Inspired by the publication of my poem ‘Colourless‘ with Writers Rebel back in July, along with a friend here in Norwich, we decided to set a local offshoot of Writers Rebel, a collective of writers and poets who could gather together in person to share and create work and plan events to raise greater public awareness of the climate emergency. And so our local group, Norwich Writers Rebel, was born.
Writers Rebel is the writing arm of Extinction Rebellion, a group that garners huge amounts of criticism in the press. They are largely portrayed as anarchical ‘crusties’ who take pleasure in chaining themselves to government buildings and causing chaos on the roads. Of the dozens of Extinction Rebellion members I have met and spoken to, none of them want to be out on the streets protesting. They wish there wasn’t the need. The great majority are grandparents, concerned for the future of their grandchildren; young people terrified about what life will look like for them; citizens who fear this collective inaction and myopia we seem to be entrenched in. The press loves a good scapegoat and perhaps the brush they have painted Extinction Rebellion with is directly attributable for the fact that more people are not taking to the streets, at a time when they desperately need to?
Norfolk is a good place to be setting up a Writers Rebel collective due its rich history of words and rebellion. Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni tribe, roused an army against Roman occupation with her speech: ‘I am fighting as someone like you who has lost their freedom. I am fighting for my bruised body…’
Julian, first published woman in English with her ‘Revelations’ wrote: ‘Be a gardener. Dig a ditch. Toil and sweat. And turn the earth upside down. And seek the deepness. And water plants in time…”
Robert Kett wrote a list of 29 demands against enclosure of common land headed with: ‘…henceforth no man shall enclose any more.’
Thomas Browne wrote of a moral approach to science: ‘No one should approach the temple of science with the soul of a money changer.’
Harriet Martineau, first published female sociologist, wrote ‘The imagination, once awakened, must and will work, and ought to work.’
Norwich is all about the articulation of injustices and resistance against them. That is, writers rebelling.
Ideas of equality, conscience and imagination are still present here. But, we have so much to describe and to resist. Norwich is unequal, with 4 of the UK’s most wealthy and 4 of its least wealthy wards. The rising cost of living is hitting hard. Norfolk is in the driest part of the UK, threatened by drought and rising seas. The UK has some of the most expensive energy, most polluted air, and the most unsustainable diets in Europe. England’s once green and pleasant land is a thing of the past, with the UK now being amongst the most nature-depleted areas on the planet.
Our first campaign as a new collective is #WordsInTheWild
We are asking people to use their voices and imaginations to point out what’s wrong and to call for change. You could rant, rally others to join you, speak for the wild beings, make demands, share your visions for the world you want. Write your words of rebellion, your love for the earth and your being of it, and set them free!
After writing, take your words to the wild. Put them on bark, the pavement, stones, slipped into a book, a pocket, a poster on your door, on a shop window or an advert. Share a photo on social media with #WordsInTheWild and tagging @NorwichWritersRebel on Instagram. This is my poem that is currently winging its way around Norwich and Norfolk, placed on trees, noticeboards and park benches.
Will you join us? It doesn’t matter if you don’t live in Norwich or even Norfolk. Let’s get our words out there.
With thanks to Bridget McKenzie for the above words who wrote the press release for our #WordsInTheWild campaign, founder of the inspiring Climate Museum UK & Co-Founder of Culture Declares.
Thank you for reading this blog post. Compliment it with reading my poem Colourless & the poem I wrote for Refugee Week entitled Beneath the Same Sun.