The Musical Activist podcast
The Musical Activist #13: 12 Years 2020 tour | Sarah Mander

The Musical Activist #13: 12 Years 2020 tour | Sarah Mander

October 11, 2020
Sarah Mander is a Reader in Energy and Climate Policy at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace & Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. She joins the #12yearspiano tour on Wednesday 14th October for our post-show zoom after the RNCM-promoted night. Show at 7.30pm, zoom at 8.30pm: book here.

Here's some refs from our conversation:

Her talk The role of arts and culture in bringing climate change to the ‘here and now’

A collaborative project from Climate-KIC and Climate Outreach exploring how to have conversations about climate change in our daily lives #TalkingClimate


Stories of Change was a programme of free online webcasts and events exploring how successful low-carbon initiatives can lead to permanent change and meaningful action on climate breakdown on a larger scale. Held in September 2020, these events formed part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research‘s 20th anniversary celebrations.... Continue reading


The Musical Activist #12: 12 Years 2020 tour | Craig Hutton

The Musical Activist #12: 12 Years 2020 tour | Craig Hutton

October 9, 2020

Craig Hutton is a Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Southampton. He has fascinating things to say about international development and modelling impacts on especially poor rural populations of all kinds of challenges, including climate change. He talks a lot about listening and working together with people - understanding people who then need to make decisions and take actions that will effect others. This is a very thoughtful conversation and I'm only sorry the wifi let us down, so this is down the phone line. But hopefully in this day and age we can forgive that! 

Craig joins me in a post-show discussion after The Anvil show on Saturday 10th October. Get tickets via 

The Musical Activist #11: 12 Years 2020 tour | Dr Alix Dietzel

The Musical Activist #11: 12 Years 2020 tour | Dr Alix Dietzel

October 7, 2020
Alix will be appearing on zoom with Prof Richard Pancost (Director of the Cabot Institute) and me on Thursday 8th October, in a post-show zoom discussion for my '12 Years' tour, hosted by St George's Bristol. Buy tickets to the show at #12yearspiano
Dr Alix Dietzel is a Lecturer in Global Ethics at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS) at University of Bristol. She is a researcher in climate justice and as such, has found her area of research suddenly spring into the public consciousness this year. She refers to herself as a moral philosopher and the things she is thinking about in her work really seem to me to be the nuts and bolts of how we can make our world better.
She has very kindly put some references together:
Her lecture 'How Just is the Response to Climate Change' (aimed at students so very accessible)
A podcast she thoroughly recommends Mothers of Invention
The Musical Activist #10: 12 Years 2020 tour | Dr Liz Bagshaw

The Musical Activist #10: 12 Years 2020 tour | Dr Liz Bagshaw

October 5, 2020

This is my conversation with Dr Liz Bagshaw, who you can meet on the post-show discussion at 8.30pm BST on 24th October 2020, after my performance of '12 Years' for the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.  Book for the tour here.

Liz is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Cardiff University.  Her interests are listed as Glaciology, Biogeochemistry, Geomicrobiology, Sensors and Environmental Monitoring and what I gleaned from our conversation is that Liz is totally passionate about ice - what it does for our planet, how it sounds and looks and even how it is to sleep on it!  In the conversation we cover her research, ice cores and how they are stored in incredible ice-libraries (which reminded me of my residency at Iceland's Library of Water), changes she has witnessed and how to balance scientific global travel against what she knows about the changing climate. 

She very kindly put together some useful links for listeners: This website has some really nice stuff on definitions and processes This is mostly focused on Alpine glaciers, but has some really fun interactive material, including a glacier explorer and gallery, and even glacier top trumps! This has some great stuff on glacier processes, with very nice information on past ice sheets.

There’s some excellent material on the Carbon Brief:

This is the ice core book I mentioned:

And the giant report (with a handy summary for policy makers at the start)

The Musical Activist #9: 12 Years 2020 tour | Richard Betts MBE

The Musical Activist #9: 12 Years 2020 tour | Richard Betts MBE

May 26, 2020

In May 2020, I should have been playing '12 Years' at Exeter Phoenix and the post-show discussion would have been with the brilliant Richard Betts MBE. In lieu of being able to meet in person, we have recorded a short conversation, where Richard shares incredibly valuable insights, coming from a place of great knowledge: this is the man writing the UK's risk assessment on climate change.

After my show for South Street Arts, Reading, which happened online in April, Richard shared a thought about how we talk about lifestyle change. He urged us to replace ‘giving up’ with ‘liberation’ and I was really interested to read shortly after, in a permaculture book (Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield), the following:

“I feel it’s important not to feel guilty about our lifestyles. The time to make a specific change is when the positive desire to do so grows to the point where it’s greater than the discomfort of giving up an old habit. If we take the trouble to learn about the ecological impact of our daily lives, the process of lifestyle change happens naturally. Then it’s not a self-imposed penance but a process of liberation.” 

