The Musical Activist podcast
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 https://flightfree.co.uk/) 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 https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/contemporary/sarah-nicolls/

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.

The Musical Activist XR Special #2: Autumn Rebellion 2019 Sat 12th Oct

The Musical Activist XR Special #2: Autumn Rebellion 2019 Sat 12th Oct

October 21, 2019

On Sat 12th of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, I trailed the Stroud Fringe Choir around Trafalgar Square, starting with Culture Declares & meeting a diverse range of people: a museum worker, a banker, a young man on his second ever protest, a man who'd brought a ‘barn’ from Somerset, a playwright, a mum, all mixed with music by Emily Hall (So Far), Blythe Pepino (Emergency) and Sophie Sterckx (The Last Tree).

The Musical Activist XR Special #1: Autumn Rebellion 2019 Day 1

The Musical Activist XR Special #1: Autumn Rebellion 2019 Day 1

October 18, 2019

On Day 1 of the Extinction Rebellion, I met a lot of mothers and grandmothers, several very committed protestors (one in a D-lock), two people who'd experienced the same Amazon rainforest school project 30 years ago, XR Baroque who were giving a concert by the Treasury and Rupert Read (XR Spokesperson).

The Musical Activist Episode 2: Inika Taylor

The Musical Activist Episode 2: Inika Taylor

July 16, 2019

Inika Taylor is in the MET Office Climate Impacts team. She was a wonderful early mentor for me in understanding more about climate. The conversation ranges from climate science, to how it is being a parent of young children and a climate scientist. Inika says "I hope as scientists we can draw on our emotions more" and her gentle but determined approach comes through, as she navigates what she knows and what she hopes for.

The Musical Activist Episode 1: Julia Steinberger

The Musical Activist Episode 1: Julia Steinberger

January 18, 2019

In Episode 1, I talk to Julia Steinberger, a Professor of Social Ecology who I met on Twitter and who has written a persuasive and emotionally direct blog.  I hope you enjoy listening. PLEASE read the references here: http://sarahnicolls.com/musical-activist-episode-1/.  Thanks!

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