughter. As we made our way back to Kings Cross to make the journey home, this sign confirmed for me everything we’d done and will continue to do.

Carolin: My favourite moment at the weekend was to see so many familiar faces all the way from Tynedale. The Big One has brought people together and it shows that a lot of us care!

Gill: It was fabulous,  inclusive, friendly. Several friends and members of my family came who have never attended a protest before and loved it. Health for XR had organised a brilliant Planetary Health Hub with a four day programme including an excellent session on the climate emergency and children and young people’s mental health.  The picket outside the Dept of Health and Social Care was great and I especially liked the washing line of baby gros “clean air 4 all”. Brilliant people, such energy, love in action!

Janine: My highlight overall were the marches over the four days – being amongst so many fellow rebels and like-minded people all joining together. I admired the creativity, knowledge and care which went into costumes, banners and flags and enjoyed the fantastic bands keeping us going. Throughout I had many good conversations with people I hadn’t met before – some deeper and on a specific topic, some sharing an idea or a compliment. The most impactful of these conversations was when a fellow rebel turned to me, looking at my ‘Love is the work’ patch and said ‘This is what it’s all about, isn’t it?’. Spoken with tears in her own eyes, I instantly welled up as she had just hit the nail on the head. Sometimes in all the complexity of multiple issues, intertwined problems and not fully obvious solutions, I find it hard not to lose sight or feel overwhelmed. However, it is in the end because of love that I wanted to be at the Big One – love for my own children, for all children and all life on earth. Because of love, I feel a responsibility to take action, now and in the future. It enables me to look my own children in the eye and say ‘Your parents knew, they took action and we did it because of love for all life.’

Frances: My highlight was involving 3 people who would not have come without enticement. They understood better after the Biodiversity march.

Tony: My biggest takeaway is how to bring about change using citizens’ assemblies. Three great sessions at the CA hub, including one on replacing the House of Louse by a house of Citizens; one participation in the people’s assembly and hearing the group’s views on the way forward: and failing to meet my MP after a 2 hour wait in Westminster Hall. So, a citizens’ jury in Jesmond on climate coming up!! This photo is of an amazing die in by St James Park.

Thanks for these contributions, people! Your highlights certainly give us all a glimpse of what a life-changing experience The Big One was for many of you. It certainly seems there was something for everyone and we look forward to hearing your ideas for the next steps in the region.

Because the work is not over, is it? We are far from finished. For many, this is just the beginning. For others, who’ve been involved in climate activism for many years, this has been the inspiration they have needed to carry on. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Extinction Rebellion UK has set out its intentions going forward, saying online “We will build on this weekend, with our new friends and allies. We will continue the work of movement building, solidarity, non-violence, and civil disobedience. We cannot stop whilst our so called leaders continue in their cowardice and ignorance. It’s time to take this work we have collectively started, and continue it within our communities. It’s time to build a grassroots movement of groups prepared to take action together for a better future. Be a part of the change. Because change is coming, whether those in power like it or not.”

Do join us in working out what that work will look like in practice in our local groups and communities. Come along to the next meeting in your local area or email us at xrne@protonmail.com to find out how you can get involved. We need you!