It is really helpful hearing about how Richard gained his ‘liberation’ from owning a car: the tedium of the regular commute, the upset caused by an oil spill in Pembrokeshire - the obvious associations between his regular daily drive and the fossil fuel causing untold damage to his favourite beaches, and finally being caught for speeding (!). The cascade of negative events or daily experiences which led to him finding a much happier solution – you do get a genuine sense that he is liberated by cycling and taking the train, sharing a car when needed.  There is something really important here about language and also personal discovery.

He made some very clear statements about the bigger picture though: “We’ve got to have changes at the system level” and “It’s very clear that if we’re going to slow the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere… we just can’t keep burning fossil fuels and we have to rein it in soon”.

When I asked him about the arts, I found his answer so clear and resonating with what I am hoping to achieve through ’12 Years’: “The arts play an incredibly role in people understanding within themselves what something really means… not just having a technical understanding but what it means to you - that’s a very personal thing… [That with the arts we can] open people’s minds to an issue and allowing them to make sense of it themselves.”

Finally, at the end, I asked him what he would say in a 1-minute primetime TV advert to the nation and he said: “It is real and it is definitely our fault, we know this now. We’ve got to face up to the fact that some further climate change is inevitable and deal with that but also don’t lose hope about avoiding the worst: we still can avoid the most severe changes.”

Let us all take heed.

The Musical Activist #8: 12 Years 2020 tour | Prof Hayley Fowler, Newcastle University

The Musical Activist #8: 12 Years 2020 tour | Prof Hayley Fowler, Newcastle University

March 20, 2020

Hayley Fowler is Professor of Climate Change Impacts and Royal Society Wolfson Research Fellow in the Centre for Earth Systems Engineering Research at Newcastle University. She is also very active on communicating climate change to the wider public and is involved in lots of activities across the city.  In this chat she details her own research, how she got into it from childhood and ways that residents of Newcastle, Gateshead and the surrounding areas could get involved with climate action in the city.

Hayley's final point is the main takeaway. "We can always do something, we *can* change the future". 

I sincerely hope you are all managing to stay positive during these very strange and perhaps slightly scary times and we look forward to catching up with you in the future.

The Musical Activist #7: 12 Years 2020 tour | Anna Hughes, Flightfree UK

The Musical Activist #7: 12 Years 2020 tour | Anna Hughes, Flightfree UK

March 11, 2020

I'm talking to Anna Hughes, Director of Flightfree UK in a wide-ranging chat about the impact aviation is making on climate change. We discuss the Flightfree pledge (please read more at which is a campaign encouraging people to give up flying for a year. Anna is all about "information and inspiration", not guilt and shaming. We talk about the different approaches of focusing on individual actions and on system change and generally reflect on what "climate responsibility" might mean and how we can all play our part.  

Anna is joining me on THURSDAY 26TH MARCH 2020 at King's Place, London for the post-show discussion after my concert of '12 Years' - my one-hour recital-story about the emergency the planet is facing and how different people are responding to it. Please come: book here

The Musical Activist XR Special #4: Fergus & NVDA

The Musical Activist XR Special #4: Fergus & NVDA

November 18, 2019

I met Fergus at a Non-Violent Direct Action training session. We were both in attendance because we cared about the planet and felt that joining Extinction Rebellion was probably the most useful thing we could do in this moment. We were both out of our depth but over the Rebellion, Fergus had some extraordinary experiences and re-tells these with great passion and clarity. This episode finishes with his new song NVDA. We're hoping to write more together.

The Musical Activist XR Special #2b: Extinction March Sat 12th Oct 2019

The Musical Activist XR Special #2b: Extinction March Sat 12th Oct 2019

November 15, 2019

The Extinction March on the middle Saturday of the October Rebellion was really joyous for me because of the energy and the people I met. There was such a profound and strong sense that everyone there felt strongly and passionately about why they were there, knew a lot about it and cared deeply. I met an early music player, a builder, a retired couple from Henley-on-Thames on their first protest, a climate policy adviser, a government environmental employee... "Extinction! Rebellion!"

The Musical Activist XR Special #3: Walking Forest Mon 14th Oct 2019

The Musical Activist XR Special #3: Walking Forest Mon 14th Oct 2019

November 14, 2019

Lucy Neal leads us, with her collaborators, on a 'Walking Forest' journey through the City of London, starting at the Women's Social and Political Union HQ. We visited sites of justice, power, nature and rebellion and listened, shared, spoke and drew with chalk to explore themes of protest both historical and contemporary. We ended near the XR Bank action, so there are lots of sirens heard throughout our journey.

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